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The 21 players who can win the Masters

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Each year for the Masters, I create a filtering process to help determine the players who are most likely to win the green jacket based on criteria that has strongly predicted outcomes at Augusta. I usually get the list down to roughly 23 players.

Last year, Tiger Woods was one of my 22 players that could win the Masters. Tiger was at 14/1 odds, but two of the top contenders, Brooks Koepka (25/1) and Francesco Molinari (22/1) were also on my list of players who could win the Masters.

Before I discuss my picks for this year’s Masters, I want to go over what I call the “critical holes” for Augusta National. The critical holes in any tournament are the ones where the top finishers typically gain the most strokes on the field, as well as where the greatest deviation in scores exist. One of the interesting aspects about critical holes is that they often change over time due to changes in the course conditions, course design or a change in player strategy, which can create a smaller deviation in scores.

This year, the projected critical holes are No. 8, 13, 14, and 15.

The 15th hole, Fire Thorn, should be considered the most pivotal hole on the course as over the last five Masters the top finishers in the event have gained 0.546 strokes per round on the hole. The next closest hole in terms of the top finishers gaining strokes is the 14th hole, Chinese Fir, where the top finishers have only gained 0.274 strokes per round.

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

Abraham Ancer
John Augenstein (a)
Christiann Bezuidenhout
Cameron Champ
Tyler Duncan
Abel Gallegos (a)
Lanto Griffin
Max Homa
Sungjae Im
Jazz Janewattananond
Sung Kang
Jason Kokrak
Nate Lashley
Yuxin Lin (a)
Lukas Michel (a)
Collin Morikawa
Sebastian Munoz
Andy Ogletree (a)
Carlos Ortiz
CT Pan
Victor Perez
JT Poston
Andrew Putnam
Scottie Scheffler
James Sugrue (a)
Nick Taylor
Erik van Rooyen
Matthew Wolff

Out of the professional first-time invitees the data ranks Jason Kokrak as the best fit, Matthew Wolff the second-best fit, and Cameron Champ the third-best fit. Champ is one of the more fascinating players for the Masters because he has arguably the fastest ball speed on Tour, but he has the lowest launch angle on Tour (6.2 degrees) and produces roughly the Tour average in terms of apex height. Augusta is generally a high ball hitting golf course as low-ball hitters that were superior players and ballstrikers have notoriously struggled at Augusta. It will be interesting if he can carry the trees on some tee shots with his super-low launch angle.

I also filtered out eight past champions I do not believe can contend at Augusta National anymore

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

The Zach Johnson debate

Every year I do my Masters picks, it’s always pointed out that I do not pick former Masters Champion Zach Johnson due to his lack of length off the tee. Augusta National greatly favors long-ball hitters. They can play the par 5s more like par 4s, and typically the longer hitters can also hit the ball higher so they can get their long approach shots to hold the green more easily.

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

This year, the forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. There is some rain in the forecast. Rain and wind can be tricky in projecting possible winners of an event as it is dependent upon the course design and how exactly the rain and wind is impacting the field. In the past at Augusta, rain has provided a small advantage to shorter hitters. This is believed to be due to helping the shorter hitters hold the green on long approach shots.

The forecast calls for light winds. Over the past 20 years, the winds have given some shorter hitters the advantage because there is a tendency for shorter hitters to be better with their wedges and short games around the green. Wind makes it more difficult for players to reach the par 5s in two shots and causes more missed greens in regulation and thus the advantage shifts to better wedge players. But unless the forecast or wind changes, there is no sense in not filtering out players that are too short to win at Augusta National.

Rafa Cabrera Bello
Matthew Fitzpatrick
Justin Harding
Shugo Imahira
Zach Johnson
Kevin Kisner
Matt Kuchar
Andrew Landry
Graeme McDowell
Kevin Na
Ian Poulter
Chez Reavie
Webb Simpson
Brandt Snedeker
Brendon Todd

A part of the game that is just as critical as distance is the trajectory height a player can create. Last year, I filtered out seven players for hitting the ball too low. Out of those seven players, the best finish was Si Woo Kim at T-21. I use a combination of max height, carry distance, and launch angle to determine if the following players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta.

Lucas Glover
Charles Howell III
Si Woo Kim
Patrick Reed

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

Dylan Frittelli
Matt Wallace

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

Sergio Garcia
Phil Mickelson
Charl Schwartzel
Jordan Spieth
Henrik Stenson
Jimmy Walker
Lee Westwood

Lastly, I have filtered out the weak performers from the “Red Zone,” approach shots from 175-225 yards. While Augusta is known for its greens, the winners are determined mostly by the quality of their approach shots throughout the event. In fact, 10 of the last 11 champions have hit at least 49 Greens in Regulation during the week.

Jason Day
Tommy Fleetwood
Adam Hadwin
Billy Horschel
Xander Schauffele
Cameron Smith
Bernd Wiesberger
Danny Willett
Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods will go down as the surprise filtered-out player, but he has not hit the ball well from the Red Zone in recent performances and his ball speed has dropped to roughly 172 mph. With a slow down in speed, it’s not uncommon for iron play performance to follow.

That leaves the following 21 players who can win the Masters

Byeong Hun An (400/1)
Patrick Cantlay (25/1)
Paul Casey (80/1)
Bryson DeChambeau (8/1)
Tony Finau (28/1)
Rickie Fowler (50/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (28/1)
Dustin Johnson (9/1)
Brooks Koepka (16/1)
Marc Leishman (150/1)
Shane Lowry (80/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (28/1)
Rory McIlroy (12/1)
Louis Oosthuizen (66/1)
Jon Rahm (10/1)
Justin Rose (66/1)
Adam Scott (66/1)
Justin Thomas (11/1)
Bubba Watson (28/1)
Gary Woodland (125/1)
Corey Conners (200/1)

Here are my personal top-10 picks

Bryson DeChambeau (8/1)
Dustin Johnson (9/1)
Jon Rahm (10/1)
Rory McIlroy (12/1)
Brook Koepka (16/1)
Tony Finau (28/1)
Tyrrell Hatton (28/1)
Hideki Matsuyama (28/1)
Justin Rose (66/1)
Adam Scott (66/1)

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Richie Hunt is a statistician whose clients include PGA Tour players, their caddies and instructors in order to more accurately assess their games. He is also the author of the recently published e-book, 2018 Pro Golf Synopsis; the Moneyball Approach to the Game of Golf. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Richie3Jack. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: March 2014 Purchase 2017 Pro Golf Synopsis E-book for $10

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Pingback: 5 things we learned Friday at the Masters – GolfWRX

  2. JoeB

    Nov 11, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    What about Francesco Molinari?

  3. ScottM

    Nov 11, 2020 at 9:21 am

    “The Masters has only been won once by a first-time attendee: Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong – why do people keep repeating this?

    Horton Smith was a first-time attendee when he won the inaugural tournament in 1934. As was Gene Sarazen a year later.

    Look at the 1934 results on the official Masters website:

    “Smith remains one of three players to win in his first start at Augusta National Golf Club.”

  4. Pingback: Lee Elder: Honored, honorary starter at ANGC this year | Garcia out with COVID-19 | Why can win the Masters (and why Tiger can’t) – GolfWRX

  5. Travis

    Nov 10, 2020 at 4:41 am

    Your comment about those who miss the cut the week before is also false. Jordan Speith was cut the year before his win.

  6. freeze

    Nov 9, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    players hit the ball too low to win at Augusta. Puts Patrick Reed in that category who won at Augusta 2 years ago, complete fail

    • Dan

      Nov 10, 2020 at 12:13 am

      Other multi time winners s thy hit it “too” low:
      Palmer
      Player
      Floyd
      Jimmy Demaret
      Jose Olazabal
      Faldo
      Crenshaw

      I mean, I understand the point he’s trying to make in the article but statistics are only a stepping off point.

      • mike

        Nov 10, 2020 at 9:25 am

        Isn’t Augusta a completely different course by now since all those on your list won? Plays a lot different with the extra length I would imagine, and that is probably where you need the height. Its longer and firmer now.

        • Ty Web

          Nov 10, 2020 at 4:45 pm

          Mike makes a good point Dan. There is not a single player you listed that can win.

    • Chris

      Nov 11, 2020 at 10:44 pm

      Thank You!! I was going to make the same comment!!

  7. Dan

    Nov 9, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    I’ll take the rest of the field against your top 10…

  8. J

    Nov 9, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Rahmbo.

  9. Garrett

    Nov 9, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    I know this is pretty much a good article, but you eliminated recent champions with your logic!! I mean, Patrick Reed and Tiger literally JUST won the event. You should give them (and others) their own category – the “these guys are so good they defy logic” category.

    • Rich

      Nov 9, 2020 at 10:25 pm

      He did not eliminate Tiger and Reed for having won The Masters before. Go back and reread. They fell into other categories. The former winners he eliminated are older guys.

    • Richie Hunt

      Nov 11, 2020 at 8:02 am

      Just because they won doesn’t mean that they will win, again. Tiger’s play at last year’s Masters is far different than it has been since the return from the Tour suspending play. He’s lost about 7-8 mph of ball speed and his iron play has been very bad.

      Reed is hitting the ball very low right now and his iron play has not been all that hot. Recency trumps credentials.

  10. William

    Nov 9, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    I really like Louie Oo. and root for him to do well. But, is he not both short and low? How does he make the list? Good from “red zone”?

  11. Blade Junkie

    Nov 9, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    where’s Molinari ?

  12. Miamistomp

    Nov 9, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    fInau -no way
    Morikawa and Redd I think have a chance

  13. Pingback: Masters 2020 staff picks – GolfWRX

  14. Bubbert

    Nov 9, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    As much as I like Finau (and I do) he could find ways to lose even if he was the single contestant teeing up…

  15. ChristianR

    Nov 9, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Garcia out for Covid.
    Rose been very near to win two times, I agree but lately not so much game from him aside couple of good rounds in his latest event.
    Really curious on Bryson approach.

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Morning 9: Mickelson dials up pre-Match chatter | Korda sisters land GD cover | Augenstein on going pro

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]; and find me on Twitter and Instagram.
November 24, 2020
Good Monday morning, golf fans. May you enjoy your Thursday feasting and giving of thanks and Friday shopping! I will see you all next Monday.
1. Augenstein energized
Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine…”Augenstein went on to reach the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur that summer. He later signed with the Commodores and made an instant impact as a freshman, winning two extra-hole matches to lead Vanderbilt to its first SEC title in 2017. The one they call “Flash” – or, as this writer has coined, “Johnny Golf” – continued to establish himself as one of the preeminent match-play competitors in amateur golf, going 8-1 in the format between conference and nationals while also finishing runner-up at the 2019 U.S. Amateur and scoring the winning point for last year’s U.S. Walker Cup team at Royal Liverpool. Last spring as a senior, he was named SEC Player of the Year and an All-American for the fourth time.
  • “In other words, Augenstein left quite the mark on the Vanderbilt program. From “best player here” to one of Vanderbilt’s best ever.”
  • “As a coach, you dream of being able to coach guys like John Augenstein,” said Limbaugh, who on Monday had to say so long to his superstar.
  • “After four and a half seasons in Nashville, Augenstein announced that he has decided to forego the final semester of his extra year of eligibility and turn professional.”
2. “Chuck tees”
Golfweek’s Todd Kelly with some remarks from Lefty amid his usual pre-Match pot-stirring…”Mickelson will likely have to carry plenty of the weight on Friday. Curry is a talented player, and Manning has shown he can swing the stick a little bit himself. As for Barkley, well, we’ve all seen that swing.
  • “At Stone Canyon, we actually have Chuck tees,” Mickelson said. “They’re a little bit further up.”
  • …”Mickelson then described part of the strategy that he and Barkley plan to deploy later this week.”
  • “If I can hit the green, and let him putt, that’s our strategy on that. Same thing on the drivable par 4s. We saw what happened in Match II where we were really getting beat up pretty good and then Tom and I, on 11, I drive the green and he rolls the putt in for eagle and it just turns the whole match the other way.”
3 Korda sisters land Golf Digest cover
…and Keely Levins landed the Q&A…Good background on the pair which could eventually be written in the history books best golfing sister duo ever.
How do you balance being sisters and competitors?
Nelly: You’re always competing against the golf course, my parents always said.
Jess: People like to put us against each other all the time to see if they can spark a rivalry or something. But we just keep disappointing everybody.
Nelly: We have little side bets here and there. At the end of the day, we want the best for each other, even though we want to beat each other as well. You go into every tournament wanting to win.
4. WMPO organizers cautiously optimistic for 2021
Nick Piecoro for the Arizona Republic…”The annual event at TPC Scottsdale is known for its raucous, jam-packed crowds. It can feel like a tailgate party, rock concert, beer festival and sporting event rolled into one. It is a defining event on the Valley’s social calendar, an excuse even for non-golf fans to head to the course and bask in the sunshine.”
  • “But no one knows what elements of Phoenix Opens past will be visible the first week of February, when the tournament is scheduled to take place.”
  • “For now, organizers expect to go forward with the event. They say it will be scaled down in every respect. Gone will be many of the temporary structures that ran parallel to the course. Organizers hope to have fans, albeit nothing close to the 200,000-plus who typically turn out on Fridays and Saturdays.”
GolfWRX Recommends
One for the Memory Banks is part Final Rounds, part Dewsweepers, part To the Linksland, and part Rick Reilly—and 100% one of the best golf books you’ll ever read! This hilarious and heartfelt travelogue features stories of golf and friendship. If you’ve played golf in the UK, One for the Memory Banks will connect with you on so many levels—if you haven’t, this book will have you calling your travel agent!
Great gift for the holidays!
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. England’s courses reopen
Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Golf courses in England will be allowed to re-open on 2nd December as the country exits its second lockdown.”
  • “UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that the rule of six will once again apply so it looks like fourballs will also be back.”
  • “The country is going back to its Tier system, with each region set to find out on Thursday…More regions will fall into higher tiers than previously, Boris Johnson said.”
6. Course whisperer readying the Ocean Course
The Post and Courier’s Jeff Hartsell…”The man known as the PGA Championship’s “course whisperer,” Kerry Haigh, is keeping an eye on those ever-increasing distances as he prepares the Ocean Course for its next turn on the golf world’s main stage.  The Ocean Course, designed by the late, great Pete Dye, has hosted the famed “War by the Shore” Ryder Cup of 1991 and the 2012 PGA Championship, where McIlroy dusted the field by eight shots.”
  • “But with the PGA moved from August to May on the golf calendar, and with long hitters such as Bryson DeChambeau leading the distance evolution in the game, the Ocean Course will face a new challenge next year. The PGA Championship, set for May 20-23, will be the second major on golf’s 2021 calendar, following The Masters in April.  Haigh, chief championships officer for the PGA of America, is responsible for the operation and course set up for the PGA Championships. He visited the Ocean Course last week to check on preparations. His goal, he said, is to not be the subject of any post-PGA analysis, good or bad.”
7. Pro-Am golf: Reifers captures TaylorMade Pebble Beach Tournament title
John Devine of the Monterey Herald…”Sitting five strokes off the pace after Thursday’s opening round, Reifers inched closer each day before producing the lowest score on Sunday to capture the 49th TaylorMade Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament.   Reifers overcame fast and firm conditions at Pebble Beach Golf Course to finish 4-under-par, erasing a one stroke deficit to win the tournament by three strokes over Kirk Triplett, a four-time winner of various tournaments at Pebble Beach.  Finishing a combined 13-under, Reifers used a pair of eagles on the second and third holes at Pebble Beach to grab his first lead of the four-day event, which was played at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Spanish Bay over the first three days.”
8. h/t Geoff Shackelford: CBS Moneywatch on golf participation
Another item for the “golf is booming” cornucopia…Via Geoff Shackelford…”CBS Moneywatch’s Megan Cerullo doesn’t tell us much we haven’t already read about golf in the pandemic. Still, after years of stories about the decline of the sport’s participation numbers, it’s worth noting pieces like this one, if nothing else to highlight that a resurgence in the game had nothing to do with the opportunity to spend $600 for ten more yards off the tee.”
  • “In August, consumers spent a record $331 million on clubs, balls, gloves and other gear — that was up 32% over the year-ago period and topped the previous sales record for that month in 2006, according to Golf Datatech.”
  • “For the first 10 months of 2020, golf equipment sales were up nearly 30% compared to the same period last year, Matt Powell, an analyst with market research firm NPD Group, told CBS MoneyWatch. Training tools, such as hitting screens, swing aids and putting matts are up 75% as enthusiasts practice their technique away from the golf course.”
9. Streb’s winning WITB
Driver: Titleist TSi2 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Project X EvenFlow RipTide 60 6.5
3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, B2 Surefit)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ 80 TX
Hybrid: Titleist TS3 (21 degrees, B2 Surefit)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Hy 95X
Irons: Titleist TMB (4), Titleist 620CB (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F, 52-08F, 56-08M, 60-04L)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S300
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Prototype
Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet
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GolfWRX Insider: Interview with RSM Classic winner Robert Streb

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This week at the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Robert Streb won in clutch fashion on the second playoff hole with a pitching wedge to within inches from 160 yards. It not only set up his second PGA Tour victory but also his second victory at Sea Island with his first also coming in a playoff against Brendon de Jonge in 2015.

After the win, we had the chance to speak with Robert about that final shot on 18 as well as his clubs, how he goes about testing new equipment, and the most common mistakes he sees from amateur golfers.

RB: To start, I have to ask you about the shot you hit on the second playoff hole to set up the win. It was a pitching wedge from the rough from 160 yards. How were you able to judge the distance so well?

RS: As soon as my caddie and I saw the lie we had a really good feeling it was going to jump a bit, and that’s why I hit my pitching wedge instead of my 9-iron. We don’t always judge it as right as we did on that shot, but the big key was to make a confident swing and trust that we made the right decision— it obviously worked out for the best.

RB: If we take a deeper look at the club you hit for that shot in the playoff, you use a pitching wedge that matches your wedges rather than one that matches your irons (Vokey Design SM8 46 degree) is there a specific reason you choose to use that club vs a set matching pitching wedge?

RS: For a long time I used the pitching wedge from my iron set, but for me being a self-described feel player I like using the Vokey 46 degree because I feel I have a bit more control on half shots because of the groove technology and the overall profile of the club. When the SM8’s hit the tour I asked Dill (Titleist wedge tech Aaron Dill) about getting set up with that, and it pretty much went right into the bag. I also really like using it around the green.

RB: Sticking to new equipment, you also recently put the Titleist TSi2 driver into play. What do you like about that club versus your previous driver, and what was your process for putting that club into play?

RS: I know I mentioned this already, but I really am a feel player when it comes to my clubs, and everything has to fit my eye. The TSi2 is really appealing since I’m a guy that plays a draw and the shape of the toe is extremely appealing at address behind the ball. I did a lot of hitting it on the range before ever getting on Trackman, because I want to know that I really love it before dialing it in.

The other thing I really like is the ability to hit it a bit higher and see a flight that I really like without having it ever feel out of control. Since I like to play a draw, I like that it helps my misses stay in the air longer and go straighter—like any golfer, I like knowing that my misses are going to be better when I switch to something new.

RB: We’ve talked wedges, and we’ve talked the driver, so now let’s talk everything in between and how you like to gap your set. You previously used a 2-iron as the next club after your 3-wood and now you go from a 3-wood to a 21-degree  hybrid and then a 4-iron. What are your main goals when gapping your set?”

RS: Over time I realized that I would make more birdies and save more shots using a gap wedge over a 2-iron, so I finally made the decision to take that out of the bag and play a full four-wedge setup (46/52/56/60) and use the hybrid. I used to have to work really hard at managing my distance gapping since there was almost a 20-yard gap in the short end of my bag, but now I don’t ever have to worry about that.

At the top end of my bag, the hybrid is really versatile and I always find I get more control with a shorter club with a bit more loft vs a 5-wood, so I’ve stuck with it since I really like the iron feel I get out of that club.

From there, my 4-iron (Titleist TMB) really plays like a 3 1/2 iron—I feel confident getting a few extra yards out of it when needed because it’s hollow, while still offering the ability to hit softer shots with it, which is whys its a club I don’t mess around with.

RB: Being a player at your level, you understand how to get around a golf course and minimize mistakes. If there was one piece of advice you could offer to golfers trying to break their next scoring barrier what would it be?

RS: The biggest mistakes I see golfers make is not playing within themselves and hitting shots they aren’t truly comfortable with. This could mean a shot around the green and trying to get too aggressive, or not pulling the right club on approach shots. When I play in pro-ams, the vast majority of golfers miss short and don’t take enough club—they hit the club they think should get there rather than the one that will, and over the course of a round of golf those missed shots add up.

Being able to take your medicine when you put yourself in a bad spot can be the difference between a bogey and a triple and a hole like that can mean the difference between making a cut, or in the case of many golfers, not getting to that next scoring barrier.

Check out Streb’s full WITB: Robert Streb’s RSM Classic winning WITB

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The DailyWRX (11/23/2020): Do not enter if…

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Don’t do it….

 

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“Bad Little 9″……..

 

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