• Austin Meo

2021 Masters Preview & VLS Picks

Updated: Jun 20

By: Austin Meo


[1]

The 2021 Masters Tournament is here and with it, golf major season has officially begun! In 2020, the PGA Tour schedule was thrown off due to COVID-19. THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP in March was cancelled after one day of competition[2]; The Masters was played in November (and observers noted the almost eerie scenery that accompanied it)[3]; the US Open and PGA Championship moved around[4]; and for the first time since World War II, the Open Championship was cancelled.[5] But to paraphrase the great Frank Costanza, there indeed is “serenity now” at Augusta National Golf Club.


Statistical Modeling


There are a ton of different statistical models in the golf world, but none is more interactive than Fantasy National.[6] For the purposes of the modeling below, a variety of statistics were used to equally weight experience at Augusta with recent form heading into this week. The overall ranking is weighted 50/50 between a player’s last 24 rounds at Augusta National (including the 2020 November event) and an 8-factor model over a player’s last 24 rounds on Tour. Those eight factors, with their corresponding percentages, are Greens in Regulation (20%), SG: Off the Tee (20%), Opportunities Gaines (15%), SG: Around the Green (10%), SG: Putting (10%), Par-4 Scoring 450-500 yards (10%), SG: Ball Striking (10%) and Eagles (5%).



Betting Odds[7]


Dustin Johnson 9-1

Jordan Spieth 10-1

Justin Thomas 10-1

Bryson DeChambeau 11-1

Jon Rahm 12-1

Rory McIlroy 14-1

Xander Schauffele 22-1

Patrick Cantlay 22-1

Brooks Koepka 25-1

Patrick Reed 28-1

Collin Morikawa 30-1

Lee Westwood 30-1

Tony Finau 33-1

Daniel Berger 33-1

Viktor Hovland 33-1

Webb Simpson 35-1

Hideki Matsuyama 35-1

Cameron Smith 35-1

Sung-Jae Im 35-1

Scottie Scheffler 35-1

Tyrrell Hatton 35-1

Paul Casey 40-1

Tommy Fleetwood 45-1

Matthew Fitzpatrick 45-1

Jason Day 45-1

Sergio Garcia 45-1

Joaquin Niemann 50-1

Bubba Watson 50-1

Adam Scott 66-1

Will Zalatoris 66-1

Louis Oosthuizen 66-1

Justin Rose 70-1

Abraham Ancer 70-1

Harris English 80-1

Corey Conners 80-1

Billy Horschel 80-1

Max Homa 80-1

Jason Kokrak 80-1

Matt Kuchar 80-1

Matt Wallace 80-1

Francesco Molinari 90-1

Matthew Wolff 90-1

Victor Perez 90-1

Shane Lowry 90-1

Brian Harman 90-1

Marc Leishman 100-1

Phil Mickelson 100-1

Christiaan Bezuidenhout 100-1

Si-Woo Kim 100-1

Ryan Palmer 100-1


The Masters implements a different cut rule than nearly every other PGA Tour sanctioned event. Per the PGA Tour website, the cut was first instituted at the Masters in 1957. From 1957-1961 it was low 40 and ties. From 1962-2012 it was low 44 and ties and those within 10 strokes of the leader, and from 2013 to 2019 it was low 50 and ties and those within 10 of the lead.[8] Due in part to light restrictions when the event was held in November last year, the 10-shot rule was eliminated and officials have confirmed that the 10-shot rule will not return for 2021 despite The Masters returning to its normal time slot in April.[9] What does that mean? Betting and DFS markets will change considerably, as viewers won’t see large fields where 2/3 of competitors make the cut. When you take into account course experience, the plethora of old champions who have no chance to make the cut, and amateurs with no course history, predicting players to make the cut is much easier here than at other tournaments. In addition to the DFS lineup, some other players that might make sense to bet on outfight are Rory McIlroy (whose odds continue to fall), Webb Simpson (who has top-10 finishes in back-to-back starts), and the young trio of Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff (beware of his lingering injury issue).

Interesting Stats


https://twitter.com/WillGrayGC/status/1379137060800454671

https://twitter.com/acaseofthegolf1/status/1379416603083804672

https://twitter.com/JustinRayGolf/status/1379846217950232587

https://twitter.com/willhaskett/status/1379066435226501129


DFS Lineup


Jordan Spieth - $9400

The old Jordan Spieth is finally back. After a signature win at the Valero Texas Open this past week, Spieth might go off as the official favorite despite costing DFS players just $9200 (because numbers came out before Sunday). He has been red-hot since February, sporting four top-5s including his signature win last week. He also made it out of the pool play round at the WGC Match Play event in Austin- giving him a T9 finish. Most importantly, the irons are finally back for Spieth, who from 2019 to the 2020 Masters lost strokes on approach in 23 of 38 starts. And while he has always struggled off the tee throughout his career, he hasn’t lost strokes off the tee in a start since the Arnold Palmer Invitational (where he still finished 4th).


Brooks Koepka - $9200

There is a giant question mark over Brooks this week because of a recent knee surgery, but that shouldn’t worry any DFS player. Reports from Augusta are stating that the (newly engaged) 4-time major champion is good to go. And if his game is still in a great place since his last event in Mexico, then fans should be excited. He has gained nearly four strokes tee-to-green in his last ten starts and gained over six strokes approaching the green in two of his last three events. Ten of the last eleven Masters champions won at least one event in their previous eight starts, and Brooks won just two months ago in Phoenix. In his last three starts at Augusta, he has gone T11, T2 and T7. At $9200 and 25+ to 1 odds, he is a steal if he is fully healthy.


Viktor Hovland - $8700

Hovland’s game sets up perfectly for Augusta. He is long off the tee and hits greens in regulation at an elite rate. While he still needs to improve his chipping, his short game is slowly getting there as he has gained strokes putting in four of his last five events (he has three top-5 finishes during that stretch). He’s only played Augusta one other time in his career (T32 in 2019) but could still be live, particularly since AGNC is bent grass which is the only putting surface he has gained strokes putting on in his career. He’s also played well at long, bent grass courses in tough conditions- Genesis and the US Open.


Sergio Garcia - $7900

The stat circulating the internet this week has been the poor play of Sergio since winning his green jacket in 2017. Since then, he missed the cut at Augusta in 2018 and 2019 and did not play in 2020 due to COVID-19. He has also missed 9/13 cuts at majors since his victory in 2017.But it is tough to not bet on a player who has gained EIGHT strokes tee-to-green in three of his last five starts, including a top-10 finish at THE PLAYERS a few weeks ago. Will he win in a shootout? Probably not. But if the course plays tougher, which might be the case after DJ broke all the records in November, then a veteran player (and FORMER CHAMP) who hits GIRs and can putts even below average might have a chance.


Adam Scott - $7600

At the bottom of a DFS lineup, you simply need players who will make the cut. And at Augusta National, Adam Scott does just that. The 2013 green jacket winner hasn’t missed a cut at the Masters since Barack Obama’s first year in office, and while he has just one top-10 finish since that win, he still warrants consideration since he is coming off a great performance at the Honda Classic. He also hasn’t missed a cut since the pandemic began in March of 2020 (he also won at Genesis a few weeks before that). He has a tough path to victory, but if you need someone to make it to the weekend, he is your guy.


Max Homa - $7100

When you get to this range in the DFS pool, you have to find a player who has one magic statistic that can convince you to go all in. For Homa, he has victories at two of the most ANGC comparable courses- Riviera and Quail Hollow. And this year has shown that Homa can get it done even when a part of his game is struggling- he finished tenth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month losing strokes tee-to-green, approaching the green, and around the green. His putter was red-hot, as he finished with 7.9 strokes gained putting. He might not be dialed in 100% every given week, but he is a steal at $7100 and has the game to be a threat at Augusta for years to come. It makes sense to buy early now.


VLS Picks


SLS Blog EIC Dani Bland - Jordan Spieth

SLS VP Ryan Murphy - Justin Thomas SLS VP Kristin Dolan - Rory McIlroy

SLS Secretary Emily Rollo - Justin Thomas

SLS Treasurer Dani Clifford - Justin Thomas

SLS Social Media Chair - Xander Schauffele

Former SLS President Arun Thottakara - Vijay Singh

Former SLS Vice President Steve Dranoff - Justin Thomas

Professor Andrew Brandt - Jon Rahm

Professor David Caudill - Sergio Garcia

Dean Candace Centeno - Jordan Spieth


Round 1 Coverage - 8:30am Thursday April 8, 2021


Masters Live stream: Free on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports App, available on Paramount+ CBS TV provider or Paramount+ login required.

· Featured Groups - 9:15am to 7:30pm

· Amen Corner - 10:45am to 6pm

· Holes 15 & 16 - 11:45am to 7pm

· Holes 4, 5 & 6 - 9:25am to 6:45pm

TV coverage: 3-7:30 pm on ESPN

TV simulcast live stream: 3-7:30 pm on Masters.com

Post-round highlights: 11:35-11:50pm on CBS




References

[1] Arjun Athreya, When is the 2021 Masters Tournament, April 4, 2021, https://www.essentiallysports.com/pga-tour-golf-news-when-is-the-2021-masters-tournament-fans-prize-money/

[2] Garry Smits, Coronavirus: Players Championship Canceled After One Round, March 12, 2020, https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2020/03/12/coronavirus-players-championship-canceled-after-one-round/112249870/

[3] Bob Herig, Masters in November as Golf Shuffles Schedule for Majors, April 6, 2020, https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/29000899/masters-moved-november-other-majors-ppd

[4] PGA Tour, Golf World Presents Revised Calendar of Events for 2020, April 6, 2020, https://www.pgatour.com/news/2020/04/06/golf-organizations-new-schedule-changes-fedexcup-playoffs-tour-championship-masters-pga-championship-ryder-cup-us-open-the-open-championship-coronavirus.html


[5] Statement from the R&A: The Open in 2020 to be Canceled, April 6, 2020, https://www.theopen.com/latest/2020/04/theopencancellation2020#:~:text=The%20R%26A%20has%20decided%20to,Royal%20St%20George's%20in%202021.

[6] https://www.fantasynational.com/Moosenomics/Search

[7] Fanduel Sportsbook, https://sportsbook.fanduel.com/sports/navigation/1130.1/9918.3

[8] The Masters, Historical Records and Stats: Cut Information, https://www.masters.com/en_US/scores/stats/historical/cutline.html

[9] Kim Luciani, Who Makes the Cut at the Masters?, April 6, 2021, https://www.augusta.com/masters/story/news/2021-04-06/who-makes-cut-masters-cut-rule