Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's The Masters Tips 2021

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We enter the 2021 Masters after a great week at the Valero Texas Open. This column scooped with Jordan Spieth at 16/1 and we also had Charley Hoffman at 30/1 who delivered a full each-way payout as he pushed Jordan all the way on his favourite golf course. Attaining 1-2s in a field of 144 players is not the easiest task, so certainly one to enjoy.

The 2021 Masters Tournament has been eagerly awaited ever since Dustin Johnson sank the winning putt just 21 weeks ago. Yes we have lived through different times! All 7,475 yards of Augusta National will be in pristine condition for the very best professional golfers in the world this week, and as per usual there are plenty of sub-plots for us golf punters to wade through.

Will betting favourite, World Number 1 and reigning champion Dustin Johnson become the first champion since Tiger Woods in 2002 to defend the Green Jacket? Can Justin Thomas win back-to-back stroke play events, after his Players Championship triumph 3 weeks ago? Rory McIlroy goes for a career Grand Slam of Major victories, whilst Jon Rahm, with his son now safely delivered on Sunday, goes for a first Major triumph. And what about big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Open last September? We’re in for a real treat! Read my 2021 Masters Research Preview for full winners’ trends and key statistics.

Before we talk The Masters, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System this week will be considerable. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,800+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Masters lovers will also enjoy our in-depth preview podcast, Masters Preview Podcast.

These are value-packed times in golf betting and we have never seen so many additional each-way places offered at Major Championships. Make sure that you take advantage, we detail the current new customer offers for you to enjoy below.

For those of you looking for independent analysis as to who are the best golf betting bookmakers offering the most each-way places in 2021, read our analysis available here.

Course Guide: Augusta National is always a true test of every professional golfer’s mettle. Yes, the course is the most beautiful and manicured piece of golfing property in the world, but Alister Mackenzie’s creation is a very specialised test which stretches players to their maximum. But despite the governing board of Augusta National having total control over the golf course and the tournament, they still cannot control the elements and that can be seen across recent winning scores.

Jordan Spieth destroyed the field in 2015 on a softened golf course with a winning total of -18/270. In 2016 Danny Willett shocked the sporting world by capturing the Green Jacket following Spieth’s Amen Corner implosion with a winning total of -5/283 in a renewal dominated by high winds. Sergio Garcia’s win in 2017 at 45/1 saw strong winds again across the opening 36 holes with the Spaniard capturing his first Major with a -9/279 winning score.

Patrick Reed’s 2018 title came with a -15/273 total with little wind allied to soft Saturday conditions. In 2019 a soft course and warm temperatures saw Francesco Molinari lead at -13/203 after 54 holes, before 20-25 mph winds on Sunday saw Tiger manage his way around to the victory at -13/275. And in November (still feels strange to write this), Dustin Johnson destroyed a soft and bounce-less Augusta National to set a -20/268 low scoring total.

Now Augusta National with its length, contours, nuances and extremely fast Bentgrass greens makes shooting low numbers here difficult in normal circumstances. And with Johnson’s winning low total fresh in the memory, if the weather stays dry this week (rain could be a factor on Friday), I can see slightly more conservative scoring in 2021, especially with a potentially wet and windy Friday.

Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia: Designer: Dr Alister MacKenzie & Bobby Jones 1933 with re-design 2008; Course Type: Mid-Score, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,475 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 5; Fairways: Overseeded Perennial Ryegrass with Bermudagrass- base; First Cut: Overseeded Perennial Ryegrass, with Bermudagrass-base 1.375″; Greens: 6,486 sq.ft average featuring A1 Penn Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 13-14ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 73.41 (+1.41), Difficulty Rank 4 of 43 PGA Tour courses. 2014: 73.95 (+1.95), Rank 2 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.54 (+0.54), Difficulty Rank 14 of 52 courses. 2016: 74.42 (+2.42), Difficulty Rank 3 of 50 courses. 2017: 73.89 (+1.89), Difficulty Rank 2 of 50. 2018: 72.93 (+0.93), Difficulty Rank of 7 of 51 courses. 2019: 71.87 (-0.13), Difficulty Rank 16 of 49 courses. 2020: 71.75 (-0.25).

Course Overview: The nuances of Augusta National are varied and unique. The whole Masters experience both on and off course is different from any other tournament in professional golf. Indeed a course rookie hasn’t won here since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. But of late debutants continually feature. Jordan Spieth and Jason Day have gone very close in recent years. 2017 saw Thomas Pieters feature, and land a full each-way payout at 80/1, and in November we saw Sungjae Im feature as one of Dustin Johnson’s main challengers, as he finished joint runner-up with Cameron Smith at 80/1. So talented course rookies can contend, but don’t tend to win.

Course-wise, sure you’ll have heard about the infamous Bentgrass greens that run at 14+ on the stimp (if the organisers get their way with the weather), which are the fastest of any golfing season. Their sheer size and contours make good birdie chances only viable from the smallest of target areas. Mown run-off areas mean that errant shots don’t stop and even great approach shots can lead to bogey or worse.

The lack of rough around the green complexes creates indecision both with approach shots and recovery chips. Too many options can confuse players, so course experience and a patient outlook pays. Knowing that 9 of the holes are birdie opportunities and that the other 9 are holes where you can only realistically make par due to pin positions is something that over-aggressive players struggle to deal with. Put simply, and we see this year after year, you can’t chase a score at Augusta National.

2020 saw Augusta lengthened again, with the par-4, 5th hole Magnolia lengthened by 40 yards to 495 yards, prompting WGC Match Play champion Kevin Kisner to comment, “I played it a few weeks ago and they changed number 5 to 495, so that adds another bogey for me.”  And don’t be fooled as the course may be quoted as a 7,475 yard, Par 72 – but don’t believe that as all fairways are traditionally mown against the hole direction to minimise driving distance, effectively meaning it plays closer to 7,750 yards. Pure yardage is way more important than creating the right angle into the flag.

To succeed you must be aggressive on the 4 par-5s and minimise bogeys across the rest of the property. Eagles on the par-5s and birdies on the par-4s are worth their weight in gold around here. But eventually the contest comes down to top-class game management, scrambling and the ability to hole plenty of short to medium putts on Augusta National’s famously difficult pure Bentgrass putting surfaces.

The Masters Tips

Winners: 2020: Dustin Johnson (-20); 2019: Tiger Woods (-13); 2018: Patrick Reed (-15); 2017: Sergio Garcia (-9); 2016: Danny Willett (-5); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-18); 2014: Bubba Watson (-8); 2013: Adam Scott (-9); 2012: Bubba Watson (-10); 2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14); 2010: Phil Mickelson (-16).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | Recent Majors Stats

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Ryan Palmer and Joaquin Niemann.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to AT&T Pebble Beach, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Abraham Ancer; 2) Sungjae Im; 3) Collin Morikawa / Brendon Todd; 5) Billy Horschel; 6) Brian Harman / Kevin Kisner; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 10) Harris English / Webb Simpson; 12) Kevin Na; 13) Michael Thompson; 14) Martin Laird; 15) Daniel Berger / Tyrrell Hatton; 17) Viktor Hovland; 18) Jason Day / Gary Woodland; 20) Paul Casey; 21) Viktor Perez; 22) Ian Poulter / Justin Rose; 24) Francesco Molinari; 25) Patrick Reed.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Brooks Koepka; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Sergio Garcia; 5) Jason Kokrak / Will Zalatoris; 7) Justin Rose; 8) Daniel Berger; 9) Paul Casey / Martin Laird / Joaquin Niemann / Webb Simpson / Bubba Watson; 14) Patrick Cantlay / Hideki Matsuyama; 16) Tommy Fleetwood; 17) Louis Oosthuizen; 18) Collin Morikawa / Shane Lowry / Jordan Spieth; 21) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Max Homa / Ryan Palmer; 24) Phil Mickelson / Justin Thomas.
  • Scrambling: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Jason Day; 4) Abraham Ancer; 5) Cameron Smith; 6) Sungjae Im / Ryan Palmer; 8) Daniel Berger; 9) Robert MacIntyre; 10) Corey Conners; 11) Harris English; 12) Sergio Garcia / Carlos Ortiz; 14) Viktor Hovland / Webb Simpson; 16) Max Homa; 17) Bryson DeChambeau / Jason Kokrak / Louis Oosthuizen / Brendon Todd; 21) Brooks Koepka; 22) Justin Rose / Lee Westwood; 24) Robert Streb / Danny Willett.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Justin Rose; 3) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Danny Willett; 5) Collin Morikawa; 6) Brendon Todd; 7) Mackenzie Hughes; 8) Jordan Spieth; 9) Sungjae Im / Lee Westwood; 11) Daniel Berger; 12) Adam Scott; 13) Stewart Cink / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 15) Justin Thomas; 16) Brooks Koepka; 17) Bryson DeChambeau / Lanto Griffin / Brian Harman / Max Homa / Jason Kokrak / Matthew Wolff; 23) Joaquin Niemann; 24) Corey Conners / Matt Jones.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to AT&T Pebble Beach, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Sungjae Im; 2) Daniel Berger / Jason Day; 4) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 5) Brooks Koepka; 6) Collin Morikawa; 7) Tyrrell Hatton / Viktor Hovland / Jason Kokrak; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) Joaquin Niemann / Gary Woodland; 13) Ryan Palmer; 14) Bryson DeChambeau; 15) Corey Conners / Brian Harman; 17) Patrick Cantlay; 18) Lanto Griffin; 19) Cameron Champ; 20) Billy Horschel / Max Homa; 22) Abraham Ancer; 23) Will Zalatoris; 24) Shane Lowry; 25) Michael Thompson.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Corey Conners / Jon Rahm / Jordan Spieth; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Paul Casey; 8) Tommy Fleetwood; 9) Justin Thomas; 10) Abraham Ancer; 11) Cameron Smith / Will Zalatoris; 13) Bryson DeChambeau / Hideki Matsuyama; 15) Stewart Cink; 16) Tony Finau; 17) Max Homa / Matthew Wolff; 19) Lanto Griffin; 20) Harris English; 21) Brooks Koepka / Louis Oosthuizen; 23) Patrick Cantlay / Jason Kokrak; 25) Tyrrell Hatton / Bernd Wiesberger.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Paul Casey; 3) Cameron Smith / Louis Oosthuizen; 5) Scottie Scheffler; 6) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Webb Simpson / Matt Wallace; 9) Jason Day; 10) Kevin Na; 11) Robert Streb; 12) Shane Lowry; 13) Daniel Berger; 14) Justin Thomas; 15) Matt Jones; 16) Harris English / Dustin Johnson; 18) Xander Schauffele / Danny Willett; 20) Jon Rahm / Charl Schwartzel; 22) Dylan Frittelli / Bernd Wiesberger; 24) Bryson DeChambeau / Adam Scott.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Paul Casey / Jon Rahm; 5) Daniel Berger; 6) Corey Conners / Jordan Spieth; 8) Brooks Koepka; 9) Bryson DeChambeau; 10) Scottie Scheffler; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 12) Patrick Cantlay / Brian Harman / Cameron Smith; 15) Jason Day; 16) Max Homa; 17) Shane Lowry / Gary Woodland; 19) Justin Thomas / Danny Willett; 21) Tommy Fleetwood / Matt Wallace; 23) Abraham Ancer / Will Zalatoris; 25) Jason Kokrak / Ryan Palmer.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Sungjae Im; 2) Matt Fitzpatrick / Mackenzie Hughes; 4) Zach Johnson; 5) Cameron Smith; 6) Louis Oosthuizen; 7) Christiaan Bezuidenhout; 8) Victor Perez / Patrick Reed; 10) Paul Casey; 11) Jason Kokrak; 12) Ryan Palmer / Brendon Todd; 14) Brooks Koepka / Justin Rose; 16) Max Homa; 17) Bryson DeChambeau; 18) Marc Leishman; 19) Kevin Kisner; 20) Corey Conners / Jordan Spieth; 22) Joaquin Niemann / Webb Simpson; 24) Matt Jones / Sebastian Munoz.  .
  • Top 25 SG Total: Top 25 SG Total: 1) Paul Casey; 2) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 3) Cameron Smith; 4) Daniel Berger / Jason Kokrak / Jon Rahm; 7) Jordan Spieth; 8) Sungjae Im; 9) Corey Conners / Brooks Koepka; 11) Max Homa; 12) Louis Oosthuizen; 13) Bryson DeChambeau / Brian Harman; 15) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Jason Day; 17) Lanto Griffin / Collin Morikawa; 19) Ryan Palmer / Will Zalatoris; 21) Joaquin Niemann; 22) Viktor Hovland / Patrick Reed / Matt Wallace; 25) Sergio Garcia.

Winners & Prices: 2020: D Johnson 9/1; 2019: Woods 16/1; 2018: Reed 55/1; 2017: Garcia 45/1; 2016: Willett 66/1; 2015: Spieth 11/1; 2014: Watson 28/1; 2013: Scott 28/1; 2012: Watson 55/1; 2011: Schwartzel 90/1; 2010: Mickelson 10/1. Average: 38/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with morning thunderstorms. High of 78. Wind WNW 4-8 mph. Due to inclement weather and thunderstorms play was suspended at 7:35 a.m. ET and resumed at 10:20 a.m. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 79. Wind NW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 74. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 79. Wind SW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 84. Wind SE at 10-15 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with scattered showers and a high of 84. Wind SSE at 5-10 mph. Play was suspended at 5:05 p.m. due to dangerous weather and resumed at 5:34 p.m., a delay of 29 minutes. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind SE at 5-10 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with occasional showers. High of 80. Wind SSE at 15-20 mph, gusting to 25 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny and cool with a high of 69. ENE wind at 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny and cool in the morning. Partly cloudy in the afternoon with a high of 79. SSW wind at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Scattered showers and overcast with a high of 65. SW wind at 10-15 mph. Sunday: Cloudy and cool in the morning. Sunny in the afternoon with a high of 65. NE wind at 5-10 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Augusta, Georgia, is here.

We had the advantage of being able to watch the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which took place on the course last Thursday through Saturday. The course looked supreme, with decent roll on the fairways and fast greens.

Augusta National will receive no more rain until Thursday night, so Thursday will see a perfect set-up and excellent scoring, although a south-westerly breeze up to 15 mph will cause indecision for the inexperienced. Overnight rain (80% certainty) and thunderstorms could roll into Friday and will undoubtedly soften the course. Swirling gusts up to 25 mph will prove difficult around Augusta National.

The weekend looks perfect for scoring with temperatures up to 27 degrees Celsius and no significant wind.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 11 winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2020, Dustin Johnson (-20). 307 yards (6th), 78.6% fairways (13th), 83.3% greens in regulation (1st) 66.7 % scrambling (5th), 1.63 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 2019, Tiger Woods (-13). 294 yards (44th), 62.5% fairways (47th), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st) 42.9 % scrambling (47th), 1.62 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2018, Patrick Reed (-15). 299 yards (6th), 73.2% fairways (13th), 66.7% greens in regulation (21st) 62.5 % scrambling (16th), 1.56 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Sergio Garcia (-9). 292 yards (6th), 80.4% fairways (2nd), 75.0% greens in regulation (2nd), 66.7 % scrambling (6th), 1.78 putts per GIR (12th).
  • 2016, Danny Willett (-5). 279 yards (32nd), 67.9% fairways (26th), 66.7% greens in regulation (6th), 70.8 % scrambling (1st), 1.81 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2015, Jordan Spieth (-18). 285 yards (52nd), 69.6% fairways (21st), 75.0% greens in regulation (2nd), 66.7 % scrambling (10th), 1.59 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2014, Bubba Watson (-8). 305 yards (1st), 71.4% fairways (14th), 69.4% greens in regulation (6th), 63.6 % scrambling (5th), 1.78 putts per GIR (12th).
  • 2013, Adam Scott (-9). 294 yards (18th), 57.1% fairways (49th), 76.4% greens in regulation (1st), 70.6% scrambling (3rd), 1.80 putts per GIR (28th).
  • 2012, Bubba Watson (-10). 290 yards (4th), 66.1% fairways (48th), 73.6% greens in regulation (4th), 52.6% scrambling (15th), 1.64 putts per GIR (11th).
  • 2011, Charl Schwartzel (-14). 283 yards (40th), 66.1% fairways (31st), 68.1% greens in regulation (19th), 69.6% scrambling (1st), 1.61 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2010, Phil Mickelson (-16). 297 yards (2nd), 60.7% fairways (45th), 75.0% greens in regulation (3rd), 77.8% scrambling (3rd), 1.76 putts per GIR (10th).

Tournament Skill Average:

  • Driving Distance: 19th, Driving Accuracy: 28th, Greens in Regulation: 6th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 11th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Augusta National sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Dustin Johnson (2020): “Obviously this golf course it’s tough. They have made it a lot longer through the years. You know, it’s really playing long right now. But yeah, obviously you need to take advantage of the par 5s. I mean, if you look back through the past winners, they always play the par 5s well. That’s something if I want to shoot good scores out here, I need to play the par 5s well.

There was so much rain this morning. We were watching on TV, you could tell the course looked really soft. You kind of need to come out and take advantage of the conditions right now because there wasn’t really a whole lot of wind and really soft conditions, you can fire it at the flag. I mean, with the conditions being soft, you can be really aggressive no matter what club you have in your hand, as long as you feel comfortable with how far you’re going to fly it. I feel like the golf course is in really good condition just with all the rain, it’s just so soft. So you’ve got to be aggressive and you’ve got to attack the flags. The par3s here, you’ve just got to hit it the right distance. That’s the biggest key around here, especially on the par3s, because there’s a lot of slopes on the greens, and just seems like if you can hit it the right distance, you can play them pretty solid, and I think I’ve done a really good job of that so far.

For me, it took me a little bit of time to figure the course out. I mean, when I first came here, I love the golf course, but I just, playing my first few Masters, I just didn’t play the course very well. But I feel like every year, I kind of learned something. Kind of figured out a little bit more about the course, how to play it. You know, when can you attack the golf course and when do you just need to try to make an easy 4. But the more and more I play it, the more comfortable I get.”

Tiger Woods (2019): “Yeah, you know, especially with it as warm as it is, the ball’s going a long way so that we can get down there where we’re going to have irons into these par‑5s, excluding 8. Yeah, it helps having the wind down on 13 for me. I don’t quite carry it as far as some of these other guys who hit it 320 in the air. So that’s, that helps me a little bit. But it’s interesting that, how they moved the tee markers over so that we can’t hit that gap up the left. They do a lot of little things that make this golf course a little tricky.

No, you know, after looking at the pin locations and watching some of the early morning telecast, the greens were soft, obviously it rained this morning, so it’s going to be soft and the guys were taking advantage of it. It’s not the normal Augusta National where the balls repel, they’re holding. We were able to stop 6‑irons and 5‑irons, that’s something that you don’t normally see here and with it being so hot, the ball’s flying forever. So it’s nice to, we’re hitting short irons into a lot of the holes because of it, if it got cooler from the same distance it would be a totally different deal but it with it being so warm the ball’s flying forever.”

Patrick Reed (2018): “I just think it was a long time coming. I felt like throughout the past I’ve hit a lot of really good golf shots here, played really solid, but I always seem to leave myself just above every hole. With doing that you have to putt so defensive around here and going into today and real throughout the round I really felt like I managed that really well. I left myself below the hole on a lot of the holes or at worst pin high. But the only one I felt like I didn’t really learn from was on 16, because you know from that middle left flag you can’t go past it. And what do I do, I hit it 30 feet past the flag. I was luckily able to 2‑putt that by making a long come back putt, but all in all it was just kind of one of those steady days, just go out, just played normal golf, let the birdies come to you, because around this place pars are good. Even though you might have a pitching wedge or 9‑iron in your hand, depending where the flag is, depending on what kind of lie you have, what fairway, etcetera, pars are good with short clubs. And I was able just to kind of plot myself around and when I had opportunities, capitalize on it.

A lot of the other places we play, if you hit it to six feet or eight feet, whether it’s above the hole or below the hole, it’s not that big of a deal. But here you hit it, even if you hit it six feet above the hole, a lot of those, if you don’t see such a high line and just tap it, it misses the hole, you have eight feet coming back. And we don’t have that at other places we play. So it truly is a course knowledge golf course. You need to know where to put the ball on certain pins and if you miss you need to miss it in certain spots because there’s some areas around here that it’s literally impossible, unless you make a 15‑, 18‑footer.

Sergio Garcia (2017): “I mean, my relationship with Augusta has definitely improved. There’s no doubt about that. Nothing wrong with Augusta. I think that the main thing that has improved is the way I’m looking at it the last, probably, two or three years, and obviously this year. But, yeah, I mean, I think it’s the kind of place that if you are trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week and sometimes you’re going to get not‑so‑good breaks. But at the end of the day, that’s part of the game.

Danny Willett (2016): “You look at the conditions, it’s not really American conditions, you know. You need the ball flight control. And the greens, a lot of them are obviously raised up, which is very tricky to putt. Holing out on 4, 5, 6 holes, they’ve already got a ball rolling off a break on greens that are probably at 12 or 13, and you tuck a bit of wind in there, and it’s just one of them that you hope you’re hitting it the right time and you don’t get a gust that can knock it off line, that’s how windy it can get on a few of them. The golf course is only going to get firmer and faster. But this golf course, even if you’re hitting it really well, you still got to make putts on these greens. Obviously crosswinds and fast greens, it’s never easy. So, the golf course has firmed up day by day so, hopefully, tomorrow if the wind does die, we can still keep the control of the ball flight and hopefully roll a few in.

Jason Day: “I feel like my game plan from tee to green is pretty good, but around the greens, you definitely have to have that touch. I always say you have to hit it hard enough but soft enough around here. If people get that, if you get that, then you understand what it means to chip around Augusta. And that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to work on is just really having the touch around here because you definitely need the touch and to get the lines right. You could be hitting a chip shot and you might hit the same chip shot, one with less spin and one with more spin, and they could be 20, 30 feet apart, but you could hit it on the same line, you know what I mean. So it’s got to be precise here.

Martin Kaymer: “In the past, it was a very, very tough golf course for me. Because, you know, I played the golf course different. You know, I never hit an 8 iron or 7 iron into 10. I always hit a 4 iron or 3 iron because I couldn’t get it down on the bottom. On 13, there was no chance for me to get the second shot on the green. So, I mean, on a golf course that’s tough enough, how do you want to keep the ball on the green with a 3 iron on 10? I didn’t know. So now I can hit a draw, it’s a little bit against the natural, but I can make it work. At least I have an option. I know how to hit the shot. If I don’t have to, then of course, you don’t. If you take a natural player or a player who draws the ball naturally, obviously he takes his natural shot as much as possible, and that’s what I’m trying to do, as well. But on certain holes, you don’t have an option here. And I hit the draw and it worked out very well the last couple years.

Jordan Spieth: “Another part of me says, you know, let’s not overthink this place, keep it simple and make it like a regular event because that’s how I’ve had success in the last few tournaments is just trying to hit as many greens as possible, get into a rhythm with the putter. Once that happens, you know, see a couple go in, the hole gets bigger. You just really have to have an imagination on these greens, because putts that typically you play a ball out, even downhill putts, and you’re still going to take it easy; you have to play three, four times the amount of break on a lot of the putts out here, not only with the influence of Rae’s Creek, but also just the speed of these greens.

Phil Mickelson: “Yes, it’s playing very long and it’s playing soft. So I think that distance is going to be a huge element this week. And we’ve talk about it in the past, but the reason I think this week, especially, is that the greens are very soft and receptive, and so the longer hitters are going to be able to reach the par5s and get the ball stopped on the greens. When we have bad weather like we had in 2007, you might be able to get to the greens, but you can’t keep it on the green. That really didn’t help the longer hitters, and I think guys like Dustin and J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, the usual suspects who really hit the ball long and far, have a distinct advantage coming into these greens. I think distance is going to be a factor and I’m going to be trying to swing as hard as I can. I won’t be able to keep up with them, but hopefully I’ll be able to keep it in the same zip code and have short irons into greens so I can have opportunities at lots of birdies.

Bubba Watson: “The condition of the course is better than any course we play all year. So you’re going to have great fairways, great greens, so you have the chance to score. You have the chance to play at a high level. Most of the holes, I got lucky with 11 the last two years with the ice storms, some of the tops of the trees are missing. So that shot is a little bit easier for me now off the tee, if there is such a thing on a 500 yard par 4. But it’s a little bit easier. So now, it’s 7, 1 and 18 are the holes that I look at that are difficult for me off the tee. When you think about all of the other holes look good to my eye, set up well for me, the trees outline the fairway pretty good, so it’s easy for me to envision the shot I want to hit. If you add it up, yes, Augusta sets up pretty nicely for me. And like I said, if I never win again, it’s a good place to win twice.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 11 Masters winners:

  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2018 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Sergio Garcia: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2016 – Danny Willett: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 10th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2012 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2011 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 12th, Round 3: 2nd
  • 2010 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2 3rd, Round 3: 2nd.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 11 Masters winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: level, Round 2: level, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2019 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2018 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2017 – Sergio Garcia: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: level.
  • 2016 – Danny Willett: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 3 ahead, Round 2: 5 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2014 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2013 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2012 – Bubba Watson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2011 – Charl Schwartzel: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2010 – Phil Mickelson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Dustin Johnson: 2nd Houston/6th US Open/1st Tour Champ/2nd BMW.
  • Tiger Woods: QF WMP/30th Players/10th WGC-Mexico/15th Riviera.
  • Patrick Reed: 9th WMP/7th Bay Hill/2nd Copperhead/37th WGC-Mexico.
  • Sergio Garcia: 30th WMP/12th WGC-Mexico/14th PGA National/49th Riviera/1st Dubai.
  • Danny Willett: 28th WMP/22nd Copperhead/3rd Doral/45th Malaysia/1st Dubai.
  • Jordan Spieth: 2nd Houston/2nd San Antonio/1st Copperhead/17th Doral/4th Riviera.
  • Bubba Watson: WD Bay Hill/2nd Doral/1st Riviera/2nd TPC Scottsdale/23rd Torrey.
  • Adam Scott: 30th Copperhead/3rd Doral/10th Riviera.
  • Bubba Watson: 4th Bay Hill/2nd Doral/13th Riviera/5th TPC Scottsdale/13th Torrey.
  • Charl Schwartzel: 30th Houston/47th Bay Hill/24th Doral/14th PGA National/8th Abu Dhabi.
  • Phil Mickelson: 35th Houston/30th Bay Hill/14th Doral/24th TPC Scottsdale

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2020 – Casey / Frittelli / D Johnson – Group 10/28/27  -7/65 60/1, 18/1, 125/1.
  • 2019 – DeChambeau / Koepka – Group 27/29 13:38/14:00 -6/66 Both 33/1
  • 2018 – Spieth – Group 28 13:49 -6/66 18/1
  • 2017 – Hoffman – Group 27 13:08 -7/65 80/1
  • 2016 – Spieth – Group 9 09:48 -6/66.
  • 2015 – Spieth – Group 29 13:15 -8/64.
  • 2014 – Haas – Group 14 10:08 -4/68.
  • 2013 – Garcia / Leishman – Group 26/9 12:57/09:28 -6/66.
  • 2012 – Westwood – Group 27 12:58 -5/67.
  • 2011 – McIlroy / Quiros – Group 11/32 09:24/13:59 -7/65.
  • 2010 – Couples – Group 28 11:58 -6/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 7 – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose.
  • 6 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 5 – Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Francesco Molinari, Adam Scott.
  • 2 – Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia, Brian Harman, Martin Laird, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele,.
  • 1 – Daniel Berger, Dylan Frittelli, Jim Herman, Billy Horschel, Trevor Immelman, Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, Henrik Stenson, Brendon Todd, Danny Willett, Matthew Wolff.

So what sort of weather and course conditions can we expect for 2021? Firmer and faster than last November is a short synopsis, but one that we can only say with confidence for Thursday’s opening round. eyeballing the course during last week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur highlighted a course in superb condition, with plenty of roll and lovely firm greens. No rain is forecast between now and tournament start, so the course should be in a firmer state for Thursday at the very least.

Forecasted thunderstorms after play on Thursday evening and into Friday morning will be the deciding point from then onwards. Those thunderstorms could potentially impact Friday play as well, so expect softer conditions for Friday at the very least. However with no threat of rain and the Sub-Air system working to its maximum, the course will again firm-up across a weekend where there is little wind expected.

Augusta trends are plentiful, but here are the ones that have had any bearing over recent Masters history: Since the course was last significantly changed in 2008, all winners have averaged over 288 yards from the tee in the season they won the Green Jacket. And since 2010, Jordan Spieth has the shortest Driving Distance Average arriving at Augusta National at 291 yards. However a high ball flight is just as, if not even more, important around Augusta with all winners going back to Trevor Immelman in 2008 ranking in the top-70 on the PGA Tour Distance to Apex statistic in the season they placed a Green Jacket on their shoulders. As already mentioned, course experience is key and there are undoubted form links to Riviera, Doral (WGC CA & Cadillac Championship 2007 through 2016), GC of Houston, Quail Hollow and Bethpage Black.

You can also throw into the mix the fact that no defending champion since that Woods win in 2002 has captured the Green Jacket and, more tellingly for punters, only Tiger himself in 2003 and 2006 has finished in the each-way places when defending. Naturally only a fool would rule out Dustin Johnson upon that trend alone, but let’s face it, the omens aren’t good.

So this week I’m looking for long(ish) hitters who can also handle weather-affected conditions and who can hit lots of greens in regulation to keep out of trouble on the par-3s and par-4s. We also need players who are long enough, aggressive enough and subtle enough (scrambling-wise) to take advantage of the par-5s. Soft course conditions look likely on Friday at the very least, so players who thrive with soft, receptive conditions is also an angle – check out this week’s Predictor Model and look at the “Soft Positive” variable for a indicator of players to look for. Recent previous Major contending performances are also a huge positive this week.

My selections are as follows:

Bryson DeChambeau 3pts Win 11/1 with bet365

First off for 2021 is Bryson DeChambeau. The 2020 U.S. Open Champion has the kind of winners mentality I’m looking for this week and his slightly toned down driving tactic should pay dividends on a course which is made for him.

2021 saw Bryson finish 7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and 18th at the Saudi International before the Florida swing kicked-off. The WGC Workday Championship saw him finish 22nd with a Friday -8/64 ending up being the best round at The Concession tied with victor Collin Morikawa. Bryson ended the week 6th for Total Driving and 12th for Strokes Gained Putting.

Onto the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill – a tournament close to Bryson’s heart as he had a close relationship with the great man. Everything fired that week on a firm and fast Bay Hill track as he went head-to head on Sunday with both Lee Westwood and Jordan Spieth to take an emotional title. 2nd for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Total Driving and 1st for Ball Striking you won’t be surprised to read that the ‘Scientist’ was 1st for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. It was his 8th PGA Tour title and his 7th in the last 3 years.

TPC Sawgrass and The Players Championship will never be an ideal tournament for Bryson where his power is negated, but even on the Pete Dye design he was right in the mix, starting Sunday again in the Final Group with Lee Westwood. Yes it didn’t go to plan on Sunday, but with this week in mind he was 7th for Strokes Gained Approach – his best performance since winning the U.S. Open at Winged Foot; plus was 6th for Tee to Green.  In terms of an early exit at the WC Match Play – I only see that as a plus point.

1st for Driving Distance, 1st for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 1st for Going for Going for the Green, 1st for Distance to Apex, 1st for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 3rd for Birdie or Better Conversion and 1st for Scoring Average on the PGA Tour this season, for me he’s a must-back on a course which to date he may not have mastered. But with a more balanced approach seen over recent outings, I think this will be the first year where he challenges for his first Green Jacket. RESULT: T46

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Jon Rahm 3pts Win 13/1 with Unibet

Whilst Bryson DeChambeau looks to land his first Green Jacket this week, Jon Rahm will be looking for a couple of life-changing firsts this week in what could be a momentous year. Wife Kelley delivered his newborn son Kepa Cahill Rahm on Saturday and that joy/relief could well be the boost that Jon needs to capture his first Major Championship and Green Jacket this Sunday. Now what a week that would be!

Now we’re looking for a player who’s peaking at the right time and that smacks of ‘Rahmbo’ this week. A big-money change to Callaway drivers and long-to-mid irons in January led to the standard down turn of form early doors, but typical of Rahm his results have still been stellar. 7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, 7th at the Farmers Insurance Open, 13th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and 5th at the Genesis Invitational, remember this is a downturn!

And in his last 2 outings the World Number 3 finished 9th at The Players Championship – on the TPC Sawgrass set-up which is decidedly restrictive for the Spaniard – plus he was a Quarter Finalist at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, where he squeezed past Munoz, Lowry, Palmer and Van Rooyen before getting beaten by the inspired local Scottie Scheffler. But he’s undoubtedly trending and is a 100% match for Augusta National, a course where across 4 outings he’s finished 27th (6th after 36 holes on course debut), 4th, 9th and 7th in consecutive years.

Ranking first in this field in my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker is a great look, and from a Strokes Gained perspective he’s 10th for Off the Tee, 3rd for Approach, 20th for Around the Green, 3rd for Tee to Green and 4th for Strokes Gained Total Current Form. And on a course where the par-4s are understatedly vital to a player’s success I love the fact that over the past 3 renewals Jon has ranked T5 (2018), T4 (2019) and T10 (2020) for Par 4 Scoring at Augusta National. Has a huge chance this week. RESULT: T5

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Sergio Garcia 1.5pts EW 45/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Sergio Garcia is peaking beautifully and Augusta National is undoubtedly his kind of ball-park.

It’s Ryder Cup year and the 41 year-old, is playing some excellent golf in his quest to make his 10th Ryder Cup across 4 different decades. A similar tale here to Lee Westwood I think you’ll agree, who was 2nd at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship on the Florida swing a few weeks back.

Garcia hasn’t hit the heights of Westwood, but his results show a growing confidence. 11th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions (PGA Tour), 6th at the Dubai Desert Classic (European Tour) and 12th at the Saudi International (European Tour) preceded a step change in March. 9th at The Players Championship featured an amazing opening round -7/65 and then a trip to the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play saw him beat Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton before beating Westwood in an epic Group play-off, where the Spaniard made a hole in one to beat his great friend.

Saturday morning saw Sergio beat Mackenzie Hughes before losing to the Victor Perez in the Quarter Final. My summary of Sergio’s play was that his driving and approach play was from the very top drawer, whilst the putter thawed enough for him to win 3 of his 4 contests.

And then you look at Sergio across my 8-week tracker numbers. In this field he ranks 4th for Greens in Regulation, 12th for Scrambling, 2nd for Strokes Gained Approach, 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 25th for Strokes Gained Current Form, which doesn’t includes the WGC Match Play.

8th here in 2002 and 4th here in 2004 – his last 8 visits here have gleaned 12th (2012), 8th (2013), 17th (2015) and 1st (2017). With confidence growing and additional places each-way available, I love his chances this week. RESULT: MC

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Adam Scott 1pt EW 66/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

I’m also adding Adam Scott to my 2021 Masters team, as a genuine each-way punt.

We know that ‘Scotty’ likes to peak for the big tournaments, as he mentioned earlier this year, “I think you’ve got to identify that there’s probably 10 or 12 serious competition events during the calendar year and then the rest is a bit of entertainment, really, and the thing for all of us and people trying to peak for those 10 or 12 serious events is they have got to use those entertainment events to get prepared and get ready.”

2nd here in 2011 and the first ever Australian to win a Green Jacket in 2013, Scott has another 3 supporting top-10s here in 19 appearances, and his Major record is decent enough. 2020 post-Covid golf was never going to suit a family man like the 40 year-old Queenslander, who spent a huge chunk of his time back in Australia. But taking his 6 prior Majors from the 2018 Open Championship through to the 2019 Open, he finished 17th at Carnoustie (2018 Open), 3rd at Bellerive (2018 PGA), 8th at Bethpage (2019 PGA), 7th at Pebble Beach (2019 U.S. Open) and a missed cut at Royal Portrush can be more than excused.

Now whether he can win another Major in the white heat on the back-9 Sunday at Augusta is up for debate, but I have no doubts that he can get right into the mix, as his pre-2020 Major finishes highlight. And Scott has undoubtedly shown more motivation in 2021. His West Coast swing included both Hawaii events and despite results allowing him to be at this price for The Masters, he showed signs at a star-studded Torrey Pines this year where he was 2nd after 36 holes and 3rd after 54, prior to finishing 10th.

But his last outing at the Honda Classic, which yielded 13th place, gave real signs that Scott has been practising hard on the Augusta National key facets – driving and approach play. 5th for Total Driving, 3rd for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Ball Striking at the beast-like PGA National, that translated from a Strokes Gained perspective to 12th for Off the Tee, 4th for Approach and 4th for Tee to Green. Those core fundamentals, allied to his ability to peak for the Majors, put him in far better stead for this week than many players above him in the betting in my opinion. RESULT: 54th

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Matt Wallace 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

With Garcia and Scott offering us Masters-winning experience, I thought I’d add a younger sort at a big price who hasn’t, until this point, blossomed at Augusta National.

Now you could make cases for a myriad of different players – Joaquin Niemann, Will Zalatoris, Corey Conners, Max Homa, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Victor Perez, Robert MacIntyre – the list goes on. But I have plumped for Matt Wallace, who I think quite simply is made of the right stuff for Major Championship golf.

A 6-time winner on the Alps Tour and a 4-time winner on the European Tour, 2018 was his real breakout year, which saw him capture 3 titles and he ended the year finishing 19th at the PGA Championship at Bellerive in his first ever Major Championship, plus finished runner-up to Danny Willett at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, surrounded by the likes of Patrick Reed and Jon Rahm. For an inexperienced sort at the highest level, those performances were worthy of a bullet point in the notes.

His experience on the PGA Tour is also interesting based on his lack of top-level United States experience. 6th at the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational, plus 4th at the 2020 Memorial Tournament shine like beacons – tough, long, classical layouts – decent fields – and Wallace pops-up. Plus in 2019 Matt performed well in United States Majors at both Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach. Straight off the private jet after finishing 2nd at the Betfred British Masters in Southport, Wallace finished 3rd behind Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson at the PGA Championship and only a month later he jetted to California, where he finished 12th at the U.S. Open. Matt doesn’t shirk from the biggest tests.

And 2021 feels a little like May 2019 with Wallace buoyed by a Friday victory over Sergio Garcia at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play then taking advantage of a sponsors invite at last week’s Valero Texas Open. 2nd after 36 holes, Wallace enjoyed the final group limelight on Saturday to be tied with Jordan Spieth going into Sunday. A closing final round -2/70 was creditable and his statistics were eye-catching. 10th for Driving Distance, 3rd for Greens in Regulation, 8th for Ball Striking, 1st for Strokes Gained on Approach, 11th for Strokes Gained Around the Green and 1st for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

Taking on board the experience of new for 2021 caddie Gareth Lord is also a huge plus point in my book. I can see the Hillingdon man being close to the summit of the leaderboard this week. RESULT: T34

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:55BST 5.4.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.