The Masters Analysis and Breakdown
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Course Comparables: Riviera CC (Genesis)
Past Winners: Johnson (2020), Woods (2019), Reed (2018), Garcia (2017), Willett (2016)
Key Stats: Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, Par 4: 450-500 Yards
A tradition unlike any other, we’re back in Augusta for the Masters. Dustin Johnson set the course record in November in wet conditions that allowed such high scoring. However, we’ve returned to a more traditional Masters setup with overly firm fairways and lightning fast greens. We will likely see a single digit under par winner again as these conditions should play super tough so things like birdie streaks, eagles, and bogey free rounds will be extremely scarce. You need a full bag to attack Augusta National and your A+ game to take it down. You cannot be a scrub off the tee at all here as you either need to gain with distance or accuracy, however the former is generally preferred. Your approach shots need to be dialed in to hold these greens and give yourself the occasional birdie opportunity. Greens in Regulation is one of the strongest factors in success here as it will be vital to avoid these nasty greenside shots that can result in some awkward numbers. There are also NINE Par 4s between 440 and 505 yards, so I am prioritizing Par 4 Efficiency between 450 and 500 yards.
The top end of the board has everyone you think it does and we’re really going to split hairs quite finely to make our decisions up here as the top five guys in my model are all in this range. Dustin Johnson checks all of the boxes here (obviously) but his recent form has left plenty to be desired, including losing ten strokes putting. But it’s whatever as he’s the current goat and you can play him blindly. Bryson DeChambeau has arguably the best form of the upper range coming in this week. He’s the cream of the crop off the tee and has the best chance of giving us some eagle opportunities. Jon Rahm is combining his elite play at hard courses with BABY SWAG, which is an extremely deadly combo. Justin Thomas, the chalk of the range, has the best irons on tour and can carry him to a great finish and even a win. I’m a bit bearish on the final two in this range: Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele. Both are in less than stellar form and will be tough to play considering the golfers around them. My favorite play up here is going to be Bryson. The tee-to-green game is absolutely en fuego which is horrible news for the rest of the field. Bryson also has the highest ball flight on approach shots over the last two years, which is a massive boon with these super firm greens.
The 9k range is full of big names that would be 10k+ at a non-Major. My favorite is going to be, unsurprisingly, Collin Morikawa. They’ve finally priced him up enough to where the field will be hesitant on locking him into a lineup. While Collin is not a bomber by any means, he is extremely accurate off the tee, ranks 1st in Strokes Gained: Approach in my model along with being 3rd on these long par fours. While the short game can disappear on him from time to time, he might not need it as much with his amazing long iron ability along with his tendency to hold greens (7th in GIR in the field). My second favorite play in this range is right above him as Patrick Cantlay is coming into the week in some great form. He has gained almost twenty five strokes Tee to Green in his three starts prior to his missed cut at THE PLAYERS, which resulted in a 2nd, 3rd, and a 15th. Cantlay has said he loves playing on wickedly fast and undulating greens and he can get quite dangerous with the putter at times. My third preference in this range is Brooks Koepka. He’s priced below his ceiling and also has amazing form coming into the week. His tee to green game is in quality form like Cantlay, gaining over seventeen strokes in that department in his last three starts. That type of play resulted in a 38th, 2nd, and a win at the Waste Management. In my opinion, these three have the highest upside in this range and should be the only ones to consider. A contrarian build will be to fade the top end and start here with at least two of these golfers.
The 8k range is going to be interesting this week. One thing I don’t understand is why Viktor Hovland isn’t projected to be like 50% owned because that’s what he should project. Big Dick Vik’s short game is coming around albeit still sporadic. He’s one of the true elite ballstrikers on tour and, like Morikawa, is amazing at long par fours and greens in regulation. Debutants are generally strayed from but Hovland is built differently and feels like a bargain at 8700. Daniel Berger will be wildly popular at a mere 8500 and you should definitely play him if you want. I’ll try to fit him in a couple lines but the likely 20+% ownership may make me want to pivot. Tyrrell Hatton is going to be at the dance standing as he projects to be a fifth of Berger’s ownership. His lack of great play and poor, but minor, Masters history has probably left him unclicked for the most part, but he can give us elite tee to green play with a penchant for the difficult. Another Englishman with some okay tee to green stats that no one wants to play is Tommy Fleetwood. He’s shown a bit of life since his rough patch where he just couldn’t string anything together in the continental forty-eight. There is a slight correlation with Dubai (Euro Tour event), which Fleetwood has won at before.
At the top of the 7k range, we have a super chalk Paul Casey. He has the best form coming in with two top fives and two top tens and over TWENTY-SEVEN strokes gained tee to green across four full tournaments. I think, if you’re going to eat some chalk up top, this is a spot where you want to get a bit more different. A great spot to get different is Bubba Watson who projects to have about a quarter of Casey’s ownership. While the recent form is not so hot, Bubba’s history at Augusta National is undeniable as he knows this course as much as anyone. The most interesting play in this range, however, is Jason Day. He’s had two of his career worst putting performances in 2021 where he lost 5.2 and 7.7 strokes at the Waste Management and THE PLAYERS. He’s only lost five or more strokes putting two other times in his career, both being in 2010. A positive to note is he’s been a fantastic ballstriker in that same time frame. He’s also a golfer with a great history at the Masters, despite missing the cut in November.
The bottom of the 7k range has a ton of pivot spots if this is where you want to get different. Contrarily, the chalk down here is quite tasty. Joaquin Niemann is by far my favorite play in this range. Like Hovland, he’s an elite ballstriker that’s growing his short game little by little. If we’re using the Genesis Invitational as a comp course, how about we consider the winner of that priced at a paltry 7100? Max Homa has played the best golf of his career in 2021. He made seven straight cuts before missing at THE PLAYERS and has shown that he has some real upside with two top tens alongside his Genesis win. He also ranks first in the field at scoring on par fives. These two are going to be the chalk down here and everyone else gives you a 3-10% ownership advantage. Outside of Will Zalatoris, I really don’t love anyone else down here. Speaking of Big Z, he ranks 4th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in this field along with being 5th in Par 5 scoring and Greens in Regulation.
The 6k range is going to be getting a boost in popularity this week with Corey Conners and Si Woo Kim in it. Both rate out amazingly in the model and are way too cheap for their upsides. Conners is an elite ballstriker and ranks 1st in Greens in Regulation whilst Si-Woo has an elite short game and is one of the best on tour at long par fours. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to start a build Niemann/Homa-Kim/Conners and build upwards. A rare Phil Mickelson sighting in my article as he’s had some quality play of late and has the around the green game to navigate Augusta National. My favorite “punt” play, though, is Matt Wallace. He’s in stellar form and is a solid value this far down the board. If you want to take a shot at Bernd Wiesberger, then that’s fine. He has some quality made-cut equity even if the ceiling is a bit stunted. I know I’ll have a pinch or two of the Austrian. Outside of Stewart Cink, I really wouldn’t consider anyone below 6400 as their upsides are extremely limited.