Read The Line

Sugar Magnolia 🌸

Published about 1 year ago • 10 min read


mmmm... Hello friends

We all read enough Masters media to last a lifetime each year. With that in mind, I'm going to take a very direct approach with this week's newsletter. Time is short in preparation for the year's first major championship and let's be honest, nobody who stays in a hotel requests the Times terrific writing over USA Today's bullet points. Here's what is going to happen at Augusta National Golf Club this week.

  • As of last count Tuesday night, 88 players are schedule to compete. The Top 50 and ties will play the weekend.
    • Seven amateurs have been invited and ten past champions over 50 are playing. Take those 17 off your list for betting purposes. We are now down to 71 players.
    • Eighteen of the LIV Tour are competing in Augusta. Six of them are past champions of this event. They have played nine competitive rounds since October. "Competitive" being the key word. It's tough to tell how engaged they are in competing since the move to another playing strategy favoring time off versus time competing against the best in the world.

I believe we need to tread lightly down the prospects of a LIV contender. Cam, Brooks, and DJ are very capable, but the Top 25 in the world have played at least five times head-to-head since the start of the new year. I know Scottie, Rahm, and Rory are ready to battle.

  • The star of Masters week will always be Augusta National Golf Club. Measuring a newly extended 7,545 yards and playing to a par of 72, this course is without a doubt one of the finest on the planet.
    • Significant changes have been made to the Par 5 13th hole.

Unfortunately, mother nature wants to take her hand as the lead player. The weather predicted for the Masters is unfortunate. Heavy rain is expected starting Thursday evening and extending all the way into Sunday afternoon. During that period, there's a greater than 80% chance of precipitation and an accumulation of over 2" predicted. A front is moving in Thursday night and the temperature will drop significantly from the mid 80's on Thursday to the low 60's on Saturday. Whether or not Tiger's back will survive the weekend is the least of our worries.

The Masters is the most prestigious and innovative tournament in the world, if anyone can handle the anxiety of the weather's uncertainty, they can. When it comes to stress, better yet pressure, Augusta National applies and handles it like no other venue.

  • Over the last five years, the average winning score is 14 under par. Extend that average to ten years and it drops to 12 under par.
  • If we go back two decades, an average of just 19 players finish under par each year. ANGC's organizers have the scoring down. A solid low teens winning score adds difficult and excitement. They are aware of the weather, and I expect the winning score and results to be similar.
  • The average pre-tournament odds of our winners over the last ten years is +2700 (27-1). Even when Danny Willet won, he was +5000. Long shots struggle to win here. It has happened, but if you're betting, I'd lean toward the historical trend.

The Masters is the most predictive tournament on the PGA TOUR, so trends play a huge role in helping determine our winner.

  • Masters' winners have experience. They average 3+ years of playing in the event before winning. The last rookie winner was 43 years ago!
  • Eight of the last ten winners were ranked in the OWGR Top 20. A player hasn't won outside the Top 30 since 2009.
  • Professional golf is young man's game. Nine of the last ten winners were under 40. Tiger in 2019 is the only outlier. Five guys were in their 20's, and four in their 30's.

One trend I believe might be broken this season is successfully defending your Masters title. It has only happened three times (Nicklaus 1965-66, Faldo 1989-90, Woods 2001-02). To do so, Scottie will need to shed a recent pitfall; no defending champion has finished inside the Top 10 the following year since 2007! With six wins in just 14 months, he is on the kind of heater to get it done, but that storyline is worth mentioning.

This is the 87th playing of the Masters. The most coveted coat in all of sports brings with it a lot of attention. Let's put the weather aside and just admire for a moment what it takes to even be considered at the highest level as a contender. Winning the Masters can make a emotionless DJ cry, bookend a career like Tiger's, and add legendary status to one of these young superstars. For Rory McIlroy it has become the Holy Grail. Cemented in the Hall of Fame, he sees the green jacket as an opportunity to reach immortality in this game.

We'll get into the details for what it will take to win. Just remember come Sunday, whoever does don that green jacket has achieved one of their greatest dreams. In a sentence, that is what makes the Masters so very special.

The Masters starts in...


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There are three primary skills needed to win. The Masters is the most predictive tournament on the schedule. It is played on the same golf course year after year by the same collection of players. Fifty-two competitors have arrived this year from last year's tournament at the same time of year. They will face spring conditions in Augusta, Georgia just as they did a year ago or for several years in a row. Those conditions on the same course will require a very specific set of skills. That Liam Neeson list hasn't changed for two decades.

We KNOW what it takes to win at Augusta National. Change the 13th hole and all you do is make it more like ANGC with the renovation. In fact, let's use this year's substantial change to the course to prove a point.

  • The priority for any player planning to win the green jacket is length. By adding 35 yards to 13 they further emphasized that need. Now to reach the corner, you'll need to be a bomber. The average Par 4 measures almost 460 yards, and if you take hole three out; that average almost reaches 470 yards. Where players used to curve the ball around those tall pines, driver is pulled on every hole. This test does determine the best player, but to even be considered you must have serious ball speed.
  • The last couple of years the longer hitters have been hitting mid-irons into the Par 5 13th. By adding 35 yards, Augusta National officials have now put long irons into players' hands. Of course, that coincides with all of those other long Par 4's I just mentioned. You won't stop these guys from going for the green. We live in a world of no laying up on the PGA TOUR. They will blast away into the green complex taking the tributary of Rae's Creek out of play. Players manage to succeed in scoring at the Masters due to their long iron acumen. You are required to hit the ball high and land it in very specific areas to hold the putting surfaces. This course is a great long iron test and this change to the Par 5 just re-emphasizes it.
  • Once that ball is launched into the green complex our third vital skill set takes over. ANGC is the most difficult course on Tour around the green. To challenge for the green jacket, you must have confidence chipping and pitching off tight lies. Your sand game best be ready as well since 32 of the 47 bunkers on property sit around the putting surfaces. When we think of the most iconic shots in Masters' history, there's five chip ins for every Phil from the pine straw. Thirteen has one of the most intricate and infuriating green complexes in the world. If you can score with a wedge there, you can do it anywhere on the course.

Those changes sounded significant, but the reality is these guys will still score on that hole. It was the easiest hole relative to par for a reason. I love the renovation, but again it doesn't change the skills needed to contend and win this week. Stick very tight to the plan and pick bombers with a high ball flight. Trust those with great long iron skill and a creative/consistent short game. What about the putter?

You don't have to be a great putter to win at ANGC. The greens are so severe and fast even the best are on their heels. Two putting is the name of the game, and this is why Will Zalatoris putts well here and not many other places. Hideki and Adam Scott won at Augusta. When Tiger won in 2019, his SG:Putting stats didn't even get him in the Top 20 for the week. The average rank of the winners over the last eight years on the greens in strokes gained is twelfth! Make sure they can roll it under pressure (sorry JT) and concentrate more on the three skills stressed above.

When in doubt... pick these guys.

Outright winners - The Masters

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