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The 20 players who can actually win The Masters

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I create a filter to help predict the golfers who are most likely to win the Masters. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 or 24 players that meet the criterion. In last year’s event, I had Jordan Spieth as one of my top-10 picks and he won the event at 8/1 odds.

Before I discuss my picks of this year’s Masters, which includes 20 players, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, and that creates a smaller deviation in scores.

MastersHole12

Augusta National: Hole No. 12

The critical holes are projected to be holes No. 7, No. 12, No. 14, No. 15 and No. 18. These are almost the same projected critical holes as in 2015. The only difference is that the 14th hole has now been added to the list.

The 18th hole is actually the most critical hole on the course. Over the past five Masters, the field has average 4.2108 on the 18th hole while the top finishers during that timeframe have averaged 3.8611 strokes. One of the beauties of Augusta is the finishing hole is the most critical hole in the event statistically, while you have all of these other holes that are much more picturesque and memorable.

The hole that is dropping the most in terms of being critical is the par-5 13th hole. It was the third-most critical in 2014 and now it is the sixth-most critical.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the past champions who are well past their time being competitive at Augusta, and the amateurs. Those 16 players include:

• Bard, Derek
• Chaplet, Paul
• Couples, Fred
• DeChambeau, Bryson
• Immelman, Trevor
• Jin, Cheng
• Johnson, Zach
• Langasque, Romain
• Langer, Bernhard
• Lyle, Sandy
• Mize, Larry
• O’Meara, Mark
• Schmitz, Sammy
• Watson, Tom
• Weir, Mike
• Woosnam, Ian

I also eliminated any first-time invitees, as the only first-time invitee to ever win at Augusta was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Those 13 players include:

• Aphibarnrat, Kiradech
• Berger, Daniel
• Cabrera-Bello, Rafael
• Gomez, Fabian
• Grillo, Emiliano
• Herman, Jim
• Kaufman, Smylie
• Kisner, Kevin
• Knox, Russell
• Lingmerth, David
• Merritt, Troy
• Smith, Cameron
• Sullivan, Andy
• Thomas, Justin

Out of the group of first-time invitees, I would pay close attention to Daniel Berger, as he has a game that is a very good fit for Augusta because of the strong play from 150-225 yards in his short career. He also hits it long and high and one area he struggles with is accuracy off the tee which is not a large factor at Augusta.

Unfortunately, I have to eliminate nine international players because I do not have enough statistical information on their playing performance in the past four months. Last year, I eliminated five international players that I had insufficient data on as well. Only one of them made the cut last year anyway (Darren Clarke T52):

• An, Byeong-Hun
• Clarke, Darren
• Dubuisson, Victor
• Fitzpatrick, Matthew
• Jaidee, Thongchai
• Kaymer, Martin
• Kjeldsen, Søren
• Lahiri, Anirban
• Wiesberger, Bernd

I will also eliminate Jim Furyk, as he has not compiled enough data and he may not play in The Masters due to his wrist injury.

The Zach Johnson Debate

Every year I do my Masters picks it will always get pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson, due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long ball hitters. They can play the par-5’s more like par-4’s and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get those long approach shots to hold the green.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record low temperatures in the mid-40’s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par-5’s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par-5’s where he excels at. The weather is scheduled to be in the high 60’s to mid-70’s and unless that changes by 30+ degrees and wind gusts double, I don’t see having a very good chance to win the event. Along with Johnson, I would eliminate these short hitters as well:

• Kirk, Chris
• Kuchar, Matt
• McDowell, Graeme
• Taylor, Vaughn

Even more damning is the players who hit the ball too low. This is based on the Apex Height measurement, determined with Trackman on the PGA Tour. Last year, I had six players in the “too low of a trajectory to win at Augusta.” Five of the six players made the cut, but the best finish was a T12 by Kevin Na. Making the cut is one thing, but getting into contention and possibly winning is another story:

• Dufner, Jason
• Grace, Branden
• Moore, Ryan
• Na, Kevin
• Streb, Robert

Furthermore, since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters who had previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s rule them out as well. They are:

• English, Harris
• Lee, Danny
• Lowry, Shane
• Wood, Chris

Out of the group above, I like Lowry and Lee’s chances. Both are adept iron players and Lee hits the ball very high (sixth highest on Tour) and is a good putter.

I also eliminated the players who missed the cut at the Shell Houston Open this week, because historically the odds of a player missing the cut the previous week and winning the next week are extremely slim. Furthermore, the Golf Club of Houston plays similarly to Augusta. Last year there were five players who were not previously filtered out that missed the cut at Houston. Of those five players, only three made the cut and the best finish was a T19 by Louis Oosthuizen.

If a player did not play well at Houston, the odds are that they will not play well at a similar style of course like Augusta National.

• Bowditch, Steven
• Koepka, Brooks
• Mahan, Hunter
• Oosthuizen, Louis
• Singh, Vijay
• Streelman, Kevin
• Westwood, Lee

Another key metric at Augusta is long approach shots, which I call “Red Zone” play. The Red Zone are approach shots from 175-225 yards. Last year, there were 15 players on my list of weak Red Zone performers, Mickelson was on the list and came in second. However, Mickelson has traditionally been a great Red Zone performer up until last season.

• Cabrera, Angel
• Donaldson, Jamie
• Els, Ernie
• Haas, Bill
• Horschel, Billy
• Piercy, Scott
• Snedeker, Brandt
• Walker, Jimmy

Lastly, I started a metric two years ago called “Adjusted Straight-Away Par-4 Scoring Average.” This is the scoring average for players on straight-away Par-4’s. I’ve found a correlation exists between this metric and play at Augusta. Two players that have struggled this year on the Straight Away Par-4’s are:

• Bradley, Keegan
• Spieth, Jordan

It’s difficult to eliminate the reigning champion, but he is 156th (out of 204 golfers) on shots from 150-175 yards, 97th on shots from 175-200 yards and 101st on shots from 200-225 yards. He’s simply not hitting the irons as well as he normally has throughout his career.

That leaves us with 20 players left that the numbers show can win the Masters:

• Casey, Paul +7,000
• Day, Jason +650
• Fowler, Rickie +1,600
• Hoffman, Charley +15,000
• Holmes, J.B. +17,500
• Johnson, Dustin +1,600
• Leishman, Marc +7,500
• Love III, Davis +55,000
• Matsuyama, Hideki +4,000
• McIlroy, Rory +800
• Mickelson, Phil +1,800
• Poulter, Ian +20,000
• Reed, Patrick +4,000
• Rose, Justin +3,300
• Schwartzel, Charl +3,500
• Scott, Adam +1,200
• Simpson, Webb +27,500
• Stenson, Henrik +2,500
• Watson, Bubba +1,100
• Willett, Danny +6,000

My Top-10 picks

• Fowler, Rickie +1,600
• Johnson, Dustin +1,600
• Leishman, Marc +7,500
• Matsuyama, Hideki +4,000
• McIlroy, Rory +800
• Mickelson, Phil +1,800
• Reed, Patrick +4,000
• Rose, Justin +3,300
• Scott, Adam +1,200
• Watson, Bubba +1,100

I’m certain readers will wonder why I left Jason Day off my top-10 picks list. Day has a great game for Augusta and has been hot as of late and is the No. 1-ranked player in the world. However, with his back issues I do not feel comfortable putting him in the top-10 list.

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at ProGolfSynopsis@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

81 Comments

81 Comments

  1. Martin

    Apr 11, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Re-read this article today to see how things turned out. NUMBERS DON’T LIE! I am a big Jordan Spieth fan and was sick to my stomach when I saw what happened. BUT, he was taken out because of his less than stellar play from 150-175 yards. The yardage on the 12th? 150 yards.
    Yes, the article was referring to straight away par 4s and the 12th was a par 3 but in my opinion, a 150-yard shot into the green in regulation is similar whether it’s a par 4 or a par 3.

    Keep them coming, Rich! Great work!

  2. CallawayLefty

    Apr 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    This just in – Jordan Spieth on his way to a 67 and the round 1 lead.

    Sincerely,

    Captain Obvious

    • CallawayLefty

      Apr 7, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Oh sorry, spoke to soon. He shot 66. Yeah, he’s got no chance in this thing. Not even in the 20 most likely to win.

      • Richie Hunt

        Apr 10, 2016 at 6:59 pm

        Well, the fact is that he didn’t win. And Willett did win and was in my 20-players that can win the Masters. Funny how things work out in this silly game.

        • CallawayLefty

          Apr 10, 2016 at 9:18 pm

          I was anticipating this gloat from the moment that he dunked his tee ball at 12. Sure, he didn’t win. I’m sure you had an equation that predicted he’d make a quad on 12. My point clearly has no validity that a guy who has finished 2nd, 1st, and T2nd in three starts in Augusta isn’t in the top 20 who might have a chance to win at Augusta.
          Don’t you think you might be being a tad bit sensational? His average finish in the last 3 years is 1.67th. Is he really not in your top 20, or are you just trying to go against the grain?

        • CallawayLefty

          Apr 10, 2016 at 9:24 pm

          I tried to post once, and it didn’t show up, so we’ll see if this doubles…

          I anticipated your gloating reply as soon as he dunked his tee ball at 12. Sure, he didn’t end up winning due to an out of nowhere quad. Can you honestly not admit that it’s being a touch sensational to say that he’s not in the top 20 contenders at Augusta? He’s been the leader after 10 out of the 12 rounds he’s played there and has an average finish of 1.67 in three tries. It’s cool that you put Danny Willett in your top 20. He’s clearly a great player and was steady all day today. I just find it hard to believe that you’re not picking against Jordan solely to go against the grain. He didn’t win, but if you can’t admit that he was clearly a top 20 contender, then you’re just being disingenuous.

        • Brad

          Apr 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

          Congrats for having Willett in your picks, but you have to admit not having Spieth in even your top 20 is ridiculous.

          • Richie Hunt

            Apr 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

            Spieth didn’t win. Willett, who was in my 20 players did win. That was the entire point of the article.

        • CallawayLefty

          Apr 11, 2016 at 5:49 am

          I’m a little surprised that you’d come so strong with the gloating given how completely wrong you were. Or are you just so contrarian that you simply can’t admit that you were a fluke away from having the most obvious choice win, who of course was nowhere to be found in your top 20 because of how “against the grain” you are. You’re correct, spieth lost. But you have to admit that your just being a sensationalist to not have a guy who as of now has finished 2, 1, 2 in three tries at the masters not in your top 20. I never said Danny Willett wouldn’t win. I just said it was a joke that he was in your top 20 and Jordan wasn’t.

          • CallawayLefty

            Apr 11, 2016 at 7:23 am

            I have no idea why it just posted all 3 of my attempted replies now. Apparently had some computer issues. No one should pick me in their Top 20 most likely to make the computer work correctly, apparently.

            • Richie Hunt

              Apr 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm

              I don’t think I’m gloating. Or at the very least no more so than your gloating when Spieth was in the lead. I had mentioned that I didn’t pick Spieth because of his play on straight-away par-4’s and his iron play from 150-225 yards which was the exact distance range of the shot on #12.

              Let’s give a hypothetical that Spieth shoots 73 in round 1 with the quad on #12 and then shoots 66 on Sunday and finishes t-2nd. In the end, it’s all the same. He didn’t win and I didn’t have him in my 20 players. I also think he benefitted from the windy conditions in rounds 1-3.

  3. Jhay

    Apr 7, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Well Sergio didnt play well in Houston so Rich propably put Sergio on that category. But if Sergio putt a little better on the master, he will contend.

  4. Leighthebee

    Apr 6, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Haha. Ricky Fowler. Are you serious. What has he won…period.

    Please explain how in any way, this fella will even feature….

    • Joel

      Apr 6, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Well, since you asked.
      3 PGA tour wins, two last year, including the unofficial 5th major, the Players.

      The Abu Dhabi, recently, on the European tour.

      Lost in a playoff last month at the Waste Management.

      4 top 5’s in majors in 14.

      I’d say he’ll have a decent chance.

  5. Tom Lloyd

    Apr 6, 2016 at 7:21 am

    The top guys in my pick of 10 Henrik S – Zac J -Rory Mac -Dustin J -Jordan S – Ricky F – Jason D –
    Bubba W -Marc L -Adam S a lot of running is going to take place but top 3 Rory, Dustin. Jason as they spring alive when under the pressure.

  6. Windy

    Apr 6, 2016 at 3:53 am

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/features/trend/2016_masters_forecast_gusty_winds_to_challenge_golfers_during_first_three_rounds_of_play/56495557

    Moisture, then wind. This will play right into ZJ’s hands, as well as other shorter hitters with accurate wedge play.

  7. cody

    Apr 5, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I think this a a very fun statistical article. With all golf stats used to pick a winner a hot putter can bust them. that being said, i am not sure that my eyeball test is much different from this as far as top ten is concerned.

  8. Steve Thomas

    Apr 5, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Rich:
    As a retired math teacher, I love reading all of your statistical data. Great article. I would only have to disagree with maybe two of your picks, but what do I know.

  9. M

    Apr 5, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Supposed to rain on Thursday. That may bring ZJ into the mix as the course will play a bit soft and slower.

  10. Kelly

    Apr 5, 2016 at 9:50 am

    I don’t understand why people are up in arms about your picks. They are YOUR picks based on YOUR stats. I love this article and look forward to it each year. I guarantee that most of the yahoos criticizing your picks learned a thing or two reading this article. Thanks for the hard work. Cheers!

  11. Paul

    Apr 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Love this article I thought I went into it but you are on another level, thanks. What would your top 3 be at the prices?

  12. gus becker

    Apr 5, 2016 at 8:23 am

    top 10 is a little too wide, why don’t we look at top 5.
    here is mine:
    Ricky Fowler (BMT)
    Jason Day (freak of nature at moment)
    Louis Oosthuizen (almost been there, has the temperament)
    Rory Mcilroy (chasing that no. 1 spot)
    Dustin Johnson (scary long and the putter is working)

  13. Tony Randall

    Apr 5, 2016 at 5:32 am

    Hi Rich, How did last year’s list fare? Is it still available online?

  14. gus becker

    Apr 5, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Top 10 sounds too wide, how about a top 5 rather?
    mine would be:
    Dustin Johnson (damn long and the putter is working)
    Louis Oosthuizen (almost been there, great temperament and straight shooter)
    Jason Day (freak of nature at moment)
    Rickie Fowler (BMT)
    Rory (hunting for no. 1 spot)

  15. WLBR

    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    On the anniversary of Jack’s 18th major victory at the ’86 Masters, and because Jack would have been statistically eliminated from any possibility of winning, I’m rooting for all the “past champions who are well past their time being competitive.”

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      It would be interesting if the data was there. Of course, Jack was still long by Tour standards in 1986 and didn’t hit the ball low and was mostly known as the great long iron player of all time. The only thing that would likely eliminate him is if he missed the cut *if* he played in the prior week event which I doubt he even played in the event. He probably would have made the list, but I likely would not have put him as a top-10 pick mainly because of his age.

  16. Martin

    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I think its really interesting to see how Rich uses his stats to pick out favourites. Jordan Spieth has been struggling all season and therefore its natural not to pick him as a favourite. Sergio??? Will never win a major. He chokes EVERY time!

    • CallawayLefty

      Apr 4, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      “Struggling all season.”

      He has a win, which is more than you can say for 15 of the 20 Richie picked.

  17. Matt

    Apr 4, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Haha Webb Simpson!

  18. gofish721

    Apr 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Statistically he’s smart to leave off Jordan Spieth. It’s hard to repeat. Very hard. So if history holds normal form, then he can only look smarter against all the naysayers who questioned him. That will only give him “some” credence next year in 2017 when he does all this hocus-pocus again.

    Picking the winner out of 10 choices isn’t exactly all that noteworthy either. I’d image a lot of people who are given 10 slots to fill in names just using just personal logic have about the same chances as all the number crunching does. But to the one who goes to Vegas and plops down some cold hard cash and walks away richer, that’s impressive!!

    • CallawayLefty

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Statistics are subject to interpretation. Would you have picked against Tiger in his heyday because it was statistically unlikely for him to repeat, win back to back majors, etc.? Of course not. He was everyone’s top pick for years and years running, setting aside that it was statistically unlikely for many of the things he accomplished to occur. The same applies to Spieth, and I’m sorry, but if your list includes:
      Ian Poulter
      Marc Leishmann
      DL3
      JB Holmes
      Charley Hoffman
      Danny Willett
      Hidekyi Matsuyama
      Webb Simpson
      AND NOT Jordan Spieth…then something is wrong with your math. I’d be shocked if that entire list combined wins half as many majors as Jordan Spieth over their respective careers – and that’s with 2 already to their count on behalf of DL3 and Webb Simpson.

      • Richie Hunt

        Apr 4, 2016 at 4:13 pm

        There’s nothing wrong with my math. I’m basing it on statistical correlations to what has historically worked at Augusta. Marc Leishman is 11th from 125-175 yards, 44th from 175-225 yards and 30th from 225-250 yards. He’s also played well at ANGC in the past.

        Ian Poulter is currently 4th on shots from 175-225 yards and 46th from 225-250 yards and finished t-6th last year. DL3 is currently 64th from 150-175 yds, 58th from 175-225 yards.

        I’m as big of a fan of Spieth as you will fine. But, I can’t ignore the numbers with regards to what counts and the fact is that since Kapalua he hasn’t played all that well and the data shows why. I hope he proves me wrong, but the data doesn’t show it at this point in time.

    • Pat

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Spieth will not win period. It’s almost impossible to win the Masters 2 years in a row. Plus, Spieth’s putter was already on fire last year before the Masters. His putting has sucked for the most part this year. I’ll bet you money that Spieth won’t win.

      • M

        Apr 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm

        Yeah but even Faldo did it. Someone could always choke, or the old desire heats up and Spieth gets his game back right here this week

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      It really has little to do with repeating for me. It has to do with Spieth’s performance in key areas. Particularly straight away par-4’s and even more critically, iron shots from 150-225 yards. He’s at the worst he’s ever been from 150-225 yards in his career…*by far*. Even in 2014 he was an excellent performer from 150-225 yards. He just had issues with his driver as his driver had cracked and it took a while for him to get used to the new one.

      Last year, he was flat out incredible as a ballstriker. Drove it well and hit his irons incredibly well. If Spieth was performing at his 2014 or 2015 levels with his irons, he would have been a no-brainer to make the list.

  19. Josh

    Apr 4, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Very interesting article! Thanks for sharing your research! Instead of bashing you for excluding Jordan, like some other folks have done, I’m just curious where he fell in your analysis? Is he just an anomaly? Thanks again!

  20. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Rich… you had to know you were going to be skewered. And speaking of skewered, what’s on Spieth’s Masters Dinner menu?

    • Pat

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      Probably burger and fries. Ugh. His personality is as boring and plain as Tiger.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Yes. I didn’t look forward to the storm that would brew over Spieth not being on the list. Usually I get it from the Zach Johnson fans. But, I can’t ignore the data and in the end, it makes for an interesting discussion. I hope Spieth proves the data wrong.

  21. TB

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Interesting article. Day has to be the favorite going in – he’s won the last two tournaments against an outstanding international field (Palmer and the WGC) – yes he had back issues at the WGC but it didn’t seem to slow him down. ANGC is tailored made for Day and he’s done well there in the past. While his back issues may flare up again, I think you still have to put him in your top 20….top 10….top 3 for that matter. Is it Thursday yet? 🙂

  22. Joel

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Rich–I always enjoy this article. Since lots of people feel compelled to challenge your picks, how about a friendly wager with your readers? You let us pick 10 people, and the winner (lowest combined result among their 10) gets to have a head’s up competition with you in this column next year. Here’s mine;

    Jason Day (Back, Schmack. Dude’s gonna win.)
    Phil Mickelson
    Louis Oozthuizen (This is the only metric I’m not buying)
    Brooks Koepka (Three straight top 20’s in Majors? Yep)
    Ricky Fowler
    Rory (No last name needed, that’s how easy this pick is.)
    Dustin Johnson
    Henrik Stenson (I don’t think he’s gonna win either, but be in contention? Yes)
    Jordan Speith
    Brandt Snedeker

    • derek

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      I’ll try this!

      Mickelson
      Zach Johnson
      Jordan Speith
      Ricky Fowler
      JB Holmes
      Freddy Couples…we can dream, right?
      Adam Scott
      Jason Day
      Rory McElroy
      Justin Thomas

      • kn

        Apr 4, 2016 at 8:21 pm

        You’re down one already. Couples is out with “back pain.”

  23. CallawayLefty

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    I’m still just struggling here. Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters last year and finished in 2nd the year before, is not in your top 20. Same guy who won the US Open last year. Same guy who is coming off of one of the top 10 seasons of all time. Same guy who shot -30 at an event this season. Do you honestly believe that Ian Poulter is more likely to win the Masters than Jordan Spieth?

  24. CallawayLefty

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    Hilarious statistical results, which omits Jordan Spieth, who is in the top 3 most likely to win on the “Everyone Who Thinks With Their Brain” list, and who, perhaps more interestingly, is the reigning Masters champion. Do you honestly not put Jordan Spieth in your top 20? In favor of:

    Marc Leishmann
    JB Holmes
    Hidekyi Matsuyama
    Danny Willett

    I’m not saying these guys aren’t good golfers. And I’m not saying that your statistical analysis doesn’t have merit. But you can’t ignore the simple common sense that the top 3 favorites are: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlory.

    I’m still just in shock. You left off a guy who won 2 majors and was about a 3-yard longer sand wedge away from being in a playoff to win a third. Yeah, that guy’s got no chance.

    • Lmanion

      Apr 6, 2016 at 4:10 am

      Speith wouldnt make my top 5 for this masters. Since Kapalua 4? months ago the guys has struggled big time by his standards.

      My 5 would be
      Day
      Scott
      Bubba
      Rory
      Fowler
      add Mickleson, Stenson and Oosthuizen to the list of guys I would lay down money on before Speith atm

  25. Alex

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    How about Jordan? You must be kidding…

  26. David

    Apr 4, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I don’t understand the logic of omitting the reigning Open Champion Golfer of the Year and including DL3?

  27. Mikec

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I would not be so sure about leaving Speith out of the mix

  28. birdy

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    How far do you have to drive it to have a shot at winning?

    You eliminated Kuchar because he’s ‘too short’, yet ian poulter drives it all of 3 yards further on average and he’s in your top 20?

    overall interesting read.

    My pick….Matsuyama for the win but i think Stenson and Schwartzel are right there

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I never look at actual distance because it’s misleading in terms of distance discrepancy off the tee. I look at the rankings and have adjusted their distance based on the courses they play (2 players hitting 290 yard drives on average…if player A is playing courses where the average drive is 280 yards for the field and player B is playing courses where the average drive is 295 yards for the field, player A is effectively much longer off the tee than player B).

  29. Zac Ward

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    No mention on Sergio ??

  30. Mark

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Poulter? Are you serious? Struggling to stop hitting his irons sideways.

    • CallawayLefty

      Apr 4, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      I would bet my life savings that Poulter DOES NOT win the masters. No chance. Along with at least 5 or 6 others in that top 20. .

  31. Jordan

    Apr 4, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Rich,

    Can you explain what your numbers mean after the players name in your Top-20 and Top-10 lists?

    Is a higher number a lower chance, or more a value pick (based on their rankings), etc. ? Thanks !

    • Matt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      I believe they are the betting odds. Each number represents the amount you would win on a $100 bet if the player won.

      For example Marc Leishman (+7,500) is seen by the betting markets as unlikely to win, so a bet on him gives a higher payout. If you bet $100 on him and he wins you would get $7,500 (plus your original $100).

      Rory is seen as more likely to win, so a $100 bet on him would only get get you $800 (plus your $100).

  32. Nigel

    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I appreciate that an amateur has never won, but I don’t know if I would knock DeChambeau right off the bat. Maybe just wishful thinking though.

    • Pat

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      LOL. That kid has is a hack and has a horrible swing. He’s not winning anything.

      • Richie Hunt

        Apr 4, 2016 at 4:17 pm

        I watched DeChambeau in person at Bay Hill and he’s far from a hack with a horrible swing. Really a great iron player and putter. His driving needs some work and I question if he can get his game running on high octane with the equipment changes and tinkering. He shot 66 at Bay Hill on Sunday (should have been a 65). I think if he can improve his driving, he’s a really great fit for ANGC in the future because his iron play is really strong.

  33. Matt

    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Didn’t Zach Johnson win the Masters in 2007?

    • Walter Tworkowski

      Apr 4, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Not only did Zach win in 2007, but he is the reigning Open Champion AND he finished tied for 9th at Augusta last year. I’m not predicting a win, but to put him in the “past his days of being compettive former champion” territory at 38 years of age is an absolute joke.

    • Tim

      Apr 5, 2016 at 8:20 am

      yeah, Zach being included in the list of “past champions well past their prime, and amatuers” is a huge miscalculation…

  34. DFS Albatross

    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    Super minor but IIRC Sarazen won in ’35. I do agree with the premise that most of the field is basically drawing dead to win

  35. Ryan k

    Apr 4, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Interesting your analysis that Houston plays similarly to Augusta; I think Phil said the exact opposite in his post-round interview yesterday.

    • Ryan k

      Apr 4, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      Forgot: I do enjoy the analytics, keep em coming! Best articles on here between you and Tom Stickney.

  36. Balla Cup Champ

    Apr 4, 2016 at 11:26 am

    You eliminated Patrick Reed in your ‘Players who have never made the cut in the event’ category but then had him in both your Top 20 and Top 10. Interesting…

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Oops.

      That was a typo. He made the cut last year (t-22nd). I accidentally left that in from last year. Hopefully we’ll get that edited out. Thanks for spotting that.

      • Francisco Banuelos

        Apr 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm

        Has Reed improved on his apex, I think he was on the low side last year.

        • Richie Hunt

          Apr 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm

          Yes, he has. He’s a difficult player to account for because as I mentioned in my previous article, if he’s not getting into contention early, he seems to tune out and not play well for the rest of the event. Skews his data. But if he’s in contention early he’s like a completely different player. I probably would have not had him in the top-10 if he had not played well in Houston. That took out Willett and inserted Reed into the top-10.

          • Pat

            Apr 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm

            Fatrick Reed sucks and is full of himself. I hope he misses the cut.

          • Francisco Banuelos

            Apr 4, 2016 at 11:42 pm

            Interesting. Thanks for replying. I’d love to know how you weighted everything and how those calculations perform historically. Great article!

  37. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 4, 2016 at 11:18 am

    I discovered that I’m on the list! The Non-Invitee list.

  38. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 4, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Davis Love on the Top 20 list? Shouldn’t he have been on the Too Old to Qualify list?

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Likely so. The players at 40+ years old have not fared all that well at ANGC. However, I couldn’t ignore his play this year and ignore players like Couples and Kenny Perry who were at similar ages like Love III and almost won the Masters at those ages had similar performance profiles as Love III.

      • cherd

        Apr 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        Davis Love? JB Holmes? Charley Hoffman? my ribs hurt from laughing so hard. did you not watch hoffman choke away shell? what has JB done at all this year? and Davis?? this isn’t the 90’s

      • Forrest

        Apr 4, 2016 at 1:33 pm

        That’s still a bit of a stretch. DL3 is 8 for 8 on cuts made but his highest finish is T-33 in a full field event. Additionally, in 6 of those 8 tournaments, he’s only had multiple rounds in the 60’s twice.

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The Gear Dive: Discussing the drivers of 2020 with Bryan LaRoche

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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