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The 22 players who can win the Masters

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Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players that are most likely to win the green kacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players. Last year, I had Patrick Reed as one of my 20 players that could win the Master and he won the green jacket despite being a long shot at 40/1 odds.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, 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, which can create a smaller deviation in scores. This year, the projected Critical Holes are #6, #8, #13, #14 and #15.

Typically, the critical holes have been projected to be only one of the par-5s. But, the trend over the past five years now has a projection of three par-5s (#8, #13 and #15) being ‘Critical Holes’ which indicates that some added distance gains by the players may be impacting how the event is determined.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. The Masters has only been won once by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Alvaro Ortiz (a)
Devon Bling (a)
Jovan Rebula (a)
Kevin O’Connell (a)
Takumi Kanaya (a)
Victor Hovland (a)
Aaron Wise
Adam Long
Andrew Landry
Corey Conners
Eddie Pepperrell
Justin Harding
Keith Mitchell
Kevin Tway
Lucas Bjeeregaard
Matt Wallace
Michael Kim
Shugo Imahira

I also filtered out 10 past champions that I do not believe can contend at Augusta National anymore:

Angel Cabrera
Bernhard Langer
Fred Couples
Ian Woosnam
Jose Maria Olazabal
Larry Mize
Mike Weir
Sandy Lyle
Trevor Immelman
Vijay Singh

THE ZACH JOHNSON DEBATE

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s 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-5s more like par-4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

When Johnson won the Masters in 2007, the event featured record-low temperatures in the mid-40s and wind gusts of 33 mph. This made it very hard for any player to reach the par-5s in two shots and allowed Johnson to get into a wedge contest on the par-5s, his strength.

This year, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. There is some rain in the forecast, but softening the course tends to favor the longer hitters. However, the winds are expected to pick up a little which can help the shorter hitters, particularly those that are adept around the greens. However, I do not see the forecasted wind being enough to favor shorter hitters in this event. Thus, the following golfers have been filtered out due to not being long enough off the tee:

Brandt Snedeker
Danny Willett
Kevin Kisner
Kyle Stanley
Matt Kuchar
Matthew Fitzpatrick
Satoshi Kodaira
Webb Simpson
Zach Johnson

A part of the game that is just as critical as distance is the trajectory height a player can create. Last year, I filtered out four players for hitting the ball too low. Out of those four players, the best finish was Russell Henley at T15th. I use a combination of Max Height, Carry Distance and Launch Angle to determine if the following players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta.

Charl Schwartzel
Charles Howell III
Jimmy Walker
Martin Kaymer
Paul Casey
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Si-Woo Kim

Since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters that have previously never made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Let’s filter them out as well.

Alex Noren
Patton Kizzire

I will also filter out the player that missed the cut at San Antonio. Historically, players that miss the cut the week prior have a substantially lower likelihood of winning the following week compared to the players that made the cut in the previous week or did not play at all.

Billy Horschel

Lastly, I have filtered out the weak performers from the “Red Zone,” approach shots from 175-225 yards. While Augusta is known for its greens, the winners are determined mostly by the quality of their approach shots throughout the event. In fact, nine of the last 10 champions have hit at least 49 Greens in Regulation during the week.

The key shots where the most strokes are gained/lost at Augusta National are from the Red Zone. Last year, I had 12 players filtered out for poor Red Zone play. Outside of Dustin Johnson (T-10th), almost all of those players performed poorly.

Adam Scott
Branden Grace
Cameron Smith
Emiliano Grillo
Ian Poulter
J.B. Holmes
Jason Day
Jordan Spieth
Justin Thomas
Kevin Na
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Louis Oosthuizen
Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Reed
Phil Mickelson
Stewart Cink
Thorbjorn Olesen
Tony Finau

I think the big surprise here is Justin Thomas. His Red Zone play has not been awful (108th) this season, but it not good enough in order for me to avoid filtering him out.

Now we are down to 22 golfers that can win The Masters. Their Vegas odds, which are subject to change, are listed in parentheses:

Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Bubba Watson (33/1)
Charley Hoffmann (80/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Gary Woodland (80/1)
Haotong Li (125/1)
Henrik Stenson (60/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (33/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Keegan Bradley (125/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Rickie Fowler (18/1)
Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)
Shane Lowry (150/1)
Tiger Woods (14/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (125/1)
Xander Schauffele (40/1)

Here are my personal top-10 picks:

Rory McIlroy (7/1)
Dustin Johnson (10/1)
Justin Rose (14/1)
Jon Rahm (16/1)
Francesco Molinari (22/1)
Brooks Koepka (25/1)
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (33/1)
Marc Leishman (50/1)
Sergio Garcia (50/1)

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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. DrRob1963

    Apr 15, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    The method in the article is too complicated and subjective, and picked only 5 of the top 8.
    Why not just pick the top 20 on the OWGR??? Too easy!!!
    This year, that would have selected all of the top 4, and 7 of the top 8!

    • Robert Mueller

      Apr 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Luckily for Rich the article was “The 22 players that can win the Masters” and not “The 22 players who can top 8 in the Masters”.

  2. Adam Foxman

    Apr 15, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Wow… Very interesting to read the day after

  3. Jurdun

    Apr 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    SPIETH redemption. He’s coming with a vengeance to shut up everyone calling him a choke artist.

    • Patrick Reed

      Apr 12, 2019 at 12:45 am

      75 baby…that’s some serious heat…

  4. Jamho3

    Apr 11, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Every year I look forwad to this. The best most predictive article of the year comes early in the season! Thanks so much!

  5. Paul

    Apr 11, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Corey Conners played in 2015 – he aint no first timer!

  6. Harrison

    Apr 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Hey Rich, Thanks for doing this. Could you expand on the stats for Molinari? I like him quite a bit as well but am seeing rumblings that he is going to struggle with the length of the course (particularly attacking the par 5’s) in the wet/wind conditions as his wins have come on dry, fast courses.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      He’s 11th in Apex Height and 75th in Carry Distance. His overall distance is slightly subpar, but his Apex and Carry Distance is good enough for him to make it thru the filters.

  7. nosedive32

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Counting out Casey and Schwartzel based on trajectory? I think this may be the flaw in this system.

    Paul Casey is a Top 10 machine at Augusta and Charl has a win and a 3rd. Unless their trajectory this season is just way lower than the past I see this being the fail in the system.

    Casey wins Sunday

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      The numbers and historical data suggest that low ball flights do not do well at Augusta. Anything can happen. But, I have to go by the numbers. In the past, when Casey has made it thru the filter…he’s had his best finishes at Augusta.

    • Swirley

      Apr 11, 2019 at 6:40 pm

      How’s Casey doing genius boy?

  8. Robert

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:29 am

    My not so scientific method is as follows.
    Must have played in Masters at least 2 times prior.
    Putting must be conventional – no claw, left hand low, locked to arm, or no long putter.
    That leaves McIlroy, D Johnson, Rahm, Molinari, Koepka, or Leishman from the above finalists.

  9. Cons

    Apr 10, 2019 at 11:20 am

    NEVER ever count out El Pato

  10. pfp

    Apr 10, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I show Cantlay at 13th in red zone scoring on the PGA website – am I missing something?
    https://www.pgatour.com/stats/stat.337.html

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

      That’s just shots from the fairway from 175-200 yards. Red Zone play is all shots from 175-225 yards. It also does not factor in his ‘strength of schedule’ from the Red Zone. For instance, if two players, A and B, both hit shots from 175-225 yards to 38 feet…but one player played courses where the avg. proximity is to 36 feet and player B played courses where the average proximity is to 40-feet…player B would actually be much better from the Red Zone than Player A.

      Currently, I have Cantlay ranked 116th in Red Zone play.

    • Dan l

      Apr 10, 2019 at 11:22 am

      225-175 add in 200<

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 5:29 pm

      Red Zone consists of shots from 175-225 yards…not 175-200 yards. Also, the statistic quoted does not factor in strength of schedule. For instance…two players (A and B) both hit the ball to 35 feet on average. But player A played courses where the field average prox to cup is 40 feet while player B played courses where the field average was 34 feet. In reality, Player A was a far superior performer.

      I have Cantlay ranked 116th from the Red Zone. And that filtered him out.

  11. JP

    Apr 9, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Ive been thinking that Stenson would be a great pick. He is great from the red zone and long enough from the tee and really good with his mid and short irons. I question his putting at times, but it seems like he might be in a good form. Played good during the matchplay event.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

      Stenson should have done better in the Masters than he has in his career. Like you say, he checks off most of the boxes…particularly with Red Zone play. The problem for him is that he relied too much on his 3-wood at augusta. Last year, he made a point to not hit so many 3-woods off the tee and he had his best finish ever at ANGC. However, he has not driven it all that great thus far this year and his age (43) works against him.

  12. Ashley Parish

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    Glad to see my picks (Rose, Molinari, DJ and Hoffman) are all on the list. I picked Hoffman as the outsider pick. I didnt have the benefit of your statistics, just on prior and current form.

  13. Chad M

    Apr 9, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Good read. Great picks.

  14. Pmoney

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:21 am

    I have been following this guy article the last 3 years. He’s helped me win now 2 years in a row. Say what you want but y’all better pick a player from his top 10. He’s straight cash.

  15. TVGolfer

    Apr 9, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Thanks for the info. I found this article last year and rode Patrick Reed to winning the Masters pool at my club. A little over $400. I’ll be riding your info again.

  16. HC

    Apr 9, 2019 at 8:01 am

    I don’t care what anyone says. Look back over his past articles and you will see he has the top 10 nailed. I wait every year for this article since I found it a couple of years ago. Keep up the good work.

  17. Simz

    Apr 9, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Thanks again for this. I know there is no perfect science to predicting a winner, but this is close! I look forward to this every year.

    I will be back Rory again. But also like DJ, Phil and Rose.

  18. Ljk

    Apr 8, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Adam Scott is currently 1st in red zone and 14th stroke gained putting. Hes also a previous champ. How can you leave him out? Unreal.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Scott is not 1st from the Red Zone (175-225 yards). Currently, he’s 139th.

  19. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Basically with all your statistical mumbo-jumbo you ended up with the top 10 that almost anybody would agree are very likely to win The Masters without having to do any statistical analysis. If you really want to go out on a limb what you do is you name three players you think will win not just oh my guy won he was one of the 22 I chose well in a tournament where the field is about 80 that’s not difficult to do.

    • Steve

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Why don’t you go out on a limb, then jump off!

  20. Geoffrey Holland

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Fuzzy Zoeller was not the only first-time winner.
    It’s a green jacket, not a kacket. (surely as someone like you is so into stats you could figure out some way with some magical tool to proofread or spell check what you’re writing. especially as you’re someone who is trying to sell your services which would imply that you have a good attention to detail. Making stupid mistakes that you don’t catch because you don’t proofread or edit doesn’t bode well for anyone paying money for your services)

    • drkbstr

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:28 am

      spice

    • Corey Trevor

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:00 pm

      Why are you so salty, dude?

    • Sebas

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      What a troll comment.

      Who are the other first-timers that won?

      And the guy is into math so he should be a perfect linguist, a perfect writer, and if he is not that means his math is not creditable?

      By the way your grammar, punctuation, and syntax is 5th-grade level. Trash.

    • Mark

      Apr 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      Hey Jeff…. your name is misspelled

    • Dave

      Apr 10, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      I love when guys bash someone for lack of spell check usage and proofreading and then go right into the next sentence and start it with a lower case letter. especially Geoffrey…right?

      I’ll make my predictions of the top 10 based off current Vegas odds. I’ll be sure and spell check before I post for you.

  21. O

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    What about recent results, say, over the past month?
    Kisner won
    Casey won
    Mitchell absolutely bombs it
    Spieth shot 64 in the final round last year as bad as he was playing back then!

  22. Ray

    Apr 8, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Yep. Smith shot 30 on the back nine on Sunday, missing a four footer on the 72nd. Useless article.

    • BF

      Apr 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

      Have you read his past articles? He’s usually spot on, with most of his top 20 picks making it to the top 10, and winning as well.

      http://www.golfwrx.com/author/richhunt/

      • Fang66

        Apr 9, 2019 at 8:57 am

        It is literally impossible for most of 20 to be in the top 10, at most half could be, and he is never anywhere that close.

  23. Tim

    Apr 8, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Paul’s had a low drilling driver pretty much forever. Plays RtL but that too reduces apex. Combo of high draws off tee and high fades in is a tough one to find. Trevino first said he couldn’t win there cause hitting low he couldn’t carry the hills back in the 70s. ANGC trying keep up with longer but seems fewer are impacted by not “getting to the landing area” than used to be

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:30 am

      One comment. I don’t base the low height solely off the Apex Height. It’s also based on carry distance, launch, etc. Some years the combination of those metrics has not eliminated Paul. Some years it has. This year his ball flight is lower and that’s why he was eliminated. But next year, his ball flight may rise and that may not eliminate him.

  24. Jason

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I really look forward to this article each year so thanks Rich. My money is on someone from the UK this year and I specifically like Fleetwood to earn the jacket. He obviously has the game (many do) but it will all come down to wits on Sunday. Rose has the wits, not sure about McIlroy on Sunday. Fleetwood has been doing well in the majors past year.
    Funny thing about hitting the ball high- I can still remember Ken Venturi commenting during Masters telecast about Paul Azinger and that he wouldn’t win the Masters because he couldn’t hit the ball “high”. I guess that was some point in the 90’s? Not sure what year that was but have never forgot the statement. I haven’t been to Augusta but apparently hitting the ball high is a limiting reagent for success.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:32 am

      Based on the numbers, it had McIlroy and Rose as the top-2 projected performers at Augusta. Fleetwood got off to a slow start, but really came on his last couple of tournaments. He’s got the game for Augusta, he just needs more opportunities.

  25. marc blanchard

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Easy enough read for most golfers, but most “staticians” would argue with the method…
    1)Using different filters one after the other will most often lead to local optima only and miss the sweet spot.
    2)Ball height looks very flawed. Who cares about driving height? And there is no stat available for irons height (Casey and Champ very low of the tee… but Casey hits his irons better than most and no need to mention Champ’s distance, which only leaves wedges even to most par 5)
    3)Clearly some filters are very correlated, like driving distance, ball height, red zone efficiency. These three are more or less filtering down the same thing, bringing very little to the table.

    On the other hand a simple PCA including driving distance, GIR, strokes gained putting and major top 10 would probably yield a better list. Of course that would not make for a good read…

    Your top ten is much better than your top 22, as you clearly bring back some common sense into it, but I would personally forget about Rose, Garcia, Leishman and Rahm and take instead Fowler, Thomas, Schauffele and Hoffman. And Phil as an extra pick.

    • juliette91

      Apr 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Well done! I don’t have the background – or brainpower- for the targeted analysis you shared. What you’ve said makes much sense. Thanks for weighing in here.

    • Josh

      Apr 8, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Champ ain’t playing. Great analysis tho, bud.

      • H

        Apr 9, 2019 at 1:21 am

        LOL!!! right on, dude, right on

      • marc blanchard

        Apr 9, 2019 at 9:03 pm

        Oh my! I assumed Cam Champ was already OWGR top 50, my bad… Will be a good year with a lot of top dogs on form and warm weather. If only Tiger could have started his season earlier, would be so much fun to have him in contention on Sunday.
        Some good value bets on Rory, Casey, Hoffman and Kisner to perform early… Hedge them on Saturday evening.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:39 am

      The ball height filter is not solely based on Apex Height. It’s based on Apex Height, Carry Distance, launch angle and spin. For example, there have been years where I do not filter out Paul Casey despite his low Apex Height because his carry distance and launch are high enough.

      So, if Champ were playing at ANGC, he would not be eliminated due to his carry distance overriding his lower trajectory.

      As far as Justin Thomas goes, he’s 110th from the Red Zone. Phil is 146th from the Red Zone. Schauffele is 87th…good enough to not be eliminated from the final 22, but I didn’t want to put in my top-10.

  26. Porker

    Apr 8, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    Nice read, I think it’s going to boil down to 1 or 2 exceptional shots on day 4, maybe a hole-out or pitch in with a steady score on the rest of the holes to stay 1 shot ahead of the pack… playoff probably

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:42 am

      The past 5 years the event has really come down to 2 players on Sunday. Then another player shoots a low round on Sunday and either grabs 2nd or 3rd place, but is not a big threat to actually win. I think the question is whether that trend continues or if it stops and more players get into contention in the final round.

    • Mario B

      Apr 10, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Last year was all about this long range putt from Reed on 17th… If it didn’t catch a bit of the hole it would have gone 5 yards past. Good break there, Ricky would have torn him to bits in a playoff.
      What a day from Spieth before his nasty 18th drive, and what an amazing display of professionalism from Ricky Fowler! He is relentless; if Rory had that feature he would be unbeatable.

  27. johnnyb

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    I am surprised the Schwartzl and Casey got cut for height. Has their trajectory lowered over the years? If so do you know why that is?

    • Cam

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:50 pm

      What about kuch the douche?

      • GT Man

        Apr 8, 2019 at 4:56 pm

        Wipe that stupid smile off your dumb face, and I hope you get the shanks. You’re an embarrassment to GT.

  28. Barry

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    I think Paul Casey has a great chance this year- weird as I always thought he hit the ball very high when I watched him live but you ruled him out for trajectory-Bryson WILL win, Casey top 10 at least!

  29. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I may as well give my prediction. DJ sucked it up last year and jR two years ago so it will be one of those. Tiger could have a shot put he is not ready yet to pull off the show. I say Justin Rose. I ain‘t staying up till 2pm to watch it anyway.

  30. golfraven

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Did I mention it already that Masters is rigged. So you may just bin this. Cheers

  31. Josh

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I know Rich is a stats guy but come on, I had to laugh to myself the first sentence. Kacket???

  32. ZQ

    Apr 8, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Absolutely useless piece. Your red zone eliminations consist of several major winners including masters winners lol. But guys like hatton and li get the nod? Senseless.

  33. B_of_H

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    I think Tiger wins it.

  34. Nathan

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    I only put you as a shank because I don’t see how you can leave Tiger out of your top 10 given how he’s played coming into this event and his experience here.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 9, 2019 at 9:49 am

      The algorithm I created had Tiger ranked 7th in the field. The algorithm looks weights certain areas of the game more based on the golf course at hand. However, this does not factor in age which works against Tiger at Augusta.

      Also, Tiger wasn’t in the top-10 by a wide margin. The numbers for players ranked #5-#13 are very close.

      If Tiger’s data was clearly inside the top-10, then I can’t go against the data. Since it was close and given his age along with my instincts…I didn’t have Tiger in my personal top-10. But, his data shows that he can clearly win this week.

  35. Paul Peters

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    how many 175-225 shots do they actually hit? Wedge 2-3-7-8-9 8 iron 10-14-17. Also Cam Smith finished T5

  36. Bones

    Apr 8, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Small correction needed: Conners competed as an am so he shouldn’t be filtered out in the first round.

  37. Stew

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Where’s B. An?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:10 pm

      I don’t believe he was invited. IIRC, he was set to be invited and then got beat out in OWGR at the last second to lose his invitation. I have looked at 3 different invitee lists and he’s not on there.

  38. Tom

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Jordan Spieth dominates this course (T2, 1, T2, T11, 3) but he’s not considered one of your favorites?

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      In making projections for performance, recency trumps historical performance. With Spieth’s struggles on long approach shots, putting and driving…his odds do not look good. Having said that, he had a pretty strong performance at Valero and that may turn into a strong performance at Augusta.

  39. Tom54

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    I can sort of relate to your elimination process but how in the world can you filter out a 3 time champion Phil Mickelson as good as his short game is?

  40. C

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Take out Rahm, DJ and Koepka due to their tendency to hit fades off tees.

    • Kenny Lee

      Apr 8, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      And Nicklaus too. You can take him out.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 8, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Curvature of the ball has had very little impact on performance as Jack, Arnie, etc. have won there. In recent years, guys like Cabrera, Tiger, Sergio, etc…all fade players have had success there.

      Now that ANGC has some form of ShotLink data, it shows the problem with the draw being advantageous theory. For starters, there are some key holes (#7, #11 and #18) that favor a fade. But the bigger issue is that on holes like #13 and #15 which favor the draw…they have so much curvature in their design that it’s a bigger draw than even Tour players that draw the ball are comfortable with.

      What we see as a bigger issue is the ability to hit the ball high. And if a player hits a low-cut…fuhgetabouit. Low cut players like Trevino, Monty and Azinger all had major issues at ANGC. Rahm, Koepka and DJ have no problem hitting the ball high (and long) and I wouldn’t take them out of the picture.

  41. MuniMulli

    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Where can I get a Green Kacket?

  42. JP

    Apr 8, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    Patrick Cantlay will win by 2 strokes. Book it at 75/1
    .
    Buy a new house for a $5,000 bet

    • William Davis

      Apr 9, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      When? On Tuesday evening, maybe. Everyone else will have gone home.

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There’s something about golfers that draws the attention of, for lack of a better word, snake-oil salesmen. Whether it’s an as-seen-on-TV ad for a driver that promises pure distance and also fixes your power slice, or the subscription boxes that supposedly send hundreds of dollars worth of apparel for a fraction of the price, there always seems to be something out there that looks too good to be true.

Discerning golfers, who I would argue are more cynical than anything, understand that you get what you pay for. To get the newest driver that also works for your game, it may take a $150 club fitting, then a $400 head, and a shaft that can run anywhere from $100 up to $300-$400. After the fitting and buying process, you’ve made close to a thousand dollar investment in one golf club, and unless you’re playing money games with friends who have some deep pockets, it’s tough to say what the return on that investment actually is. When it’s all said and done, you have less than a year before that driver is considered old news by the standard of most manufacturers’ release schedules.

What makes a driver ‘good’ to most amateur golfers who take their game seriously is a cross section of performance, price, and hubris. As for that last metric, I think most people would be lying if they say it doesn’t feel good having the latest and greatest club in the bag. Being the envy of your group is fun, even if it only lasts until you snap hook your first drive out of bounds.

As prices of general release equipment have increased to nearly double what it was retailing at only 10 years ago, the ability to play the newest equipment is starting to become out of the question for many amateur golfers.

Enter Tyler Mycoskie, an avid, single digit handicap golfer (and the brother of Tom’s shoes founder, Blake Mycoskie). Tyler’s experience with purchasing golf equipment and his understanding of uniquely successful business models collided, which led him to start the Dollar Driver Club. With a name and logo that is a tongue in cheek allusion to the company that has shaken up the men’s skincare industry, the company seeks to offer a new way of thinking about purchasing golf equipment without completely reinventing the wheel of the model that has seen success in industries such as car leasing and purchasing razors.

The company does exactly what its name says. They offer the newest, top of the line driver and shaft combinations for lease at a cost of about a dollar per day.

The economics of the model seem too good to be true. When you purchase a driver, you are charged $30 plus $11 for shipping and it’s $30 per month from then on. You can upgrade your driver at no extra cost each year and your driver is eligible for upgrade or swap after 90 days of being a member. After a year, the total cost comes to $371 with shipping, which sounds a lot nicer than the $500 that it would cost to purchase, as an example, a Titleist TS3 with a Project X Evenflow T1100 today.

The major complaint most people would have is that you still don’t own the driver after that year, but as someone with a closet full of old golf clubs that diminish in value every day, which I have no realistic plans to sell, that doesn’t sound like a problem to me or my wife, who asks me almost weekly when I plan on thinning out my collection.

The model sounds like an obvious win for customers to me, and quite frankly, if you’re skeptical, then it’s probably just simply not for you. I contacted the team at the Dollar Driver Club to get some questions answered. Primarily, I want to know, what’s the catch?

I spoke with a Kevin Kirakossian, a Division I golfer who graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2013 and has spent virtually his entire young career working on the business side of golf, most recently with Nike Golf’s marketing team prior to joining Tyler at Dollar Driver Club. Here’s what he had to say about his company.

At risk to the detriment of our conversation, I have to find out first and foremost, what’s the catch?

K: There’s no catch. We’re all golfers and we want to offer a service that benefits all of our members. We got tired of the upfront cost of drivers. We’re trying to grow the game. Prior to us, there was no way to buy new golf clubs without paying full price. We take a lot of pride that players of all skill level, not just tour pros or people with the extra budget to drop that kind of money every year, can have access to the latest equipment.

With that question out of the way, I delved into the specifics of the brand and model, but I maintained a skeptical edge, keeping an ear out for anything that I could find that would seem too good to be true.

How closely do you keep an eye on manufacturers and their pricing? It would seem that your service is more enticing as prices increase in equipment.

K: The manufacturers are free to create their own pricing. We work closely with manufacturers and have a great relationship with them. As prices increase, it helps us, even if they decrease, I still think it’s a no-brainer to use our service, purely for the fact that new equipment comes out every year. You don’t have a high upfront cost. You’re not stuck with the same driver for a year. It gives you flexibility and freedom to play the newest driver. If a manufacturer wants to get into the same business, we have the advantage of offering all brands. We’re a premium subscription brand, so we’re willing to offer services that other retailers aren’t. We’ll do shaft swaps, we’ll send heads only, we have fast shipping and delivery times. We’re really a one-stop shop for all brands.

What measures do you take to offer the most up to date equipment?

K: We will always have the newest products on the actual launch date. We take pride in offering the equipment right away. A lot of times, our members will receive their clubs on release day. We order direct from the manufacturers and keep inventory. There’s no drop shipping. We prefer shipping ourselves and being able to add a personal package.

The service is uniquely personal. Their drivers come with a ball marker stamped with your initials as well as a stylish valuables pouch. They also provide a hand signed welcome letter and some stickers.

Who makes up the team at Dollar Driver Club?

K: We’re a small team. We started accepting members to our service in 2018 and it has grown exponentially. We have four or five guys here and it’s all hands on deck. We handle customer inquiries and sending drivers out. It’s a small business nature that we want to grow a lot bigger.

When discussing the company, you have to concede that the model doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially traditionalists. There are golfers who have absolutely no problem spending whatever retailers are charging for their newest wares. There are also golfers who have no problem playing equipment with grips that haven’t been changed in years, much less worrying about buying new equipment. I wanted to know exactly who they’re targeting.

Who is your target demographic?

K: We want all golfers. We want any golfer with any income, any skill level, to be able to play the newest equipment. We want to reshape the way people think about obtaining golf equipment. We’re starting with drivers, but we’re looking into expanding into putters, wedges, and other woods. We’ve heard manufacturers keep an eye on us. There are going to be people who just want to pay that upfront cost so they can own it, but those people may be looking at it on the surface and they don’t see the other benefits. We’re also a service that offers shaft swaps and easily send in your driver after 3 months if you don’t like it.

At this point, it didn’t seem like my quest to find any drawbacks to the service was going well. However, any good business identifies threats to their model and I was really only able to think of one. They do require a photo ID to start your account, but there’s no credit check required like you may see from other ‘buy now, pay later’ programs. That sounds ripe for schemers that we see all the time on websites like eBay and Craigslist.

When you’re sending out a $500 piece of equipment and only taking $41 up front, you’re assuming some risk. How much do you rely on the integrity of golfers who use your service to keep everything running smoothly?

K: We do rely on the integrity of the golf community. When we send out a driver, we believe it’s going into the hands of a golfer. By collecting the ID, we have measures on our end that we can use in the event that the driver goes missing or an account goes delinquent, but we’re always going to side with our members.

The conversation I had with Kevin really opened my eyes to the fact that Dollar Driver Club is exactly what the company says it is. They want to grow and become a staple means of obtaining golf equipment in the current and future market. Kevin was very transparent that the idea is simple, they’re just the ones actually executing it. He acknowledged the importance of social media and how they will harness the power of applications like Instagram to reach new audiences.

Kevin was also adamant that even if you prefer owning your own driver and don’t mind the upfront cost, the flexibility to customize your driver cheaply with a plethora of high-quality shafts is what really makes it worth trying out their service. If for whatever reason, you don’t like their service, you can cancel the subscription and return the driver after 90 days, which means that you can play the newest driver for three months at a cost of $90.

In my personal opinion, I think there’s a huge growth opportunity for a service like this. The idea of playing the newest equipment and being able to tinker with it pretty much at-will really speaks to me. If you’re willing to spend $15 a month on Netflix to re-watch The Office for the 12th time in a row or $35 a month for a Barkbox subscription for your dog, it may be worth doing something nice for your golf bag.

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Opinion & Analysis

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist

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I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”

 

How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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