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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

23 Comments

23 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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WOTW: Will Zalatoris’ Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition

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If you are going to win your first golf tournament why not do it in a big way, during the FedEx Cup Playoffs! Will Zalatoris made a bogey on the 3rd playoff hole to win the FedEx St. Jude over Sepp Straka. This was Will’s first ever win on tour and he held the bronze trophy while wearing a special Omega Seamaster James Bond edition on his wrist.

WOTW Specs

Name: Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial Master Chronometer 007 Edition
Reference: 210.90.42.20.01.001
Limited: No
Date: 2019 – Current
Case: Grade 2 Titanium
Bezel: Matte Brown Aluminum
Dial: Matte Brown
Size: 42mm
Movement: Caliber 8806, 35 Jewels
Power Reserve: 55 Hours
Glass: Saphire Crystal
Waterproof: 300 Meters
Bracelet: Grade 2 Titanium Mesh
Price: $9,200 (~$8,000)


Omega has been such a large part of the sporting world, being the official timer of the Olympic Games. The Omega Seamaster was first introduced in 1948 in celebration of Omega’s 100th anniversary. The Seamaster wasn’t Omega’s first dive watch, that was the Mariner 16 years earlier. Since its introduction though, the Seamaster has been one of the most recognizable names in watches. Omega has also been a part of the James Bond movies for decades and this 007 Edition had direct input from actor Daniel Craig. This Seamaster is made for the “No Time To Die” movie that was released in 2021.

The case on Will’s Seamaster is crafted from Grade 2 Titanium and measures 42mm across. Grade 2 titanium has more of a gray color and accepts a brushed finish really well, all while still being corrosion resistant. The caseback is also solid titanium and screws into the case. The caseback is also the only place you will see the James Bond 007 logos on the watch. On the right side of the case is the screw down crown and at the 10 o’clock position is the helium escape valve. During saturation diving watches can have gases build up inside of them and the helium escape valve can help release the pressure before damaging the watch. On top of the case is a unidirectional titanium bezel that contains a matte brown aluminum insert. The aluminum insert features a 60 minute diving scale that matches the color of the luminescent material on the dial. The dial is a matching matte brown and made from aluminum with a “Tropical” finish. In watches a “Tropical” finish is when UV rays fade and distort a colored part over time, giving it a unique look. This usually applies to black pieces that turn brown but other colors can be effected the same way. The matte brown dial on this Seamaster has a retro look to it and features brushed hour, minute, and seconds hands made from the same grade 2 titanium. The hour markers are large and feature a luminescent material for easy reading in low light or underwater.

Inside the James Bond 007 Seamaster is the Omega Caliber 8806 mechanical movement. The 8806 is a self-winding movement that features Omega’s Co-Axial escapement for more consistent use of stored energy. A lot of Omega movements are magnetic field resistant and the 8806 can withstand up to 15,000 gauss to ensure precision in any environment. Fifty five hours of power reserve are on tap for the wearer and 35 jewels ensure that the movement runs smoothly. Keeping the Seamaster on your wrist is a Grade 2 titanium mesh bracelet with a twin trigger, single fold deployant clasp. Omega Seamaster watches are starting to become more and more desirable and this special edition will cost you $9,200 at an Omega dealer. You can save yourself a little bit of money on the secondary market where a brand new model will be around $8,000.

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Tour Rundown: Saki’s rout | From W to Z | Magic for Maja

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The world’s golfing viators feel their seasons winding down, just as folks in the northern hemisphere sense that summer is coming to a close. This time of year brings not the magical moments that the majors bring. Instead, it feels real, because touring competitiors save and lose their jobs, gain promotions, just as we do. 2022 has been a lightning rod of a year for professional golf. It’s only two-thirds over by calendar standards, but playoffs have arrived and the end is nigh for complete fan focus.

With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to five events that held our gaze on the world’s tours, and congratulate Saki Baba and Monet Chun on reaching the finals of the USGA Women’s Amateur. Baba turned in a timeless performance to defeat the pride of Canada, and win a second USGA title for Japan.

PGA Tour: FedEx Cup Playoffs Round One: FedEx St. Jude goes from W to Z

Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young, past teammates at Wake Forest, have waged a spirited battle to determine which one would earn a PGA Tour title first. This tussle was not reserved for regular tour events. The two have finished top-three in all four majors, and had come up just shy of the champion’s flag. That ended this week, as Zalatoris claimed a first professional win on the top shelf of the world’s tours.

The FedEx Cup playoffs elaborate over three weeks in August. Stop one was in the company’s hometown of Memphis, and Sepp Straka gave a heck of a performance over 75 holes. The Austrian-by-way-of-Georgia was near the lead for the entire event. His opening 64 stood him two back of the leaders, and his Friday 66 brought him closer. He and JJ Spaun played the final round together. Spaun had a day to forget, tumbling 41 spots from the top with a 78. Straka hung tough, and had a putt to win on the 72nd hole. It missed, and he entered a playoff with Zalatoris.

On Will’s side of the drama, his opening 71 gave him ground to make up, and he did so over the next 53 holes. 63, followed by 65 and 66, brought him event with Straka at 15-under par, three clear of third place. The two marched off to a playoff that lasted three holes. Play loosened, as the strain of the week became clear. At the third playoff hole, both hit from the drop zone on the par three 11th after less than stellar tee shots. Zalatoris was able to get up and down for bogey, and that was enough to defeat his overtime opponent.

LPGA/Ladies European Tour: Handa World Invitational is magic for Maja

One of those Why Don’t We Do This More Often events took place in Northern Ireland this week, at a castle, no less. The LPGA and Ladies European tours joined together to host an event over the same course as a simultaneous, DP World Tour event. It may have been a crowded affair, but it was interesting and exciting with room to spare.

Amanda Doherty of the USA played stellar golf over the first two days, and surged into the lead at 134. Her weekend rounds could only match par each day, and the young American dropped away from the lead, into a tie for 8th position with compatriot Lauren Stephenson.

Surging up the charts over the final 36 was Sweden’s Maja Stark. Lurking five behind Doherty at the midway mark, Stark posted 69 on saturday to move within two shots. On Sunday, Stark went into orbit, racing past all challengers with a sublime 63. Ten birdies over the par-73 course at Galgorm Castle sent Magic Maja five shots clear of runner-up Alisen Corpuz of the USA. The victory was Stark’s fifth on the European circuit, but first with LPGA sanctioning.

DP World Tour: Handa World Invitational a battle of two Scotsmen

The top of the board had full occupancy as day four began at the Handa World Invitational. American John Catlin was among the leaders, but he could not keep pace and slipped to a tie for 13th with a last-day 73. What ensued, was a battle of two Scots, with Ewen Ferguson and Connor Syme waging a contest for bragging rights and baubles.

To be sure, there were others involved. Spain’s Borja Virto closed with 68 to tie for second position, three behind the leader. Italy’s Renato Paratore posted 64 on day four, to tie for fourth with two others. Ferguson and Syme caught our attention, and not unearned  was it. Ferguson’s week began with a two-eagle round of 61, and as all aficionados know, keeping the lead over four days is not often an achievable task. His stumble came on Friday, with 70, but he followed with 68-69 into the weekend.

The chore for Syme was to chase the sprinter down. He was one of two golfers to post four rounds in the 60s this week, but for most of the day, he was not up to the task of catching the leader. Syme’s first ten holes were a struggle, with bogeys (three) outnumbering birdies (two). It was only the final quartet of holes (where he played three-under par) that Syme was able to make Ferguson concentrate a bit more.

The victory was Ferguson’s second of the year and career, and came five months after his initial win in Qatar.

Korn Ferry Tour: Pinnacle Bank is second of season for Shelton

Remember what we said about the Real quotient of late-season golf? It was evident on the Korn Ferry Tour this week. The PBC was the final, pre-playoffs event on the schedule, and that meant that the top 25 golfers on the money list come Sunday evening, would depart for the PGA Tour in a few months. Kevin Roy goes to the show for the first time in his journey, and Michael Kim returns after a six-spot climb in Nebraska. The heartbreak for Brandon Harkins and Ryan McCormick, who each came up a few thousand dollars shy of glory, is eased by a second opportunity to ascend, during the three-week playoff series.

Back to the heartland of America. Shelton was out in 31 on Sunday, to thrust his name into contention for win number two in 2022. Attempting to chase him down were the aforementioned Kim, Ben Taylor of England, and a bask of other crocodiles. It was Taylor who would come closest to an overtake, His Saturday 62 was the week’s low round, but his Sunday back nine harvested just one birdie. In the end, he would finish at 16-under par, in solo second.

Shelton was up to the task. A toe-stub bogey at ten was followed by birdies at 12 and 15. The later pushed Shelton to 17-under par, and he would navigate his way to port in even par, to secure a slim, one-shot win over Taylor.

PGA Tour Champions: Boeing Classic is charming third of 2022 for Jiménez

Billy Andrade was recognized recently with the 2022 Payne Stewart award for charitable work. On Sunday in Washington, he faced a challenge for a different sort of prize. The Rhode Island native was matched with Spain’s sartorial Miguel Ángel Jiménez over the final 18 holes at Snoqualmie. Each stood at 134, but only one would lift the champion’s bounty.

Unfortunately for Andrade, this day would not be his. birdies were offset by bogeys, and he dropped two slots, into a tie for third place. Jiménez fared much better. His five-under 67 was enough to hold off a charging David McKenzie of Australia. The later scribbled six birdies and twelve pars on his final-round scorecard, but his 66 was only enough to earn solo second. The day belonged to the Canarian, who doubtless celebrated his third win of the season with a fine cigar and a nice glass of Spanish Rioja.

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Giveaway, member testing roundup: Fujikura Ventus TR giveaway and member testing + more!

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Our forum faithful are well acquainted with the incredible giveaways going on in the realm of threads and comments, but we want to make sure front page readers are able to get in on these unique opportunities.

Check out a roundup of our current giveaways and review opportunities below!

APPLY NOW: Fujikura Ventus TR Black and Red Shafts


GolfWRX has teamed up with Fujikura for an extremely exciting testing opportunity for our members! We are looking for 4 of our members to test out and review Fujikura’s Ventus TR Black and Red shafts, which were just released on Monday.

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GIVEAWAY: Tour Edge Wingman 700 Series Putter


GolfWRX and Tour Edge have teamed up for an awesome giveaway opportunity for our members. Four of our members will get an opportunity to add a putter from Tour Edge’s brand new Wingman 700 Series to their bag! Tour Edge’s 700 series putters provide extreme M.O.I. engineered for maximum stability with an optimal roll! Enter now for your chance!

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GIVEAWAY: Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Hy-Wood


We have once again teamed up with Cleveland Golf for an awesome giveaway for our members. We are giving away five Cleveland XL Halo Hy-Wood Hybrids! If you’re not a fan of hitting your Fairways off the deck, this is for you. If you prefer that Hybrid feel off the tee, this is for you too. The new Launcher XL Halo Hy-Wood helps make the hardest shots in golf easier, so you can bring more confidence to the course. Enter now for your chance to add it to your bag!

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Visit our Instagram and enter now for your chance to win a custom MEZZ.1 Max putter by L.A.B. Golf!

 

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Head on over to Club Junkie’s Instagram to enter the Fujikura Ventus TR giveaway!

 

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This Mizuno ST-X driver has 10.5* of loft and a 60g Project X EvenFlow Riptide CB shaft, Stiff flex (6.0), headcover included!

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Six members are testing the GOLFFOREVER Swing Trainer and App.

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