It's finally here. The 2020 Masters is finally here. We had to wait 19 months to see the GOAT defend his green jacket, and for a little while it looked like it was in doubt, but we finally get our wish.
Somehow the storyline going in isn't so much whether Tiger Woods can tie Jack Nicklaus for a record 6th green jacket, but rather what Bryson Dechambeau is doing to the golf ball. After bombing and gouging Winged Foot into bolivian at the US Open, BDC sets his sights on Augusta National as the +700 favorite despite having relatively poor history there. But there are 91 other golfers who have something to say about that, so let's get into what we're facing this week.
Come on. We all know this place. It's the only major that's played at the same course every single year. That's what makes this such a treat. It's a course that measures about 7,500 yards depending on the tee boxes on a given day, but can play a lot longer due to the massive elevation changes around the course. It's a course that rewards distance off the tee, but does not penalize accuracy as much as some others. There's no 2nd cut of rough anywhere on this course. You can find yourself in plenty of trouble in the trees, but a little creativity and patience can help you avoid a big number. It's the water where you can find yourself in trouble, and that exists over in Amen Corner and on the par 3 16th. We all saw what kind of role Rae's Creek played in last year's Masters. It was a death sentence for pretty much everyone but Eldrick. In the last decade, only two double bogeys have been made by the eventual champion, so keep those double squares off the card and you'll give yourself a better chance (duh).
72 holes, with a 36 hole cut. Top 50 and ties make the cut. What's different this year is that the "within 10 shots of the leader rule" is OUT. Due to there being less daylight than the traditional April event, the players will be starting off split tees, meaning half the field will tee off on #1 on Thursday and the other half on #10. Same goes for Friday. They'll likely go back to a traditional format off the 1st tee on Saturday, but they can always play that by ear depending on weather conditions.
There's a lot of hype about this being a Fall Masters, and rightfully so. Those autumn colors are going to be SWEET. As it relates to the course itself, the conditions really won't be all that different. The weather is expected to be in the high 60's, low 70's, which is about what you can expect in early April. There's a chance of rain on all 4 days, with most of that forecasted to come in on Thursday. That means the course will play relatively soft, particularly tee-to-green. When fairways are soft, the course plays a little bit longer for everybody. The greens will be softer during and immediately after any rain that comes in, but ANGC has absurd drainage systems that allow them to pretty much get these greens to play however they want. And they'll want them firm and fast, as is tradition. It'll be scoreable like this course always is, but don't expect any shortcuts for these guys just because of some rain.
The Past Champions
These 7 guys have zero shot at winning and are simply cashing out their rightful prize of a lifetime spot in The Masters. Jack Nicklaus was the oldest Masters champion in 1986 at 46 years young. All of these guys are well past that age and these guys ain't Mr. Nicklaus.
Jose Maria Olazabal
If you're dying for some value on any of these guys, I would think about throwing a bomb on Langer (+800), Couples (+1600) or Vijay (+2500) to finish Top 20.
If you know anything about Augusta National Golf Club and its founder Bobby Jones, you know that amateur golf is an integral part of the The Masters Tournament. No amateur has ever won (Ken Venturi came closest, losing a 4 shot 54-hole lead by 1 after shooting an 80) and with the way these Tour pros are playing right now, that's not changing any time soon. Either way, any amateur who makes the cut will be competing for the Silver Cup, awarded to the Low Amateur at the Tournament. Jack, Tiger, and Phil are all guys who won it as amateurs, so it's nothing to shake a stick at.
John Augenstein (U.S. Am Runner-up)
Andy Ogletree (U.S. Am winner)
James Sugrue (U.S. British Am winner)
Yuxin Lin (Asia-Pacific Am winner)
Lukas Michel (U.S. Mid-Am winner)
Abel Gallegos (Latin American Am winner)
If I'm taking one of these guys, it's going to be Augenstein. He was 3-time all-SEC and SEC Player of the Year at Vanderbilt and he's got the brightest future of the bunch as a pro. He's around +225 for Low Am. Sugrue is the next best value at +550.
Thanks For Coming Out
This is a massive pack of guys who are very likely not factors in this years Masters. This year's Masters actually features the most "debutants" aka 1st-timers of any Masters in history. Because of the timing of this Tournament, most of these guys qualified by one of these 4 ways:
1. Winning a PGA Tour event between the 2019 Masters and the COVID cut-off in March
2. Making the Tour Championship way back in August 2019
3. Placing in the Official World Golf Ranking Top 50 at the end of calendar year 2019
4. Being in the OWGR top 50 at the COVID cut-off
Many of them would have been in far better form back in April than they are now. I would feel bad for them having missed an opportunity to play when their stuff was better but hey, they've got a chance to play in the Masters and I guess anything can happen. But I wouldn't count on it.
Byeong Hun An
Rafael Cabrera Bello
Jazz Janewattananond (try to fit that on the back of a caddie bib)
These guys are a tier above the "Thanks For Coming Out" Guys, but really not all that different. It's not unforeseeable to see one or two of these guys on the front page of the leaderboard on Sunday, but these guys ain't taking home a green jacket either. What separates these guys from the guys above is that they're a bit more consistent or have proven themselves on bigger stages (like Si Woo winning the 2017 PLAYERS) or more recently (like Kokrak at last month's CJ Cup).
Si Woo Kim
If I'm looking for betting value here, I'm looking at Kokrak Top 10 +550. Guy hits it a long way and has come on strong this year. If I'm looking for a longshot I'm goin Harding +2200 Top 10 after his T-12 finish at last year's Masters.
The Little-Known Internationals
These guys are unknowns to general sports fans, but if you follow golf closely you've probably heard of them. Each of these guys have played enough golf on the world's biggest stages to not be phased by the bright lights of Augusta National. I would be shocked if one of these guys nabs a green jacket but hey, nobody saw Danny Willett coming either. If I had to pick one of the group it would easily be Fitzy. We're getting a little closer to the real field.
Erik Van Rooyen
These guys have been around the block before. Some are former major winners. Others are just Tour regulars whose games just aren't at the level it takes to win a green jacket. All have played the Masters and a couple have even won it. But these guys aren't all that likely to win. A couple may contend, but this ain't their year. Sorry.
Charles Howell III
Phil Mickelson (sorry, it ain't happenin)
Francesco Molinari (game has gone off a cliff since Rae's Creek gobbled him up)
Gary Woodland (has pulled an anti-Bryson since COVID… guy's half the size he was at Pebble last year)
In this group I would throw a few beans on Paul Casey Top 10 +550. He's played in 13 Masters and has finished top 10 in 5 of them, including 3 of the last 5.
Veterans With An Outside Chance
Same as the section above, but these are guys I can actually see putting together 4 rounds and winning this year's Masters. From here on out, we've got guys worth talking about, so I'm going to do exactly that.
Jason Day - guy has great Masters form (3 top 5's in 9 tries) and I just can't shake the image of how dominant he was back in 2015-16. If his chronic back issues are tolerable, I just can't count him out.
Hideki Matsuyama - Was the low amateur here in 2011. Hasn't won a tournament since 2017 despite immense talent, but is picking up steam after a T-2 last week including a 63 on Sunday.
Louis Oosthuizen - I think everybody remembers his albatross in 2012 on #2. He aced #16 a couple years ago too. Lost the playoff to Bubba when Bubba hit that absurd shot out of the trees on #10 in 2012. Can't count out a guy who is around that many Masters moments.
Justin Rose - Sneaky good career at Augusta despite never having won a green jacket. He's played in 14 Masters and has placed Top 25 eleven times and top 10 five times. He lost the playoff to Sergio in 2017 and was in position in 2015 if Spieth hadn't ripped the course apart. He was also #1 in the world only 18 months ago and after a questionable equipment change knocked him off his game, he's since returned to the clubs that made him world #1. I hammered him last year and of course it was the first time he's ever missed the cut. I'm ready to hurt again because +6600 to win is way too much value for me to pass up for a player of his caliber.
Adam Scott - Winner in 2013 after beating Angel Cabrera in a playoff. Speaking of Angel, where's he at this week? Anyway, Scott has barely played since the COVID break and when he has, the results have just been ok.
Webb Simpson - This guy probably has the best chance of winning of anyone in this group. He's had an unreal 2020 including 2 wins and a number of other high finishes.
Bubba Watson - The epitome of an "Augusta Guy". When he shows up at ANGC, something in him comes alive. Maybe it's the way the course is designed that allows him to shape his shots in ways that fit his eye. He's said publicly that crowds give him anxiety so a Tournament without patrons can only serve as an advantage to him. He's worth a look at 30/1.
Who The Hell Knows
Jordan Spieth - Speaking of Augusta guys, Jordan's history at Augusta in his short career are well documented. Some of what he's accomplished is downright stupid. It's almost crazy to think he's only won one green jacket. Since his debut at Augusta, Spieth has had the lead or co-lead at the end of a round 9 times. Nobody else has more than 3. Something about the way this course and the short game it requires just fits him so well. With that said, Spieth's game tee-to-green is absolutely brutal right now. It honestly astonishing that he's been able to make cuts with the way he's been hitting his drivers off the map. There's a little more room to spray at Augusta here and there, but if you want to win at Augusta, you've got to make birdies for 4 rounds. His game is just not in a place to do that. I'm going to take a flier on him to be the 1st round leader at +4500 because he's accomplished that feat 3 out of 5 years, but that's it.
Rickie Fowler - Jordan's buddy Rickie is nearly as equally lost. He's missed 5 out of 12 cuts since the COVID re-start and really hasn't sniffed a leaderboard in any of those events. He was ranked 10th in the world at last year's Masters and has fallen all the way to 47th. His last 3 finishes at Augusta are T-11, solo 2nd, and T-9 but there's nothing good to say about the way he's playing right now. We'll see who shows up.
The Young Guns
These are the young guns that are taking the Tour by storm. Some have already broken thru with massive wins (see Morikawa, Collin). This is each of their Masters' debuts, and a debutant has not won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. However, that's no reason to bet against these guys because they've definitely got the stuff to win this thing.
Cameron Champ - Probably the longest shot of this group, but he was the talk of the Tour when he came out blasting balls 325+ yards regularly last year. Distance is an advantage everywhere and Augusta is no exception, so it wouldn't be crazy to see him in the mix.
Sungjae Im - This guy shits the bed every time I bet on him and gets results every time I don't. I'm not betting him this week so you do the math.
Collin Morikawa - STUD. Stupid confident too, and rightfully so. Has a major already. Had just been handed the trophy and he was already talking about getting the next one. Love this kid.
Scottie Scheffler - Was in the mix at the PGA and was named the Tour Rookie of the Year for 2019-20. Hasn't broken thru with a win yet, but a top 5 at the PGA Championship and the 2nd lowest score at the Tour Championship are certainly feathers in the cap.
Matthew Wolff - Made a big name for himself after finding himself with the 54 hole lead at the US Open, but simply got blown away by Bryson. Worth nothing that he had the lead in the clubhouse late Sunday after going low at the PGA Championship. His length is a lot like Champ's with a ton more all-around game, so if this turns into a bomb and gauge contest, he should be in the mix.
You already know the name. Do I think he's got what it takes this year? I mean… he's the GOAT. You can absolutely never count him out. What he pulled off last year was one of the greatest feats in all of sports. Can he do it again……?
I have to say no. Not this year. I would love nothing more than if he did but I just don't see it. He went into that 2019 Masters with relatively decent form and had played a ton of tournament rounds leading up to it. In the last 10 weeks he's played just 6 rounds of tournament golf, and they haven't been particularly good. He missed the cut at the US Open in September and finished T72 at the Zozo on a course that he should know like the back of his hand. Logic dictates that there's no chance. But he's Tiger. Tiger has smashed logic time and time again. We'll be watching and I'll be hoping I'm wrong.
The 2nd Tier
Patrick Cantlay - Way underrated. Cantlay actually had the solo lead at one point on Sunday during last year's Masters. He made a couple errors down the stretch and finished T-9, but he's proven himself with a couple of wins since. The Memorial is maybe the 2nd biggest non-major tournament of the year (after the PLAYERS) and he showed big stones winning that back in June 2019. And just a couple of weeks ago, he held off JT and Rahm in a great tournament at the Zozo. I think he's a good medium shot bet at 25/1 to win.
Tony Finau - Toooonyyyyy… this guy has way too much game to have only won an alternate field event at this point in his career. Nobody's ever been more due. He's well known for snapping his ankle at the Par 3 Tournament 2 years ago, but him walking 72 holes on no days' rest and placing T-10 was probably more ridiculous. He followed that up with a T-5 last year. He's due to win anywhere, he's got good history at Augusta… why can't it be Tony and why can't it be here?
Tommy Fleetwood - Great golfer, ranked #14 in the world, but this just doesn't seem like his kind of golf course. He's finished MC, T-17, and T-36 in his 3 starters at Augusta. Nor has his game been in top form recently. He'll probably win a major in the next few years at some point, but he's far better suited for an Open Championship or a US Open, and his results show that.
Tyrrell Hatton - Everything I just said about Fleetwood applies to Hatton. Only difference is that Hatton comes into Augusta playing great golf. He won the Arnold Palmer earlier this year and won the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship a few weeks ago and has consistently mixed in great results around those events. I can definitely foresee him in the mix on the back 9 on Sunday just because he's striking the ball so well right now.
Patrick Reed - Just the fact that he's got a Green Jacket already says enough. If you watch enough golf and have seen this guy's short game, you'll understand why. This course rewards those with touch around the greens and there might be nobody better with a wedge and putter in their hands than Reed. He knows what it takes to win around here and just might do it again.
Xander Schauffele - Honestly I thought he would've won a major by now. He's played in 13 majors so far in his young career and he's top 10'd in 7 of them. That's stupid impressive. He was a part of that group that tied for 2nd here behind Tiger and I expect him to be near the top of the leaderboard again. Hammering Top 10 +150 and Top 5 +335 here.
Dustin Johnson - It's kinda crazy how little everyone's talking about the world's #1 player. He took a short break after testing positive for COVID but showed last week that his game was just as good as it was before. His last 6 finishes have been T-2, Win, solo 2nd, T-3, T-6, and T-2. Those are stupid good results. The only knock here is that he likes to cut the golf ball, and this is a golf course that favors guys who hit the ball from right to left. Regardless, nobody in golf is as good as DJ is right now and he deserves far more respect. Would love to see him get a jacket.
Brooks Koepka - Koepka is coming off a nagging injury that forced him to sit out the FedEx Cup playoffs and the US Open. He's played two events since coming back, finishing T-28 and T-5. The impressive part is that he shot 65-65 last weekend to earn that 5th place finish. However, the Golf Club at Houston is a relatively flat golf course. Augusta is the exact opposite. There's hardly a flat lie on the entire golf course that isn't a teebox. Swinging a golf club on an uneven lie can put a tremendous amount of stress on that front left leg, so that knee will certainly be tested. He's already admitted that walking some of the steep areas of the course like #2, #10, and others have been strenuous on that knee. Koepka is a freak who certainly shows up in majors, but I like his chances better next April than I do this week.
Rory McIlroy - Here comes another attempt for Rory to complete the career Grand Slam. It's pretty wild that he hasn't yet. This golf course should fit his game beautifully. He loves to launch high draws and he loves to attack courses and rack up birdies. He just seems to have a tendency to lose a tee shot off the map at the worst times in this place. That Masters back in 2011 was as good as his and that just might be his last best chance at it. He obviously has a good 15 years left to go that green jacket but with the way these young guys are playing, it's just going to get tougher and tougher every year. Maybe he'll put it together this year, maybe he won't.
Jon Rahm - The world's #2 player has done pretty much everything but win a major at this point. He's been world #1 on multiple occasions now, and he's won 3 events in every year he's been a pro except this one. He's got 2 and he's looking to get his 3rd. His game is very similar to DJ's and I'd say they're equally likely to win this thing. Both don't necessarily hit the shot shape that tends to win here, but they're so damn good they could win this thing running away in spite of that.
Justin Thomas - Justin Thomas is my pick for this week. Augusta National is a 2nd shot golf course, and nobody flushes their irons and wedges better than JT. His skill around the greens is next level too. He just doesn't make big numbers. His preferred shot shape is the high draw and he has the distance to blast it up and over some of these corners. And even if he can't hit it to some of the absurd distances Bryson can, I'd rather take JT from 150-175 yards out than Dechambeau from 125-150. He's that good.
We all know who the talk of the town is right now. It's all anyone's talking about, and rightfully so. I'm excited as hell to see where he puts some of these golf balls off the tee. We've seen him hit bombs on all kinds of courses the past few months, but none of those are the iconic venue that is Augusta National. If you're a golf fan at all, you have all of those tee shots committed to memory and know where those tee shots are supposed to land. We know where the bunkers come into play on holes like #1 and #5 and #18 and what type of line you're supposed to hit the ball off the tee on par 5's like #2 and #15. And Bryson is going to obliterate convention on all of those holes. It's going to be appointment television and I cannot wait.
With that said, there are two issues at hand that just might be his downfall this week. When you're continually bulking up, you start to lose a baseline as to how far you're hitting every club in your bag. He's been tinkering every single day with his driver and all of those things, it's hard to imagine he's got those wedges and short irons dialed in to precise distances the way they need to be on this course. If you miss a shot in the wrong spot by just a yard, golf balls can roll into areas that are tough to get up and down from. The other thing is that he's been working himself silly on the range every day and night here at Augusta. He's been absolutely swinging out of his shoes over and over and over. That's got to take a toll on his body at some point. He's the favorite and he's earned that right by the way he's hitting the golf ball and the way he obliterated Winged Foot, but I just like JT better.
There ya have it. Over 4,000 words on the best damn golf tournament on planet Earth. Enjoy The Masters Tournament.