On another site, I made a prediction that at least one of the final three Sunday pairings would feature a monumental duel at Augusta National. Something along the lines of Stenson-Mickelson was in the offing, I was certain. One by one, they dropped away from Justin Rose. First Spieth, then Hoffman, then Fowler, then Moore, then Garcia. Rose had history, experience and a calm demeanor on his side, in his march to victory. And then, Garcia made a miraculous par on 13, reminded us why he is the best iron player in the world with darts on 14 and 15, and the game was again on. The battle down the stretch, with putts edging ever so slightly away, was for time immemorial. Here are three things, then, that we learned over the weekend at Augusta National.

The low numbers aren’t there anymore

For so many years, the possibility of 64 meant that someone could come from 5 or 6 shots back and win the Masters on Sunday. The current organization of the golf course prohibits this possibility. Writers and announcers reviewed the fact that so many winners in recent years have come from the final pairing. Of course they have! The chance to shoot 63 or 64 is gone, which means that if you don’t get business done on the first three days, you won’t have a shot on Sunday.

There is something to a comeback kid, something to the excitement of eagles and birdies, of back-nine thirties, of 64. The way Augusta National plays these days, it seems as if the eagles happen at #2 and #8, almost too early. The trio of holes at the turn (9-11) are some of the most challenging par fours at the course, and serve to disrupt the mojo/flow of a player on a roll. Matt Kuchar’s inward 31 was the best of the day, and he had to ace the 16th to do it! For me, give us some easier hole locations and bring back the homeward 30s on Sunday.

I’ve seen some who will and other who won’t

It happens with every generation. In the previous one, Phil was destined to win a green jacket, while Ernie Els and Tom Lehman were not. Els and Lehman challenged often, but lacked the ability to hole putts when it mattered most. I’ve looked at this year’s contestants, and am ready to offer up two lists. One details the golfers I believe, rather, I KNOW will win a green jacket in the next 15 years, and another with the unfortunate few who will challenge often but fall short.

Future Winners

Justin Rose – No explanation needed.
Hideki Matsuyama – A champion from Asia is due, and Matsuyama has game in every aspect. Putting can be suspect, but he’ll hold it together at least once.
Thomas Pieters – Stone cold killer. No emotion, just gets it in the hole. Placed T4 in his first Masters. Made more birdies than anyone else, I think.
Rory McIlroy – He has to do it. He’s too talented not to. No other golfer has won three majors but not the Masters. It’s always no US Open or no PGA.

Future Non-Winners

Kevin Chappell – If he had won on tour, I might reconsider. You need to walk before you run. He will be this generation’s Tom Lehman.
Martin Kaymer – I don’t think he cares enough. I suspect he has a life outside golf, and comes around every now and then to challenge in the big ones.
Dustin Johnson – I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not certain he will ever get it done at Augusta. If he wins another major in the interim, I’ll reconsider.
Ryan Moore, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey, et al. – Their time is almost up. They gave it a shot, got some top 10s, even some top 5s, but no higher will they fly.

Have you any idea how difficult this course and tournament are?

I mean it. I suspect that a 10 handicap golfer, who shoots 80 on a good day, 83 normally and 90 on a bad day, would struggle to break 130 at this golf course, at this distance, under this attention. A 10 would three-putt every green on average, leaving her/him with 54 shots to begin. Add 3 strokes on average to reach the putting surface (another 54) and we’re at 108. No, you won’t have any birdies or pars. You simply won’t. You’ll get excited, blast the putt past the hole and miss coming back. Unless you putt it off the green. In that case, you will re0chip, putt again and miss. Adam Scott missed from two  feet, and he’s a former champion!

See this guy, Jon Rahm? He won at Torrey Pines in February. He chipped in for eagle on the 13th on Sunday, like this.

He then went bogey-birdie-bogey, and finished it all off with a triple bogey at the last. And Rahm was given an outside chance to win this week. Respect and preach. And congratulations to Sergio.