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Masters blog: Practice groups, new kid on the block, official pairings announced

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Fowler Strives to Do This at Masters

Welcome to Day 2 of this Masters blog, where we'll touch upon some hot topics in and around Augusta National.

SEE MORE: Some favorites and dark horses for the '16 Masters

PRACTICE ROUND GROUPS

One of my best friends from Wake Forest is a sports agent and represents Justin Thomas. As many of you know Justin is a hot young player who had a great rookie campaign last year. He won an HSBC event in China last year that got him into this years Masters as a first time participant. I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Justin, who looks like he is about 14 years old.

I asked him who he was playing a practice round with, and he said Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, and Jimmy Walker. Now this immediately got me thinking — what happened to Phil as that used to be his group, or at least a variation of it? Justin made an interesting point.

Walker and Fowler are Butch Harmon pupils, while Phil used to be, but recently dropped. I would not take this more than face value but an interesting fact when wondering how certain practice round groupings are formed.

I watched this group for about four holes this morning and I will tell you the guy that impressed me the most was Koepka. The way he is built, the striking of the ball, his length, the way he is able to work the ball in both directions was very impressive. I also like the way he was putting the ball.

The other cool money game that was going on out there was that of Phil, Keegan, Dustin, and Bryson Dechambeau. If any of you are wondering who that last name is, more on him in a minute. Anyway, they were definitely grinding for some cash as Keegan made a bomb on six and pumped his fist looking right at Phil. I could not tell if they were partners or not, but from the body language and their Ryder Cup history, I would say they were. Outside of some of the play the thing that stuck in my head the most were the pairings in the practice rounds. Guys can choose who they play with and at what time. The synergy between countrymen was like nothing I have ever seen. For example, guys I saw playing together from the same countries -- Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (man spell check had fun with that one) from Thailand, Kaymer and Langer from Germany, Grace and Els from South Africa, McDowell and Lowery from Ireland, Grillo and Cabrera from Argentina, Day and Scott from Australia, Lingmerth and Stenson from Sweden. I know you want to be as comfortable as possible in these practice rounds to keep it loose, but I found the pairings by country very interesting.

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK?

Onto Bryson Dechambeau. As you know, The Masters was founded by Bobby Jones, the most famous amateur golfer of all time. So the history of The Masters is one that lets many amateurs play in the event.

There have been many amateurs who have played well in The Masters, but I have not seen an amateur as impressive as DeChambeau in quite some time. His plan is to turn pro right after The Masters and I think this kid is going to be in the conversation with all of this young talent that we are currently talking about.

If you remember a few weeks back at Bay Hill, he made the cut and was paired with Rory the final round. They went toe to toe the entire round and Rory only beat him on the last hole by making a 60 foot birdie putt to shoot a 65 to Bryson's 66. I think this kid is going to be sitting in Butler Cabin on the weekend as the low amateur, and I am going to go out on a limb and say this kid will probably be invited to next year's Masters. Watching this young man carry himself out there today among grizzled vets like Phil, Keegan, and Dustin he just looked like he belonged. Period.

PAIRINGS

Pairings have been released and can be found here. The ones that caught my eye were ...

9:26 - Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Cheng Jin. Johnson is a past champion, Fowler is in everyone's top 5 this week.

9:37 - Louis Oosthuizien, Jason Dufner, Patrick Reed. Really, the only group I see out there where all 3 guys have a legitimate chance to win.

9:48 - Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey, and Bryson Dechambeau. Over the last two Masters, Casey is fourth overall in combined score, yet no one is talking about him.

9:59 - Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, and Dustin Johnson. Keep an eye on Johnson, but Thomas is a guy that grew up beating Spieth on a regular basis and always has something to prove. Can he become the first winner in his first appearance since Fuzzy in '79?

10:43 - Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson. I don't have a hard time imagining this whole group in the top 10 come Sunday with one of these guys being the winner.

11:05 - Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Brooks Koepka. I like all their chances.

12:22 - Charl Schwartzel, Davis Love III, Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Charl has been playing good golf, and even though I saw him hit some wayward drives, I think he is rounding into form. We have not talked a lot about how well RCB has been playing coming into this tournament.

12:44 - Bubba Watson, Branden Grace, Ian Poulter. Weird pairing here as you have Bubba and Ian, who are polar opposites, and then the quiet South African who was so impressive at Chambers Bay.

1:06 - Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, and Ernie Els. Very relaxed pairing for all three of these guys. I would love to see Ernie make a run this year, but it is not in the cards. Day is going to be there on Sunday. Kuchar has struggled since the anchor ban has been put into place.

1:39 - Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Ryan Moore. This pairing catches my eye. You all know my affinity for Willett's game, and he is in very good form. Moore seems to always pop his face up in a major, and he has a good track record at Augusta. Sergio might be a darkhorse.

2:01 - Martin Kaymer, Bill Haas, Rory McIlroy. I think these guys got shafted on being last off as they are going to have the business end of the conditions on both days. I like Rory to grind through it and be there at the end and I also like my fellow Wake Forest alum to have a good showing this week.

By: Raymond Floyd Jr.

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