Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2021 Masters Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Augusta National. Plus, Tim Andercust stops by to reveal who is CUSRED at The 2021 Masters.
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2021 Masters: Field
2021 Masters Field
89 Players | Top 50 & Ties Make the Cut
First Tee Time: Thursday, April 11
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
Six major championships in the run of a year span will likely (*hopefully) never be seen again. Only because of the way it has happened. Frankly, having this many high-level golf tournaments in such a condensed timeline has been amazing for golf fans. Bettors and DraftKings players, primarily.
And yes, we’ve finally made it to April. The Azaleas are in bloom and we no longer must sit through those CBS teaser commercials — the 2021 Masters has arrived. Last November’s Masters was certainly riddled with question marks as it was the first at that time of year. Scoring records were broken all the way down the leaderboard. There are still pressing questions for this year’s edition too. Principally, concerning the most important players. The favorites to win.
After bulldozing the field back in November, en route to earning sports’ highest sartorial honor, Dustin Johnson ($11,500; +800) hasn’t really looked much himself despite holding on to the world’s No. 1 ranking. After finishing no worse than a tie for sixth, with two victories and three runners up, in his seven starts entering the 2020 Masters, DJ hasn’t resembled that player in 2021 in the slightest.
He won the cash grab in Saudi Arabia in January, followed that with a Top 10 at The Riv and has been pretty bad in his three starts since — WGC Workday (T54), The PLAYERS Championship (T48) and WGC Match Play (1-1-1; knocked out in the pod stage). After getting bounced in Austin he decided to enter the Valero Texas Open on a whim, only to withdraw Monday afternoon and head to Georgia for Masters prep. Fortunately, past results and experience go further at Augusta National than almost any course, and DJ hasn’t finished outside the Top 10 since 2014.
Jon Rahm ($11,000; +1100) has been churning out elite results despite no wins in 2021. The Spaniard has produced Top 10 finishes in each of the past three iterations of the Masters, to go along with five Top 10 results in seven starts in 2021, meaning Rahm is set up better than almost anyone in the field to claim his first Green Jacket. There was a catch to all of this, though.
Rahm and his wife were expecting their first child in the second week of April. He’d stated he would not be missing the birth; in contention Sunday at Augusta or not. That got cleared up on the weekend, however. The Rahms welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world Sunday morning. The fear of leading the DraftKings Millionaire Maker Sunday afternoon, just needing Rahm to finish his round to grab a seven-figure payday only to watch him walk off the course and take that money with him is no longer in play. Also, you’re all but guaranteed NOT to be leading the DK Milly Maker on Sunday, as a heads up. The biggest fear now is preparation time for Augusta. If you have kids, you know the first few days can be a tad overwhelming and exhaustion may be in play. Even for a legit rich like Rahm.
Rory McIlroy ($10,200, +1600), at least in the court public opinion, has been a disaster. He’s outside the Top 10 in the world rankings for the first time since March 2018 and hasn’t won any event, worldwide, since the fall of 2018 in China. Not great, Bob. While these are all very real concerns, and because he’s Rory McIlroy, concerns over his game get discussed in the golf sphere more than almost any other player, but he strangely isn’t that far off to putting it all together. For as “bad” as he’s been in 2021, he’s picked up Top 10 finishes in three of seven stroke-play events, with two other Top 20 results in that span. It’s just weird seeing two missed cuts in his game log.
Players miss cuts all the time, elite players included. Rory is just held to his own elite standard where missing cuts and not dominating every week makes it seem like he’s broken. His consistency has been non-existent. And consistency is what is expected from Rory. When Bryson DeChambeau misses a cut, no one holds it against him. He, and his game, is volatile. That’s just going to happen from time to time. When it’s Rory, sound the alarm bells. Certainly, Rory’s elite driving hasn’t been where it normally is, but he has gained over 2.7 strokes off the tee in three of six measured starts. He’s also gained with his irons in every start but one, he just hasn’t been able to get all aspects of his game firing all in the same event. Don’t forget, McIlroy, along with DJ and Cameron Smith, are the only players in the field to have multiple Top 5 finishes at Augusta in the past three years. If the notion is that DJ will just go to Augusta and everything will be fixed, I don’t see why that won’t apply to Rory.
Brooks Koepka ($9,200; +2500) hasn’t been seen since his runner-up finish in late February to kick off the Florida Swing. In between now and then, he sat out The PLAYERS and had knee surgery. He got engaged this week, which lead to internet Dick Tracy’s sleuthing that his knee is fine since he got down on it to propose, but who knows where his health is at. He hasn’t even confirmed he’s playing yet. Between the two, unless there’s almost zero interest from DraftKings players, an outright bet on him to win is likely a smarter idea than using him in your DraftKings lineup. In the betting world, there’s no difference between coming in second and withdrawing from the tournament.
Since his name isn’t Tiger Woods, it may be difficult for Justin Thomas ($10,600; +1100) to win The PLAYERS and the Masters in the same year, despite looking, on paper, as the best of the elite players entering the event. That’s just a very difficult feat to pull off. Plus, of all the top-end talent, JT’s putter is the most inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. In 2019, when Tiger Woods donned the Green Jacket, JT actually led all players Tee-to-Green (first in approach, fourth in driving) but bled almost seven strokes back to the field on the greens. Thomas finished 84th of 87 players in the field putting and couldn’t even muster a Top 10. That’s probably a worst-case scenario, but this type of performance isn’t a complete outlier for Thomas over the years. Now, you can spin it that this is actually a positive as if he putts around field average, he’ll probably win. That’s a very good argument for Thomas to win, by the way.
Bryson DeChambeau ($10,800; +1400) has the best form and flashed the best skill set for Augusta of all players in 2021, but no Top-20 finishes at the Masters in four starts will scare some off. As will a large percentage of the public’s (unwarranted) disdain for him. Before getting knocked out early at the Match Play, Bryson won API and took home bronze at Sawgrass; gaining in all four strokes gained metrics in each event. No green books.
With the rest of the top of the board, it’s the same usual concerns. Can Xander Schauffele ($10.000; +2200), Patrick Cantlay ($9,800; +2000) or Tony Finau ($9,100; +2500) actually close a major if they’re in contention on Sunday? Webb Simpson ($9,000; +3300) and Tyrrell Hatton ($8.900; +4500) have regressed from the form that currently has them slotted inside the Top 10 in the world rankings. Collin Morikawa ($9.600: +2800) and Viktor Hovland ($8,700; +3300) lack Augusta experience? Can Jordan Spieth ($9,400; +1100) and Patrick Reed ($9,300; +3300) run hot enough on and around the greens to make up for their disadvantage off the tee?
As much as we want to invest in long shots, the Masters is almost always won by one of the elite players. Since 2012, Bubba Watson ($7,800; +5500) was the lowest ranked player to claim victory. Bubba was No. 18 in the world rankings when Charl Schwartzel ($6,300; +25000) helped him into the Green Jacket. Many think of Danny Willett ($6,600; +10000) as the ultimate long-shot since he wasn’t well-known at the time and cashed triple-digit outright win bets for a lot of bettors, but it’s worth noting the Brit was the 12th ranked player in the world before he hit his first drive in 2016. Willett didn’t come out of nowhere, the market had him undervalued.
It’s important to spend a lot of time parsing through the top of the 2021 Masters board as the winner is almost certainly going to come from that group. If you want to win your bets or a DraftKings tournament, spoiler: You’re going to have to pick the winner. Deep insight, I know; this is why I get paid millions every year to write this column. Now, it’s millions of Guinean Francs, but still.
The field of invitees is currently at 90 players with Robert MacIntyre ($6,500; +15000), Brian Harman ($6,800) and Will Zalatoris ($7,300; +6600) earning spots following the Match Play. Expect the field to drop in the 80 player range once all the final commitments are made. Tiger Woods is one of the invitees, but, sadly, Tiger will not be playing 2021.
On the injury front, professional Instagram influencer and pitchman Justin Rose hasn’t played since the third round of The Honda Classic after tweaking his back. It appears he plans to play, but don’t just assume he’s in the field until you hear it from him. Obviously, Koepka is a question mark after his knee surgery. Daniel Berger and Matthew Wolff both returned at the WGC Match Play two weeks ago and will play at Augusta. And Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Kevin Na always need to be on the radar for injuries since all of them suffer from back problems. Oosthuizen’s got neck issues, too.
The past two years have seen a lengthy scroll worth of first-time players — debutants, if you will — at the Masters, but that’s not so much the case in 2021. It’s well known experience is a massive edge in Augusta success. It’s a pretty unique course with its massive elevation chances, and first-time players need to figure out the weird breaks the veterans already know. Since there are no green books for the players and caddies, that engrained knowledge is certainly an advantage.
It’s not to say all debutants will fail. Obviously, Fuzzy Zoeller was the last first-timer to end up with a Green Jacket in his closet. That was in 1979, though. But we’ve been great runs by rookies as recently as last year, when Sungjae Im finished in a tie for second playing in his first Masters. This year, Carlos Ortiz, Robert McIntyre and Will Zalatoris are the only professional debutants. After missing the 2020 tournament with a positive COVID-19 test, Joaquin Niemann will make his first start as a pro. He missed the cut as an amateur in 2018. Joe Long, Ty Strafaci and Ollie Osbourne are the three amateurs in competition this year.
Watch out for players who haven’t fared well at recent Masters. Except for Patrick Reed in 2018, the past 23 champions not only have played in the event the previous year but also made the cut. After Reed, a fresh-faced kid who looked like he was wearing his dad’s shirt named Tiger Woods was the last winner to miss the cut — only to achieve immortality 12 months later. That was in 1997. And that sweater actually did belong to Tiger, it was just the style of the moment — one I lived through and hope never comes back in style.
There’s also a bunch of past champions at the very bottom of the field. For DraftKings purposes, avoid the temptation to take the salary savings by inserting Vijay Singh or Fred Couples into your lineup. Since the Masters is back in April, the standard Top 50 and ties will make the 36-hole cut, which means a higher percentage of the field will play the weekend than almost any event on the calendar. So a few of these olds are going to through Sunday. There’s an issue with them, though: there’s just not enough upside for them to lead your team to victory in one of the large-field DraftKings contests — specifically the million dollar first prize tournaments.
Every now and again, a Bernhard Langer or Fred Couples will play pretty well, but it’s not as often as you may remember. And the results are certainly not as good as what exists in your mind movies. People remember Langer lurking on the leaderboard during WIllett’s win in 2016. He actually finished T24 that year. In the past five Masters, Fred Couples’s T19 in 2017 is the only Top 20 finish from the non-TOUR playing past champs. It’s not that they can’t help if they hit their absolute upright over four-days, it’s just very unlikely to happen, and you’ll have to get it correct by random chance on which guy it’s going to be that year.
In an event where such a percentage of the field makes the cut, over the past five years, Singh, Langer Jose Maria Olazabal, Larry Mize, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Sandy Lyle, Couple, Mike Weir, and Ian Woosnam are missing the cut at a 73% rate. Langer has actually been very solid, making the cut four of the past five years, so if you take him out the cut rate jumps up to 80%.
If you want to complete for the very top prizes on DraftKings this week, you’ll likely need the winner, another two players in the Top 10, another two inside the Top 10 and an outlier player who outscores their finishing position. That’s also the issue with senior home players: their game, primarily lack of distance and long irons, don’t allow for birdie streaks or eagles, which is how most players end up with more DraftKings points than where they actually finish on the leaderboard.
2021 Masters: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
Strokes Gained: Short Game
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2021 Masters: Course
Course: Augusta National
2021 Masters: Past Winners
2020: Dustin Johnson -20
2019: Tiger Woods -13
2018: Patrick Reed -15
2017: Sergio Garcia -9
2016: Danny Willett -5
2015: Jordan Spieth -18
2014: Bubba Watson -8
2013: Adam Scott -9
2012: Bubba Watson -10
2021 Masters: Notes
There’s no need for an in-depth breakdown of Augusta National. If you’d made the leap to search out an article on the Masters, the chances of you knowing the course and even the weird nooks and crannies, is above 99%.
For the section of you, the 1% — Bernie Sanders’ arch nemeses — Augusta National is a Par 72, which plays longer than its 7,435 yards due to the incredible amount of elevation shifts across the course. Since there is essentially no penal rough on the grounds, it gives a lean to those in the field who have extra distance. It’s not essential to have have the ability to contend in a long drive contes, history has proven otherwise, but it certainly makes the path to eagles and birdie on the par 5s less resistant.
Even someone like Reed, not especially known for his driving prowess, was well above his usual baseline at Augusta in 2018. Reed gained +3.35 strokes with his driver. He’d only gained more than that in two starts in the previous two years before the victory (2017 Travelers; 2017 Memorial). Woods didn’t gain a ton the last time he won (+1.51 SG:OTT), but that was enough of leverage on the field to make his +9.02 Strokes Gained: Approach number really matter. If you decide to back one of the non-elite drivers, their irons and putter better be electric all four days.
So far in 2021, the leaders in SG: OTT per round (from measured events) in the field are: Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Cameron Champ, John Rahm, Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka.
I don’t want to make it sound like Augusta is easy. It tends to vary every year based on the conditions. Rumors swirling from beyond the gates this year indicate the course is playing incredibly firm and fast. A far cry from the receptive conditions we witnessed in November. There is rain in the forecast after Friday, along with high wind gusts that day, too, but the filtration system at Augusta may as well be out of the Jetsons, or at least designed by Elon Musk. A lot of courses have a SubAir system under the greens to suck out the water and allow the grounds crew to make the putting surfaces as fast or slow as they want. Augusta has those on each green… and under every fairway. So, even if it does rain, don’t expect a long period of time with receptive course conditions.
There are 41 bunkers, six water hazards and a whole lotta pine straw scattered across the grounds. Unless there’s an untimely tree in the way, however, the pine straw isn’t the end of the world. The bentgrass greens are around TOUR average in size; the major difference is the wild undulations. These are some of the most hilly and fastest putting surfaces the players will encounter all year. Kevin Na, Matt Kuchar and Jon Rahm have the most Strokes Gained: Putting per round on fast greens the last three years.
The speed and bumps are one of the largest factors since course history plays a more significant factor at Augusta than any other course. That’s not anecdotal either. Course history on a week-to-week basis holds very little predictive value at most events, despite the prevailing narrative, but the Masters is an outlier in that regard.
Also, look at some courses where there has been crossover success on leaderboards over the year. Quail Hollow appears to have some correlation, as do TPC Deere Run and Kapalua because of the angled fairways, but Riviera CC, with its similar shot shapes from the tee box, elevation changes, unique green complexes and elevation changes, sports a very similar course history crossover to Augusta.
For overall course history, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Rose have most Total Strokes Gained of players in the field over the past five years. Of the non-olds, Tyrrell Hatton, Zach Johnson, Gary Woodland, MacKenzie Hughes and Matt Wallace have lost the most strokes to the field.
2021 Masters: Trends
Trends are more for fun talking points, but it’s worth noting nine straight Masters champions have had at least two Top 15 finishes in their three tournaments leading into the event. Based on that criteria, the winner will be either Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Brian Harman, Victor Perez, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Jason Kokrak, Corey Conners, Matt Kuchar or Matthew Fitzpatrick. Angel Cabrera (2009) was the last player to place outside the Top 35 in his final pre-Master’s tune up (MC at the Shell Houston Open. In fact, he actually MC’d the two tournaments prior).
Now for the real stuff: the last nine Green Jacket winners boast a name (the first and last in which they are regularly called) no longer than 13 letters (Charl Schwartzel was the last exception in 2011). And six of those nine had a name of 11 or 12 letters. Using both trends, that leaves Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jason Kokrak, Victor Perez, Brian Harman or Corey Conners as the 2021 champions.
You can argue, but this science, clearly.
2021 Masters: Glossary
If you are new to the Masters, there are a few terms you need to familiarize yourself with to speak the language with those who have been watching for five decades:
Amen Corner – First coined by Herbert Warren Wind in 1958, Amen Corner spans from the second shot at the 11th through the drive at 13. It’s the most famous stretch of holes on the course (in all of golf, really) and its risk-reward potential can create massive fluctuations atop the leaderboard.
Butler’s Cabin – The most noteworthy of the 10 cabins scattered across the grounds of Augusta National. Constructed in 1964, Butler’s Cabin is home to the Green Jacket presentation, where the year’s previous champion bestows the new champion with golf’s highest sartorial honor.
First Nine, Second Nine – At most courses, it’s acceptable to refer to the holes going out as the “front nine” and those coming in as the “back nine,” but at Augusta National it’s a faux pas. Why? Because they’re superior to us mortals.
Friends – All of us, to Jim Nantz.
Green Jacket – The ultimate prize. Winners are presented the Green Jacket on the 18th green after victory, then again in Butler’s Cabin in a separate presentation. It’s so nice, you get to wear it twice.
Magnolia Lane – After passing through the gates, you’ll find yourself heading toward the course, traveling down Magnolia Lane. It’s known for a plethora of magnolia trees on both sides of the road (duh) that converge to create an exalted vista, producing an ambiance matched only by its wintertime companion: the drive up to the creepy house in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. However, that drive is only recommended for the achromatic enthusiasts among us.
Patrons – Don’t think of using the terms “crowd,” “gallery” or “fans” on the grounds at Augusta. They are patrons, and they shall be on their best behavior.
Tributary – A term usually exclusively reserved for seventh grade geography classes and maps of inland Scandinavia, there is a tributary that runs off Rae’s Creek by the green on 13.
2021 Masters Picks
Webb Simpson ($9,000; +3300)
Differentiating between the most expensive players is essentially a luck-based decision. There are equal pros and cons for all of those guys who are cut above. We can start finding value down the list a little easier, and we can stop at Simpson. He sits inside the Top 10 of the World Rankings and has covertly been putting up quality results at Augusta the past few years. Simpson, along with Johnson, Rahm and Koepka are the only players to have Top 10 finishes each of the past two years at the Masters. His form as been wonky in 2021, but he’s still managed two Top 6 finishes. And if conditions do actually play fast and firm, Webb needs to follow the Woods and Reed path to a Green Jacket: be slightly better than average off the tee, crush with he irons and have his regular short game/putting show up all four rounds. His path is more difficult than the very elite players. But, unlike a lot of players in this field, there is a path to Simpson winning.
Matthew Fitzpatrick ($8,100; +3300)
There’s been a gigantic improvement from Fitzpatrick with his driver. He’s added distance in 2021 and has actually average the sixth-most strokes per round off the tee this year. Strangely, it’s been his irons that have taken a step back. He can’t afford an awful approach week, but no one can if they’re going to be in contention. And being in contention is something Fitzpatrick has done all year. He has no result worse than T11 in any of his past four stroke play starts. He’s made the cut at Augusta in five straight years and is one of the few players in the field whose chances actually increase if terrible conditions pop up out of nowhere.
Max Homa ($7,100; +9000)
Homa may have peaked with his win at The Genesis, but there’s something about the places he has played well in his career which points to him lasting late into the weekend at Augusta. Primarily, where he’s won. Homa has two career wins: Riviera and Quail Hollow. The two courses which have seen the largest crossover leaderboards to the Masters over the past decade. A win in his second Masters may be too big of an ask, however, at $7,100 on DraftKings and in the Top 10 betting market, Homa has flashed enough skill to show his game will eventually translate to Augusta National. Hopefully it happens sooner than most expect.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
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