Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's The Masters Tips 2022

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Congratulations if you were on-board J.J. Spaun at 200/1 to win the Valero Texas Open. Great spot! He punched his ticket to this week’s 2022 Masters in the process with his maiden PGA Tour victory. Our 35/1 selection Gary Woodland was there or thereabouts but ultimately flattered to deceive and just about covered the each-way part of his stake.

The 2022 Masters Tournament has been eagerly awaited ever since the turn of the year. All freshly extended 7,510 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. Can Rory McIlroy finally complete his Major Championship Grand Slam? Can World Number 1 Scottie Scheffler or Players Championship winner Cameron Smith win their first Major title? Can Jon Rahm become the 4th Spanish Green Jacket winner? Can the ‘Major Machines’ Brooks Koepka or Collin Morikawa add to their Major tallies? Or will the likes of Cantlay, Hovland, Schauffele, Berger or Zalatoris win their first Major title?

We are definitely in for a real treat! Read my 2022 Masters Research Preview for full winners’ trends and key statistics.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the 2022 Masters Tournament we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System at this time of year. Welcome 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, 6,000+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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

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 very much a 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. November 2020 (still feels strange to write this), saw Dustin Johnson destroy a soft and bounce less Augusta National to set a -20/268 low scoring total. And last year Hideki Matsuyama became the first ever Japanese Major winner, secured mainly with a Saturday -7/65 in gusting 25 mph winds. Leading by 4 shots going into Sunday, a +1/73 saw him win by a single shot at -10/270.

Now Augusta National with its increased length (see below), contours, nuances and extremely fast Bentgrass greens makes shooting low numbers here difficult in normal circumstances. And with this week’s forecast, I can see a seriously difficult renewal unfolding this week, with any double-digit under par score likely to be very close to the summit of the leaderboard.

Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia: Designer: Dr Alister MacKenzie & Bobby Jones 1933 with re-design 2008; Course Type: Technical, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,510 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). 2021: 73.06 (+1.06), Difficulty Rank 7 of 51 PGA Tour courses.

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. The delayed 2020 renewal saw Sungjae Im feature as one of Dustin Johnson’s main challengers, as he finished joint runner-up with Cameron Smith at 80/1. And last year saw 80/1 Will Zalatoris go ever so close. Fact is, talented course rookies this year such as Sam Burns, Talor Gooch, Seamus Power and Cameron Young 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.

2022 sees significant changes to Augusta National with 2 critical holes on the back-nine being lengthened, and re-modelled. The par-4 11th hole, White Dogwood, features a re-positioned tee with the hole lengthened by 15 yards. The fairway has also been re-contoured and widened by up to 15 yards, as trees on the right of the hole have been removed. In a detailed change, the first cut has also been removed on the right hand side, replaced by more fairway short grass, which encourages errant drives to fall foul of Augusta National’s amazing topography and roll out into more disadvantageous positions.

The pivotal par-5 15th, Firethorn, has also been lengthened by 20 yards, with that fairway also being re-contoured. Usage of short grass, replacing first cut, will also be used on other holes, including the 9th and 10th, which are both par-4s. This remodelling takes the course to a quoted 7,510 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 will now play closer to 7,900 yards. So 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: 2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10); 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.

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 Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Shane Lowry, Viktor Hovland, Daniel Berger, Will Zalatoris, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im and Luke List.

Winners & Prices: 2021: Matsuyama 45/1; 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:

  • 2021: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 80. Wind SSW 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 82. Wind SSW 8-14 mph. Saturday: Cloudy, with light showers late in the afternoon. High of 79. Wind SSE 10-15 mph, gusting to 25 mph. Play was suspended at 3:58 p.m. due to a dangerous weather situation. Play resumed at 5:15 p.m. for a delay of 77 minutes. Sunday: Mostly cloudy and breezy. High of 80. Wind W 10-15 mph, gusting to 23 mph.
  • 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.

Relatively cold and windy is the best summary for The Masters in 2022. Augusta received 134mm (5.25 inches) of rain in March – that’s the highest since my records began in 2014. And with strong storms forecast for Tuesday afternoon and a high likelihood of thunderstorms on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, I can’t see Augusta National being anything else than lush to the point of soft across Thursday and Friday.

20-25 mph westerly winds look a feature across Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius on Thursday becoming 17 degrees on Friday and only 14 degrees on Saturday. That’s unseasonal for The Masters, and you have to expect that the difficulty level will be pretty high across the opening 54 holes. Sunday will be calmer but the course will be crispier with every passing day.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Waste Management Phoenix Open / Ras Al Khaimah Classic which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Shane Lowry / Justin Thomas; 5) Max Homa; 6) Corey Conners; 7) Dustin Johnson; 8) Brian Harman; 9) Cameron Young; 10) Collin Morikawa; 11) Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Tom Hoge / Rory McIlroy; 14) Si Woo Kim / Will Zalatoris; 16) Billy Horschel / Luke List / Joaquin Niemann; 19) Matt Fitzpatrick; 20) Xander Schauffele; 21) Brooks Koepka / J.J. Spaun; 23) Viktor Hovland; 24) K.H. Lee; 25) Tyrrell Hatton / Sepp Straka.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Shane Lowry; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Cameron Smith; 4) Will Zalatoris; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Max Homa; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Billy Horschel; 9) Russell Henley; 10) Sam Burns / Erik van Rooyen; 12) Tom Hoge / Jordan Spieth; 14) Tyrrell Hatton / Hideki Matsuyama; 16) Gary Woodland; 17) Matt Fitzpatrick; 18) Joaquin Niemann / Xander Schauffele; 20) Padraig Harrington / Dustin Johnson / Jon Rahm; 23) Tony Finau; 24) Robert MacIntyre; 25) J.J. Spaun.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Patrick Cantlay; 3) Tommy Fleetwood; 4) Joaquin Niemann; 5) Scottie Scheffler; 6) Harold Varner III / Danny Willett; 8) Rory McIlroy; 9) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Matt Fitzpatrick; 11) Robert MacIntyre / Thomas Pieters; 13) Daniel Berger; 14) Louis Oosthuizen / Justin Thomas; 16) Talor Gooch; 17) Kevin Kisner; 18) Russell Henley; 19) Luke List; 20) Gary Woodland; 21) Zach Johnson / Xander Schauffele; 23) Francesco Molinari; 24) Paul Casey; 25) Billy Horschel / Erik van Rooyen.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Shane Lowry; 3) Max Homa; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Billy Horschel; 6) Will Zalatoris; 7) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 8) Joaquin Niemann; 9) Paul Casey / Russell Henley; 11) Rory McIlroy; 12) Cameron Smith / Like List / Cameron Young; 15) Scottie Scheffler; 16) Corey Conners; 17) Brian Harman / Viktor Hovland; 19) Xander Schauffele / Gary Woodland; 21) Tom Hoge; 22) Robert MacIntyre; 23) Daniel Berger / Tyrrell Hatton; 25) Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Scottie Scheffler; 2) Sergio Garcia; 3) Tyrrell Hatton; 4) Robert MacIntyre; 5) Adam Scott; 6) Kevin Kisner / Cameron Smith / Sepp Straka; 9) Shane Lowry; 10) Patrick Cantlay; 11) Lucas Herbert; 12) Tommy Fleetwood; 13) Daniel Berger / Sam Burns / Russell Henley; 16) Takumi Kanaya / Cameron Young; 18) Marc Leishman; 19) Viktor Hovland; 20) Matt Fitzpatrick / Zach Johnson; 22) Talor Gooch / Gary Woodland; 24) Billy Horschel; 25) Abraham Ancer / Bryson DeChambeau / Jason Kokrak.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Shane Lowry; 2) Scottie Scheffler; 3) Tyrrell Hatton; 4) Justin Thomas; 5) Cameron Smith; 6) Max Homa; 7) Billy Horschel; 8) Jon Rahm; 9) Russell Henley; 10) Matt Fitzpatrick; 11) Viktor Hovland; 12) Robert MacIntyre / Will Zalatoris; 14) Xander Schauffele / Cameron Young; 16) Gary Woodland; 17) Corey Conners / Rory McIlroy; 19) Tommy Fleetwood / Joaquin Niemann; 21) Kevin Kisner; 22) Adam Scott; 23) Sergio Garcia; 24) Sam Burns / Louis Oosthuizen.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 12 winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2021, Hideki Matsuyama (-10). 288 yards (47th), 64.3% fairways (39th), 69.4% greens in regulation (7th) 59.1 % scrambling (8th), 1.68 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 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: 22nd, Driving Accuracy: 29th, Greens in Regulation: 6th, Scrambling: 10th, Putting Average 13th.

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

Hideki Matsuyama (2021): Thursday: “The greens were firm and fast. It was very important to hit your second shot on the proper side of the pin, and I was able to do that. I felt very good about my round today. It’s my tenth year, but I’ve never seen the greens so firm and fast. So it was like a new course for me playing today, and I was fortunate to get it around well.

Saturday: “During the rain delay, or right before the rain delay, I probably hit the worst shot I’ve hit this week. And during the rain delay, I just figured, I can’t hit anything worse than that. And so maybe it relieved some pressure, I don’t know, but I did hit it well coming in after the delay. At 15, I hit a 5-iron in. 16 was an 8-iron. 17 was a pitching wedge. But the 5-iron at 15, by far, probably the best shot I’ve hit this week.”

Sunday Round: “First hole hit a 3-wood off the tee into the right trees. Second shot, I laid up short of the green with a 5-iron, just punched it out. Third shot was a 60-degree wedge at 45 yards, and then 2-putted for bogey. Second hole, hit a driver. Had 253 left. Hit a 4-iron into the right bunker. Blasted out just a couple of feet. Made birdie. Third hole, teed off with a 4-iron. Had 120 yards. Hit a 52-degree wedge over the green. Chipped up close and made par.

4, I hit a 4-iron back edge of the green. Had about 38, probably 40 feet, and 2-putted from there. 5th hole, I hit a driver into the left bunker. Blasted out with a 52-degree wedge. Had a hundred yards left. Hit a 56-degree wedge to 20 feet and made that putt for par. No. 6, had 183 to the pin. Hit 8-iron 15 feet and 2-putted for par.

7, I hit a driver. Had 115 yards to the pin. Gap wedge to three feet. Missed the birdie putt and made par. On 8, hit a driver. Second shot was 280 yards. Hit a 3-wood over the green. Chipped back on. Chipped to two feet and made that for birdie. No. 9, hit a driver from a hundred yards and then hit a 56-degree wedge to two feet for birdie.

10, hit a 3-wood with my tee shot. 175 yards left. Hit a 7-iron to about 20 feet, 2-putted for par. 11, hit a driver. Had 196 yards in. 6-iron to the right edge of the green, the collar, and 2-putted from there. 12, I hit 157 yards. Hit a 9-iron to the back bunker. Hit it out short. Had 15 feet and 2-putted from there for a bogey.

13, I hit driver 215 yards in and hit a 5-iron left of the green. I chipped up to there to two feet and made a birdie. 14, hit a driver 127 yards. Hit a gap wedge 15 feet right of the pin. 2-putted for par. 15, hit a driver. Had 227 yards in, 4-iron over the green into the water. Had 40 yards back to the pin. 60-degree wedge just short of the green. 2-putted from there for bogey.

16, 183 yards, hit a 7-iron to the right part of the green 40 feet, three-putted from there for bogey. 17, hit a driver 140 yards in. Hit a pitching wedge to 20 feet. 2-putted for par. 18, hit a driver. Had 140 yards in. Hit a pitching wedge into the right bunker. Blasted out to five feet and 2-putted from there to be the Masters Champion.”

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.

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 12 Masters winners:

  • 2021 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 12 Masters winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2021 – Hideki Matsuyama: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 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:

  • Hideki Matsuyama: 30th San Antonio/42nd WMP/MC Players/18th Bay Hill.
  • 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:

  • 2021 – Rose – Group 24 12:48 -7/65 66/1.
  • 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:

  • 8 – Rory McIlroy.
  • 7 – Justin Rose.
  • 6 – Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods.
  • 5 – Zach Johnson, Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Lucas Glover, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Adam Scott.
  • 2 – Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia, Brian Harman, Jason Kokrak, Marc Leishman,  Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele.
  • 1 – Daniel Berger, Cameron Champ, Tony Finau, Padraig Harrington, Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im, Trevor Immelman, Kevin Kisner, K.H. Lee, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Seamus Power, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh, Danny Willett, Matthew Wolff.

So what weather and course conditions can we expect for 2022? Well Augusta received 134mm (5.25 inches) of rain in March – that’s the highest since my records began in 2014 – and even if the Sub-Air system has dealt with that, there’s a high chance of rain on tournament Tuesday afternoon and early evening, plus a further top up over Wednesday night into Thursday morning. So expect softer conditions for Thursday and 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.

Softer than wanted fairways will make Augusta National play even longer, but there are other problems that the players will face. 20-25 mph westerly winds look a feature across Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius on Thursday becoming 17 degrees on Friday and only 14 degrees on Saturday. That’s unseasonal for The Masters, and you have to expect that the difficulty level will be pretty high across the opening 54 holes. With no rain forecast post early Thursday morning, the course will be getting crispier with every passing day.

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 , Bethpage Black and even Sheshan, host course of the WGC Champions event in Shanghai, China.

You can also throw into the mix the fact that no defending champion since Tiger Woods 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, as well as Jordan Spieth in 2016. Not exactly a huge endorsement for an injured Hideki Matsuyama – let’s face it, the omens aren’t good.

So this week I’m looking for longish 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 Thursday & Friday at the very least, and wind will also be in-play across a lot of the early rounds – check out this week’s Predictor Model and look at the ‘Soft Positive’ and ‘Wind Positive’ variables for a indicator of players to look for. In most years recent previous Major contending performances are also a huge positive this week.

My selections are as follows:

Justin Thomas 2.5pts EW 14/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Justin Thomas is my first selection for the 2022 Masters. And it’s pretty much on the basis that I’m struggling to find any weakness in his case to win his first ever Green Jacket- which is something you can’t say about many of the market leaders this week in the most open Masters I can remember.

Rahm is struggling with the putter no matter what he says. I’m not in love with form horses Cameron Smith and Scottie Scheffler at similar prices to Thomas. DJ for me needed to have played more golf. Morikawa is always a threat but his approach play has been uninspiring. Rory is Rory. I like Hovland a lot and would have backed him on a soft course with little wind, but with +20 mph westerly winds forecast for at least 54 holes, his short game may well let him down when he misses greens. Cantlay is relying on his short game too much. Xander is a threat but I’m not sure that the forecast is playing to his strength. That leaves me with Thomas, Koepka and Spieth of the top 12 in the betting.

Thomas fits in pretty much every way this week. Across my 8-week trackers in this field he ranks 3rd for Off the Tee, 5th for Approach, 14th for Around the Green, 1st for Tee to Green and 4th for Current Form. That probably won’t surprise many, but a few outings ago his numbers were no where near as strong. But 2nd, 9th and 1st for Tee to Green across 3 of his past 4 appearances shows exactly where Justin’s game is at. He’s even started to putt well of late.

12th (2019), 4th (2020) and 21st across his past 3 renewals here at The Masters, the x-factor this week could well be his caddy Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay. Nobody knows Augusta National like Mackay who was Phil Mickelson’s caddy when he won here 3 times plus 8 top-5 finishes. If any caddy can navigate his player around Augusta this week in tough, windy conditions it’s undoubtedly Mackay, and I love Thomas’ chances to snare his 2nd Major title. RESULT: T8

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Brooks Koepka 2.5pts EW 20/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Brooks Koepka seems to be peaking perfectly for the 2022 Masters tournament. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open he mentioned to members of the press that he was embarrassed by his World Ranking. “It’s embarrassing to be 20th, I feel like a lot of it has to do with injury, man. I’ve been hurt, on the sidelines, not playing, playing through injury; you can’t compete with guys out here. It’s nice to be somewhat healthy and get out here and I mean I’m not too worried about it, it will bounce back up.” So a fit, motivated and hungry Brooks Koepka makes so much sense at the first Major Championship of 2022.

He went on to finish 3rd at the Phoenix Open when defending, and February and March continued to show progress. 16th at the Honda Classic and 12th at the Valspar Championship isn’t ripping up trees I know compared to the likes of Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Smith, but this is Brooks Koepka, who likes to hunt for Majors and WGCs, not the Honda Classic. 14th and 19th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green across both the Honda and Valspar respectively, he was also 6th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 1st for Greens in Regulation at the Valspar. That peaked my interest.

He then went to the WGC Dell World Match Play at Austin Country Club and won all 3 of his group matches over Erik Van Rooyen, Harold Varner III and Shane Lowry, before beating World Number 1 (at the time) Jon Rahm in the last 16, in extra time. Yes he lost to Dustin Johnson in the Quarter Final, but for me Brooks knows he’s playing well and will be boosted by that victory over the Masters favourite Rahm.

-92 in all Major Championships since 2016 (Dustin Johnson ranks 2nd at -28), Brooks has always been pretty straightforward to read. If the driver and approach play is peaking then watch out at the Majors. 11th (2017), 2nd (2019) and 7th (2020) here across his last 3 Masters when fit, I see Brooks being a serious threat this week as he looks to add a 5th Major title to his CV and his first since 2019. RESULT: MC

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Jordan Spieth 1.5pts EW 20/1 (9EW, 1/5) with William Hill

I’ll also have a ‘saver’ on Jordan Spieth. Tough, windy conditions scream Jordan Spieth to me, who has an Open Championship in his back pocket, but also has a Masters record which is second to none. With anything sub-70 per round a cracking score this week at Augusta National, Spieth I think has the magic to hang around, whilst others undoubtedly blow up.

And his fundamentals were excellent last week at the Valero Texas Open. 6th for Greens in Regulation and 8th for Scrambling, from a Strokes Gained perspective, the 3-time Major champion, also ranked 13th for Off the Tee, 2nd for Approach, 21st for Around the Green and 1st for Tee to Green. In fact he gained almost 11 strokes on the field from Tee to Green. Wow!

Yes his putting is woeful at the moment, I understand that, but we’d have also said exactly the same thing about Hideki Matsuyama last year and Sergio Garcia in 2017. They both walked away with a Green Jacket. 2nd (2014), 1st (2015), 2nd (2016), 11th (2017), 3rd (2018), 21st (2019) and 3rd (2021), 20/1 About Spieth this week just has to be covered off. RESULT: MC

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Shane Lowry 1.25pts EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

A poor forecast with plenty of wind always peaks my interest with Shane Lowry and I will follow fellow Golf Betting System podcast pundit Barry O’Hanrahan who is very sweet on his fellow Irishman. It’s easy to see why, as for me Lowry is playing the best golf of his United States career right now. 2nd at the Honda Classic, 13th at the Players Championship and 12th at the Valspar Championship is consistent and has seen his World Ranking improve to 35th.

A World Golf Championship winner at Firestone in 2015 and a Major Champion at the Open Championship in 2019, Shane can win big titles when conditions are testing, and this forecast should really play into his hands as the scoring will undoubtedly slow. 20-25 mph westerly winds will challenge the world’s best around the topography of Augusta National.

25th here in 2020 when Dustin Johnson won at -20/268, Lowry improved to a career-best 21st here last term when the winning score was -10/278. The Irishman was 8th after Thursday, shooting a 71 in gusting 20mph south westerly winds when the course was firm. So I get the feeling he’s getting his head around the course and that the conditions will really suit this week. Remember he was also 4th at the Kiawah Island-hosted PGA Championship last year in very tough, windy conditions.

Rankings in this field across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers of 3rd for Off the Tee, 1st for Approach, 2nd for Tee to Green, 9th for Putting and 1st for Strokes Gained Current Form, Shane’s level of play has never been better driving down Magnolia Lane. With a technical-level scoring tournament pretty much assured in my eyes, I like his chances of being close to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. RESULT: T3

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Tony Finau 1.25pts EW 50/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I’ll also take Tony Finau this week at a course he likes and in tough scoring conditions he can get on with. ‘T2 Tony’ undoubtedly struggles to win, that much is crystal clear, but it’s fact that the Utah-born 32 year-old is a Major each-way machine. 4 top-5 or 9 top-10s in his last 15 Major appearances is amazing consistency and so far at Augusta National he’s finished 10th on debut in 2018, 5th in 2019 and 10th in 2022.

2022 hasn’t been the best of years for Tony to date, but he’s shown some decent signs of late. Beating Xander Schauffele 4&2 in their final WGC Dell Match Play was worthy of note, and last week at the Valero Texas Open his 29th place finish will hardly have bookmakers slashing his price, but he ranked 4th for Greens in Regulation on a testing set-up, which included a field best 15 of 18 on Sunday. 17th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 12th for Approach and fascinatingly 26th for Putting were much better and he shot a closing 69 to bolster the confidence arriving in Georgia.

A far better Bentgrass performer than Bermudagrass, I’m expecting a decent showing from Tony this week. RESULT: T35

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 12:00BST 4.4.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.