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St. Andrews, other coastal courses, could soon “crumble into the sea,” report says

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Could St. Andrews soon be under water? Many of the great golf courses of the British Isles–iconic, historic venues like St. Andrews and Royal Troon–are coastally located. Bearing this fact in mind and meditating on the realities of rising sea levels and climate change, a report from the Climate Coalition shouldn’t come as a shock.

The sister group to over 130 environmental organizations, which describes itself as the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change, says golf is facing an “unexpected threat” and that courses could soon be “crumbling into the sea.”

The report, titled “Game+Changer: How climate change is impacting sports in the UK,” says “only a small increase in sea-level rise would imperil all of the world’s links courses before the end of the century.

Indeed, Montrose, one of the five oldest golf courses in the world, is already being eroded by the rising North Sea.

Chris Curnin, director at Montrose Golf Links, says: “As the sea rises and the coast falls away, we’re left with nowhere to go. Climate change is often seen as tomorrow’s problem – but it’s already eating away at our course. In a perfect storm we could lose 5-10 metres over just a couple of days and that could happen at pretty much any point.”

In addition to pointing out how horrific (and economically damaging) it would be to lose any of the foundational courses of the game, BBC golf correspondent Iain Carter makes an interesting point in light of the findings

“This report might also impact on discussions aimed at limiting driving distances because it highlights potential dangers in the maintaining the current trend of lengthening golf courses.”

And of course, an increase in rainfall and extreme weather events adversely impacts the golf industry as a whole in the region. The report finds there was 20 percent less playing time in Scotland in 2016-2016 compared to 10 years prior.

Steve Isaac, director of sustainability for the R&A, says “future threats are very real” for the game.

An unbylined BBC piece highlights the rest of the report’s findings and potential impacts on soccer and cricket

You can read the Climate Coalition’s full report here.

What do you think GolfWRX members?

 

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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 +2000 (BetMGM)

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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Greg Norman claims that this LIV pro is ‘the best iron player in the game of golf in the past 20 years’

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After the conclusion of the second round of LIV Miami, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman made a bold claim.

“Talor Gooch is the best iron player in the game of golf in the past 20 years that I’ve personally witnessed,” said the two-time major champion.

As one might expect, most golf fans disagreed with Norman’s assessment.

Michael Kim, who has been a harsh critic of LIV, chimed in as well.

Gooch, of course, won’t be at The Masters this week so he won’t have the chance to affirm Greg’s claim on golf’s biggest stage.

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Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia make significant equipment changes as 2024 Masters looms

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Ahead of the highly anticipated 2024 Masters, some notable LIV golfers have made some changes with their putters.

Brooks Koepka, who’s used a Scotty Cameron Teryllium Tour Newport 2 for the past handful of years, had what looked to be a Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 in the bag this week at LIV Doral.

Koepka has been struggling on the greens this season, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him switch to a mallet-style putter so close to the season’s first major.

Koepka finished with -4.4 strokes gained with his new Phantom following a tough week in Miami.

With the poor performance on the greens at Doral, it’s worth monitoring whether or not he switches back to his traditional Scottie Cameron at Augusta.

Sergio Garcia, who lost out in a playoff at LIV Doral, also made a notable putter switch last week.

The Spaniard asked Scotty Cameron to refurbish the 1999 Scotty Cameron Del Mar Prototype he used as a rookie on the PGA Tour. Garcia used the putter when he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah as a 19-year-old. He also used the putter in his first Ryder Cup.

The move proved very successful for the Spaniard, with Garcia gaining 7.1 strokes putting in Miami.

Perhaps there is still some magic in that old Scotty Cameron blade for Sergio Garcia with a trip to Augusta National looming.

*Featured image courtesy of LIV Golf*

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