The Masters is here. It's the best week in golf -- unless you think otherwise, of course -- but either way: we're getting the world's best all in one place.
And that includes some forgotten faces who haven't been on the PGA Tour for quite some time.
With that in mind, let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Augusta National Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,545 (about 150 yards longer than the average par 72)
Fairway Width: 50.2 yards (average; 77th of 80)
Average Green Size: 6,486 square feet (a bit larger than average)
Green Type: Bentgrass
Stimpmeter: N/A (but we know it's fast)
Past 5 Winning Scores: -10, -10, -20*, -13, -15
Past 5 Cut Lines: +4, +3, Even*, +3, +5
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Total Strokes Gained, Course History
A lot of different things stand out for Augusta National.
Firstly, it's largely a second-shot course, which you'll both hear from the pros and see in the data. We know that historical ShotLink data is absent from Augusta National, but in analyzing the past two years of round-by-round strokes gained data from datagolf, I found an in-round r-squared value of 0.39 between approach play and total strokes gained, meaning that 39% of scoring is explained by approach play alone.
Those numbers are lower for putting (27%), around-the-green (26%), and off-the-tee (18%) performance. The biggest deviation from average PGA Tour courses there is actually with around-the-green play (26% versus 19%), and I saw a slight downtick in putting (27% from 33%), which means that while the flat stick is still super important -- wedge play is going to matter, too.
Often, we see distance discussed as a key stat, and while I don't think that's wrong, off-the-tee play (18%) is more predictive than distance (5%) alone when it comes to explaining in-round success. (Accuracy is 7%, by the way.)
Course history is a generally good predictor of success, and datagolf shows it to be the most predictive course for identifying future success.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
The best strokes gained averages among golfers who have played at least twice here over the past five years (a "-" indicates a did-not-play situation):
Past winners in the field include, well, a lot of them. That's sort of a thing here.
But the most recent winners in the field include Scottie Scheffler (2022), Hideki Matsuyama (2021), Dustin Johnson (2020 -- in November), Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019), Patrick Reed (2018), Sergio Garcia (2017), Danny Willett (2016), Jordan Spieth (2015), Bubba Watson (2012, 2014), Adam Scott (2013), and Charl Schwartzel (2011).
Win Simulations for The Masters
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for The Masters
The top trio of Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm are soaking up a lot of win equity in the simulation model. Usually, that means we either get some value on the favorites or (more often) they're even still overvalued and we get better value down the board.
It's kind of a mix this week. None of those three are egregious betting values, according to my simulations, so feel free to bet on them if you like. There's a slight value chance with Rahm, whom my model thinks should be +900 instead of +950.
It's the next tier that shows value as a collective with Patrick Cantlay (+1900), Tony Finau (+2400), and Xander Schauffele (+2500). Finau is the most obvious value in the model and is my only bet before Monday afternoon. My model thinks he should be +1900.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for The Masters
All stats cited below originate at datagolf and reference ranks relative to the field over the past 50 rounds. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Scottie Scheffler (FanDuel Salary: $12,100 | Golf betting odds: +700) - There's a big three entering the week with Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm, and you frankly can't go wrong with any of them from a process standpoint. With that said, we have to consider ways to whittle down the list. For me, I think duplicating lineups we like and rotating in one of the big three is a viable approach for the week from a game theory standpoint. Thus, if your core hits well, you can get three swipes at guys with double-digit win odds.
Of the three, I do think Scheffler is the best process play. He has the best iron play of the three and is just a step behind Rory with the driving stats. Rahm has the best putter, but the combination of everything leans a little bit toward Scheffler. The value for these guys in my combo model is virtually identical. You can play them all depending on how you build your lineups. If picking just one, I have a hard time moving away from Scheffler, though.
Xander Schauffele ($10,800 | +2500) - The trio of Scheffler, McIlroy, and Rahm are a cut above the other names in the $11,000 range, and when building lineups with one of them, my preference is going to be going down to the $10,000 range instead of forcing in a second $11,000-tier stud. Schauffele Is generally a chalky pick, yet chalk is chalk for a reason sometimes. Schauffele missed the cut here last year but was 3rd in 2021 (nearly winning), 17th in 2020, and 2nd in 2019. He ranks 14th in the field in strokes gained: tee to green, 14th in ball-striking, and 11th in short-game. That all-around game is why he can play Augusta so well.
Max Homa ($10,400 | +3200) - Homa's biggest question to answer is his performance in majors. Last year, he was T48 at Augusta, T13 at the PGA, T47 at the US Open, and cut at The Open. Other than that, there's just about everything to like. Homa is 10th in the field in approach play and 3rd in strokes gained from short-game stats. Everything is there for a breakthrough for Max, and the salary is very forgiving.
Tony Finau ($10,100 | +2400) - I'd imagine that Finau gets pretty popular by the time lineups lock because of the salary, but in the same breath: the salary seems too low. Finau ranks 5th in ball-striking and 7th in putting (albeit 52nd in around-the-green play). He's got good course history (35th, 10th, 38th, 5th, and 10th the past five years) and is in good form. Don't overthink playing Finau this week.
Will Zalatoris ($10,000 | +3700) - Although you may want to look away while Zalatoris is putting for birdie if he's in your lineups, we've been here for years with Zalatoris and the putter. And you know what? He goes out and dominates in majors. He has made seven of his past eight cuts in majors that he finished. That includes two top-six finishes at Augusta National. Zalatoris' recent results are poor, and it's got a lot to do with the putter. While he's not a slam-dunk play and Finau is an easier justification, Zalatoris' upside is a green jacket. Those odds drop off quickly around this point.
Viktor Hovland ($9,800 | +3700) - Despite the importance of short-game for this week, my list still is going to include Hovland, who is completely neutral in terms of combined short-game stats. He's 10th in ball-striking, though, and he has finished top 30 in consecutive years here. We're getting exposure to someone who could lead the field in greens in regulation all while fitting into a balanced build.
Tyrrell Hatton ($9,600 | +6500) - All things considered, Hatton's major history is a pretty...major...disappointment. But! Only eight golfers in the field rank top-10 in both combined strokes gained: ball-striking (10th) and short-game (20th). All of them have salaries of $10,100 or greater, so you can probably see where I'm going with this. Hatton is a good all-around golfer with a reasonable salary. A solo-second at THE PLAYERS and a T4 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational remind us of his upside in tougher setups and fields.
Corey Conners ($9,400 | +4800) - If we want second shots, then we should be open to Corey Conners, who is 20th in strokes gained: approach. Conners also has reeled off three straight top-10 finishes at Augusta National, which is super sick for anyone who has locked him into way too many lineups over the past few years. He clearly has the right type of game to work his way around Augusta, and the ball-striking is in form. After his win at Valero, his odds dropped from 75/1 to 48/1.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,000 | +8500) - Niemann seems pretty set on getting some revenge (even though other players on the LIV Tour have said there's no animosity between them and the PGA Tour players), and he has the game to prove it -- despite finishes outside the top-30 in the past two LIV events. He ended 2022 with good results and finished in the top 10 in both Asian Tour events in February.
Tom Hoge ($8,500 | +15000) - With some of the best irons (2nd) in the field, Hoge is in a position to build on his Augusta debut from last year when he finished T39. Hoge recently was T3 at THE PLAYERS and virtually tied Collin Morikawa for the most strokes gained from approach play in that tournament. That's a good profile for the salary.
Keith Mitchell ($8,500 | +12000) - Keith Mitchell finished T43 at Augusta in 2019, his only start to date. In 2023, he's got four top-25s and just one missed cut (his first event of the calendar year). Mitchell is one of the best drivers in golf (10th in this field in strokes gained: off the tee over the past 50 rounds), which tends to give him a high floor.
Keegan Bradley ($8,300 | +16000) - Bradley tied Mitchell for T43 in 2019 and finished T48 (PGA), T7 (US Open), and cut (The Open) at his majors from last year. Overall, he's trending up and has three top-10 finishes since the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, and he's doing it with great iron play largely. The putting can still be bad -- but it's not as problematic as it has been, historically.