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Mmmmm….just take that in. Augusta National, it is good to see you.
A Little History
If you are reading this you are probably familiar with the Masters and Augusta National. So I am going to use this section to highlight a very cool thing that is happening at the 2021 Masters. Today Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley announced that Lee Elder, the first black man to compete in the Masters 45 years ago, will be joining Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the ceremonial first tee shot. Additionally, they announced the creation of the Lee Elder Scholarships at Paine College, a historically black college located in Atlanta. Two scholarships will be awarded annually, one each to a student athlete that competes in men’s and women’s golf. As part of the effort Augusta National will fund the creation of the women’s golf program at Paine College. Awesome stuff.
The Lead Up
Bryson is taking over (+750)
Well, I was wrong about Dechambeau at the U.S. Open. I learned my lesson – the tight fairways and thick rough were to his advantage as those much smarter than me had posited from the start. At +750 he is the favorite. Dechambeau’s ability to hit the ball crazy far, and relatively straight has proven to be a game changer, no doubt. However, the thing that gets lost in his distance gainz is his putting.
He ranked 10th in SG: Putting this season. Pair that with ranking 1st in SG: Off the Tee and voila. What’s more? He has been practicing with a 48” driver (average is in the 45” – 46” range) and Instagramming videos of 400 yard drives.
He has said he is going to drive it into the 14th fairway on 13, which would leave him a wedge in for his 2nd. He is talkin’ all kinds of crazy! Here’s the deal: If he putts well (which he hasn’t at Augusta historically) he will win.
Will Jon Rahm (+1050) breakthrough for his 1st major?
Rahm is a generational player. He has no weaknesses. Over the past year he ranks 1st in SG: Total. He’s won twice. Reached #1 in the world ranking. The only thing holding him back at the Masters? He’s been terrible on the par 3s!
But..he did this on Tuesday, which is siiiiiick. Too bad there were no fans there, the place would have went nuts!
Tiger Woods (+4500)
The defending champ shows up in a tough spot. His best finish since the restart was a T37 at the PGA Championship. So, I don’t feel all too different than I did prior to the U.S. Open. He hasn’t shown us anything. Yes, I will give Tiger an Augusta bump, but beyond that I don’t have much to feel good about. He could be competitive, you can never count out the GOAT, but there are a lot of guys playing a lot better than he is right now.
What can we expect from Rory Mcilroy? (+1300)
The best way I can describe Rory is…meh. He’s been around, hasn’t been particularly great or bad. And look, he just had a baby, he’s dealing with COVID just like everyone else – there’s a lot going on in his life. Now having said that there are some stats to like. He appears to be in his peak number of rounds at Augusta and generally speaking his track record is good. He also tends to play well in wet/soft conditions.
November vs. April
The grass will be slightly different in November than it is in April. It sounds like there is a light layer of Rye grass sitting on top of Bermuda grass, which might cause some changes in the fairways and chipping areas around the greens. The grass is a little longer and stickier than it would be ordinarily, which might take bump and runs out of play in some areas. Additionally, the fairways may not play as fast as they would in April, which means drives might not go as far. It’s also supposed to rain. So, as usual, longer hitters will have an advantage, but maybe even more so this week.
One of the fun things about the Masters is that it is played at the same course every year, which means there are tons of good stats. Here are some that I found interesting, beyond what I have already included.
Augusta National is a second shot course
Top 5 Players SG: Approach (in the field)
- Justin Thomas
- Collin Morikawa
- Tyrell Hatton
- Hideki Matsuyama
- Webb Simpson
Top 10 players since the restart. Berger and Henley are not in the field, unfortunately for them.
Does previous performance at Augusta predict future performance? Not as much as you would think.
Leading indicators include SG: Off the Tee and SG: Around the Green
Top 5 SG: OTT last 30 days Top 5 SG: Around the Green last 30 days
- Jon Rahm 1. Lucas Glover
- Rory Mcilroy 2. Ian Poulter
- Dustin Johnson 3. Graeme McDowell
- Bryson Dechambeau 4. Collin Morikawa
- Bubba Watson 5. Patrick Cantlay
Guys I Like
Justin Thomas (+1300)
JT is the best iron player in the world. He can afford to spray it at Augusta. If he putts reasonably well I like his chances. He ranks 19th in SG: Putting over the past 30 days.
Xander Schauffele (+1600)
He has been the 2nd best player on tour since the restart. Recent starts include a T10 at the PGA Championship, 5th at the U.S. Open, 2nd at the CJ Cup. He is 4th in SG: Putting over the past 3 months, if that continues this could be the one.
Brooks Koepka (+1700)
If it is a major and he is healthy he is a threat. Check andddd almost check. Koepka has played just twice since the mid-August due to this knee/hip injury. We don’t know for sure if it is fully healed. He says he is feeling a lot better, and a T5 last week in Houston helps back that up. IMO, his price has some doubt baked in so I think this is solid value.
Tyrrell Hatton (+2500)
This feels like great value for one of, if not the hottest player in the world. After an MC at the U.S Open Hatton won the BMW PGA in England, was T3 at the ZOZO, and tied for 7th last week in Houston after a Sunday 65. He is a terrific iron player ranking 6th in SG: Approach in over the past 30 days and a solid putter ranking 14th in SG: Putting over that same timeframe.
Plus has anyone ever seen Hoodie Melo and Hoodie Tyrell in the same place at the same time?
Patrick Cantlay (+2800)
Cantlay won the ZOZO Championship 2 weeks ago, so he is coming in hot. He made a late charge last year before fading late on Sunday. Another one of these players that is strong across all categories. He ranks 11th in SG: Total over the last 30 days, gaining strokes in every stat.
Bubba Watson (+3300)
Bubba ranks 4th in SG: Total over the past 30 days. He is 1st in SG: Tee to Green over that time. He is a 2x Masters champ. Statistically, his putter is the only thing holding him back. Beyond the numbers when Bubba is feelin’ good, he plays good. He’s playin’ good, so he must be feelin’ good and he loves Augusta, so the good vibes should continue.
Editor’s note: Hope this wins just for the Bubba Master’s dinner everyone has to pretend to like next year.
Webb Simpson (+4000)
Simpson had a great year, and feels like great value here. Keep in mind he won twice in 2020 and finished 5th on the money list. He is a stud throughout the bag. All the pieces are there to win if he’s on.
Cameron Champ (+7000) (+450 Top 10)
Champ is a great player, but for me this comes down to one thing. His length. He’s a debutant, so his chances of winning are low, but I think a top 10 is in play. He is going to have much shorter shots into the greens than a lot of guys given the weather forecast. His iron play and short game have been improving recently, which are necessary improvements here.
Cameron Smith (+9000)(+550 Top 10)
A very long time ago, in a state far far away, Cam Smith won the Sony Open. It seems like forever ago, but was in the 2020 season. Between that win in early January he did not have a Top 15 until The CJ Cup in mid-October where he finished 11th. He backed that up the next week with a T4 at the ZOZO. His game is legit and is rounding back into form.
Jason Kokrak (+9000) (+550 Top 10)
Kokrak has been a good player for a while now and finally broke through for his 1st win at the CJ Cup a few weeks ago. Over the past 3 months he ranks 4th in SG: Total. His length will help him this week and he has made big improvements on the greens. He ranks 1st in SG: Putting over the past 30 days. If that continues he can compete.
How to watch
Unlike every other golf tournament, the Masters viewing experience is simple and excellent. Firstly, go download the Masters app. Get your iPad queued up. If you don’t have an iPad Masters.com has you covered. You can watch Featured Groups, Amen Corner, Holes 15&16 as well as the Broadcast when it is on. And the new cool shit they got going. My Group allows you to create your own group of players to watch. It’s a gambler’s dream.
Thursday: 1:00 – 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday: 1:00 – 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (CBS)