The Masters is here! The azaleas will be in full bloom this time around at Augusta National as the Masters Tournament returns to its normal spot in PGA Tour schedule. Augusta National is a course that needs no introduction as it is the most iconic golf course in the world. There will be 88 golfers in the field this week with the Top 50 and ties making the cut. Augusta National is a classical golf course that challenges golfers to excel in every facet of their game in order to put on the Green Jacket. The PGA Tour schedule has been building up to this grand event as players have seen elite fields in recent weeks at WGCs and the PLAYERS Championship.
Augusta National is a Par 72 that measures just under 7,500 yards; however, the course plays much longer than what is says on paper. The fairway grass is grown against the grain of the green complexes which means carrying distance is very important because golfers will not get a lot of rollouts on their drives. The course features a challenging set of Par 4s, which requires golfers to be both patient and aggressive. This is a true second-shot course with tricky, undulating greens. Missing in the right spot is crucial. Golfers who find themselves on the wrong side of the green will fall victim to three-putts and unforced errors. Playing to the green is more important than playing to the pin, which is why course experience is such an important factor.
The scoring trends from former Master’s winners show how important it is to score on the Par 5s. Golfers will face a total of sixteen Par 5s throughout their four days at Augusta. Over the last twenty years, the average score relative to par on the Par 5s by winners have been -8.3. This means that former winners have scored on about half of the Par 5s they faced on their way to victory. The average score relative to par on the Par 4s over the last twenty years by the winners has been -2.45. This shows how grueling the Par 4s are. Golfers will lose the tournament on these holes and will need to avoid bogeys. For this reason, I looked at strokes gained on Par 5 and Par 4s because this where golfers will need to be balanced. Augusta requires golfers to be creative, and effective shot-makers who have the ability to save par and avoid major mistakes.
Augusta National is a course that has seen similarities amongst former winners. Former winners have been highly ranked in the Official World Golf Rankings. 18 of the last 20 winners were ranked inside the Top 30 OWGR, 15 of the last 20 were ranked inside the Top 20 OWGR, and 10 of the last 20 were ranked inside the Top 10 OWGR. The cream rises to the top here, and golfers who are trending are the ones who have fared the best. I looked at recent finishes for golfers who have been recording high finishes, and have been knocking on the door of victory.
Correlated courses to Augusta would be Kapalua, Colonial, and Riviera. Over the last twenty years, there have been 14 different golfers to win at Augusta. Six of those fourteen golfers have won at Kapalua. Five of the last six winners at the Masters have a victory at Kapalua in their careers. Five of those fourteen golfers have wins at Colonial and Riviera. These are all championship level courses that challenge golfers. The winning scores at these courses have been similar to winning scores at Augusta.
Key Stats: Approach, Tee-to-Green, Total, 3-Putt Avoidance, GIR Gained, Driving Distance
Scoring Stats: SG Par 4s, SG Par 5s, Bogey Avoidance, and Birdie-or-Better Gained
Masters Betting Tips
Justin Thomas +1250 (DraftKings)
Thomas is the #2 player in the world and has shown his ability to battle adversity. Following a tumultuous start to the 2021 season, Thomas found his form which resulted in a victory at the PLAYERS Championship. During that event, Thomas was on fire with his iron game and gave himself many scoring opportunities because of his ball-striking. Thomas has played at Augusta five times in his career. Each time he has played, he has improved his finishing position. His last five appearances at Augusta have been: 4th, 12th, 17th, 22nd, and 39th.
Thomas was one of only two golfers who survived my analysis narrowing down the field using trends of former Master’s winners. You can view that article here. Thomas comes into Augusta with good current form and good course form. Additionally, Thomas has won at Kapalua twice, one of the most highly correlated courses. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Thomas ranks: first in Birdie or Better, third in Approach, sixth in Bogey Avoidance, seventh in Total Strokes Gained, eighth in Tee-to-Green, ninth in SG Par 5s, 18th in SG Par 4, and 21st in Greens-in-Regulation. Thomas statistically profiles perfectly for Augusta. If he continues his trend of improving his finishing position each year there is not much higher, he can get. I expect to see Thomas at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Jon Rahm +1250 (DraftKings)
The new father, Jon Rahm, has a lot less anxiety heading into Augusta than most people had expected. Rahm’s wife was expected to give birth to their first child during the Master’s Tournament, and Rahm said he would withdraw to see the birth. Well, over the weekend the Rahm’s welcomed the new baby to the world which means Rahm is here to stay. Rahm has been peppering the top of leaderboards with high finishes recently, and the time is right for him to win his first Major championship. Rahm has three straight Top 10 finishes at Augusta and has three Top 10 finishes in his last five events.
Rahm’s great current form has seen his stats catapult him to the top of my model. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Rahm ranks: first in Greens-in-Regulation, fourth in Tee-to-Green, fifth in Total Strokes Gained, tenth in Approach, 13th in Birdie-or-Better Gained, 14th in SG Par 5s, and 25th in 3-Putt Avoidance. Those are a lot of good stats. Rahm is one of the best golfers in the world, and like I said earlier, the cream rises to the top and Rahm’s name will be there on Sunday.
Daniel Berger 39-1 (Fanduel)
Berger has been one of the most successful golfers since the PGA Tour returned to action last June. Berger won at Pebble Beach just four starts ago, and won at Colonial last June. Despite his great play after the restart, Berger did not get invited to November’s Masters Tournament. Berger felt like he was snubbed and is motivated to prove why he should’ve been given a chance to play last year. Berger has played at Augusta three times, making the cut each time and recording one Top 10 finish. Berger, along with Justin Thomas, was one of the remaining golfers from my trend analysis.
Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Berger ranks: 3rd in Total Strokes Gained, 11th in Greens-in-Regulation, 12th in Birdie-or-Better Gained, 12th in Putting, 17th in SG Par 5s, 20th in SG Par 4s, 21st in Tee-to-Green, 23rd in Bogey Avoidance, and 24th in Approach. Berger is the model of consistency and fits the Augusta mold. His above average putting will be crucial in taking advantage of scoring opportunities.
Cameron Smith 40-1 (BetMGM)
The Australian mullet-man has shown up on the first page of leaderboards in recent weeks. Smith has four straight Top 30 finishes, including two Top 15 finishes. Smith played really well at the WGC Workday, which is a similar course. Smith imploded on a few holes, landing in the water, and washing away his chances at contending that week. The way that Smith played there was encouraging because it is another second-shot golf course with tricky green complexes. Smith is a magician with his short game, and that skillset has shown up in recent years at Augusta. Smith has two Top 5 finishes in his last three appearances at Augusta.
Since the start of the calendar year, Smith has been gaining strokes in every major category. This is essential for the Aussie because his X-factor is his putting. If he can gain positive strokes with his ball-striking his elite putting can buoy him to the top. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Smith ranks: 16th in Three-Putt Avoidance, 18th in Birdie-or-Better Gained, 21st in Total Strokes Gained, 21st in SG Par 5s, and 22nd in Putting. Smith has an uncanny ability to save par and avoid major mistakes. He has shown a propensity to play well at Augusta and I think he can find himself eyeing down a Green Jacket on Sunday afternoon.
Paul Casey 40-1 (BetMGM)
Based on the current odds, this is my favorite bet of the week. I love these odds for Casey, and I am really bullish on him. Casey has been stellar since returning stateside in January. Before returning the PGA Tour, Casey won on the European Tour. He carried that momentum into his last five PGA Tour events where he has FOUR Top 10 finishes. The Englishmen has been striking the ball extremely well. In his career at Augusta, Casey has record eight Top 15 finishes in fourteen total attempts. Last year, Casey was a first-round leader.
Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Casey ranks: first in Bogey Avoidance, third in SG Par 4s, fourth in Total Strokes Gained, seventh in Greens-in-Regulation Gained, 17th in Approach, and 25th in Tee-to-Green. Casey has been playing consistently high-level golf which has translated to his finishes. The stars are aligning for Casey to win his first Major championship. The 19-time international winner can return to the PGA Tour winner’s circle this week if he continues his strong play.