You can practically smell the Azaleas in the air. It’s that beautiful time of year again when we get to watch the best players in the world battle it out to win the coveted green jacket and notch their names into the annals of golf history. In two weeks the small town of Augusta, GA will come alive in a big way and Augusta National (a true work of art) will serve as the platform for one fateful golfer to achieve their lifelong dream on golf’s biggest stage. So who will be the 2022 Masters champion? Let’s take a look into the Side Hustle Bets crystal ball and see if we can’t predict the future!
Golf is the kind of sport that makes stats junkies absolutely salivate. PGATour.com provides the public an inordinate amount of data on every single player entirely for free. The main obstacle for predicting golf tournament outcomes definitely isn’t a lack of data but rather the ability to determine which statistics hold the most weight. Each course requires its own specific recipe to be successful and a handful of different stats make up the ingredients of that recipe. So what does Augusta have cooking for us this year? History tends to repeat itself so let’s take a look at previous winners’ paths to victory.
|Year||Winner||GIR||Driving Accuracy||Scrambling||Driving Distance||AVG Putting||Par 3 AVG||Par 4 AVG||Par 5 AVG||AVG Masters Finish||Cuts %||Final Score|
The stats listed out above breakdown the main statistical categories in golf for every Masters winner since 2000. By taking the standard deviation of these categories we can pin down which stats have the most volatility and which have the least (implying a greater sense of reliability over time). A few stats pop off the page right away.
Greens In Regulation (GIR), Par 4 Average, Putting Average and Driving Distance all possess standard deviations that would suggest low volatility allowing us to assume that these categories are the most commonly relevant in order to succeed at Augusta National. This isn’t to say the other categories aren’t relevant as well however so the next step to determining our model is to validate the standout categories as well as seek out any additional categories that aren’t currently speaking to us through these numbers.
Over the last 22 years the average winning score at the Masters has been around -10.86 under par. Only 10 players out of those 22 finished the tournament with a score better than -10. By looking for consistencies in these statistics across those 10 players specifically we can uncover correlations that provide us more confidence in our relevancy findings.
|GIR||Driving Accuracy||Scrambling||Driving Distance||AVG Putting||Par 3 AVG||Par 4 AVG||Par 5 AVG||AVG Masters Finish||Cuts %||Final Score|
|Last 22 Winners Average||72.29%||69.32%||67.98%||289.57||1.74||2.99||3.95||4.47||20.00||79.72%||-10.86|
|Top 10 Winners Average||75.14%||66.78%||68.02%||293.48||1.69||2.94||3.90||4.40||15.29||86.07%||-14.80|
As you can see from the table above, 70%+ of the top 10 champions over the last 22 years have higher marks than the total 22 champion average for all four of the previously mentioned statistics as well as two additional stats, Average Masters Finishing Position and Cut Make %. So now that we’re comfortable with the data, let’s evaluate the “why” behind those results.
First off, Greens In Regulation (GIR). This stat will be essential for virtually any golf course/golf tournament. A player’s ability to hit greens will either make their life a lot easier or quite a bit more difficult. Keeping that in mind, it’s no surprise that this statistic lands towards the top of Augusta’s priority list and a player’s performance in this respect will hold significant weight in regards to their finishing position in the tournament.
Next we have Driving Distance. This is the first stat category in which I believe the numbers are providing a false front. While Augusta isn’t a short course (and the distance has increased significantly over the last 20 years), it’s also not overly long. The average driving distance for the last 22 Masters winners is only ~289.57 yards per drive. Roughly 80% of current PGA professionals have a higher average driving distance than 289.6 yards and this year’s current average actually sits closer to 296.6 yards per drive. Sure, the course is longer which obviously makes it more difficult. That said, players are simply hitting the ball further now for a plethora of reasons (technology, training, etc). I believe the low volatility readings for this statistic are less relevant to playing at Augusta National specifically and more relevant to playing on the PGA Tour in general at this point. Since so many players can hit the ball far enough as to not impede their performance at Augusta, I don’t believe the longest hitters have that much more of an advantage. I’m fading this stat for the sake of Augusta’s recipe this year.
Par 4 Average. Augusta is a course full of risk/reward scenarios but in general, the champ has pulled away on the Par 4s. The Par 3s aren’t “out of this world” difficult and, as mentioned previously, most players have the distance to threaten the Par 5s. Keeping those factors in mind, the Par 4s (which make up 10/18 holes on the course) are where Masters championships have either been won or lost for the most part. Not only does the Par 4 average have the lowest volatility in regards to standard deviation (implying this statistic has been the most consistent over time) but it’s also important to point out that 80% of the top 10 winners over the last 22 years were under the overall average of 3.95 per Par 4. This stat clearly holds a lot of weight and it will be applied to the overall formula accordingly.
Putting Average is another relatively obvious important stat and one that applies to virtually every golf course/golf tournament. Augusta National is no exception. The past 22 Masters champs have averaged 1.7415 putts per hole and the top 10 champs have averaged 1.6925 putts per hole. The current putting average on tour is 1.761 putts per hole… That’s significant. The putting average for the top performing Masters champs is ~2.81% lower than the current average on tour. That’s a massive advantage for the players who can really roll it. The Texas wedge holds weight, per usual, and will definitely play a significant role in our model for success.
The two stats to jump off the page using the top 10 champion magnifying glass that didn’t necessarily expose themselves during the original assessment are historical performance related (Average Masters Finishing Position and Cut Make %). Shocker, right? It’s no mystery that certain players perform their best on the largest stages and some players simply click with specific courses. Most players with a high Cut Make % also have a solid Average Masters Finishing Position so for the sake of this calculation we are going to focus on average finishing position. The top 10 champions over the last 22 years have an average finishing position of ~15.3. That’s 23.56% better than the average of the last 22 winners as a whole. Yeah… you read that correctly. The stakes don’t get higher than Augusta/the Masters so it’s no surprise that the players who are comfortable with the course and who have experienced success there historically in the past have an advantage over the rest of the field.
So we have our relevant stats to focus on now, right? Not quite. Sometimes the data alone doesn’t capture everything that goes into playing Augusta. Given how much danger exists throughout the entire course, we also need to give some attention to a player’s ability to scramble when shots don’t go their way. Since most winners have an inverse relationship between their Scrambling and Driving Accuracy percentages (one tends to affect the other and vice versa) we have to show both categories some love in our overall formula. Since Scrambling percentages apply to every hole on a course whereas Driving Accuracy percentage only applies to Par 4s and 5s, we’re going to apply slightly more weight to scrambling vs driving accuracy.
Enter Mark Broadie, sports analytics savant and inventor of the “strokes gained” calculation. For those of you unfamiliar with the “strokes gained” method, it is an analysis tool that compares a player’s specific averages to those of the rest of the field. It is a more comprehensive approach that eliminates outside factors that can skew traditional golf stats such as GIR, etc. Since “strokes gained” historical data isn’t available for the Masters, we utilized the traditional categories to highlight the most important parts of a Masters champion’s game and we will substitute current “strokes gained” data for the statistical categories that we believe are less representative of the true findings for our actual projections. Specifically, we will substitute Strokes Gained: Approach Green for Greens In Regulation (GIR), Strokes Gained: Putting for Putting Average and Strokes Gained: Around Green for Scrambling. Par 4 Average, Driving Accuracy and Average Masters Finishing Position will remain standalone. With the exception of Average Masters Finishing position, we will utilize PGATour.com’s rankings for all of the above mentioned stats to determine who we believe will have success in Augusta this year.
Keeping these factors in mind, we’re excited to reveal our Masters recipe for success for 2022.
Augusta Recipe For Success
Strokes Gained: Approach Green (25%) + Par 4 Average (22%) + Average Masters Finishing Position (20%) + Strokes Gained: Putting (18%) + Strokes Gained: Around the Green (10%) + Driving Accuracy (5%) = MASTERS CHAMPION
Preliminary Masters Success Projections
Since our first Masters article is still a solid two weeks out from the actual start of the tournament, we’re only going to provide our projections for the most likely players to succeed out of the 80 player field as of today. We will provide our best bets for the tournament (such as Top 20, Top 10, Top 5, Make the Cut and First Round Leader) as we get closer to April 9th and sports books start releasing bets other than just the outright winner of the tournament.
Enjoy our projections, don’t sleep on live betting options for the Masters, feel free to tweak our formula (at your own risk) and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.
Cameron Smith: It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Cameron Smith makes our list of favorites for the Masters this year. Smith has already won twice this season, most recently at the Players Championship two weeks ago, and he’s in a solid position to take aim at a FedEx Cup. Smith stands out in virtually every single category we’ve discussed and he’s got the kind of short game that makes someone dangerous at Augusta. He’s our top projection, this is clearly a breakout year for him and he’s bound to win a major sooner rather than later.
Scottie Scheffler: Talk about another guy who will win a major any day now. Scheffler currently sits atop the FedEx Cup rankings, he’s already won twice this season and he plays fantastic in majors. Not only did he post top 20 finishes in both of his Masters appearances, he also posted top 10 finishes at every other major in 2021. His game is very much suited for Augusta, he plays great on the biggest stages and he’s due for a major.
Justin Thomas: Not a huge shocker to list out Justin Thomas here but our projections love him and for good reason. The guy is already a major champion, he’s never missed a cut at Augusta and he ranks in the top 3 in the field for both Par 4 Average and Strokes Gained: Approach (our two most heavily weighted categories). He’s posted top 25 finishes at the Masters for the last 5 years in a row and almost pulled off the victory in 2020 finishing 4th. A green jacket feels like destiny for Justin Thomas so the question isn’t if but when.
Xander Schauffele: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Schauffele has 10 runner up finishes in his career including two top 3 finishes at Augusta over the last 3 years. He’s one of those guys who is always near the top of the leaderboard but hasn’t been able to break through and win a major on tour yet. That said, he touts a consistent game that always keeps him in the conversation and he won an Olympic gold medal for the US last year. Maybe that gold turns things around for him as far as breaking through in majors? No better place to win your first major than at the Masters!
Viktor Hovland: Hovland hit the ground running after becoming a pro in 2019. He’s very much in the mix for the FedEx Cup, he’s already won once this season and he ranks towards the top of the field in both Par 4 Average as well as Strokes Gained: Approach (just like Justin Thomas). He also has never won a major but he has experienced success at Augusta, winning Low Amateur in his Masters debut in 2019.
Collin Morikawa: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited when Morikawa ended up towards the top of our projections. The guy is already a super star. He’s already won two majors at the age of 25, when his game is on… it is ON and he devours Par 4s with the best of them. When he’s locked in he hits greens and he can run away with any tournament when his putter gets hot. He’s another guy who plays best on the biggest stages and I’m sure he’s hungry to add a Masters championship to his majors belt (he’s already won the PGA Championship and British Open).
Daniel Berger: You’re getting a lot of value with Berger at +4000 odds. He’s only played a handful of tournaments this season but his short game is fantastic, he hits greens and he’s able to avoid trouble off the tee. He posted a top 10 finish at the Masters in 2016 and even though he’s only played six tournaments this season (after helping the US win the Ryder Cup) he’s posted a top 20 finish in all but one (top 7 in three of those tournaments). He’s cooled off a bit but he’s a former PGA Rookie of the Year, former top 10 player in the world and there’s no better place to remind everyone of his talent than Augusta.
Sungjae Im: So this one is definitely more of a “boom or bust” type prospect but it’s impossible to ignore Sungjae Im’s second place finish in his Masters debut in 2020. He’s another player that, when he’s locked in, he avoids trouble and can absolutely dismantle a course with his short game and his accuracy off the tee. He’s already won a tournament this season, he’s in the FedEx Cup conversation with four top 10 finishes on the season already and (you guessed it) he crushes Par 4s. He’s one of my favorite live betting options for the tournament this year.
Sam Burns: Boy oh boy am I excited to announce Sam Burns as one of our favorite underdogs this year. He’ll be making his Masters debut this year after winning two tournaments this season already and flirting with the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings. Burns has deadly accuracy, he thrives on Par 4s and he can really roll the ball. He just won the Valspar Open within a week ago and sometimes you just have to ride the hot hand. Don’t forget, Will Zalatoris finished second overall in his Masters debut last year… So don’t discount Burns simply because this is his first time playing Augusta.
Webb Simpson: Webb Simpson is another vet who you’re getting a lot of value with at +5000 this year. He hasn’t really gotten it going this season so far for the most part but his game is consistent, he’s finished in the top 20 at the Masters for the last 4 years in a row and he’s a US Open champion so he knows what it takes to win a major. He grew up relatively close to Augusta as well so the Masters has extra meaning to him. Our projections like his odds so throw him a flier and who knows… Maybe you hit on his curtain call?
Robert MacIntyre: Ok so obviously MacIntyre is our longest of the long shots. That said, he finished 12th at the Masters last year (his debut) and posted top 10 finishes in both of his other majors appearances. He’s young and he’s yet to win on tour yet but he posted a top 15 finish this season and (as long as he strays away from danger off the tee) our projections love him as a sleeper. He’s also sitting at +8000 odds so why not sprinkle a dollar on him and see what the young gun can do??
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