A Tradition Unlike Any Other: A Full Masters Preview

The Masters Tournament represents a myriad of things for serious and casual golfers alike. The cheap concessions, weekday watching, betting, and piped in bird noises. The course is always carefully groomed, and the undulations are designed to give golfers one of the toughest tests of the year. 

This year looks a bit different for the best in the golf game. With the separation of talent into two competing golf leagues, the LIV Tour and PGA Tour will go head-to-head in a pseudo-showdown between factions. This narrative will drive most of the media coverage this week, unless the outlets are too busy following TIger as he is +7 on day 2. Thomas may even be chasing a course record, and we are likely to be watching Tiger take 4 shots to get it out of a bunker. 

Personal bias aside, this blog is not supposed to be about my vitriol for the golf media and how they cater to Tiger. I want to get into the handicapping that goes behind my picks for the best golf tournament in the world. As a mentioned before, this is the first meeting between LIV and the PGA, and even though it seems like there will not be fireworks, the LIV guys are fighting to prove a point. 

LIV guys have added pressure this week, as their path to qualifying for future majors is extremely limited. Since LIV players can not earn World Golf Ranking points, they have to rely on their performance in the majors to secure a spot on golf’s biggest stages. For example, someone that wins the Masters has a lifelong invitation to play in the tournament. Because of this, someone like Phil can play in the Masters as long as he likes. There are a few other criteria that players can meet to automatically qualify for the majors as outlined by Golf Digest.

PEANUTS on Twitter: "Snoopy and @Woodstock play golf.  http://t.co/pYp0DTjNEq" / Twitter

Course Fit at Augusta

Augusta is a course that requires length off the tee, and exceptional putting. The greens are even more undulated than they look on TV, and thus the ability to lag putt comes in handy. Augusta normally does not grow out their rough for the Masters, so accuracy off the tee is not too important. However, scrambling will play a huge part in a player's success this week. Long story short, guys that bomb it off the tee and can scramble well will have a nice week at Augusta.

Who Fits the Mold?

Jon Rahm is the first guy that comes to mind when considering the skillset that thrives at Augusta. His putting is nearly 3 standard deviations better than the average professional golfer, and he obviously has the distance required to shorten the course.

Sam Burns is another player that has played well this season, and fits the mold for Augusta. He is one of the best putters on tour, and his distance is above average as well. He can clean up around the green, and has posted positive strokes gained putting in 8 straight tournaments. He gets up and down 64% of the time, slightly better than the average tour player.

Let’s not forget LIV. Patrick Reed has surprised us with his short game this year, data is scarce since LIV does not have the best data practices, but his history at Augusta will keep him in contention. It seems like he is ready to go full-on villain as well. True Patrick Reed style!

Outright Winners and Other Bets

Karter and I dove into the Masters on this week's KarterKast episode, be sure to check it out here!

Justin Thomas to Win (+2200): Thomas is coming into the Masters red-hot, with multiple top 20 finishes this season. On top of this, his seasoned history at the Masters makes him a prime candidate to be an outright winner.

Collin Morikawa to miss the cut (+400): Morikawa is suffering from something scary. The yips. Morikawa has struggled on the green as of late, and I don’t expect him to turn it around anytime soon. The thought of standing over a 5-foot putt and having no confidence is daunting. I should know! I don’t trust Morikawa to put together enough putts to make it to the weekend.

Rahm to defeat Thomas/Young Round 1 (+125): I briefly touched on Rahm and his capabilities, but it is also worth noting that Rham leads the PGA Tour in first-round scoring, averaging just over 67 strokes per first round. This is also a nice pseudo-hedge to the Justin Thomas outright bet. 

Woods to finish 38 or worse (-120): Tiger is a unique case. He has made it clear in multiple press conferences that his body is not as capable as it was years ago, and his abbreviated playing schedule proves just that. Tiger’s longevity is in question here. Even if he makes the cut, his body won’t be able to withstand the cold weather following the Friday rain, causing him to post abysmal third and fourth-round scores. 

Tyrell Hatton to miss the cut (+275): Hatton has been battling a wrist injury dating back to the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Event two weeks ago. He missed the cut at Valero last week posting a second-round 75. This bet is solely based on the fact that he is not 100% healthy.

Patrick Reed top LIV golfer (+1000): I touched on Patrick Reed above, but when you consider his LIV counterparts, there are only 2 guys that could pose a real threat to Reed, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka. With an implied probability of 9%, I would say Reed’s chances of being the top LIV golfer is more like 15%.

Are bettors backing LIV golfer this year? I wrote a piece for Action Network using their app data, be sure to check it out!

The green-highlighted text are my official bets. On the first page, the left column are outright winners, and my missed cut bets are in the middle. On the second page are my finishing positions and head to heads. If you have any questions, reach out to me on twitter: @wilkersonadylan