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The 22 golfers who can actually win The Masters

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Editor’s Note: Rich Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and their instructors.

Each year, 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 predicted Bubba Watson would win the event — which he did at 25/1 odds.

Before I discuss my picks of this year’s Masters, which this year includes 22 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.

Here's how No. 17 looks from the tee without the Eisenhower tree (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

How No. 17 looks from the tee without the Eisenhower tree (Photo Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images).

In 2013 for instance, the critical holes were Nos. 7, 12, 13, 17 and 18. But the removal of the Eisenhower Tree on No. 17 created a smaller deviation in scores, so No. 17 was no longer a critical hole for participants. The par-5 13th hole has also seen a trend in more similar scores, so it has been replaced by the par-5 15th hole as a critical hole. The critical holes to watch out for at the 2015 Masters are Nos. 7, 12, 15 and 18.

Moving on to the tournament, I filtered out the past champions who are well past their time being competitive and the amateurs. Those 18 players include:

  • Antonio Murdaca (1000/1)
  • Ben Crenshaw (2500/1)
  • Bernhard Langer (300/1)
  • Bradley Neil (1000/1)
  • Byron Meth (2000/1)
  • Corey Conners (1000/1)
  • Fred Couples (150/1)
  • Gunn Yang (1000/1)
  • Ian Woosnam (2500/1)
  • Jose Maria Olazabal (1000/1)
  • Larry Mize (2500/1)
  • Mark O’Meara (2500/1)
  • Matias Dominguez (1000/1)
  • Mike Weir (1000/1)
  • Sandy Lyle (2500/1)
  • Scott Harvey (750/1)
  • Tom Watson (1000/1)
  • Trevor Immelman (500/1)

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:

  • Anirban Lahiri (300/1)
  • Bernd Wiesberger (250/1)
  • Brendon Todd (250/1)
  • Brian Harman (500/1)
  • Brooks Koepka (80/1)
  • Cameron Tringale (300/1)
  • Danny Willett (150/1)
  • Erik Compton (500/1)
  • James Hahn (200/1)
  • Morgan Hoffmann (250/1)
  • Robert Streb (300/1)
  • Seung-Yul Noh (300/1)
  • Shane Lowry (150/1)

Out of the group of first-time invitees, I would pay close attention to Shane Lowry, as he has a game that is a very good fit for Augusta because of the strong Red Zone Play (shots from 175-225 yards) that he has shown off this season. And of course, if Brooks Koepka is healthy, I expect him to have a good showing, as Augusta fits his game as well.

Unfortunately, I have to eliminate five 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 a minor run at winning — Thomas Bjorn, who finished T8.

The four players include:

  • Thomas Bjorn (300/1)
  • Darren Clarke (1000/1)
  • Stephen Gallacher (300/1)
  • Braden Grace (200/1)
  • Mikko Ilonen (500/1)

I will also eliminate these four American players, who have not played a sufficient amount of tournaments this season for me to statistically measure their key performance metrics:

  • Kevin Stadler (500/1)
  • Steve Stricker (200/1)
  • Tiger Woods (20/1)
  • Ben Crane (500/1)

Moving on with the list, I eliminated players who I think are too short to play well at Augusta National. They include:

  • Jim Furyk (70/1)
  • Zach Johnson (60/1)

Last year I had five players in the “too short to win at Augusta” list, and the 3 of the 5 made the cut with a best finish going to Jim Furyk, who tied for 14th.

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 10 players in the “too low of a trajectory to win at Augusta,” and 9 of the 10 players missed the cut. The only player who did make the cut was “The Mechanic,” Miguel Jimenez, who finished in 4th place. But if you don’t hit it high at Augusta, your odds of winning are not very good. That’s why I’ve eliminated these six players:

  • Camilo Villegas (250/1)
  • Graeme McDowell (150/1)
  • Jason Dufner (125/1)
  • Kevin Na (100/1)
  • Patrick Reed (25/1)
  • Thongchai Jaidee (500/1)

The player who stands out in this group is Patrick Reed. He’s currently 183rd in Apex Height. Typically, he has been better than the average in Apex Height, but for whatever reason he is hitting the ball quite low this season. I think, like Jimenez, Reed has the ability to alter his ball flight. But given how critical Apex Height is to success at Augusta, the numbers suggest that his odds are not that great this season.

Furthermore, since the inauguration of the event, there have only been two winners of the Masters who had never previously made the cut: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and Gene Sarazen in 1936. Reed has never made the cut at the Masters and neither have the three players below. Let’s rule them out as well. They are:

  • Victor Dubuisson (100/1)
  • Ben Martin (300/1)
  • Sang-Moon Bae (250/1)

I will say that if anybody could break that mold it would be Reed, whose fiery behavior and competitiveness reminds me of John McEnroe. But for now, I’ll stick with the numbers and the odds.

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 nine players who were not previously filtered out that missed the cut at Houston. Of those nine players, only five of them made the cut and the best finish was a T20 by Ian Poulter.

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. Those five players include:

  • Angel Cabrera (80/1)
  • Joost Luiten (205/1)
  • Lee Westwood (45/1)
  • Louis Oosthuizen (50/1)
  • Martin Kaymer (65/1)

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 nine players on my list of weak Red Zone performers. The best finish came from John Huh, who finished T11. Let’s rule out these 15 players because of their poor Red Zone play, which again, is critical at Augusta:

  • Bill Haas (80/1)
  • Charl Schwartzel (80/1)
  • Charley Hoffman (250/1)
  • Geoff Ogilvy (300/1)
  • Hunter Mahan (100/1)
  • Ian Poulter (80/1)
  • Jamie Donaldson (125/1)
  • John Senden (250/1)
  • Jonas Blixt (150/1)
  • Luke Donald (100/1)
  • Marc Leishman (200/1)
  • Matt Every (250/1)
  • Phil Mickelson (20/1)
  • Russell Henley (125/1)
  • Sergio Garcia (40/1)

There are some big surprises involved with that list of players. This includes former winners Charl Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson, who currently rank 194th and 134th (out of 206 players) respectively from the Red Zone. Typically good approach shot player Luke Donald ranks 198th, and Sergio Garcia currently ranks 205th out of 206 from the Red Zone. While those rankings can change dramatically when the season is finished, it is clear that these players are currently having major issues on those long approach shots.

Lastly, I have started a new metric this season, as I have noticed that there is some correlation between performance on straight-away par-4’s and the Masters performance. Essentially, I have measured a scoring average for players on the straight-away par-4’s and adjusted that scoring average based on the hole’s difficulty. The five players left on the list who have struggled on straight-away par-4’s this season are:

  • Ernie Els (150/1)
  • Padraig Harrington (150/1)
  • Justin Rose (40/1)
  • Webb Simpson (150/1)
  • Gary Woodland (125/1)

Finally, we are down to the 22 players that the numbers show can win at Augusta. They include:

  • Adam Scott (20/1)
  • Bill Horschel (70/1)
  • Brandt Snedeker (40/1)
  • Bubba Watson (10/1)
  • Chris Kirk (150/1)
  • Dustin Johnson (12/1)
  • Henrik Stenson (20/1)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (60/1)
  • Jason Day (12/1)
  • J.B. Holmes (35/1)
  • Jimmy Walker (18/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (8/1)
  • Keegan Bradley (60/1)
  • Kevin Streelman (150/1)
  • Matt Kuchar (30/1)
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez (150/1)
  • Paul Casey (70/1)
  • Rickie Fowler (30/1)
  • Rory McIlroy (8/1)
  • Ryan Moore (60/1)
  • Ryan Palmer (80/1)
  • Vijay Singh (125/1)

Of those 22 players, here are my top-10 picks to win the Masters:

  • Rory McIlroy (8/1)
  • Jordan Spieth (8/1)
  • Bubba Watson (10/1)
  • Jason Day (12/1)
  • Dustin Johnson (12/1)
  • Adam Scott (20/1)
  • Jimmy Walker (18/1)
  • J.B. Holmes (35/1)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (60/1)
  • Paul Casey (70/1)

*Odds from VegasInsider.com. For a list of updated Masters Odds, click here

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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 [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

67 Comments

67 Comments

  1. Jimmy W

    Mar 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    When do you plan on releasing the 2016 version of this? Always love your write up.

  2. Brian

    Apr 13, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Well, thank you sir. With your information I won my masters pool at work. Brilliant! Please do this again next year!

  3. John

    Apr 10, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Which two do you like over the weekend out of this group: Woods, Haas, Moore, Matsuyama, Blixt, Sergio?

  4. Stormy

    Apr 8, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks much for the article Rich, very interesting and compelling. Do you have any clue how nagging Hideki Matsuyama’s wrist injury is?

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 9, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Not sure. His ballstriking is still really great. I have him ranked 2nd in Driving Effectiveness right now and 7th in Red Zone play. Last year his biggest woes was his Short Game play around the green, but this year he’s 34th. I don’t know when the wrist injury occurred, but it doesn’t appear to be bothering him too much. Phenomenal talent.

  5. Jordan

    Apr 8, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Rich that was one of the best articles I’ve ever read and great insight behind the numbers, I understand your top 10, Casey being your dark horse, and Rory your pick to win. But who’s the other 3 that make your top 5?

  6. Andrew

    Apr 8, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Richie- What do you think of Lee Westwood this week. He’s been a top-10 machine at ANGC. I know he missed the cut last week but -2 in tough conditions (close to the cut) but that doesn’t seem to indicate he really struggled. If you hadn’t cut him for missing the cut, how would he have performed in the other metrics you use to predict this week?

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 8, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      I really liked Westwood, although his data is limited this year. He performed well from the Red Zone and straight-away par-4’s. But, he missed the cut at Houston which is too problematic to overcome. Wouldn’t be surprised if he records a top-10 finish, but winning isn’t very likely.

  7. gpo613

    Apr 8, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    I love the analysis. I am a huge math guy myself. One interesting stat I found this week is that only 2 players have finished in the Top 20 in the last 5 Masters. Adam Scott and Fred Couples.

    Doesn’t mean much but interesting.

    Even though it goes against the stats the guy I don’t believe in this week is Holmes.

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Holmes has played this year in interesting style. His Red Zone performance is poor 146th, but he’s rarely in the Red Zone except on the par-3’s. He just hits it too far to be in the Red Zone on the par-4’s. I was going to filter him out, but his performance at Houston changed that. Still, I think he could have issues on the par-3’s and #13 and #15 if his drive ends up with 175-225 yards to the hole. But, I’ve talked to some of the Vegas odds makers and in golf, the hot hand is very important.

  8. Kevin

    Apr 8, 2015 at 11:05 am

    If you have watched much golf on TV this season, the players in the final list of favorites are the ones who would have passed the eye ball test for having a great chance this week as well. Barring some anomaly, whoever putts the best of the favorites will probably win.

  9. Martin

    Apr 8, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I think the analysis is pretty good, I picked Day in my pool.

  10. Ian

    Apr 8, 2015 at 6:05 am

    PSA: the year Zach Johnson won was windy and cold (eliminating the distance advantage of the bombers). Or you can waste your time and read all 50+ posts below saying the same thing.

  11. T

    Apr 7, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    It’s cute when you guys point to Zach or Weir as a way to disprove logic. The article is based on statistics and trends, not the anomalies. Those of you trolling should write your own article with your top 20, based on the seat of your pants then narrow it to a top 10 picks based on past winners and long shots, I’m sure you will get lucky once every 5-10 years.

    I’ll stick to statistics which have worked 2 years in a row and have something more than an opinion to back them up.

    Thanks for the well written article Rich.

    • devlin

      Apr 9, 2015 at 8:59 am

      This is really good statistical research. However these statistics do not take into account other variables such as weather, player emotional and physical state, players preparation, tee off selection, player partner selection.
      I will state I am not surprised at how the list was achieved.
      With the exception of Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson not being part of the top 22.
      I am surprised at some of the people on that list though; Jimmy Walker, and Henrik Stenson don’t appear to have the belief that they can win at Augusta, from the sound bites and interviews that i’ve heard. Miguel and Vijay do not have the finishing ability or conditioning to win. Kevin Streelman, Ryan Moore and Ryan Palmer shouldn’t even be on the top 22 list, regardless of the stats., in my opinion. Hedeki is injured and he’s too new to the Masters he might need a few more years but should not be on this list this year.
      But that’s the interesting thing about statistics, they can be used to prove or disprove anything.
      Good Read though!

  12. Jeff

    Apr 7, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Zach Johnson definitely too short to finish well at Augusta.

  13. Pulley

    Apr 7, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Excellent article Rich! However Victor Dubuisson will finish in the top 5 and probably win it all.

  14. Kevin

    Apr 7, 2015 at 11:50 am

    really fun article, well-written, and the stat approach was interesting! you mention you picked Bubba last year, so who is your top pick this year based on all information you have gathered?

  15. jedidiahs mom

    Apr 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

    richie what are the odds of you looking your cutest on Thursday?

  16. James

    Apr 7, 2015 at 7:50 am

    A great read with some interesting points. In my humble opinion, I’m surprised there was no metric mentioned regarding chipping or putting, particularly as we’re talking about Augusta, but nevertheless an enjoyable read!

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

      James – ANGC is a course about hitting GIR. 9 of the last 10 winners hit at least 50 GIR’s and the one that didn’t, Charl Schwartzel, hit 49 GIR in his victory. This is not typical of a lot of courses where there may be a wide range of GIR by the winners over the years. Usually the courses where hitting a lot of GIR’s is needed is usually low scoring events like Las Vegas or Palm Springs. But the Masters is not a low scoring event and since you have to hit a ton of GIR’s to win, it shows that putting has far less effect than people think. That’s how guys that are typically below average putters like Bubba, Adam Scott, Cabrera, etc play well at ANGC.

      The numbers suggest that inside 20-feet at ANGC there are a lot of putts to be made. The issue is outside 20-feet as there are likely a lot of 3-putts to be made. So the better ballstrikers tend to win here and if you’re missing greens, it’s likely going to be a difficult up-and-down from any position due to it being difficult to get close to the hole.

      I think the greens have a large impact on 1st time invitees given Zoeller is the only person to win there and that was nearly 35 years ago. But for the rest of the field that gets to experience the greens there probably is not a great deviation in putting performance and the greater deviation results from getting the approach shot close to the hole.

  17. Ev

    Apr 7, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Love the article, I don’t like to pick winners in the Masters. I’ve gone for Jimmy Walker finishing in top 20 at evens

  18. Simz

    Apr 7, 2015 at 4:49 am

    Brilliant! Thanks for this. I feel this is a well structured and articulated piece, and although most of your final picks fall into the “common” pool, the stats justify it. But a question Rich
    1) Given the weather forecast (rainy, storms predicted for Thurs – Sat) – How does this affect the picks? Maybe a chance for the shorter hitters / good scramblers
    2) No putting metric to help with more filtering?

    Thanks again

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 7, 2015 at 9:35 am

      a) Wind tends to help the shorter players with good wedge games in general. Zach Johnson won at ANGC in a terribly cold and windy 4-days. I have done research on players that perform better (with regards to where they rank in an event) when the wind is up and typically good wedge players with slightly downward attack angles with the driver and a little more conservative off the tee tend to do better. As far as rain goes, I have yet to do research on that. I would think that would favor the long hitter (think Daly at Crooked Stick) and the short hitter that is excellent from the Red Zone (i.e. Weir when he won). So screwy weather conditions may favor a player more like Chris Kirk or Ryan Moore.

      b)

  19. Gary Gutful

    Apr 7, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Bet large and bet often.

    I’m going to put a shyteload on Day.

  20. Jake Anderson

    Apr 7, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Very interesting – great article! Just one question out of curiosity: How did you determine that Vijay Singh was not well past his competitive prime so that you did not rule him out initially? Is this due to his stats on the PGA-Tour this season? For example approach play from the Red Zone?

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 7, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Yes. Vijay is 6th in Red Zone play so far this year. He also played well at Riviera (t-12th) which has a moderate correlation to performance at ANGC. I believe the Red Zone shots at Riviera are similar to the type of Red Zone shots at ANGC and that’s why there is a correlation between performance there earlier in the year and performance at the Masters.

  21. AC930

    Apr 7, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Great article and insight….. but I’m not going to write off Tiger like so many are doing right now. Does anyone remember the 14 majors? He may have looked like he was trying to play left handed a few months ago, but he will wake up and intimidate again.

    • Rich

      Apr 7, 2015 at 9:20 am

      I think you need to wake up dude…………

  22. RG

    Apr 6, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    To all the mouth breathers-It’s called math. Yes Rich used numbers and, OMG, formulas to give what is called a “statistical analysis.” Now I know many of you don’t “believe” in scientific mumbo jumbo, so this article is not for you.
    To Rich,
    Don’t worry about comments you see in this forum. People on here are convinced that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and there’s no scientific gobbly goop that can change it.

  23. JHM

    Apr 6, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    great article – hope you are right – I got 3 of your top 21 and 2 of your top 10 with pretty good odds from Ceasars

  24. marcel

    Apr 6, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    if Bubba does not win then the other guy can be whoever!

  25. michael

    Apr 6, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Before reading the article i had Keegan and Kuchar penciled in as my picks. I think at 60 to 1 Bradley is good odds for a wager.

  26. KT

    Apr 6, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Rich – so who’s your pick to win it?

  27. Gubment Cheez

    Apr 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    It’s a limited field with a bunch of over the hill former winners and a lot of amateurs that couldn’t shoot in the 60s at the John Deere.
    Augusta thinks it’s too good for golf
    It’s a cool looking course but by far it’s the worst tournament of the year
    Why anyone really cares about this is beyond me.

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 6, 2015 at 8:55 pm

      Gubment — Have you ever been to Augusta?

      • Gubment Cheez

        Apr 7, 2015 at 1:13 pm

        Yea once when I first got into golf

  28. Joey.

    Apr 6, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Richie also thinks that the greens at Augusta are easier to putt than other courses on tour. I’d say that’s enough to discredit any of his opinions/ “statistical analyses”

    • Richie Hunt

      Apr 6, 2015 at 8:54 pm

      What can be discredited is you have completely misrepresented what I’ve said in a desperate move to make yourself sound correct. The data shows that the make percentages inside 20-feet at ANGC are fairly high and that the 3-putt %’s are also high. Faster greens on Tour by and large have the highest make %’s and depending on the size of the greens…have the highest 3-putt %’s. I was told that this could not possibly be true and I showed example after example of this where the slower greens (i.e. Pebble, Riviera, Torrey Pines, etc) had low make %’s while the faster greens like Congressional, TPC Boston, and Valhalla had some of the higher make %’s. Until you provide any actual evidence suggesting otherwise, it’s hard to take your claims with more than a grain of salt.

  29. Joakim

    Apr 6, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Henrik Stenson should be in top 10

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 7, 2015 at 9:29 am

      I thought about it, but Stenson’s game is really about driving (typically). Last season he was excellent from the Red Zone (5th), this year he’s been very good. The issue I see for him is that ANGC isn’t a course where you’re going to gain a lot of strokes on the field by hitting 300 yard drives down the middle. It won’t hurt, but you have to worry about guys like Bubba, DJ, Holmes, etc. that can simply bomb it out there as far as they can and still end up with a shot at the green from a closer distance. I wouldn’t scoff at anybody picking Stenson, I just think that there are players that fit into ANGC better than he does.

  30. Jadon

    Apr 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Yes Mike Weir has a green jacket but his play on tour has been less than stellar for the past 3 years.

  31. Matt

    Apr 6, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Haha sorry but I laughed when I saw Paul Casey…dude’s driving accuracy is 110th.

    All things considered Bubba’s in the 140’s but we’ve all seen the filthy shots he can hit from the rough!

  32. Sam

    Apr 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    In reply to Ed,
    When Zach won in ’07 the weather was less than ideal. The course was playing soft and so the longer hitters couldn’t take advantage of the par 5s. So a great wedge player like Zach had no disadvantage laying up on par 5s. Unless the course plays soft it’s unlikely for a short player to prevail

  33. Ross

    Apr 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    This is a Par 5 championship, the golfer with the least stokes taken on the 16 par 5s will be triumphant.

  34. Jafar

    Apr 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Sorry but your stats are a horrible way to pick the winner. Just because you said Bubba Watson would win doesn’t mean your formula worked.

    Brooks Koepka, Zach Johnson,Angel Cabrera, Jonas Blixt, are all very capable of winning.

    The only pick I like of yours is JB Holmes, but the rest is just a list of the Top 10 in the world, nothing too bold there, any of those guys can win any tournament.

    The questions is can you pick someone that no one expects?

    If I had to pick 4 people that not many would expect, they’d be: Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson , Patrick Reed, Cameron Tringale.

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 6, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      My list in the previous year (I’ve only done it for the past 2 years) had Adam Scott who won it that year as well. Correlation does not imply causation, but we are trying to determine the *likelihood* of winning an event based on past data. There has only been one 1st time invitee to win at ANGC which shows a relationship between experience of playing Augusta and winning. The odds of winning at ANGC despite missing the cut the week before are extremely unlikely which eliminates Cabrera. I don’t believe Blixt is a good fit for ANGC given his weak ballstriking. And as far as one ‘nobody expects’, I did list Paul Casey who would be in my top-5 picks. The numbers really like Casey this year.

      • Jafar

        Apr 8, 2015 at 10:52 am

        Yah I saw your Paul Casey pick as being someone who know ones expects to win.

        I will keep my eye out for his name on the leaderboard.

  35. AllBOdoesisgolf

    Apr 6, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    the fact that Tiger is 20/1 is laughable

  36. Dan

    Apr 6, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I wonder what odds the bookies would give to take the field against your 21 players?
    I personally like your list but you’d have to agree that the stats don’t show everything!

    • Rich Hunt

      Apr 6, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      I agree, statistics do not show everything. But, statisticians do not create statistics with the goal in mind of showing everything because they know that more often than not it is impossible to do so. So their goal is to use historical data, trends, correlations, variances, etc. to help provide a more accurate understanding instead of a *perfect* understanding.

      For ANGC, unless the weather conditions change dramatically, hitting it high, hitting it long, hitting it well from 175-225 yards and having experience playing ANGC fall right in line with the players most likely to play well.

  37. Matt

    Apr 6, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    too short to play well at Augusta?? Zach Johnson won the event?? Very confused

    • Ed

      Apr 6, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      I kind of thought the same thing when I read that as Zach J was going to be one of my picks

      • Jm

        Apr 6, 2015 at 1:07 pm

        The year z johnson won was a year when weather and conditions played a big factor and eliminated some of the advantages that players who hit it long and high typically have at Augusta National

      • Matt

        Apr 6, 2015 at 1:21 pm

        If I recall correctly, ZJ won in ’07 during a very windy weekend. Plus he can’t putt for sheeeeeit.

        • Rich Hunt

          Apr 6, 2015 at 1:52 pm

          It was not only a windy weekend, it was record low temps. At the time I was living in Atlanta and the temps were in the 40’s with the wind. This made it extremely difficult to reach #13 and #15 in two shots and thus players had to lay-up on those holes and get into a wedge contest with Zach.

          • Keith

            Apr 7, 2015 at 12:09 pm

            That was my one and only Masters. I did not pack appropriately and had to buy a long sleeve pullover so I didn’t freeze to death! Ian Poulter wore really pink pants and patent leather pink shoes on Sunday…not sure why I remember that.

    • Jason

      Apr 6, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      He did win it once but overall his average finish is 37, with 5 missed cuts in 11 starts I can see how he missed the top 21.

    • Guantanemo

      Apr 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      The thing you have to realize is, the year Zach Johnson won, temperatures at Augusta were at historic lows, so the longer hitters weren’t able to take advantage of their length to reach the greens in two in par 5s. That’s why Zach, who was so deadly accurate with his wedges, was able to take advantage of the longer hitters’ disadvantage and score low on those holes. You have to realize that Augusta is a course that absolutely favors longer hitters under normal conditions, so the “too short to play well” is in fact a crucial metric.

    • SJ

      Apr 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Pretty sure Mike Weir is even shorter than Zach, and misses more fairways. Last time I checked I he has a green jacket in his closet as well.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

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The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Valhalla

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Oak Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

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