The First Tee – The Masters

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly April 8, 2019 18:04

The First Tee – The Masters

This Week

It’s the best week of the year and the first major which means loaded DFS contests, no (publicly available) ShotLink data, loose pricing, and as much content as you can get your hands on.

As always, it’s good to remember the cut rules at Augusta: the cut is top-50 and ties as opposed to top-70 since the field is so small, and anyone within ten shots of the leader also makes the cut which is unique to the Masters.

THE COURSE

The only changes from last year’s course is the lengthening of the fifth hole (“Magnolia”) by about 40 yards so it now plays just under 495 yards, although the bunkers have also been pushed closer to the tee box so golfers will need a touch over 310 yards to carry them – which is the same as before.

Augusta National is listed at 7475 yards now, a typical par-72 in that it has four par-3s and four par-5s; this is a long course that plays long, with nine of the ten par-4s sitting above 440 yards (the 3rd is just 350 yards) and consistently playing above par every year. The par-5s are much more manageable and are the four easiest holes on the course – playing between 510 and 575 yards last year, there were 25 eagles made and three of the four played at -0.282 or easier. Par-5 scoring is a key this week, as players need to take advantage of the few scoring holes that exist.

The fairways here are above average in terms of width and usually see around 66% of tee shots find the good stuff, so positioning and distance are the great equalizers here; missing the fairways here isn’t too punitive usually as the rough is cut short, but there are spaced out trees everywhere laid over pine straw, so those need to be avoided. Beyond that there’s Rae’s Creek, but that doesn’t come into play as much with driver in hand.

The holes mostly dogleg from right to left and there aren’t really any bomb-and-gouge holes, so playing smart golf off the tee in terms of setting up the right angle on the second shot is important. There’s no great metric to judge that outside of SG: OTT, so this is a time where leaning on course history is a fine way to go about it. One of the great things about Augusta is the firm fairways that undulate, which helps roll the ball out a touch more but can also set up some horribly tough approach shots with the ball setting up below the feet or other wonky lies that golfers wouldn’t see at a TPC course.

Approaching the greens is hard due to that, but it’s also arduous due to the actual greens at ANGC: they’re bentgrass greens that play incredibly fast (stimp around 14’) and firm, and have a ton of slope and undulation which means sticking the ball in tight is a hard ask – the best iron players will separate themselves here, but having a wedge or short iron in offers the best opportunity as golfers can put the right spin and get that higher ball flight. That factor is a large part of what makes distance off the tee important.

Lag putts and not getting short-sided are two key components of every Masters weekend, as the speedy greens don’t offer up many birdies – and playing protective golf with lag putts is a much safer decision given how many three-putts are made here.

 

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off the Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Carry Distance
  • Par-5 Scoring
  • Birdie or Better %
  • Putts per Round
  • Par-4 Scoring
  • Greens in Regulation

Top-Tier Golfers

Jon Rahm ($10000): In his two times out at Augusta, Rahm has finished T27 (his debut performance) and a solo fourth, which is a very solid showing and bodes well for this season; Rahm’s form this season puts him among the elite with eight top-25s in nine events, six of which were top-10 finishes. He’ll bring that strong form and history into this week as the second-best player in terms of SG: OTT which is so necessary here, which he accomplishes mostly by length (seventh on all drives) and decent accuracy (62.3%).

Beyond the great play off the tee, Rahm is very strong on par-5s thanks to his distance, averaging 4.52 and making birdie or better 54.55% of the time (15th). He’s 16th in par-4 scoring on longer par-4s (450 yards or above) and is making birdie 18.06% of the time on par-3s, so his efficiencies and scoring should help pay off his salary. The main concern here will be his play around the green as he’s only gaining 0.19 strokes per round which is a dismal 105th on tour, as he’s +31 to par from the greenside rough on only 68 attempts; the other concern will be his putting as he ranks 62nd in SG: Putting, but he’s also good at avoiding three putts (14th) and does convert 35% of his birdie putts, it’s his putting between 6’ and 10’ out that has hurt him.

Hideki Matsuyama ($8700): Hideki’s been very consistent in his times at Augusta, finishing 19th or better in each of the past four years with a solo fifth as the peak, and overall he’s made six out of seven cuts. His form on the season has also been very strong, with six top-25s in eight events (including a T3, T8 and T9) with no missed cuts, so he’s coming to Augusta in fine shape.

Beyond the putting that is what it always is (absolute garbage, 180th on tour), Hideki has been incredible: he’s third in strokes gained from tee to green, he remains long off the tee (26th in carry distance), he’s hit 70.9% of greens in regulation without playing the easy events, and his scoring numbers have been fantastic at 3.01, 3.98 and 4.55 averages on par-3s, -4s and -5s respectively. He’s struggled to make birdies thanks to the poor putting, but given his history at Augusta he must have figured something out on the greens, so at his price point he’s definitely worth a play. He’ll most likely be popular.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Matt Kuchar ($7900): He’ll most definitely be a very chalky play this week, but Kuchar has a ton of upside from both a form and history perspective: since the start of 2019, Kuchar has four top-10s in only nine events which includes a win at the Sony and a runner-up at Match Play, and he enters the week off a T7. Over a whopping 12 times through at Augusta, Kuchar has only one missed cut – all the way back in 2002 – and has seven top-25s (including four top-10 finishes).

Statistically, Kuchar is a bit of an anomaly for his more recent success given his lack of distance off the tee: he ranks a miserable 87th on all drive distance, but he makes that up slightly by being -28 on 112 approach shots outside 200 yards. Kuch is a better player in the 125-200 range with his mid-irons, but he positions himself so well off the tee that his lack of distance is fine – he leads the PGA in greens in regulation even as his OTT play is only 56th. On the season, he’s crushing birdies with 25.56% of holes getting a birdie or better, and he ranks 22nd and 8th on par-3 BoB% and par-5 BoB% respectively.

Matt Wallace ($7100): Although he’s a first-timer here, Wallace could easily pay off his salary as the Englishman has great length off the tee (36th) and has a strong game around and on the greens. While that’s not typically the prototype of a successful golfer at Augusta, Wallace has been very strong this season on longer par-4s (and par-4s in general as he ranks 35th in P4BoB%) and shorter par-5s, ranking 32nd and 40th respectively.

He’s only missed one cut in 2019 – the Saudi International in February – and has been very impressive at PGA events, with finishes of T33, T20, T6 and T30 in stroke play in North America. It’s important to also note that his statistics only come on 16 measured rounds this season, so measuring his 61.9% greens in regulation number (206th) against someone like Keith Mitchell who played in the easy swing season isn’t exactly measuring apples to apples.

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly April 8, 2019 18:04

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