Masters Preview - @fordysgolfpicks
The Masters – Fordy’s Golf Tips
Like a kid on Christmas Eve, the feeling leading up to this week for me is like none other. Enjoying watching golf has been something I’ve been enticed in for over a decade. But once my attention span grew as a teenager, I think the moment that changed everything for me was the famous Mickelson 3 wood off the pine straw between the tiniest gap in the woods to 15ft on 13. That led to tapes and tapes of Woods dominating and years of just being enthralled by the tussle and the undulating greens. Now at 30 years old, even the Azalea’s make me smile, this place, which is almost impossible to get to, let alone play in, is the most magical place on the planet.
We arrive for the 2023 edition, with golf in a weird place to say the least. With LIV golf taking off and then nosediving again, the anticipation for the best of the best fighting it out is not as strong as it could have been. What we will have come Monday though, it pure excitement, pure intrigue, and a tournament that delivers every single year.
Masters will be won by a Master
One thing I can be sure of, as I build up this year and hopefully help find you a winner for yourself, the most important piece of advice I’ve always relied on; The Masters is always won by someone who knows how to win a Major, or who certainly has already had a couple of close go’s at it.
This place I imagine means everything to any golfer at the top of their game because to win; you have to be at the top in every aspect. Although I’m going to take you through what’s needed in terms of better skill assets and weighted stats than others, I fully believe this week there are only a select amount of golfers that can really win.
If you didn’t already know then The Masters offers the truest test in golf, the only Major to continually be played at the same course every year and is always around the 3rd hardest on Tour every year, only a tough US Open or Open being tougher. 7,545 yards; plenty of danger, and Bentgrass greens which run 14 on the Stimpmeter regularly, the quickest you will see and the hardest to read. You do however, see varying winning scores here but that tends to come due to the difference in conditions, and the impact the weather can make.
This week the weather has already been a talking point. We are expecting to see some winds similar to last year where we seen the cut mark at +4 for much of Friday. We are also expecting plenty of rain, which will make conditions softer but I don’t predict scores to be massively impacted like people early this week are talking about of happening. In short, I don’t think greens will be too soft, fairways may have less run on them, but the sub air climate they have here will level things out and I really expect to see bunched leaderboards and a real tussle at the top through the week.
Winners: 2022: Scheffler 16/1; 2021: Matsuyama 45/1; 2020: Dustin Johnson 9/1; 2019: Woods 16/1, 2018: Reed 55/1, 2017: Garcia 45/1, 2016: Willett 66/1, 2015: Spieth 12/1, 2014: Watson 28/1, 2013: Scott 28/1, 2012: Watson 55/1, 2011: Schwartzel 90/1.
Right let’s get into the meat of this, and I’m going to try and make this as interesting as possible for you. Let’s start with the easy crowd, LIV tour golfers are not winning this for me, definitely not this year, maybe bar Cam Smith and his lethal putter, then again, even he has question marks. Playing top level golf over 54 holes, once a month, for me just leaves you well behind the rest. I don’t see any of the LIV crowd really pulling up any trees and competing. You could make a case for DJ, with his Masters record, but everything would really have to fall right and I’d want a big price. Cam is still worrying me with his sore wrist, Brooks has never been the same despite late form, and I haven’t seen enough of the likes of Niemann and Ancer to really have a ploy on any of them.
A big focus as always, and as I’ve already mentioned, is event form. You’ve got to have made the cut here, played here a few times and have the true grit to finish a tournament, and that narrows the list of players that can actually win already. A few months back I could of made a case for the likes of Tom Kim being the first rookie to win here in about 50 years but his form recently is awful. I could of told you that Patrick Cantlay has everything to win here, but he’s never proven anything in a major, so why waste your money? And he’s still licking his lips, no idea why.
A big underrated stat for the week which goes a miss every year, is around the green. If you are not consistently showing a strong game around the green here, you are out of the picture. It’s crazy at Augusta how often you find yourself in trouble around the greens, the tight lies, the sloped run offs, and carefully placed pins, if you aren’t strong in this area, you are already playing catch up. This for me takes out players like Hovland, Bradley and even Zalatoris, who are great ball strikers but are not as good within 30 yards.
The next focus is getting out of control, and maybe why we’ve seen Augusta National prompt for more changes on the 13th hole this year. In recent times we’ve seen organisers push tee boxes back as players get longer and longer, and there is a reason for this. No one, has won around Augusta without being in the top 30% in Driving Distance compared to the rest of the field and seeing the likes of Kuchar and Harrington drive it 340 yards last week, there is no surprise this is happening year after year. This is why we’ve never seen real Masters form from Kisner, Harman and Horschel, they just will never be long enough; and for this year I believe that negates the likes of Henley, Si Woo and most surprisingly Collin Morikawa. It’s clear, getting inside 150 yards gives you huge advantages, not least getting into the Par 5’s in two, this week is, for those making eagles and gaining a huge gains on the rest of those shorter hitters.
The next couple of important factors and high weighted stats in the model, every year for that matter, are Approach Strokes Gained and some Birdie or Better percentages. You’ll see this mentioned in many previews, but it really is vital to include in every model. In the last decade you’ve seen winners all be in the top 20 for Approach and all be in the Top 10 for Birdie or Better % across the Par 4’s. Par 4 performance is really interesting because there are some Tee shots on these Par 4’s, holes like 5 and 7 that are so important. Tight treelines that provide so much room for an easy error, if you don’t find the fairway on those holes, your likely to be chipping out, trying to avoid bogey.
Another real aspect that I have brushed off in the past and I can admit I’ve made a mistake, is this stat about Distance to Apex and high ball flight. Maybe a couple of decades ago this didn’t matter as much, but if you look at previous winners in recent years, they all could hit the ball really high and could land it soft on these quick hard greens, and I feel this is vital more than ever. I like this stat because it also brings up only a select group of players that can win; and for transparency the golfers at the top of this stat in this field are; Rory, Young, Woodland, Champ, Kityama, Zalatoris.
This really is the main base for the model and we’ll see the golfers who have really proved themselves time and time again with their irons, mix that with a hot putter and you have your recipe for your Green Jacket Winner.
How I’ve made up the model this week;
Birdie or Better Par 4 %
Par 5 Performace
Distance to Apex
Greens in Regulation
Major Championship Form
Prox. To Hole
Last Year’s Masters
Top 25 players in the model and my thoughts on each:
1 Jon Rahm 15/2
· Brings his game with his longer irons will be their on Sunday.
2 Scottie Scheffler 13/2
· Has everything to win, doing it back to back in another thing altogether, holes putts like he did at Waste Management and he wins this.
3 Tony Finau 25/1
· Still some questions have arisen around his capability to finish out a tournament despite his wins last year. I have some questions around whether his short game is good enough.
4 Rory McIlroy 6/1
· Every year his chances improve, eye catching every week he plays, but it’s all about how he is mentally. I think if he can start well and get out early he will handle the pressure, but chasing a bad start won’t work.
5 Collin Morikawa 20/1
· Improvement with the putter is a huge positive, but that isn’t going to win him the Masters. Too much has to come together for me and he’s losing strokes purely on his distance off the tee.
6 MinWoo Lee 60/1
· Real surprise to see his DP World Tour form correlate so well in big PGA Tour fields. Got his rookie appearance here out the way last year. Comes under the radar, great iron player and hits it long, EW chances.
7 Cameron Smith 18/1
· Few complaints about his wrist and form, but there is no doubt this guy is a superstar. The question really is about whether the lack of Golf and Competition is really a factor in such a huge week for him Media wise. If you find the right price, he’s the best talent as we seen last year.
8 Dustin Johnson 25/1
· Another guy we just don’t have enough evidence of due to LIV. Worryingly missed the Cut here last year and isn’t the same as he was when he won this. He’d prefer the rain to come and there is no doubt he was the best on the LIV tour last year.
9 Patrick Cantlay 18/1
· Has the all round game to win this, wouldn’t like to be paired with him though. If he gets into a grove he’ll come close, but to much of risk for a guy who’s never proven it in the majors.
10 Sungjae Im 30/1
· Great Masters form, the profile of a player you could see win. His price in some markets has drifted to a lovely number. Hits a lovely high fade and has the temperament.
11 Max Homa 25/1
· Made the Cut here last year and is the most trending player on tour. Seen him close out already this year and go toe to toe with Jon Rahm, why not is the question?
12 Jason Day 22/1
· Very popular player, maybe down to his full circle journey he is on. Looks rejuvenated and can come close. I worry about one bad round.
13 Justin Thomas 18/1
· It would be a good story, but I’d like a much bigger number.
14 Bryson DeChambeau 80/1
15 Xander Schauffele 20/1
· Solid Masters Form, continues to perform in majors and gets closer and closer to big wins. I wouldn’t be surprised but I prefer others.
16 Sergio Garcia 100/1
17 Viktor Hovland 33/1
· If he could avoid stupid mistakes and moments where he loses his head I’d love to bet him but the truth is, he has a better chance in another major
18 Tommy Fleetwood 50/1
· Not sure he is long enough to win, but this place suits him, it would be magical and probably another FOMO bet for me.
19 Shane Lowry 40/1
· If you believe you can win here without any real recent form then Shaner has an amazing chance. Best touch of any around the greens, consistent ball striker, you never know.
20 Tom Hoge 125/1
21 Will Zalatoris 28/1
· Seen spots of his quality Iron play since injury. Hits it long and as high as anyone, would like someone to talk me into it, unsure.
22 Hideki Matsuyama 33/1
· Still unsure about his injuries
23 Matthew Fitzpatrick 33/1
· Hits the ball too low and not in the best form
24 Corey Conners 35/1
25 Joaquin Niemann 50/1
A couple of mentions not in the model which I think you can find great value on this week; I believe Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood will have good finishes, deliver at Majors time and again. Can’t go very far without having something on Kitayama and Gary Woodland, both big hitters and likeable players of course. Don’t be surprised to see Corey Conners continue his form into this week also but back to back will be a very hard task. Whomever you are on this week, very best of luck and below are my outright picks, with my head and my heart, happy Masters.
Please look out for @Golftipschecker final charts come Wednesday and I’m appearing on the new Waggle Duff show with @waggleduff and @wilkesy93, feel free to ask any questions.
If you want to play my new weekly fantasy competition, look out for my updates on my twitter @tomford9931 and my site www.drawshankgolf.com.
Rory McIlroy – 7/1 & 11/1 (by two shots) 2pts
Heading up with what will be surely a tear in my eye. If Rory can complete the grand slam with all the pressure and the media around him, it’ll be sensational viewing. This year just seems like the right time and as I’ve said previously, he starts well, you may never catch him.
Jordan Speith - 22/1 2pt win
Not much introduction with this one either. Masters winner who should have two green jackets, he short game I believe is better than anyones and in a week where you may have to just hang around, he’ll be doing that.
Max Homa - 35/1 2pts Win
This play is purely on form, yes his Masters record is not amazing but he’s trending, 6 PGA Tour wins now and this is the year he proves it in a major finally. Get on before it’s too late.
Sungjae Im – 40/1 1pt E/W (8 Places)
Under the radar, but as good a player of all those around him. Irons are superb, short game is great and just as long as anyone, 40/1 is a price I cannot ignore. Let’s go Sungjae.
Shane Lowry – 50/1 1pt E/W (8 Places)
I’m putting it up because I wouldn’t live with myself if it happened. He’s by far the people’s golfer and he makes anything inside 100 yards look easy. Won’t be under any pressure, has some form round here and that’s enough to forget he’s not in a great place with his game right now. Just imagine the beer consumed if this happens.
Min Woo Lee – 60/1 1pt E/W (8 Places)
This makes so much sense. Long off the Tee, gains strokes approach like you wouldn’t believe and just so happened to pop up high on my model. This talented Aussie is going places and this week he can prove it properly for the first time.