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Bryson DeChambeau, the next American golf superstar

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Working with competitive junior golfers has been a cornerstone of my business for a quarter century. Consequently, I’ve been fortunate to have either coached or been exposed to innumerable great young golfers over the years. Many of them have ultimately gone on to play collegiately and professionally.

Part of that exposure comes from the fact that for two decades, my club has hosted one of the premier junior golf tournaments in Northern California, with players coming from around the region to test their mettle against some of the best. With so many good, young players coming through our facility over the years, I like to think I’ve developed a pretty keen insight into the differences between those who ultimately become the great ones and those who don’t. And while I’ve seen a lot of really good kids come and go, there are a handful who left an impression that still stands.

The first time I saw this one particular kid was about a decade ago. I was out checking on a few students who were playing in that big junior tournament when I came upon a group of younger kids approaching our 15th hole, a tough par-4 with an incredibly difficult green that might be appropriately described as an escapee from Pinehurst No. 2. For some strange reason, I decided to wait just behind the green for their approach despite the fact that the group was more than 150 yards away and they were kids from the boys 10 and 11 division, a group unlikely to hit the green from that distance even if they had it teed up with a driver. The last kid to hit was easily a gimme putt short of 5-feet tall, but the longest off the tee. When he played his approach, I remember thinking, “Great swing.” “Wow,” I said a few moments later as the ball dropped softly on the green and rolled up to within 3 feet. That kid went on to win the event comfortably that day. His name was Bryson DeChambeau.

A decade later, DeChambeau has stormed onto the golf public’s consciousness in a way that few promising young golfers have in recent memory. Armed with ample personality and an NCAA Individual Championship — as well as a U.S. Amateur Championship in 2015 — the kid from Clovis, California, plays unconventional irons cut all to the same length, wears a throwback Hogan-style cap and models his swing after theories put forth in “The Golfing Machine” (an out-of-print book from the 1960s written by a Boeing engineer who didn’t even play the sport), DeChambeau hopes to impact the game in a way similar to a couple of guys named Arnie and Jack.

Now some roll their eyes at comments like that, but DeChambeau is backing it up. In just a couple of weeks, he’s gone from the quirky reigning U.S. Amateur Champ to one of the most talked-about players in the game thanks to an impressive finish in the Masters. And if not for a couple of successive head-scratching drives on No. 18 on Friday, he might have found himself playing in the final group on the weekend and threatening to be the first amateur to ever win The Masters.

And what did he do for an encore? Well, just turn professional, sign mega endorsement deals with Cobra/Puma and Bridgestone, and make his professional debut in the RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, finishing in fourth place despite putting poorly throughout the event. It was an impressive debut to say the least, but if he made as many putts inside 15 feet as eventual winner Branden Grace did, he could have won his first career start as a professional outright by five shots.

A lot has been said already about DeChambeau’s mad scientist approach to the game (he majored in physics at SMU), his big personality (have you seen his Carl Spackler from Caddyshack impression?) and his old-school sense of style, but somewhat lost in all of that is the fact that there is at least as much substance to the kid as style, and at the moment, he’s navigating near-uncharted waters competitively.

Only four players have previously won an NCAA Championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year: Ryan Moore, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. That’s walking in tall cotton. And how did each fare in their first Masters? Only Moore bested DeChambeau’s tie for 21st, finishing in 13th place, but he was never in contention. Mickelson and Woods finished 47th and 41st, respectively, and the esteemed Mr. Nicklaus actually missed the cut.

What about their professional debuts? Moore tied for 51st in the 2005 Westchester Classic and took more than a year to crack the top-5 in any event. Mickelson debuted with a 68 in the ’92 U.S. Open, but followed that up with an 81 and missed the cut. Tiger, while earning a win fairly quickly (his fifth start in Las Vegas), finished an uninspiring 60th at the Greater Milwaukee Open in his first event as a pro. And Jack? Nicklaus finished in a tie for last place out of all 50 players making the cut at Rancho Park in the 1962 Tour opener, making a whopping $33.33.

If you’re paying attention, this means DeChambeau has done nothing less than kick off his professional career in a fashion that didn’t just eclipse the only other four to have accomplished what he did last year by winning the NCAA and U.S. Amateur in the same season, but in a far better fashion than Mickelson (one of golf’s biggest superstars of he past two decades), as well as Woods and Nicklaus, the two players who are arguably the best the professional game has ever seen.

Now with those competitive credentials, DeChambeau arrives on the scene with plenty of credibility, but it is really his story, his personal style and his ample personality that sets him apart from the hordes of good young automatons who come along in our sport each day. And whether or not the golf-consuming public realizes it, we crave creativity, personality, individuality, and story, especially when it is backed up with substance, but often even when it isn’t.

We admired Jack, with his nerves of steel and incredible record, but we loved Arnie and his wild lash at the ball and swash-buckling style. We marveled at Woods and mostly cheered his dominance, but never warmed up to him the same way that we did (and still do) to Mickelson with his bewildered smile, amazing short game and ever-present potential for a train wreck. We love (and hate) Bubba, with his name, his pink driver, his home-made swing, prodigious drives and penchant for putting his foot in his mouth now and then, too. And now and then we even still cheer for John Daly, maybe not as loud, but far more than we would for any other player with a similar playing record because of his colorful persona.

Now if you need one last bit of proof, then look no further than another young player who arrived on the scene a few years ago with plenty of personality and style — DeChambeau’s Cobra/Puma stablemate Rickie Fowler, who garnered far more of the spotlight and far bigger galleries at every Tour stop than you could argue his playing credentials merited until his win at The Player’s Championship just last year.

Now of course, all this doesn’t mean young Bryson won’t have his ups and downs, and this is only the beginning of his young story. We’ve seen time and again that the golf world often dubs someone the next Jordan, the next Nicklaus, or the next Tiger, and the pressure becomes an unwelcome burden that stunts, stalls or even kills a career. So I caution us all to temper our enthusiasm and not only enjoy what he’s doing at the moment, but to let him enjoy it as well without being hyper-critical.

dechambeau

Most 22-year-old kids aren’t in a position to charter a private jet home after their first week on the job (DeChambeau did), and he’s bound to make a few missteps here and there. And since he hasn’t even won his first event yet, predicting that he is going to be the next this or that may sound a bit premature… but consider the following. If you’re not sold yet, and I think you just might start to agree with why I think we are witnessing the the next big chapter in professional golf.

You see, I forgot to mention it to this point, but there’s one more thing we like in players: humility.

About half dozen years ago, I was posting scores on the scoreboard during that same premier junior event when I was handed Bryson DeChambeau’s scorecard. An 81. I was more than a little surprised. And so was he. He was a much more accomplished player by that point, fresh off playing in the Junior World Championships, and it wasn’t the type of score he was used to shooting.

Now, my club is an extremely challenging golf course, and I’ve been witness to more than a few accomplished young players coming through here and shooting rounds that didn’t quite meet their expectations. These are the kind of rounds we call “trunk slammers,” where players turn their scorecard in with a perfunctory thanks, throw the clubs in the trunk and storm off in a huff not waiting around to even see who won.

What did the kid from Clovis do?

While obviously a bit disappointed in his performance, he hung around and chatted with all the other players, sympathizing with them on how tough the course had played that day, and was nothing short of polite and approachable to everyone. It may have been just a little thing, but it sticks out when you’ve been around as many good young players as I have in the past quarter century.

All of that is why I think when people look on these past couple of weeks in pro golf, they’re not just going to remember them as the downfall of American golf’s current superstar, Jordan Spieth, when he gave away the Masters. I think they’re going to look back and remember the birth of the next American superstar, a kid from Clovis, California, named Bryson DeChambeau.

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Mike Dowd is the author of the new novel COMING HOME and the Lessons from the Golf Guru: Wit, Wisdom, Mind-Tricks & Mysticism for Golf and Life series. He has been Head PGA Professional at Oakdale Golf & CC in Oakdale, California since 2001, and is serving his third term on the NCPGA Board of Directors and Chairs the Growth of the Game Committee. Mike has introduced thousands of people to the game and has coached players that have played golf collegiately at the University of Hawaii, San Francisco, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, University of the Pacific, C.S.U. Sacramento, C.S.U. Stanislaus, C.S.U. Chico, and Missouri Valley State, as men and women on the professional tours. Mike currently lives in Turlock, California with his wife and their two aspiring LPGA stars, where he serves on the Turlock Community Theatre Board, is the past Chairman of the Parks & Recreation Commission and is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock. In his spare time (what's that?) he enjoys playing golf with his girls, writing, music, fishing and following the foibles of the Sacramento Kings, the San Francisco 49ers, the San Francisco Giants, and, of course, the PGA Tour. You can find Mike at mikedowdgolf.com.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. BrentF

    Apr 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Comments on this site are ridiculous. BD has a great game…he’s better than everyone that posts here…the article was interesting…go to the range and practice and stop being so judgemental and snide.

  2. scot

    Apr 23, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    seems the author is more concerned about making a case for his greatness than the potential of BD

  3. Dj

    Apr 23, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Dechambeau is a cocky kid, thinks he’s better than everyone else and just wants to be different for the spot light. It’s working, but not for long.

  4. Matthew Bacon

    Apr 23, 2016 at 10:07 am

    He seems like a nice guy but no.

  5. Christosterone

    Apr 23, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Remember when Hal Sutton was the next Nicklaus? Yeah, me neither….but he was…not
    The only next Jack is Tiger….Phil is Tom Watson….Vijay is Johnny Miller….Dustin Johnson is Tom Weiskopf…..Zach Johnson is Larry Nelson….nobody is the Next Palmer because he was the coolest man to ever hit the links
    -Christosterone

  6. Mark

    Apr 23, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Ah yes this year’s model. Our Pro is convinced his swing will destroy his back. He comes across as a great bloke and is waaaay more intelligent than a lot of his peers (apologies to Jimmy Walker). But, and it is a huge but, is there are so many brilliant non Americans arriving on the scene every year that Bryson is not guaranteed success.

    • Scott

      Apr 25, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Your “pro” should really look at what is happening in his swing before making such a ridiculous statement. Bryson has removed all of the torque on his lower back. His swing and back should last a long time. You should probably just look for a “pro” that pays attention.

  7. RG

    Apr 23, 2016 at 1:49 am

    Way to go out on a limb. If I had not read this article I wouldn’t even know who Bryson DeChambeau is. So he’s pretty good huh? Unconventional you say. I didn’t know. Well way to make a call, I had not heard that we should expect great things from him or that he was anything special. Very informative.

  8. Jordan Speeth

    Apr 22, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Seems like I’ve heard this somewhere before….oh yeah, about Bryson deChambeau, by every golf writer on earth. Can’t we wait until he actually accomplishes something? I know his amateur record well, but that means not much right now unless he adds to that with a professional record. He is the same age as Jordan Spieth, and without doing a thing other than place well in some professional tournaments, he’s already the greatest thing that ever came along. I hope he does well. I hope all of them do well, but to hear this over and over when nothing’s happened yet is a joke. I also find his swagger to be annoying without anything to rest on. You hardly see Rory, Jordan, or Ricky behaving this way. I think it was Einstein who said that the truly brilliant minds are the ones that are able to explain complicated things in simple terms that everyone can understand. Bryson seems to want to complicate everything about his playing/swing philosophy to make himself appear smarter than everyone around him….kind of like his mentor, Homer Kelly. BTW, he’s about to miss his first cut. Can we at least please hold off on the coronation until he wins a Tour event…anything?…. I’m not even asking for a major.

  9. Mike

    Apr 22, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Nice article. Stat on Ryan Moore is incorrect. He finished T2 in his 5th PGA Tour start as a pro in the Canadian Open, not a year like the article states.

  10. Mike Dowd

    Apr 22, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    I definitely appreciate (and agree with) the sentiment of those who think we should see a little more from the “Prince” of pro golf (as Tom W. called him) before we crown him the “King” of anything. One of the biggest points I was actually making was how we too often tend to fall in love with players with “style” before they show us much “substance” and Rickie was a prime example of that. Now I do think the fact that he’s done something that only 4 players have done previously (even if that was as an amateur), does give him just a bit more credibility than most as he arrives on the professional scene, but, as Ty said, we definitely need to see how this plays out. I like his chances, though, and if he’s getting more eyeballs (like Bryan’s) who weren’t terribly interested or inclined to tune in then he’ll be good for golf, and it’s been just about 20 years since we’ve been able to say that about anyone.

  11. Chuck D

    Apr 22, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    And anoth’a thing, cut that driver down to 6 iron length and THEN I might show some interest!

  12. Chuck D

    Apr 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Really?! Can this next “Nicklaus” please win a significant amount of tournaments before we induct
    him into the “unqualified” status of potential Hall of Flames, Urrrr, I mean Fame?! This premature
    anointing of unproven talent is about to drive me from being interested as a fan to this sport. This obsession of immediately awarding these clowns elevated status because they finished 16th at major,
    or simply because they were amateur champions is flat out ridiculous! Media….please stop the nonsense and hype machine at once! I know, I know, it’ll never happen.

  13. snowman

    Apr 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    He could be great for the game if he can balance his unconventional/flamboyant style/personality and sincerely project some humility and not come off as cocky. Gotta win more than Rickie has so far or it will be just another marketing sideshow.

  14. Mbwa Kali Sana

    Apr 22, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Why turn youngsters into superstars ,when they haven’t acheived anything valuable yet!
    BRYSON DECHAMBEAU is good looking , Plays a good golf game ,but nothing extraordinary .
    Hé certainly has a very good public relations Man working for him .
    Now ,it’s. Not with his single plane swing and évén length irons That hé will come to the top .
    Nô GREAT champion ,except eccentric MOE NORMAN has won a major with a single plane swing and same shaft irons ..

    • Tom

      Apr 23, 2016 at 6:30 am

      Better question is can you even name another pro who played SL irons other than Moe Norman?

    • Sam

      Apr 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Ummmmm……Moe Norman never played in the US Open, Open Championship or the PGA Championship and got cut from the Masters the one time he played.

  15. Blake

    Apr 22, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Please please stop talking about this guy. His whole persona is tiring and the media constantly shoving him down our throats does little for him.

  16. birdy

    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    bryson played in several pro events leading up to his first ‘official’ pro event. comparing his finish to others in their true first round little misleading. other than that good article and have no doubt he’s the real deal.

  17. Joe

    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    I like the kid, he has a really good game. As far as humility, he doesn’t have much. However, very few outstanding players in any sport have much humility. When you think you are one of the elite thinking you can leap tall buildings in a single bound is normal.

    We will see how it goes.

  18. Moo

    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Or the next ‘Tommy Two Gloves’.

  19. Ty Tryon

    Apr 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Someone said this about me one time.
    Golf is a sport where things are earned not guaranteed. Let’s all just see how this plays out

    • Forsbrand

      Apr 22, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      No way! Ty I wa only checking out your swing from the US Open a couple of years ago. Amazing swing!

      You will have your chance Ty don’t you worry you are too good not to succeed. Perhaps you don’t realise that enough yet?!

      You are right let Bryson develop on his own, the media is too keen to promote with one hand and then smash you the following day with the other.

      All the best Ty

    • Forsbrand

      Apr 23, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Hey M Sizzle what’s the M short for? Mug?!!

  20. Emb

    Apr 22, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Humility? Clearly you haven’t been paying much attention to the kid if you think he has anything approaching humility. DeChambeau is right up there with Mickelson as King of the phonies.

    • MarkB A

      Apr 22, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Well you may not like him the kid has game and plays the modern game of golf. Phil can still play it at times. Tiger can no longer play with the modern players. Golf has passed him by. The future belongs to young plays like DeChambeau

    • Mike Dowd

      Apr 22, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Well I think there can be a fine line between projecting confidence and arrogance and it is most often in the eye of the beholder. Confidence is paramount in golf and things a player says, especially to the press following a round, are often as much to protect their own sense of belief and self-confidence as anything and can come off to the casual observer at times as arrogant. Additionally, we are so used to so many players that are so milk toast and bereft of personality that when someone comes along who has a little it invariably rubs some people the wrong way. Ultimately, we are in an entertainment business and, love him or hate him, this kid is an entertainer. And finally, actions speak louder than words, and for now at least, I can only go on the actions I’ve seen firsthand, rather than a few comments I may hear second-hand to the contrary. At least until, as Ty says, the kid’s got a bigger body of work to draw from. Thanks for your views!

    • Al Czervik

      Apr 22, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you… This is the exact impression I got from watching him during the post round press conferences. Give him a few years and I have a feeling he’ll dethrone Mickelson as “King”.

  21. McLovin

    Apr 22, 2016 at 11:08 am

    i like that he copied Vicki Hurst’s choice in golf caps

  22. Bryan

    Apr 22, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Not saying he is the next Tiger Woods of golf…but he might be…His use of SL irons might spark an industry change in iron design and we may actually start seeing major OEM manufactures putting out SL irons. Of course a lot of this rides on how well he does as a pro.

    However; to compare him to three of the greatest golfers of all time, one being Tiger, I don’t think it is far fetched to say, he could be the next Tiger Woods of golf…

  23. Tom W.

    Apr 22, 2016 at 10:48 am

    I like DeChambeau’s flair he’s the “Prince” of pro golf.

    • Bryan

      Apr 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

      As of right now I’ve never had interest in following pro golf, not even Tiger when he came out. However; this kids use of SL irons has sparked my interest to follow pro golf, much like millions of people did when Tiger came on scene. His style of hat may become the next fad lol…

      • Double Mocha Man

        Apr 22, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        I’m off to buy a Kangol cap right now…

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 8 best prop bets for the 2024 Masters

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We’ve finally reached The Masters and excitement is at an all-time high. The world of golf has been fractured for the better part of two years, but for a week at Augusta National, all of the outside noise will disappear. All of the best players in the world will be together seeking to make history.

In addition to betting on The Masters champion. This is one of the few weeks of the year where there are so many more markets to explore, with value to be had in plenty of different categories.

Throughout this article, I’ll discuss all of my favorite props and players for the 2024 Masters.

Placement Bets:

Tony Finau Top 5 +750 (DraftKings):

I badly wanted to include Tony Finau in my outright betting selections, but I simply ran out of room on my card. Additionally, it’s slightly difficult to see him hitting the putts necessary to win the Masters on back nine on Sunday. However, I do strongly believe he will play great golf this week at Augusta National.

In his past 24 rounds, Finau ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Approach is always amongst the best drivers of the golf ball in the game. Back in 2019, Finau had a great chance to win The Masters. I expect him to be hanging around over the weekend once again in 2024.

Gary Woodland Top 20 +550 (DraftKings), Gary Woodland to make the cut -110 (DraftKings):

Last season, Gary Woodland had his best ever finish at The Masters in his eleven tries. The 39-year-old finished T14 and played incredibly steady across all four rounds.

In Woodland’s most recent start at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, he struck the ball incredibly well. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach (+8.8) and Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (+10.0).

Gary has been working with Butch Harmon and absolutely flushing the ball both in tournaments and during practice.

Woodland appears to be healthy once again and in a great place physically and mentally. If he can build off his impressive performance at Augusta last year, he can place inside the top ten in 2024.

Additionally, the make the cut number on Woodland seems generous considering the number of players who miss the cut will be relatively small this week. Woodland is striking it well enough to make the cut even if he’s hindered by a balky putter once again.

Thorbjorn Olesen Top 20 +400 (FanDuel):

The Thunder Bear, Thorbjorn Olesen, made his Masters debut in 2013 and finished an incredibly impressive T6 for the week. In the two additional starts he’s made at Augusta National since then, the Dane has continued to be incredibly solid, finishing T44 and T21.

This week, Olesen heads into the week playing some good golf. He gained 3.8 strokes on approach and 5.52 strokes around the green at last week’s Valero Texas Open on his way to a strong T14 finish. Back in January, he won the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour.

Olesen has the skill set to be successful at Augusta and seems primed for a good performance this week.

Top Nationalities:

Sergio Garcia Top Spanish Player +280 (DraftKings):

I believe Sergio Garcia can get into contention this week with the way he’s striking the ball in addition to his good vibes with a refurbished version of the Scotty Cameron that he used at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah.

I am slightly concerned about the emotional letdown he may face after losing in a playoff at LIV Miami, but I believe a veteran and former Masters champion should be able to regroup and focus on an event far more meaningful.

This is essentially a tournament head-to-head with Jon Rahm at +280. While Rahm deserves to be respected this week, the history of the lack of success of defending champions at The Masters is difficult to ignore.

Joaquin Niemann Top South American Player -230 (FanDuel):

While I hate paying this much juice, I don’t see a world in which Joaquin Niemann isn’t the top South American this week at The Masters. Joaco comes in playing better golf than anyone in the world not named Scottie Scheffler and has a serious chance to win the green jacket.

He only needs to beat two players: Emiliano Grillo and Camilo Villegas.

Tournament Head-to-Heads:

Justin Thomas -110 over Collin Morikawa

JT isn’t having his best season but is playing a lot better than he is getting credit for at the moment. In the past three months, there are only six players on the PGA Tour who have averaged 1.7 Strokes Gained: Tee to Green or better. Justin Thomas (+1.7) is one of the six and is currently tied with Rory McIlroy (+1.7).

Morikawa, on the other hand, has been extremely poor with his irons, which is incredibly uncharacteristic for him. I can’t help but feel like something is completely off with the two-time major champion.

Tony Finau -110 over Wyndham Clark

I explained in the placement section why I’m so high on Tony Finau this week. With how well he’s striking the ball, it seems as if his floor is extremely high. I’m not sure if he can make the putts to win a green jacket but I believe he will be in the mix similarly to 2019 when Tiger Woods emerged from a crowded pack of contenders.

Clark is a debutant, and while some debutants have had success at The Masters, it certainly poses a challenge. I also don’t believe Augusta National suits Clark as well as some of the other major championship venues.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Masters betting preview: Niemann to play star role at Augusta National

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It’s been over nine months since we saw Brian Harman parlay a dominant performance at Royal Liverpool into a claret jug. After another major offseason filled with a feud between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, talks of a merger, and a multitude of questions regarding the future of the game, the golf world is desperate for all of the best players in the world to come together again for a major championship. 

We return to Augusta National with excitement at a fever pitch. Scottie Scheffler has separated himself as the best player in the world heading into the Masters. At the moment, the 27-year-old seems to be an unstoppable force. However, questions about Scheffler’s up-and-down putter once again resurfaced as he missed multiple short putts at the Texas Children’s Houston Open including a 5’11” putt to force a playoff with Stephan Jaeger. 

Additionally, a handful of the PGA Tour’s top players such as Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Spieth make their way to Augusta National with their current form in question.

Plenty of LIV golfers may be up to the task of conquering Augusta, but with so much time in between the last two majors, it’s not always easy to decipher how their games will stack up against Scheffler and co.

Last year, some important changes were made at Augusta National. The par-5 13th (Azalea) was lengthened by 35 yards and now measures 545 yards. Last year, Azalea played as the toughest of the four par 5s, and players averaged 4.74 for the week, which was down from 4.85 in 2022. However, eagles, birdies and bogeys were all up, so the lengthening achieved less pars, which equals more excitement. 

Without further ado, let’s get into the course breakdown and analyze some important statistics for Augusta National.

Augusta National is now a 7,510-yard par-72 with lightning-fast Bentgrass greens. The course’s primary defenses are the contoured greens, swirling crosswinds, the topography of the course, which creates uneven lies and the small landing areas that golfers will need to hit to avoid tight run-off areas around the greens.

Past Winners at the Masters 

  • 2023: Jon Rahm (-12)
  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-10)
  • 2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-20)
  • 2019: Tiger Woods (-13)
  • 2018: Patrick Reed (-15)
  • 2017: Sergio Garcia (-9)
  • 2016: Danny Willett (-5)
  • 2015: Jordan Spieth (-18)
  • 2014: Bubba Watson (-8)
  • 2013: Adam Scott (-9)
  • 2012: Bubba Watson (-10)
  • 2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14)
  • 2010: Phil Mickelson (-16)

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 Augusta National

Let’s take a look at the six most important metrics at Augusta National and determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds. This should give us a good starting point for building out a betting card.

Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach is historically the most important statistic at Augusta National. The sloping, speedy greens and run-off areas create small landing spots that can be difficult to hit.

 Last year, Jon Rahm ranked 6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. Overall, five of the past seven winners at Augusta have ranked in the top 6 in the category. Distance helps, but Augusta National is a second-shot golf course.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.30)
  2. Corey Conners (+0.99)
  3. Shane Lowry (+0.88)
  4. Tony Finau (+0.85)
  5. Austin Eckroat (+0.85)

Course History

More so than any other course on TOUR, familiarity with Augusta National is crucial. Only one player has ever won the Masters on their first try — Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Meanwhile, there are 17 golfers in history who have multiple green jackets.

In most cases, the Masters champion has shown some good form at Augusta in the past. Prior to Scottie Scheffler’s 2022 victory, he finished T19 and T18 in his first two trips to the course. Prior to 2023, Rahm had finished in the top-10 of four of his six starts at The Masters. 

Total Strokes Gained: Total at Augusta National in past 36 rounds (per round, minimum eight rounds):

  1. Will Zalatoris (+2.91) 
  2. Jon Rahm (+2.28) 
  3. Jordan Spieth (+2.22) 
  4. Scottie Scheffler (+2.22)
  5. Dustin Johnson (+2.01)
  6. Rory McIlroy (+2.00) 
  7. Hideki Matsuyama (+1.90)
  8. Justin Rose (+1.85)
  9. Rickie Fowler (+1.72)
  10. Russell Henley (+1.60) 

Par 4 Scoring Average

Since plenty of players can reach the par 5s at Augusta in two, par-4 scoring becomes more important. The golfer who separates themselves on the par 4s will be able to gain ground on the field.

Par 4 Scoring Average in past 24 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.88) 
  2. Chris Kirk (+3.92) 
  3. Jordan Spieth (+3.93) 
  4. Peter Malnati (+3.93)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+3.93)

Strokes Gained: Around the Green

Golfers with a solid short game tend to fare well at Augusta National. The run-off areas are treacherous, and players will often be scrambling to get up and down.

The majority of players who have won at Augusta National have a great short game and have shown consistent ability to get up and down from tough spots.

Total Strokes Gained: Around the Green in past 24 rounds:

  1. Hideki Matsuyama (+0.71)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+0.66)
  3. Patrick Reed (+0.61)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.53)
  5. Lucas Glover (+0.51)

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Augusta National is most definitely a second shot golf course. Golfers can get away with a missed fairway here and there, however, it’s important that the misses with driver aren’t too wide of the target or there is serious trouble to be had.

Total Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in past 24 rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.04)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+0.85)
  3. Scottie Scheffler (+0.84)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+0.71)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+0.68)

Strokes Gained Putting: Fast Bentgrass

The USGA calculates that, on average, the greens at Augusta National are the fastest greens in the country. Three-putting is fairly common at Augusta and golfers must be able to combat the speed of the greens with effective lag putting.

Total Strokes Gained: Putting on Fast Bentgrass in past 24 rounds:

  1. Justin Rose (+1.43)
  2. Sahith Theegala (+0.97) 
  3. Min Woo Lee (+0.88) 
  4. Cameron Smith (+0.70) 
  5. Patrick Reed (+0.70)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the six key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (25%); Course History (16%); Par 4 Scoring Average (10%); SG: Putting on Fast Bentgrass (16%); SG: OTT (16%). and SG: ARG (16%).

Last year, Jon Rahm ranked first in this model

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Hideki Matsuyama
  4. Tony Finau 
  5. Justin Thomas
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Will Zalatoris
  8. Corey Conners
  9. Si Woo Kim
  10. Rory McIlroy
  11. Stephan Jaeger
  12. Jordan Spieth
  13. Chris Kirk
  14. Keegan Bradley
  15. Wyndham Clark
  16. Sahith Theegala
  17. Russell Henley
  18. Collin Morikawa
  19. Matt Fitzpatrick
  20. Patrick Reed

My 2023 Pick:

Jon Rahm (+950) (FanDuel)
A few months ago, I never thought that I’d be able to say that Rahm would be going slightly under the radar heading into the 2023 Masters. It’s not that Rahm has done anything wrong, but both Scheffler and McIlroy have undoubtedly surpassed him as the scorching hot, super-elite, top of the market betting favorite category.

Since his win at Riviera, the Spaniard has finished 39th at Bay Hill, withdrew at The Players Championship, and failed to get out of the group stage at the WGC Dell Match Play. On the other hand, Scheffler won The PLAYERS Championship and McIlroy finished third at the WGC Dell Match Play.

Rahm has made six starts at The Masters and has come in the top-10 in four of them. The 28-year-old has incredible power off the tee, a requirement at Augusta which always plays longer than the scorecard indicates. He’s also incredible around the greens and ranks third in the field in Strokes Gained: Short Game, which is a combination of around the green play and putting, in his past 24 rounds.

As we’ve seen over the years at The Masters, having the ability to chip and putt your way out of difficult situations is a fundamental aspect of getting it done at Augusta National.

While Scheffler has made a strong case to be viewed as the world’s best player, I still believe that title belongs to Rahm. This will be the year Rahmbo joins the ranks of Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal, and Sergio Garcia as natives of Spain to don a green jacket.

2024 The Masters Picks

Brooks Koepka +2500 (DraftKings)

In order to win the 2024 Masters, a player will have to go toe-to-toe with Scottie Scheffler, who’s hitting the ball as anyone in golf over the last two seasons. When building a betting card this week, it’s important for me to choose players that I believe can stare Scheffler down on the weekend at Augusta National. Brooks Koepka fits that bill.

Koepka’s lackluster performance at LIV Miami is concerning, but he’s the type of player who can turn it on quickly during the week of a major championship. Although I’d have preferred, he played well last week, I’ll take the odds discount we got as a result of his most recent results.

Prior to LIV Miami, Koepka appeared to be in solid form. He finished in the top twelve in four of five starts on LIV this season. When it comes to the five-time major champion, it’s well known that he has another gear for major championships. Everything he’s done both in the off-season and during the LIV season is to gear up for the year’s first major at Augusta National.

In his past five starts at Augusta National, the 33-year-old has three top-7 finishes, including two runners-up. The two years when he played poorly (2019 and 2020) were when he was nowhere near 100% healthy. All signs point to Brooks being in a great place physically as we enter major season.

Last year, Koepka was the 36 and 54-hole leader prior to letting the green jacket slip away to Jon Rahm. He used the result as a springboard to win his 5th major at Oak Hill at the PGA Championship.

Brooks enters the week looking to get one step closer to achieving the career grand slam and golf fans would be foolish to rule him out.

Joaquin Niemann +2800 (BetRivers)

Full disclosure, I bet Niemann the second he was invited to The Masters back in February at +8000. Although the odds have shortened dramatically since then, I can’t pretend that the Chilean isn’t one of the players who has a real chance to win the 2024 Masters.

While I was speaking with Niemann back in March, he told me how much he loves Augusta National.

“Yeah, it’s a place that I love. I’ve been playing good golf. Especially last year, I wasn’t playing my best golf, and I had a good week there and made triple on 11 that kind of killed me a little bit.

I feel like I’m getting more ready and more prepared every time. My game is getting better too. I know that I’m playing good enough to be in that situation that I can have a chance to win the Masters and it’s all about how I react to that situation.

So yeah, I’m going to prepare myself to be ready for that situation if it happens and I can fight for the title on the Sunday which would be awesome.”

As Niemann alluded to, the Chilean was able to have his best career finishes at The Masters (T16) despite not being in the best form. This year, Niemann comes into the week playing better golf than anyone in the world with the exception of Scottie Scheffler. The 25-year-old has won three times since December and has shown the world why he was regarded as one of the games future stars since he was a teenager.

Historically speaking, Joaco’s win at Riviera a few years back seems to be an indicator of potential success at Augusta National. Fourteen players have won at both historic courses including Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson and Ben Hogan.

Niemann has all the shots to be successful at Augusta National. His low stingers will come in handy on plenty of holes down the stretch and he can work it both ways, playing the high draw or the low fade. He also putts best on Bentgrass greens and likes them fast. Whether PGA Tour or LIV, talent will always reign supreme, and I’ll always bet on that talent.

Cameron Smith (+4000) (FanDuel)

Cameron Smith is another player who we should get an odds discount on based off of the results at LIV Miami. Smith was forced to withdraw prior to the second round due to food poisoning. In my opinion, the number has drifted to a place where I’d consider it a “bet the number” play on the talent.

Smith is a contender for the green jacket anytime he tees it up at Augusta National. The Australian absolutely loves the golf course and has four top-10 finishes in his last six trips to the golf course. In both 2020 and 2022, Smith had a real chance of winning The Masters and came up just short, finishing T2 and T3 in those two tries. In his past 36 rounds, he ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Total per round at Augusta.

In order to be successful at Augusta National, players must be creative around the greens and be shot makers who have plenty of ways to get around the golf course. Cam has all the shots required to be successful at the course at his touch around the greens will continue to serve him well in his hopes for a green jacket.

Smith is arguably the best putter in the world and has the capability to win a golf tournament on and around the greens. He’s already taken down Rory McIlroy at the home of golf on his way to a claret jug and is one of the few players who can stare down any of the world’s top golfers on the back nine at Augusta National.

Justin Thomas +4000 (FanDuel)

With how he’s been playing since his 2022 PGA Championship win, you may be shocked to see the name “Justin Thomas” in this preview. However, JT has drifted to a place on the odds board where I believe it’s worth taking a shot on the talent of a two-time major champion in his prime.

It’s not all bad for Thomas this season. He finished T6 at the signature Pebble Beach event, T12 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T12 at the signature Arnold Palmer Invitational. In his last 24 rounds, JT ranks 8th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 14th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and 29th in Strokes Gained: Putting on fast Bentgrass greens.

Despite missing the cut last season, Thomas has played pretty well at Augusta National. He ranks 13th in Strokes Gained: Total in his past 36 rounds at the course. He finished T4 in 2020, T21 in 2021 and T8 in 2022.

I believe the 2024 edition of The Masters is completely wide open. The past few years has been frustrating for Thomas fans, but I believe his peak form may be a bit closer than people realize.

Sergio Garcia +12000 (FanDuel)

Earlier this season, Garcia dueled with Joaquin Niemann before finally losing on the fourth playoff hole late into the night. Despite the loss, the 44-year-old seemed to gain confidence in his game. The results that followed weren’t spectacular, but in terms of his ball striking he’s shown some flashes of vintage Sergio.

At LIV Miami last week, Garcia played well on a massive golf course, losing in a playoff to Dean Burmester. He continued pumped the ball into the fairway and hit massive iron shot after massive iron shot. He also used a refurbished Scotty Cameron that he used in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. The putter served him incredibly well until he missed a short putt on the 18th hole to win the event. Overall, he gained 7.1 strokes putting at Doral.

Sergio Garcia is once again headed to Augusta National with a chip on his shoulder. Of course, having a chip on the shoulder is nothing new for the fiery Spaniard, but this year, the 2017 Masters Champion will arrive at Augusta with his game clicking on all cylinders.

Sergio winning a second green jacket is seemingly an almost impossible feat, but magical things tend to happen on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.

Adam Scott +11000 (FanDuel)

Betting Adam Scott over the past handful of years has been a Masters staple for me, and like many traditions, has been a hard one for me to let go of.

Last week, Scott finished T14 at the Valero Texas Open in a windy and difficult week. I believe the wind will be a major factor this week at Augusta National, and the more difficult the tournament plays, the more I favor Scott. Scott also ranks 5th in his past 24 rounds on Strokes Gained: Putting on Fast Bentgrass and has the short game these days that could help him contend in a major.

Since his win in 2013, Scott’s history at The Masters has been spotty. He has some poor finishes alongside a T9 in 2017 and a T18 in 2019. He’s been playing some solid golf this season, finishing T8 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and T19 at the Genesis Invitational.

(All photos in piece belong to LIV Golf)

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The 22 players who can win the Masters

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Since 2013, I have created a filtering process to help determine the players who are most likely to win the green jacket based on criteria that have strongly predictive outcomes to success at Augusta. The list of players that can win at Augusta is usually filtered down to 20-24 players and in that time I have correctly shortlisted every Masters champion.

This includes last year’s winner, Jon Rahm. Even though Rahm essentially walked away with the green jack and did not make it very close, there were some close calls on top of the leaderboard as I had filtered out Phil Mickelson (t-2nd) and Patrick Reed (t-4th) as the LIV Tour is still behind on providing advanced analytics for their tour. Russell Henley was also filtered out and finished t-4th, five strokes from Rahm’s winning score of 276.

If you’re watching at home, the “critical holes” that will likely determine the top finishers will be holes No. 7, 8, 11 and 13. The 11th hole is projected to be the most critical of holes as over the past five Masters the top players have gained nearly a 1.5 strokes for the tournament on that hole alone.

Just like last year’s column I will get the LIV Tour players I’ve filtered out of the way. Since LIV Tour does not provide ShotLink or Trackman data, it’s more of a guessing game as to how certain LIV Tour golfers are playing. I did utilize recent performance as well as performance at Mayakoba and Doral as they were two former PGA Tour courses that have some semblance of crossover to playing Augusta.

Phil Mickelson
Thorbjorn Olesen
Charl Schwartzel
Cameron Smith
Bubba Watson

Admittedly Cameron Smith and Phil Mickelson are hard to leave out, but both have not played well as of late.

Next, I filtered out the amateurs and all first-time professional attendees. The Masters has only been won three times by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller was the last to win in 1979. Prior to Zoeller though, it was Horton Smith in the inaugural event in 1934 followed by Gene Sarazen in 1935

Ludvig Aberg
Akshay Bhatia
Wyndham Clark
Eric Cole
Santiago de la Fuente (a)
Nick Dunlap
Austin Eckroat
Stewart Hagestad (a)
Ryo Hisatsune
Lee Hodges
Nicolai Hojgaard
Stephan Jaeger
Jake Knapp
Christo Lamprecht (a)
Peter Malnati
Denny McCarthy
Grayson Murray
Matthieu Pavon
Adam Schenk
Neal Shipley (a)
Jasper Stubbs (a)

Out of the first time invitees the data likes Ludvig Aberg and Eric Cole to play the best at Augusta National.

I also filter out old Masters champions that I do not believe can get into contention anymore.

Fred Couples
Jose Maria Olazabal
Vijay Singh
Mike Weir
Tiger Woods

Recency has a strong predictive value for player performance and missing the cut in the event in the prior week greatly reduces the likelihood of winning the following week compared to players that miss the cut, take a week off, and then play the following week. Therefore I filter out all players that missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open last week.

Byeong Hun An
Harris English
Rickie Fowler
Ryan Fox
Zach Johnson
Tom Kim
Erik van Rooyen
Camilo Villegas

I will also filter out the players that have never made the cut at the Masters:

Kurt Kitayama
Adrian Meronk

A Tradition Unlike Any Other…

Augusta National has traditionally favored longer hitters and even moreso in the past 20 years of the event. Of course there has been exceptions as in 2007 the short hitting Zach Johnson ended up winning the event.

Critics of my filtering system point out Johnson’s victory as a case for short hitters being able to win at Augusta, but they neglect the fact that Johnson’s victory came in historically low temperatures in the 40’s with wind gusts reaching 35 mph. That made the par-5’s almost unreachable in two shots and the course stressed wedge play and short game around the green where Zach had a sizable advantage.
It is projected to rain early on Thursday and then the weather is supposed to be sunny and warm for the rest of the week. It depends on how quickly the course dries up, but if it does dry out fairly quickly that will give the longer hitters the advantage as they will be able to reach certain par-5’s in two shots that the shorter hitters cannot reach if they don’t hit a quality tee shot and there may be par-5’s that some of the long hitters can reach in two shots with a short iron. Therefore I will filter out the following players due to a lack of distance off the tee:

Corey Conners
Lucas Glover
Emiliano Grillo
Brian Harman
Si Woo Kim
Chris Kirk
Shane Lowry
Colin Morikawa
JT Poston
Justin Rose
Sepp Straka

Out of these players the data likes Lowry and Morikawa the most. Both have good history at Augusta and they both just narrowly missed the distance benchmark set in the filter and both are excellent long iron players.

Last year I created a new formula to better determine ball height as Augusta has historically not taken too kindly to a low ball flight. Out of the 5 players filtered out for low ball flight using the new formula the best finish was only t-29th by Si Woo Kim. This year I’ve filtered out the following players.

Matthew Fitzpatrick
Sungjae Im
Luke List
Joaquin Niemann
Justin Thomas

Every year I filter out the poor performers on approach shots from 175-225 yards as Augusta National puts a lot of stress on those shots. Last year I filtered out nine players and three of them missed the cut with only Jordan Spieth finishing in the top-15 (t-4th) as the rest of the players were never a threat.

Here are the golfers I’m filtering out due to poor play from 175-225 yards:

Patrick Cantlay
Cameron Davis
Jason Day
Tommy Fleetwood
Russell Henley
Max Homa
Rory McIlroy
Jordan Spieth
Nick Taylor

Rory had a nice outing at the Valero Texas Open and hit his irons better there, but appears to be struggling with a leftward miss. Other than that, Rory still has the game to win his first green jacket. Henley is usually one of the better iron players on Tour, but he has struggled this season from 175-225 yards and is a short hitter anyway.

I will also filter out Danny Willett as he is coming off injury and making his comeback at the Masters.

That leaves the 22 players that can win the Masters:

Keegan Bradley (150/1)
Sam Burns (60/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (25/1)
Tony Finau (50/1)
Sergio Garcia (100/1)
Adam Hadwin (175/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (80/1)
Viktor Hovland (35/1)
Dustin Johnson (40/1)
Brooks Koepka (16/1)
Min Woo Lee (70/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (20/1)
Taylor Moore (300/1)
Jon Rahm (12/1)
Patrick Reed (80/1)
Xander Schauffele (18/1)
Scottie Scheffler (4/1)
Adam Scott (100/1)
Sahith Theegala (50/1)
Gary Woodland (250/1)
Cameron Young (50/1)
Will Zalatoris (35/1)

Here’s my personal top-10 picks:

Keegan Bradley (150/1)
Sam Burns (60/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (35/1)
Tony Finau (50/1)
Viktor Hovland (35/1)
Dustin Johnson (40/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (20/1)
Jon Rahm (12/1)
Xander Schauffele (18/1)
Scottie Scheffler (4/1)

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