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Slow down!



“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

You’d have to live under a rock, or maybe in another country, to not have noticed how in vogue it is to rant about the ills of slow play these days, and how it’s absolutely killing our industry. With feuds between players on the PGA Tour, campaigns like the USGA’s “While We’re Young,” “Play 9,” and this year’s wholesale changes to the game’s centuries-old rules just to combat it, the casual observer could easily get the impression that modern golf has somehow evolved into a proverbial death march. Not so.

The truth is, golf has always been a slow game, and these reactions are nothing more than predictable responses to the perceived time famine of today’s constantly connected, fast-than-ever-paced lifestyles. That, and the fear amongst those in positions of authority that we may actually someday soon stop setting aside the necessary time to play this interminably slow game. But could it be that the pace of the game is perfectly appropriate? And are those trying to get it over with as quickly as possible, possibly missing the entire point? And might the real answer to our current predicament be that we all need to take a collective breath, chill out, and actually SLOW DOWN? Now I’m sure there are those out there who think I’ve gone over to the dark side for even suggesting that slow play isn’t on par with a communicable disease, but walk with me a moment, and I think you might arrive at the end of your next round with a slightly different perspective.

Despite golf’s governing bodies’ best efforts, the average round on a regulation par-72 course still clocks in around four hours, even though we actually only engage in the playing part of the game for a mere 15 to 20 minutes of that time. The rest of that round is in-between time, time spent getting from Point A to Point B over that near five-mile landscape, looking for errant shots, deliberating over the merits of a 7-Iron or a 6-Iron (when most of us should probably hit a 5-hybrid), doing business deals, rekindling dormant friendships, arguing about whether the Democrats or the Republicans are to blame for the mess in Washington, or discussing the health of aging parents whose futures we must now decide upon in one of life’s most tragic role reversals. And in today’s busy life, a round of golf is often one of the few times and places we actually slow down long enough to have these conversations without an intervening digital device of some sort.

Now, the majority of those conversations in this country are had while playing in golf carts. And as a result, a great many of us have all but forgotten what it’s like to walk a round, if we ever even knew. The proliferation of golf carts that began in the 1950’s, and our increasing desire for a faster round of golf, was not only the death knell for caddies, but seemingly for the experience of walking a round of golf in general. But instead of making the game faster, those carts are often only fueling our misperception of how slow the game is. Sure, they get us from that Point A to Point B faster, but that’s created a hurry-up-and-wait type pace that for centuries didn’t exist. And so it should come as no surprise that our game’s caretakers are doing all they can to speed up the rest of the game, even going so far as to change its rules and traditions in desperate hopes of lopping off a few seconds here and there. But have we even considered that it might instead be high time the pace of our busy lifestyles adapts to the game, rather than trying to force the pace of the game adapt to our lifestyles?

The overwhelming preference we have for riding in carts in the U.S. isn’t the case everywhere, though. A decade ago, I spent some time in England and Scotland, playing a few rounds with locals, on courses where it is still far more common to walk, than ride in buggies, as they called them, and it quickly became apparent that walking said as much about how they valued the experience, and their time on the course, as it did their level of physical conditioning. We played in roughly the same amount of time we do here (a little less actually), and when we got to our balls, amazingly, with very few exceptions, the group in front was nowhere to be seen. Is it any wonder they claim not to have near the same issues with slow play over there that we do here?

Now, I definitely don’t want to bad-mouth golf carts altogether, because they allow untold millions to enjoy this great game who would physically be unable to do so otherwise. But at least consider for a moment the physical effects of walking. Golfers who walk nine holes burn an average of 721 calories, while their buggy-bound counterparts weigh in at a mere 411. Walking strengthens the heart, helps the lungs work more efficiently, boosts both the immune and nervous systems, and even helps cognitive function. One study from a Swedish medical university done in 2008 with a sample size of over 300,000 golfers even found the life expectancy of walking golfers to be five years longer than their cart-riding counterparts. So, the sad fact is, if we all slowed down, and walked the course a bit more, we likely wouldn’t be buggy-bound quite so early in our golfing careers. And those careers would certainly last quite a bit longer.

Aside from the physical, walking offers stress-relieving mental and spiritual benefits that might not only improve your score, but how you experience your time playing. With practices like mindfulness and meditation becoming almost as in vogue as ranting about slow play, I’m surprised walking a round of golf isn’t more prescribed, and more practiced, by more gurus everywhere. It provides a much-needed break from that aforementioned fast-paced and stress-filled lifestyle when you slow down, breath deep, and relax, while looking at a familiar course with fresh eyes. It brings your mind, body, and spirit into balance, enlivens your senses, making colors more vibrant and the sounds and smells more alive. You smell the fresh-cut grass, hear the birds more clearly, the rustle of the leaves on the trees, and the crunch of the fallen ones under foot. The babble of the brook, that of your playing partners, and even that of that little voice in your head can sound different while walking, and you remember them all in much greater clarity.

I can recall elements of the courses I walked in England those many years ago, and some of the conversations I had then, in far greater detail than many of the ones I have played much more recently while riding. It reminds me of a passage from the immortal book Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy, where the Scottish Golf Pro Shivas Irons claimed, “The gemme was meant for walkin’,” upon describing a former club member that it was said for whom the walkin’ sometimes got so good he forgot to even hit his shots, and that a walk around the course was as good for the soul as a day spent in church. Hopefully this is at least some solace to those of us who’ve skipped more than one Sunday service for the lure of the links.

In the end, though, I want you to play golf in whatever way allows you to enjoy the experience most. And if walking’s not possible, or practical, I hope you at least slow down enough to take a hard look at why you’re playing in the first place, and where you’re in such a hurry to get to. Isn’t being on the golf course, after all, one of those well-earned rewards that we all work so hard for? Have the demands of our modern lifestyle become so great that we can’t at least mentally step off the merry-go-round during those times we’ve set aside to do just that? And has the thought of walking, or at least stopping to smell the roses (or fresh cut grass) become so cliché that we merely nod and pay homage to them as the quaint notions of a time long past? I hope not, for as Shivas Irons ultimately said, “If ye’ can enjoy the walkin’, ye can probably enjoy the other times in life when ye’re in between. And that’s most o’ the time’ wouldn’t ye say?”

In the spirit of that, the following is my adaptation of a little poem titled “Slow Dance,” by psychologist David L. Weatherford. I call it “Slow Down.” And for your sake, I hope it doesn’t resonate too loudly.

Do you race through each round, in your cart on the fly? Ask a partner how are you, but not hear their reply?

You better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

Ever followed your ball’s erratic flight? Or do you just look away, disgusted at the sight?

When the round is done, do you lie awake in bed, with only bad shots, running through your head?

You’d better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

Ever told your child, I’m late for my game, we’ll play tomorrow? And in your haste, not see their sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let your old foursome die? Cause you couldn’t find the time, and now you wonder why?

You’d better slow down, don’t play so fast. Time is short, this round won’t last.

When you try to play fast, just to get somewhere, you’ll miss most of the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry, through your round each day, it’s like an un-opened gift thrown away.

This game is not a race, so do take it slower, and figure out why you’re out there, before the round is over.

And Slow Down… Don’t play so fast… Our time is short… And this round won’t last…

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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



  1. Myron Miller

    May 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Actually two different subjects in this article: Pace of Play and whether to walk or ride. And contrary to Mr. Dowd, they really are totally different topics. Whether to walk or not is a multi-faceted issue with many points that Mr. Dowd totally ignores. I walked for years until age and infirmities caught up with me. And I’ve played all over the country, walking and riding. Besides the physical condition of the walker, is the outdoor conditions which Mr. Dowd totally ignores. I’ve played in Nevada where the starting temperature in the morning was 108 degrees and when we finished in 4 hours was 115 degrees. Most people cannot walk the 7-9 miles up and down hills in that temperature. In fact, once it reaches about 90 something 99% of the walkers have issues walking. Streamsong in Florida has super prices in the summer and yet almost no one plays after about 11am and 1/5 the winter numbers play even early and most of those use a cart. Did he even consider this issue. And there are other issues about carts not mentioned.

    But the bigger issue and what he is totally out to lunch on in my opinion is the pace of play issues. When I was younger, an average round was about 3-3.5 hours. Rarely did a round last more then 4.25. Today, an average round is closer to 4.5 hours and often is 5.5 to 6 hours. And he is suggesting (title even implies this), to ‘SLOW DOWN’. That means that the average round now will increase even more, 10% which isn’t much will put the average over 5+ hours with many reaching 7 hours. Adding warmup times and a little time for beer with friends after the round and we’re talking 8-10 hours for the round. That’s not just slow, it’s ridiculous. Try to play 36 or 54 holes at this pace. Often I’ve played 36-54 at resorts such as Bandon Dunes (4 courses) or Whistling straits (4 courses). I can enjoy the different environment on each course and marvel how the architect routed the course thru the landscape. 36 holes is easy to walk (normally) and you still should have time to see everything and talk about a lot of things. Couple of weeks ago, a friend (dedicated walker) and myself played 36 at Streamsong in Florida in little less than 9 hours, including time between rounds. And we actually thought we were a little too slow at times, but had time to marvel at some of the features.

    For me personally, 5+ hour rounds are torture chambers because of my serious arthritis that stiffens up when I can’t keep moving. So slowing down would mean I (and many other handicapped people like myself) would have to give up the game which is what all the grow the game programs are trying to avoid. Just what we need someone advocating longer rounds and making the game slower than it is in many parts of the country.

    One can easily walk and enjoy the scenery and still play in under 4.5 hours.

  2. Tom54

    May 13, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    The way a lot of courses have their cart paths set up with having to park so far from the greens and not being able to get too close to them from let’s say 50 yds out, I think that there is still plenty of walking going on when playing. Plus the real bonus is not having to walk so far to some of the next tees. Even though I enjoy the exercise the cart is still the way to go for me. If it gets slow, you’ve got a place to rest. The real treat is of course being outdoors and enjoying the weather and the scenery. What a great game

  3. Brian L

    May 13, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    I agree with the walking component of the game (and it’s meant to be walked vs being in a cart) but disagree walking is akin to slowing down. I’d actually say most the walkers where I play are much much faster than the cart guys. And in Ireland and Scotland they play in 3.5 hours walking or you get yelled at. I think the issue is cart guys tend to be less frequent golfers who have little awareness or appreciation for the flow of the course.

    So please do walk, but don’t take it for a license to play in PGA style 5 hour rounds.

  4. Timbo

    May 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    A big cause for slow play is golf courses setting up 7 – 8 minute tee times instead of at least 10. Then you wait alot, only to hear the marshal start yelling to hurry up.

  5. SG

    May 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

    I love how people automatically associate “slow down” with slow play. And 31 shanks, yikes. The best investment in golf next to lessons is a good pair of shoes and a friendly foursome.

  6. Thomas A

    May 13, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I do not golf at courses that don’t allow for walking (unless I’m at my dad’s place in Kississmee). I hate that layout, some holes are 1/4 mile from green to tee. Two weeks ago I walked 18 in 3:15, got rained on for 5 holes, ran into a high school foursome, they invited me to play with them. They were great kids with course edict and having fun. That never would have happened in a cart.

  7. Ronald Montesano

    May 13, 2019 at 7:54 am

    Sorry you drew the short straw and had to write this article, from this perspective. The game is hemorrhaging participants like a wound to the neck, mainly due to slow play. Golf does need its racecar drivers. The choreography of the walk is critical to effecting a properly-timed round. Citing GITK is nice, except it doesn’t refer to golf courses filled to the brim with folks who play once a week and need to get around. If you live on a remote island off Scotland’s coast, let the gemme be fer walkin slew. If you live in an area of dense golfing population and still wish to play, play quickly. Good lord, I could go on and write a total counter article to all the premises in this one. Here’s a lifted glass to the day when we can walk slowly, play quickly, and anger no one.

  8. Juan

    May 13, 2019 at 4:22 am

    Slow play is awfull. But it does not mean to run over the course. A comon player with friends in a foursome should play in less the 4 hours.
    You dont have to look a putt fron the 4 sides and look from behaind every shot or take 4 swings.
    Golf should be a good walk a play as you arrive to the ball.

  9. I

    May 13, 2019 at 12:33 am

    But nobody is going to tell all the country clubs and the whole industry and all the lazy seniors to get rid of carts and start walking. You’re all too chicken to do it. Not only that, a majority of the golf courses being played on the Tour, including the women’s, are not designed for walking. The gaps between the holes are designed to put grandstands for the fans, and some of the gaps between the 9th and 10th holes are on completely different sides of the property that it takes 30 minutes just to get to the other hole, for any normal person to be able to walk it in less than 5 hours is impossible.

  10. James

    May 12, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    As I have grown up in played competitive or I have been forced to play golf on foot rather than on a cart. I enjoy my rounds far more walking than in a cart. When I am tired I will only play 9, and extend my time on the course through shortgame practice around the greens on each hole. Although it would be overly critical to make a statement such as: “nobody has time to walk a round of golf”, I still feel that the majority of people I know have time to do so somewhere throughout the week.. it’s just up to the individual whether or not they choose to spend the extra amount of time on the course walking.

    Walking a course is an opportunity to be in my own thoughts. It presents me an opportunity to deal with my stresses and the challenges life are giving me at the time. Walking allows me to spend QUALITY time with people I enjoy and even with people I discover to be great playing partners.

    Walking also gives me that opportunity to get out and moving. When I cant get to the gym, I still feel great about myself to walking a round. I do believe though that large part to why some may not walk is because of their skill levels and how frustrating the game can be and I can admit that it would be dreadful to walk you around if you don’t have the skills necessary to at least find your ball and play a few holes stretches without taking 3 extra shots from the rough to get to the green.

    Everyone has their perspectives. Im just fortunate to have the time that allows me to walk. I appreciate what it has done for me. I am very stubborn and avoid a cart even when offered. Ill use it if im preserving energy before a tournament or just heading out for some shortgame… but thats rare.

    I appreciate this article. Fresh air for me and hits home. Walk when you can!

  11. David

    May 12, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    wow. i haven’t read an article in years that resonated with me so much. i had a chance to discuss my aging parents issues with my regular foursome recently. no amount of professional help could have allowed me the space or time or opportunity to discuss such a topic while feeling supported and comforted in my surroundings. Golf gives u so much that we forget what a wonderful game it is. thankyou for the reminder.

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      So glad to hear you agree David, and glad you enjoyed the article. I know carts are the reality of the game today, but I can’t tell you how eye-opening it was to spend time walking a course in a country where it was pretty much the way the game was expected to be played. It was just a different feel altogether, kind of like going back in time, and with so many ancillary benefits to walking I hope we don’t completely abandon the prospect altogether chasing the illusion of a faster round because unless you’ve got the course to yourself, it just isn’t likely to happen. Cheers!

  12. Mick

    May 12, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    My best rounds ever were walking. Cant do it as much as I would like, getting to old , however, this sport was really made for the player to walk. Sickening now how many young players never walk, and carts are just $$$$ to courses now. Walking a golf course is great fun and allows one to think more about their shots.

    • Scratchscorer

      May 13, 2019 at 9:49 am

      Completely agree with everything you said.

  13. Putt Stuff

    May 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Cart ball is a disgrace! Make Golf Great Again! Ban the “Arthritis Special” except for those that absolutely require it!

    The number of golfers who have never walked 9 or 18 holes in their life would astonish most of us. How long has it been since you hoofed it? If I had my way I would never play using a golf car again. The golf car should only be used as the mean to extend our ability to enjoy the game when our bodies begin to fail. We should not be surprised about the rhythm and zen which defines the walking golfer.

    The golf car is one of the reasons that the growth of the game has stagnated. Young people are no longer caddies growing up because of the golf cart. Golf professionals transferred the money paid to caddies to themselves through their ownership and subsequent promotion of their golf car fleet.

    I grew up as a caddie and know many people from all socioeconomic backgrounds that used that opportunity to both earn and learn from the game. The privilege of playing and socializing with many minority golfers (mostly black men) illuminated the importance of caddying as their primary courtship in a lifelong relationship with the game. The bond created between young and old, rich and poor through a synchronized march and shared challenge is a significant and powerful testament to the game we love.

    The author’s views on pace of play are in my opinion very accurate and in line with my experiences. I have played a large number of rounds both domestic and abroad where walking is required and have found Pace of Play is rarely an issue. When walking is the norm groups naturally ebb and flow at walking speeds instead of the hurry up and wait pace of golf carts. I have found it difficult when in a cart to resist other conditioned driving behaviors like the urge to pass or go as fast as possible. Carts make me impatient. For me, walking while playing golf presents a challenge that is the opposite from hurried hectic pace of our everyday rat race. I wish leaders would view the pace of the game as an opportunity instead of a threat. As the world speeds up around us golf has to own its pace as part of its identity, in the parlance of today pace is a feature and not a bug.

    Sweep the dew in the morning or chase the sun down in the evening, for any number of holes, please, please, remember to enjoy the walk.

  14. T

    May 12, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you for writing this article. It is written directly and elegantly, pointing a finger at the failures of the governing bodies, of the game’s so-called “leaders” who are more concerned with profit than they are quality. The constant conversation of “pace of play” directly correlates with the pace of life dilemma – golf was here long before we were, and believe it or not, it will be here long, long after we are gone. Everybody seems to forget that we need golf, golf doesn’t need us. Leave the game alone.

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      You’re very welcome T. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope in some small way it can at least be a conversation starter. Golf has been around more than 500 years, and I agree, it will endure, whether we leave the flagstick in or not, play in 3 hours or 5, or even spend half that time on our smartphones. And hopefully we’ll each figure out how best to enjoy it, and that time while we’re still here.

  15. FORE!

    May 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    The yous of the world just need to let the mes play through. That’s it. If I want to smell flowers, I’ll go to a funeral. I’m there to hit the ball 95 times and go home hating myself. Not being remotely satirical BTW.

    • Bill Pickelson

      May 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

      Spot on. There’s no problem with people playing slowly, as long as they don’t make everyone else play at their pace.

      I used to work at a very famous golf course as a course marshal, and once had a group tell me they had paid their money so had the right to do whatever they wanted.

      They had paid their money, but so had every other group behind them who wanted to enjoy their round too.

      Don’t be selfish. Stand aside. Let naturally faster groups play through.

      • Thomas A

        May 13, 2019 at 9:28 am

        That’s frustrating. Tell them “more people have paid that are waiting on you.”

  16. Tom

    May 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Beautifully written article. Thank you for your work

    • Mike Dowd

      May 13, 2019 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you Tom. So glad you appreciated it, and hope it helps at least provide some perspective. Keep swinging!

  17. Nack Jicklaus

    May 12, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I grew up walking my local 9 hole course in the 1990’s. Nowadays, the only course that exists within a 30 minute drive of me does not allow walking. It makes me sad…

    • Radim Pavlicek

      May 13, 2019 at 9:37 am

      Move to Europe. Exactly the opposite here.

  18. Acemandrake

    May 12, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I do what I can to enable & motivate myself to walk: Carry 6 clubs, play during off-peak hours and allow myself to play as few or as many holes as I want to play that day.

    The stress relief from walking is real as you feel more connected to nature.

    This is the best way to practice.

  19. Chris Kilmer

    May 12, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!

  20. Max

    May 12, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    I’m a walker 90pct of the time. Mostly carry with some push cart and caddy rounds thrown in. My home course is older and walks quite well. About half the rounds played are walk or pushcart at this course.

    I recently played 3 rounds at some newer housing development centric courses. Walking them would have been a real pain and there would have been some between hole traverses that would have added maybe 30min to the round. Modern course economics are probably half of the problem.

    I chalk up the other half to modern equipment. The member tees at most courses today have to play over 6200yds because most men can hit it 240yds. Even the 20hdcp guys. Of course the extra 20-30yds also means wilder and harder to find shots. That just adds more time. I would say that for most 10hdcp+, modern drivers have made them score worse.

    I grew up playing a course that was 6500 from the tips back in the persimmon and balata days. I played with the occasional tour pro. They shot low scores but nothing obscene. Today, as a 5 index I can shoot around par from 7300yds on an otherwise similar course. I’m 40 years old and can carry driver 300yds+. With my old steel shaft Ping Eye2 wood driver, I would top out at maybe 265yds in high school.

    If you want to see rounds pick up the pace without running between shots, have people play from one tee forward and leave their driver in the trunk. It will shorten the walk/drive along with eliminating the 240yd drive that goes 100yd right.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: The 8 best prop bets for the 2024 Masters



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



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



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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