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The Masters: Find comfort in backing Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler

Scottie Scheffler

Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

It’s wild to think that golf’s first major is already upon us. It’s officially Masters Week. The special invitees to the Masters will undertake some of the most memorable golf they will ever play. Hearing from the professionals, most of them share the same sentiment – winning the Masters is something they have dreamed about their entire lives. Jordan Spieth mentioned that the Masters almost feels like golf’s Super Bowl. Luckily for us golf nuts, we have a whole week of festivities to get excited for.

Augusta National Golf Club is a tricky test for even the best golfers on their best days. Not only does the history and meaning of winning a green jacket add additional stress, but Augusta National is also a very difficult golf course. This year, the par 72 course has been lengthened to 7,545 yards, and there have been some modifications to add more forced layups. Augusta National has some of the craziest angulation in the world. Additionally, some weather could pop up to soften the course, making it longer and harder to hit greens in regulation. Thus, making around the green prowess ultra-important.

Building the “perfect” model for the Masters at times feels nearly impossible. Looking at past data, we can narrow down a list, but then we remember the pressure these golfers are under. There’s a reason why Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) is the last debutant to win at Augusta. The ability to handle pressure, experience, and course knowledge plays an integral part in who eventually wins the Masters. Nonetheless, as the true model savage I am, I found my recipe for Masters success. The same model that forecasted Scottie Scheffler would win the 2022 Masters.

Key Metrics Correlated to Success:

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
  • SG: Approach
  • SG: Around the Green
  • SG: Putting
  • Driving Distance
  • 3 Putt Avoidance
  • SG: Ball Striking
  • SG: Par 5 Scoring

Picks to win the 2023 Masters

Scottie Scheffler (+700 – Boosted to +1000)

To be 100% transparent, if I didn’t plan on watching every second of the Masters, I would’ve probably double-barreled Scheffler and Jon Rahm for one unit each and called it a day. Both DraftKings and FanDuel offer boosts for those unfamiliar, which you can apply to your outright betting selection. Check your promotions tab and use that to Scheffler. If you are betting on a book without boost, only bet Scheffler and Rahm at their listed numbers, and do not add the other golfers in my column.

What’s not to love about Scheffler this week? Outside of it being extremely difficult to win back-to-back Masters. Only three golfers have done so; all three are Hall of Famers. Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods are the three to do it. Scheffler has the poise and skill to do so. He leads the field in strokes gained per round. He’s second in my model, only behind Rory McIlroy. Scheffler’s game is wild. He’s great off the tee, hits a ton of greens in regulation, and avoids big scores. He’s the most complete golfer in the field and a deserving favorite.

Tony Finau (+3000)

I posted Tony Finau on my Twitter Page at +3000. He’s still available on BetMGM at +2500. On my primary model, Finau is fourth. He’s a great ball striker and scores well on par 5s. There was a time when many thought Finau might not ever win again. Maybe it was the pressure of having his family on the road with him or simply the fact that it’s super difficult to win on the PGA Tour in general. However, Finau overcame adversity late last season and picked up a few wins. Then he won again to start the season. His game is in great shape right now.

Tournament history at the Masters is essential. All 10 of the past 10 Masters winners had a previous top 40 finish at the Master. Finau has finished T35, T10, T38, T5, and T10 in his last five trips here. He’s a great ball striker who is primed to win his first major soon. With how well he’s playing, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens this season.

Cameron Smith +2800

There are a few LIV golfers that could win this week. There aren’t many I’m more excited about betting on than Cameron Smith. I’ll be playing Smith in the derivative market. Taking him top 20 (-145) and top 10 (+188) on BetMGM. Since he’s been playing golf on LIV, it’s difficult to determine precisely how well he’s been playing without looking at tournament results. LIV has not provided shot data, so, unfortunately, his past 36 measured rounds all took place outside of LIV. However, that will not stop me from backing him confidently this week.

With the angst between the PGA Tour and LIV, golfers could be distracted. There even will be golfers who will feel added pressure in trying to win one for their respective Tour. I have a strange feeling that Smith is unbothered by the drama between the two leagues. In his interviews, he genuinely seems about his decision to leave, but it also appears that there isn’t any pressure—no extra pressure to perform and try to prove something. However slight the added pressure may be, it’s reassuring to feel that Smith doesn’t care.

The most crucial factor about Smith’s game is his creativity in his short game. He’s a wizard with his wedges. That creativity is probably more useful here than in any other course. Hence why he’s had so much success here; he’s finished T3, T10, and T2 in his last three trips here. At +2800, he’s worth taking a chance on being the first LIV golfer to win a major post-PGA Tour departure.

Max Homa +2500

There’s a significant trend to the Masters that Max Homa does not fit in. It’s the one I used to quantify Finau. The one where the last 10 Masters winners have had at least one top 40 finish at a Masters before their win. Well, yeah, Homa does not. Homa finished T48 last season and missed the cut in back-to-back years before that. I’ve said this multiple times in my writing. Homa is a much better golfer today than he was two years ago. This version of Homa would have that year’s version of Homa dormie on the 10th tee box.

Homa is 11th on my primary model. In the past year, Homa’s done a lot of growing up right before our eyes. He became a father and a multiple winner on Tour. The only thing missing is a major championship. He’s improved as a ball striker and continues to putt really well. What I love the most about Homa is that it can’t be measured on a graph or a model. He has a killer instinct. When he’s in contention, he turns it up. No place for playing scared in his bag. It’s something that is necessary at a place like Augusta. So yes, I’ll ignore the betting trends when thinking about Homa this season.

Masters Betting Trends:

  • Six of the last 10 Masters winners had at least one win on the season heading into Augusta
  • Eight of the last 10 had a top 3 finish in their seven most recent tournaments
  • Of the last 10 Masters winners, two had a previous Masters win, five have finished inside the top four, and all 10 golfers have finished inside the top 40 at a previous Masters
  • All 10 of the last Masters winners were inside the top 25 in the world leading up to the Masters
  • Since 2000, only two winners were ranked outside of the world’s top 50
  • Only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods have won back-to-back green jackets. Scheffler is trying to become the fourth to do so
  • Since 2007, only one defending champion has finished inside the top 10 the following season
  • The last 10 Masters winners were averaging around +2.10 strokes per round leading up to their Masters win
    1. Scottie Scheffler +3.05 SG per round
    2. Jon Rahm +2.86
    3. Jason Day +2.55
    4. Max Homa +2.41
    5. Patrick Cantlay +2.30
    6. Rory McIlroy +2.26
    7. Tony Finau +2.19
    8. Collin Morikawa +2.12
    9. Xander Schauffele +2.01
  • Zoeller is the last debutant to win the Masters (1979)
  • All 10 of the last 10 winners had a top 20 in their previous three events