Less than five months after the conclusion of the 2020 Masters, the TOUR heads to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National once again to play the 2021 Masters. Back to its original spot in the schedule, the sorely missed pink Azaleas will be in full bloom for another spring edition of the world’s most prestigious golf tournament.
Not only will the course look botanically different from what we saw in the fall, but Augusta will also play firmer and faster than it did in November. Perhaps the most welcome change between the 2020 and 2021 Masters is that there will be a limited number of fans in attendance.
The eerie silence that stood as a placeholder for the booming roars from patrons on the famous hill on the 16th will haunt us no longer. The aesthetics, lightning-fast conditions and sounds are the soul of Augusta National and will be welcomed back with open arms.
Augusta National is a 7,425-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
- 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)
6 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.
In the past six years, the golfers who led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach for the week finished first, first, second, third, first and first. Distance helps, but Augusta National is a second-shot golf course.
Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:
- Collin Morikawa (+31.4)(+2800)
- Justin Thomas (+26.0) (+1100)
- Corey Conners (+22.7) (+6600)
- Will Zalatoris (+21.2) (+6600)
- Tyrrell Hatton (+19.7)(+4500)
More so than any other course on TOUR, knowing your way around 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.
Total Strokes Gained: Total at Augusta National in past 24 rounds (per round, minimum of 8 rounds):
- Dustin Johnson (+2.5) (+800)
- Rory McIlroy (+2.3) (+1600)
- Jordan Spieth (+2.3) (+1200)
- Justin Rose (+2.1) (+8000)
- Jon Rahm (+2.1) (+1000)
Strokes Gained: Par 4
Since plenty of players can reach the Par 5’s at Augusta in two, Par 4 scoring becomes more important. The golfer who separates themselves on the Par 4’s will be able to gain ground on the field.
Total Strokes Gained: Par 4 in past 24 rounds:
- Collin Morikawa (+30.2) (+2800)
- Scottie Scheffler (+28.4)(+4000)
- Paul Casey (+28.2) (+3300)
- Patrick Cantlay (+27.1) (+2200)
- Patrick Reed (+24.9) (+3300)
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:
- Kevin Na (+19.2) (+15000)
- Dylan Frittelli (+14.7) (+17500)
- Shane Lowry (+13.6) (+9000)
- Scottie Scheffler (+12.6) (+4000)
- Patrick Cantlay (+11.8) (+2200)
Strokes Gained Putting: Bentgrass/Lightning
I expect the greens to be faster in the spring than they were in the fall. The USGA calculates that on average, they’re 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 lightning bentgrass in past 24 rounds:
- Si Woo Kim (+19.6) (+12500)
- Marc Leishman (+19.5) (+10000)
- Jason Day (+17.1) (+4000)
- Bryson DeChambeau (+16.3) (+1100)
- Brendon Todd (+15.8) (+20000)
Strokes Gained Total: Fast and Firm Conditions
I am adding a sixth category this week. It will be important to differentiate the 2021 Masters with the 2020 edition. I don’t expect the course to play as it did in November and golfers who thrive in firm and fast conditions should have an advantage.
Leading into the week, Lee Westwood who is making his 20th Masters appearance was quoted as saying that these are “the firmest and fastest conditions I have ever encountered at Augusta”.
Total Strokes Gained: Per round with firm and fast conditions past 24 rounds:
- Rory McIlroy (+2.1) (+1600)
- Paul Casey (+2.0) (+3300)
- Harris English (+1.9) (+10000)
- Matt Kuchar (+1.7) (+10000)
- Bryson DeChambeau (+1.5) (+900)
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 (25.4%); Course History (20.1%);SG: Par 4 (18.1%); SG: Putting Bentgrass/Lightning (14.2%) ; SG:ARG (14.2%); and SG:Total firm and fast (8%).
- Justin Thomas (+1100)
- Dustin Johnson (+800)
- Paul Casey (+3300)
- Jon Rahm (+1100)
- Jordan Spieth (+1000)
- Brooks Koepka (+2500)
- Jason Day (+5000)
- Tony Finau (+2500)
- Scottie Scheffler (+4500)
- Patrick Cantlay(+2500)
- Bryson DeChambeau (+1400)
- Corey Conners (+6600)
- Marc Leishman (+10000)
- Si Woo Kim (+12500)
- Hideki Matsuyama (+4000)
- Rory McIlroy (+1600)
- Matthew Fitzpatrick (+5000)
- Patrick Reed (+3300)
- Collin Morikawa (+2800)
- Webb Simpson (+3300)
2021 Masters Best Bets
Rory McIlroy (+1600)
The rumors of Rory’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
If someone had told me a year ago that Rory McIlroy would be the sixth golfer listed on the oddsboard at the 2021 Masters I am not sure I would have believed them.
While it’s true that he doesn’t come into the week in peak form, I don’t believe it is an indication of how he will play at Augusta National. In his missed cut at THE PLAYERS, Rory lost 6.4 stroke putting which I consider to be a bit of an aberration; and he wasn’t terrible statistically in any other areas.
Prior to that, the Northern Irishman had two consecutive top-10 finishes gaining 8.0 and 3.5 strokes on the field from tee to green in those starts. Rory also boasts an impeccable Masters track record with six top-10 finishes in his past six tries.
I also like that McIlroy’s high ball flight gives him an advantage in firm and fast conditions. This seems to be a solid buy-low opportunity on a golfer who carries extraordinary upside.
Webb Simpson (+3300)
It is not unusual to see a player trend towards a win at the Masters. In the years leading up to his 2020 victory, Dustin Johnson finished 5th, 4th, 10th and 2nd in his four most recent starts at Augusta.
Similarly, Webb Simpson is a golfer who has had some recent success at The Masters and may be trending towards a green jacket of his own. In his past three starts at Augusta Webb has finished 20th, 5th and 10th after 6 consecutive seasons of finishes of 29th or worse. There is a reason why first-timers generally don’t win the Masters; golfers must learn the course before emerging victorious.
While not the longest off the tee, Webb is one of the best players around the green and that is a paramount trait at Augusta National. In his past 50 rounds only Si Woo Kim has gained more strokes around the green than Simpson.
Sergio Garcia (+4500)
The most important statistic at Augusta National is approach play, and few players have been better of late on approach than Sergio Garcia. In his past two measured events, he has gained 6.7 (Concession) and 8.3 (PLAYERS) strokes on approach, respectively. Sergio followed that up with a terrific run in the WGC Match Play, making it to the final eight.
In his past 12 rounds, Sergio ranks fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. While his (mostly) horrific putting can cause understandable skepticism, there is some reason to believe he can get it done at Augusta.
The Masters is an event where course experience plays a major factor. After winning his first Masters in 2017, Sergio has the confidence to match his elite ball-striking and will looking to be the 18th golfer in history to win multiple Green Jackets.
Adam Scott (+6600)
Adam Scott should never be 66-1 at Augusta National. The Australian hasn’t missed a cut here since 2009 and has seven top-20 finishes at The Masters including a win in 2013.
Augusta is a track that requires a winning strategy and course knowledge, and Scott has an advantage on most of the field in both of those areas.
Admittedly not in the best of form, Scott’s most recent start at the Honda Classic gave us a reminder of what makes him so special: his stellar iron play. He gained 7.2 strokes on approach on his way to a 13th-place finish at PGA National. Scott went into the week looking to find some positive momentum leading into The Masters and he may have found something. He has been open in the past about how desperately he covets another major championship and is running out of prime years to get it done.
If the 40-year-old gets in the mix down the stretch this week, he has just as good of a chance to win as just about any golfer in the field.
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