The tradition unlike any other is, well, breaking tradition this year.
The Masters tournament begins Thursday, Nov. 12, at Augusta National Golf Club, roughly seven months after it was supposed to be played in its typical mid-April spot. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, indefinitely postponed the tournament, but luckily for golf fans, the powers that be were able to successfully move the Masters to the fall for the first time ever.
Augusta National Golf Club
Yardage: 7,475 yards
What does it take to win the Masters? Well, course knowledge and prior success help. Fuzzy Zoeller is the only player in Masters history (other than the first year) to win the tournament in his first appearance — and that was back in 1979. We all know about how Tiger Woods, despite not being anywhere near his prime, won the tournament a year ago. But how about 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples making the cut in seven of his nine appearances since turning 50, including six top-20 finishes?
As for the actual type of game it takes to win, the tournament tends to favor longer hitters. Many believe an autumnal Masters will put an even greater emphasis on bombers, especially with rain in the forecast all week. Hitting it high and far, allowing you to land it soft on the undulated greens is even better. Related: You have to perform well on the par-5s, the four easiest holes on the course.
Ball striking obviously is big, as it is every week. And if you’re wayward with an iron, you better be good around the green, as the contoured greens will leave players with tricky up-and-downs all over the course. Putting isn’t a huge factor — whoever gets hot will probably contend — but three-putt typically has been a good indicator for success.
PAST BETTING HISTORY
The odds are a helpful guide to making your picks, of course, but the winner rarely comes from the top of the sheet at the Masters. Here are where the last six Masters champions stood with their betting odds going into the tournament.
2019: Tiger Woods, 14-1
2018: Patrick Reed, 50-1
2017: Sergio Garcia, 30-1
2016: Danny Willett, 50-1
2015: Jordan Spieth, 15-1
2014: Bubba Watson, 20-1
Bryson DeChambeau +800
Dustin Johnson +900
Jon Rahm +1000
Justin Thomas +1200
Rory McIlroy +1300
Xander Schauffele +1400
Brooks Koepka +1600
Patrick Cantlay +2500
The favorite we like
Jon Rahm (10-1): The big Spaniard has to break through in a major at some point, right? His game fits the course perfect, and he’s knocking on the door as evidenced by a fourth-place finish in 2018 followed by finishing in a tie for ninth a year ago. He enters in great recent form, too, with three top-five finishes in his last five appearances. According to DataGolf.com’s course fit tool, Augusta National plays similar to Torrey Pines South. Rahm, coincidentally, finished second in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey earlier this year, in large part thanks to a 7-under 65 he fired at the South Course on Saturday.
The DeChambeau factor
Because we need to fit in somewhere to talk about DeChambeau, it’s very possible he completely steamrolls the course and wins it going away like he did for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September. He hits it farther than anyone, and he hits it higher than anyone. He’s a great putter. He’s set up to dominate here, and he very well could do that. But at 8-1, we were looking elsewhere.
PAST WINNERS WHO COULD CONTEND
Patrick Reed +2800
Bubba Watson +3000
Tiger Woods +4000
Phil Mickelson +10000
*Sergio Garcia withdrew Monday morning
A past winner to bet
Bubba Watson (30-1): Watson’s recent form has been very impressive. Of players in the field, only McIlroy, DeChambeau and Rahm have been better off the tee since the “new” season started and only DeChambeau has been better tee to green. In his last two appearances, Watson finished fourth at the Zozo Championship and seventh at the CJ Cup. The two-time winner obviously knows his way around Augusta and has finished tied for fifth and 12th over the last two years.
MID-LEVEL BETS TO CONSIDER
Tony Finau (28-1): Another “it’s gotta happen at some point” guy, Finau has played very well at Augusta, including a final-grouping appearance that led to a fifth-place finish last year. He does everything very well and checks all the boxes for a potential Masters winner. He’s also one of the longest hitters in the game and has absolutely eaten up the par-5s; over the last two years, he’s played them at a cumulative 23-under.
Webb Simpson (33-1): Just can’t quit Webb. His game certainly isn’t an ideal fit for Augusta; he’s not very long off the tee. However, every single metric (other than distance-related stats) point to him being one of the best golfers on the planet. He’s a great ball-striker, and his long-iron acumen can help make up for the lack of distance off the tee. He proved last year he can contend at the Masters with a fifth-place finish.
Scottie Scheffler (55-1): He’s a Masters debutant, so he does have that working against him. However, it’s quite clear Scheffler is one of the best young players in the sport. While he lacks general experience in majors, that’s not to say he hasn’t had some success. He finished fourth at the PGA Championship at Harding Park, and he was the low-am at the 2017 US Open. He also fits the profile, as someone who hits it far, and he ate up the par-4s during the 2020 season, ranking third on tour in birdie or better on the par-4s.
LONG-SHOT BETS TO CONSIDER
Jason Kokrak (80-1): Get this — only DeChambeau, Johnson, Schauffele and Thomas have more total strokes gained in the new season than Kokrak. He has two top-six finishes in his last two tournaments, including a win at the CJ Cup. He’s a monster off the tee — ranking seventh in driving distance — who also hits it high. He’s better than average with an iron in his hand, and he’s better than average with an iron in his hand.
Sungjae Im (80-1): The big question with Im is, will we see the golfer we saw early in the 2020 season when he had three straight top-10 finishes, beginning with a win at The Honda Classic? He came back to earth down the stretch, but he’s looked a little better recently with 11 rounds in the 60s over his last four tournaments. He has had a tendency to blow up some, but he checks all the boxes other than being a first-time Masters player (like Kokrak).