2023 Masters Prep & Preliminary Projections

All is right with the world as the small town of Augusta, GA prepares to be flooded with golf fans next week for the greatest major event of the year. For the lucky individuals who will be in attendance… congratulations… Augusta National is truly a magical place. For those of you already planning your PTO for next Thursday/Friday in order to watch golf’s Super Bowl at home… go with digestive issues… no boss ever wants to get into those details. 

As for Side Hustle Bets, I couldn’t be more excited to pick up right where I left off for PGA major championships last year. Last season we called 3 out of the 4 major champions (if it wasn’t for a historic record breaking performance from Cameron Smith on Sunday and Rory blowing a 4 shot lead with massive home field advantage, we would’ve finished a perfect 4 for 4 picking outright winners). For the 2022 Masters specifically, we not only called Scottie Scheffler winning outright but we also finished +20.931 units on the week… Now THAT is a side hustle.

Despite last year’s success, we’re never satisfied. Enjoy our prep work and preliminary projections for next week’s Masters and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.

Also, a special shout out to my father who absolutely dominated his cancer treatment this past year. He’ll be in attendance at Augusta National on Thursday so pat him on the back if you see him. He’ll be the guy decked out in Masters gear from head to toe in high white socks and most likely the floppiest hat you’ve ever seen (retired Dermatologist).

2023 Augusta Recipe

While it’s difficult to deviate too far from last year’s formula (considering it produced the correct outright winner and a +20.931 unit payout on the week) it would be foolish to pretend historical performance always equates to future results. Keeping that concept in mind, I did some tinkering.

The Masters is always a thing of beauty for sports predictive analytics fans since the tournament is played at the same course every year, the course rarely goes through major changes and the level of play is relatively consistent over the years. Last year’s formula took advantage of this plethora of data by reverse engineering each champion’s winning performance since 2000, then pinpointing statistical commonalities across the bunch in order to determine which current players were set up for success heading into the 2022 Masters. This year’s formula stays true to our process but has been even further refined by utilizing comparative data to last year’s results. After the conclusion of last year’s tournament, I ran a similar analysis across 2022 top performers in order to determine where we were spot on and where we still had some room for improvement.

Before we get started, here’s last year’s winning formula as a reminder:

2022 Masters Formula

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%) = 2022 MASTERS CHAMPION

So how accurate were our pre-tournament statistical category weightings compared to how things actually panned out? Did we show any categories too much love? Too little? Well, yes and no.

Too Little Love: Strokes Gained: Approach Green and Average Masters Finishing Position (which is wild considering Strokes Gained: Approach was by far our heaviest weighted category). 

On The Money: Strokes Gained: Around the Green and Driving Accuracy.

Too Much Love: Par 4 Average and Strokes Gained: Putting.

Keep in mind that this was simply a comparison between our 2022 projected category weightings (utilizing champion data since 2000) vs a similar analysis across the top performers in the 2022 tournament (post tournament). At the end of the day, the 2022 Masters was only one more tournament over the span of Augusta’s long storied history. While helpful for the future from a reference standpoint, it is important to point out that history rarely repeats itself to the exact data point.

Enough disclaimers… time for the good stuff.

2023 Masters Formula

Strokes Gained: Approach Green (29.5%) + Historical Masters Performance (22%) + Par 4 Average (15%) + Strokes Gained: Putting (14.5%) + Strokes Gained: Around The Green (7%) + Scrambling (4.5%) + Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (4.5%) + Driving Accuracy (3%) = 2023 MASTERS CHAMPION

Let’s break these new weightings down individually.

I’ve added an additional 4.5% to our Strokes Gained: Approach Green weighting. Why? Because unless you plan to putt the lights out (i.e. Cameron Smith at last year’s British Open…) then you better hit your spots on these greens. While most golf tournaments reward elite ball striking, Augusta National demands it. Another factor to consider is the crippling pressure of putting on golf’s largest stage for all the stakes. What makes pressure putting easier? Shorter putts… Expect this year’s champion to throw darts throughout the week.

My additional 2% increase in Historical Masters Performance might seem nominal, but don’t let your eyes deceive you. This change moves the overall category into our second most important statistic and this year’s calculation takes Cut Make % more heavily into account. By applying 30% of a player’s overall Historical Masters Performance to their Masters Cut Make % (the other 70% composed of a player’s Average Masters Finishing Position) we gain a more consistent/likely future result. I found this adjustment necessary given the uncertainty that the LIV Tour’s emergence has injected into professional golf over the past year.

My first major adjustment lies with the weighting of Par 4 Average. As you can tell, a 7% decrease in weighting compared to our 2022 formula is quite significant. Does this mean that I’m fading the relevance of Augusta’s Par 4s this year? Not at all. This change stems more from other statistical categories that affect a player’s Par 4 Average and consequently skew accuracy of Par 4 overall performance. Let me be clear, superior Par 4 performance is necessary to succeed at Augusta National. That said, too many factors play into this statistical category to warrant a 22% weighting for our overall formula.

You might be surprised to see my 3.5% decrease in the weighting of Strokes Gained: Putting. Again, I’m not fading the importance of the flat stick at the Masters. You definitely have to light it up with the Texas wedge if you want to have a chance at donning the heralded green jacket. This decrease is simply an acknowledgement of how important ball striking is at the Masters. Winners make putts consistently, but that feat is easier to accomplish when you’re consistently putting from a makeable distance right away. 

My next two stats are easier to digest when viewed through the lens of an “overall around the green” point of view. When combined, Strokes Gained: Around The Green and Scrambling make up 11.5% of our overall formula. While ball striking is of the utmost importance at Augusta, every player is bound to miss their mark occasionally especially considering the bounty of “risk/reward” holes that Augusta provides. The great champions are the ones who can right the ship after those misfires and walk away unscathed. By implementing a significant 4.5% weighting for Scrambling specifically to this “overall around the green” component, we’re able to more accurately reward the magicians who miss the short grass on their initial approach. 

Similar to the “around the green” concept, try to view Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Driving Accuracy under the same umbrella. By combining these two stats, a player’s performance off the tee accounts for 7.5% of our overall formula. As stated in previous articles, the art of the long ball has somewhat teetered over the years due to improved training and technology. Something that hasn’t changed? A player’s command of where those missiles are actually landing. Applying a 3% overall weighting to Driving Accuracy specifically should more accurately depict how much a player is truly letting the big dog eat.

Preliminary Masters Success Projections

Although one more Masters qualifying spot is still up for grabs at this week’s Valero Texas Open, we feel very confident in who we’re backing out of the current field. Similar to last year, I’ve broken down which favorites to lock in on and which players are being overlooked heading into next week.

We will provide our best bets for the tournament (such as Top 20, Top 10, Top 5, Make the Cut, First Round Leader, etc) as we get closer to April 6th and sports books start releasing bets other than just the outright winner of the tournament.

Favorite “Favorites”

My favorite approach to tackling outright winner bets is to spread 1-1.5 units across the guys who I truly think stand a chance of winning. Expect to see these names on that list in our 1st Round article coming soon to a computer near you.

PlayerCurrent Odds
Jon Rahm+1000
Scottie Scheffler+750
Cameron Smith+2400
Xander Schauffele+2500
Collin Morikawa+2500
Rory McIlroy+750

Jon Rahm: While I don’t love taking overall favorites in majors, it’s hard to fade Jon Rahm right now. Not only does he sit atop our projections this year but he’s also racked up 3 wins and 6 Top 10 finishes this season already (#1 in the FedEx Cup standings currently). Rahm ranks inside the top 10 of virtually every statistical category of our formula with the exception of scrambling and off the tee (two categories where he’s still far from shabby) and he’s never finished worse than 27th at the Masters (4 Top 10 finishes). Given the amount of time that Rahm has spent at or near the top of the world rankings, it’s truly baffling that he only has one major title to his name as of present day. It feels like it isn’t a question of if he will ever win a Masters championship, but when.

Scottie Scheffler: Scottie is another player who I want to fade but simply cannot. He also sits inside the top 10 of the field in almost every single statistical category of our formula with the exception of putting… but we all know his putter can get hot at just the right times. He leads the field outright in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, he’s the #1 player in the world currently (since March 2022, actually) and he’s already posted 9 Top 25 finishes through 10 starts (including two outright victories). The guy is the ultimate gamer and golf’s standard to date. It’s extremely difficult to successfully defend a Masters championship (which is why Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods are the only individuals to do so), but Scottie’s trajectory right now is impossible to ignore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to throw Scheffler’s face on golf’s Mount Rushmore anytime soon… but he did just give Tiger’s World Golf Championship match play record a scare (18 match play wins in a row)… 

Cameron Smith: Everyone seems to have forgotten about Cam Smith after he defected to the LIV Tour last August. Not me. Say what you want about the LIV Tour but one fact remains… Cameron Smith has arguably the best short game in the world… regardless of what tour or course he’s playing on. For those of you living under a rock last year, the Aussie won the Players Championship and then proceeded to follow that up with one of the greatest final round performances in British Open history to capture the first major championship of his career. Smith was heavily in the hunt for last year’s Masters title (playing in the final group with Scheffler on Sunday) and he’ll definitely have more to prove at Augusta next week. Cam Smith is a VERY dangerous player to underestimate… especially flying under the radar.

Xander Schauffele: I know what you’re thinking… “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. And rightfully so. Schauffele is probably the most talented player in the world without a major championship title. His game is absurdly consistent across the board, he’s one of the best ball strikers in the world and he’s fared extremely well at majors historically (Masters: T2, T3, T17; PGA Championship: T10, T13, T16; US Open: 3rd, 5th, T5, T6, T7, T14; British Open: T2, T15, T20). He ranks 11th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Strokes Gained: Putting and he’s clearly been a contender at Augusta historically. In case you’re keeping count, those are the three heaviest weighted categories in our formula for success… call me biased. Don’t forget, Schauffele did win an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo only a couple of years ago. That’s no major championship but it is proof that he can win on the big stage. I’ll feel even better about Xander’s odds if his alma mater (San Diego State University) can bring home their first Men’s Basketball National Championship in school history on Monday.

Collin Morikawa: Morikawa is probably the best ball striker in the world and he’s already won two major championships in his extremely young career (winning both the PGA Championship and the British Open his first time playing in either tournament). If Morikawa starts throwing darts and he can get his putter going… there’s very few players in the world who can contend with him. Morikawa has “career grand slam” written all over him and he finished T5 at Augusta last year. He will have a green jacket hanging in his closest eventually, possibly sooner than you think. 

Rory McIlroy: Man, I’m just breaking my “fade the favorite” rule left and right this year… I won’t lie, listing out Rory as one of my outright winner favorites is somewhat cathartic after last year’s British Open meltdown. A “no harm, no foul” play of sorts. That said, he’s one of the greatest golfers of all time without question and he has returned to form over the last two years. He contended at every single major championship last season (Masters: 2nd; PGA Championship: 8th; US Open: T5; British Open: 3rd) and he tied Augusta National’s course record in his final round of the Masters last year (64). Rory already has a win this season and he played great at last week’s World Golf Championship, finishing 3rd and defeating world #1 Scottie Scheffler in the consolation match. All of the pieces are in place for Rory to once again sit atop the podium at a major championship if he can get control of his mental game and finally capture the career grand slam he so rightfully deserves (the Masters is the only major championship he hasn’t won during his career).

Favorite Underdogs

As you’ll see in our upcoming 1st Round article, I rarely find a ton of value in picking large underdogs to win outright. That said, these names should provide boatloads of value in other betting aspects (Top 20, First Round Top 20, etc). More context to follow shortly…

PlayerCurrent Odds
Jason Day+2900
Tony Finau+2900
Sungjae Im+3700
Max Homa+3400
Justin Rose+7500

Jason Day: Jason Day tops the charts as my favorite underdog of the week. The former world #1 has overcome significant health issues (vertigo) in his pursuit back to greatness and he’s been on an absolute tear since last October. The Aussie ranks well within the top 20 of the field in almost every single statistical category of our formula this week, ranking 1st in Scrambling, 10th in Strokes Gained: Around The Green and 6th in Strokes Gained: Putting. Day has posted 10 Top 25 finishes in his last 11 starts, including 6 Top 10 finishes and an impressive T5 finish at last week’s World Golf Championship. Before his unfortunate health issues, Day was a perennial Top 10/20 finisher at Augusta for close to a decade and his strong play as of late couldn’t have better timing. 

Tony Finau: Tony Finau is another player who always seems to find himself in contention but who hasn’t been able to get over the hump to win a major championship. He currently ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach Green, 11th in Strokes Gained: Putting and he’s already strung together 9 Top 25 finishes in only 10 starts this season (including one outright victory). Finau has 3 Top 10 finishes at Augusta since 2018, never missing a single cut in 5 Masters starts. Finau has historically jumped out to great opening rounds at Augusta and it’s worth mentioning that he currently ranks 10th on tour in 2nd Round Scoring Average and 2nd on tour in 3rd Round Scoring Average. Finau is playing his best golf at the right time and it’s extremely encouraging to see how well he is playing on moving day specifically (more to come on this shortly).

Sungjae Im: If it feels like I’m going back to the well a bit by listing out Sungjae Im as a favorite underdog again, it’s because I am. For reasons beyond me, the public never seems to give Im the respect he deserves… which is great for us from a betting perspective! Im is a player who offers an impressively balanced game across all statistical categories, has elite ball striking capability and avoids the mental lapses that derail a player’s round at major tournaments. Sungjae has only missed 1 cut in 13 starts this season (posting 8 Top 25 finishes and 4 Top 10 finishes) and his play is starting to light up at the perfect time coming off an impressive showing at the Players Championship (T6 finish) and World Golf Championship (T17 finish). In case anyone forgot, Im has finished T2 and T8 at the Masters in only 3 career starts at Augusta… you read that correctly. Sleep on Sungjae Im at your own risk.

Max Homa: It’s cloudy as to whether or not you can even list Homa as an “underdog” these days given how well he’s been playing (but given his current outright winner odds, we will). Homa picked up right where he left off last year, making the cut at every tournament he’s played in this year and posting 9 Top 25 finishes in 10 starts (including 6 Top 10 finishes, a 2nd place finish and two outright victories). Homa currently ranks 6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, 3rd in Strokes Gained: Putting and 3rd in Scrambling. Literally the only statistical category in which Homa has struggled is Historical Masters Performance, but he’s only played in 3 Masters tournaments in his career and he finally got over the hump of making the cut at last year’s tournament. With the exception of this year’s WM Phoenix Open (where he finished T39), Homa hasn’t finished worse than 23rd at a tournament since August 2022… He’s clearly playing the best golf of his life right now and it feels like his first major championship title could be right around the corner. If the Masters was played at a California course then Homa would very likely make my outright winner lineup (and guess where the US Open is this year??? Los Angeles…). 

Justin Rose: For those of you who think Justin Rose is too old to win another major, keep in mind he did just win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am back in February and finished T6 at the Players Championship a few weeks ago… Rose’s putter has come alive as of late, he can scramble with the best of them, he’s accurate off the tee and he is intimately familiar with Augusta National (posting 13 Top 25 finishes, 6 Top 10 finishes and 2 runner up finishes since 2004). The former world #1 appears to still have some gas left in the tank and he’s well aware of what it takes to win a major championship (2013 US Open Champion). Don’t write off the old vet just yet (yes, I just rhymed). A Top 25 finish is well within reach and likely at very enticing odds.

Honorable Mention

These players probably fall into the “wait and see” category but don’t be surprised if you see their names on the leaderboard at some point next week.

PlayerCurrent Odds
Min Woo Lee+20000
Tom Hoge+16000
Will Zalatoris+3500

Min Woo Lee: Min Woo Lee is quickly becoming this year’s Joaquin Niemann with his spurts of elite play followed by erratic blow up holes. It feels as though Lee will either finish in the Top 10, or miss the cut entirely… That said, Lee ranks 12th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting, 6th in Strokes Gained: Around The Green and he possesses surprising power off the tee for his size. If Lee can clean up his ball striking, he could shock the world. 

Tom Hoge: The main stat that pops off the page for Tom Hoge is clearly his ball striking as of late, ranking 1st in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach (the most important statistical category of our overall formula this year). The main concern for Hoge is when he finally misses a green… ranking 75th in the field in Strokes Gained: Around The Green and 38th in Scrambling. That type of inconsistency likely explains his relatively inconsistent play throughout the year, posting 4 Top 10 finishes but spread out across numerous missed cuts and 40th+ finishes. Listen to Hoge’s finishes over his last 5 tournaments… WM Phoenix Open: CUT, Genesis Invitational: T14, Arnold Palmer Invitational: CUT, Players Championship: T3, World Golf Championship: T59. It feels like we’re playing a game of career hopscotch… but does that mean Hoge’s in store for a top 10 finish at Augusta next week? His elite ball striking is undeniable and he did finish T39 at his first Masters last year so will we see Jekyll or Hyde on April 6th?

Will Zalatoris: I can’t in good conscience list Zalatoris as an early favorite underdog this year. Partly because of his injury concerns as of late and partly because Vegas isn’t giving us “underdog” type odds on the guy at the moment. Zalatoris did finally get the victory monkey off his back last August at the St. Jude Championship and his historical performance at the Masters is undeniable (2nd place and T6 finishes in his only two appearances). That said, he currently ranks in the back half of the field for every statistical category with the exception of Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and even his once elite ball striking has slipped a bit as of late (46th in the field in Strokes Gained: Approach). Zalatoris only has 1 Top 10 finish since his sole victory last August and he’s looked horrendous in his last three starts heading into Augusta (T53, 73rd, T59 finishes). Zalatoris is definitely a “wait and see” candidate this year at the Masters and, depending on what odds Vegas gives us over the next few days, could even provide potential value on missing the cut entirely. 

Disclaimer: SidehustlebetsMJQ.com is not an online gambling operator or a gambling site of any kind. Our insights about sports/sports betting are purely for entertainment purposes only.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s