The Masters, Meet FRACAS: A Projection Unlike Any Other
It’s Masters week – for the second time in 21 weeks.
After the fall Masters, the best golfers in the world head back to Augusta National Golf Course for a more traditional Masters Tournament. Reports are the superintendent was not thrilled with a winner reaching 20-under par, and conditions could be firm and fast the likes of which we rarely see at Augusta.
There are storylines aplenty heading into the week: Jordan Spieth, a winner for the first time in 3 1/2 years, Jon Rahm’s firstborn coming a week early to remove any chance he drops out mid-Masters, Brooks Koepka potentially teeing it up just a few weeks after knee surgery, and of course, the big gaping hole that is the absence of Tiger Woods.
There’s no shortage of 2021 Masters content on the world wide web, and if you’re looking for straight storytelling, there are others who can do the tournament better justice. However, if you’re looking for an analytical approach to predicting what will happen this week at Augusta, you’re in the right place.
A Quick Recap
Jordan Spieth, a former Masters champion, a winner again in April – just in Texas this time. After finishing first and second at the Valero Texas Open, Spieth and Charley Hoffman made the biggest jumps in our top 100 rankings. Each gained 0.226 strokes in our FRACAS standings, and Spieth moved up eight spots to 29th in our world rankings, while Hoffman moved up 17 to 51st. Other top finishers Matt Wallace and Lucas Glover moved up 20 spots to 70th and 16 spots to 81st, respectively. Korn Ferry Tour winner Stephen Jaeger is our biggest overall mover of the week, gaining a 0.246 FRACAS value and 48 spots to No. 130 in the world.
But that was then. You came for this…
The first thing we’ll note is that we aren’t using data from the November Masters in our hole composition statistics. Instead, we’re using data from the 2017-19 April Masters, which we feel better represents how the course will play in 2021.
Augusta National Golf Club is a par 72 measuring almost 7,500 yards. It’s a long course, and most of the added length comes from the par 4s, which are also the most difficult holes on the course. The 11th hole, named White Dogwood at the start of Amen Corner, plays a whopping 505 yards and has a slight dogleg right to a left-sided green with water protecting the front-left. It’s the most difficult hole on the course. Here, red holes are expected to play harder while purple are expected to play easier:
It’s also one of three par 4s with almost half a stroke or more of standard deviation, meaning holes that project to have the widest scoring variance. That essentially means these are the holes on which players have the greatest opportunities to distance themselves from the field – or lose plenty of ground in a hurry. While scoring on the par 5s is mandatory, it’s the par 4s that collectively have the highest standard deviations. Players who can steal birdies and scramble for par on the par 4s hold a massive advantage over those who cannot. The darker purple indicates those holes here:
The field is as strong as ever. With an average FRACAS of 0.60 strokes above PGA average and just the top 50 golfers making the cut, the competition to just make the weekend will be fierce. Using course-specific FRACAS, which takes into account a course’s hole-by-hole composition, no one gains more on their baseline than Dylan Frittelli. He gains almost 0.20 strokes over his baseline at Augusta, largely due to his excellent performance on long par 4s, where he is projected to gain 0.086 strokes over the field per round.
The Model’s Picks
As we discussed in last week’s preview, there’s a difference between who’s most likely to win, and who we think is a good value relative to the market.
We’ll start with the former before getting into our best bets. Jon Rahm is our model’s favorite to win. Short par 3s are the only area where he’s projected to score outside of the top 10 in the field, but he’s projected to score the best on the short par 4s and second best on the par 5s. The course suits him just fine, and we like his chances to come up with a career-changing win.
After the top-five players, there’s a steep drop-off to the next tier where the next eight golfers are all within one percentage point. With all of the top players in attendance, it becomes a bit of a free for all if none of these top five take control.
At this point you may be saying, “Hey, you forgot Jordan Spieth.” We hope he’s back to 2017 Spieth levels, but our model has been tested to use a certain level of recency bias, and it still weighs his years of poor performances. There’s no denying his Augusta wizardry, but our model puts his chances at a paltry 1.28%. Overall, there are 42 golfers who our model says have greater than a 1% chance to put on the green jacket, a testament to how quickly top players can find themselves well over par at Augusta.
The Model’s Value Plays
This is the rare tournament where the model sees value in one of the favorites. Xander Schauffele hasn’t won in almost two years, but winning a golf tournament is ridiculously hard, especially when a golfer picks and chooses only the best tournaments in which to appear. Schauffele has our second-highest Augusta National FRACAS number, trailing only Jon Rahm, and finished in second place the last time the Masters was held in April. Our model puts his odds to win at 16-1, well above the 21-1 the consensus odds are showing. He’s the only golfer below 30-1 that we see value in this week.
Moving into the middle range, there are a number of golfers that catch our eye. Of the golfers in our top 15 for the tournament, no one gains more FRACAS by being at Augusta than Patrick Reed, and it’s his work on long par 4s that does the trick. He’s projected to rank third in the field this week on the long par 4s. As we mentioned earlier, the ability to save par on the longer par 4s is critical at Augusta, and Reed is among the best at it. With a 3.73% chance to win, Reed is the cream of the second-level crop this week. Our 27-1 number gives us some value over the 30-1 we’re seeing in the consensus odds.
Another mid-tier favorite of ours is South African Louis Oosthuizen. Louis just can’t seem to win on American soil, but FRACAS likes where his game has been recently and sees an opportunity at Augusta this week. There isn’t a particular strength to Oosthuizen’s game, as he’s projected to gain strokes on all hole types in this field without cracking the top 10 in any of them. But there’s something to be said for being steady at a course where big numbers can take players out of the tournament in a hurry. We have Oosthuizen at 41-1 to win, much higher than the 61-1 the consensus odds are showing.
Getting closer to the triple-digit odds players, Jason Kokrak is another golfer we see getting a boost from the Augusta National course design. Kokrak is second in our course-added FRACAS totals, gaining an added 0.194 strokes per round (reminder: positive values are good in strokes gained). Like Reed, Kokrak performs exceptionally well on long par 4s, where he’s projected to gain 0.096 strokes per hole – sixth highest in the field. His putter runs hot and very (very) cold, and if he brings a hot one to the Masters, he could be primed for a top finish. We give him better than a 50-1 chance to win the jacket, and nearly a 10% chance to finish in the top 5.
Ryan Palmer has seen a personal resurgence over the last two years, adding some distance off the tee en route to climbing up the world rankings. Now ranked 27th in the world by OWGR and 31st by FRACAS, we give Palmer a better chance of winning this week than consistent top world golfers Hideki Matsuyama and Tommy Fleetwood. His scoring on par 5s has been spectacular of late, and he’s projected to score fifth best on such holes in this field. His distance and accuracy off the tee will be on display this weekend, and our odds of 65-1 for Palmer are far more bullish than the 120-1 we’re seeing across the markets.
Even with Palmer and Kokrak, history says they’re too big of longshots to win a jacket. No one over 50-1 has won the Masters in the last half decade. With these longer-odds golfers, we’re looking more at prop plays, finishing top 10 or top 20. Our biggest longshot that fits right into this group is Brendon Todd, who is among the shortest hitters in the field and projected to lose strokes to the field on the longer par 4s. However, he’s deadly with a wedge in his hand and is projected to gain significant strokes on the three short par 3s and the par 5s. His performance on par 5s may belie his length, and while eagle is typically out of the question, getting close to the pin in three after a layup is something Todd is comfortable with. Overall, we have Todd with just over a 100-1 chance to win, but we love his chances of making the cut, and he could be a sneaky play to finish in the top 10.
DraftKings GPP Value Plays
Our simulation model also simulates DraftKings results. This is an important distinction, as DraftKings fantasy golf points are driven both by finishing position and hole scoring. So players like Tony Finau who make a lot of birdies while also making some bogeys may be better DraftKings plays than players like Charles Howell III who have a great chance to make the cut, but don’t score much. We’ll go through each salary grouping and identify players we see as being underpriced relative to player value and those players who are around them. Generally, we’ll identify around 20 players we like, though that number can change depending on the size of the field.
Pick your poison with this group. Any of the players in this range are viable candidates to win, but we’ve identified four as our best values. Dustin Johnson’s recent form and inflated price pulls us off of him a bit, and we’d rather save a few bucks and go with Rahm or Bryson.
- Jon Rahm $11,000
- Bryson DeChambeau $10,800
- Justin Thomas $10,600
- Xander Schauffele $10,000
You could start and almost end your lineups with this group and you’d have little to complain about. While not the top tier, golfers like Reed, Simpson, and Berger have the winning history to compete for the green jacket, and we feel all are underpriced compared to those around them. The biggest outlier in this group is Lee Westwood. Though we saw some strong recent form, it is not improbable that it was a flash in the pan and Westwood could return to his more familiar form where he would likely be a $7,000 golfer.
- Patrick Reed $9,300
- Tony Finau $9,100
- Webb Simpson $9,000
- Tyrrell Hatton $8,900
- Viktor Hovland $8,700
- Daniel Berger $8,500
Perhaps our favorite group of players is found in this range. Fitzpatrick in particular comes in as our fifth-best value overall, relative to price. He’s a golfer who can bogey four in a row and bounce back with birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie, and that’s exactly what we love for fantasy scoring.
- Cameron Smith $8,200
- Matthew Fitzpatrick $8,100
- Sergio Garcia $7,900
- Paul Casey $7,700
- Adam Scott $7,600
- Louis Oosthuizen $7,500
There’s a lot of garbage in this range, but also some great value. The tricky part will be balancing the value and the ownership. These golfers will be popular because they’re all pretty good, and the other golfers in the low salary ranges are not.
- Joaquin Niemann $7,400
- Harris English $7,300
- Will Zalatoris $7,300
- Max Homa $7,100
- Corey Conners $6,900
- Jason Kokrak $6,900
- Brian Harman $6,800
- Ryan Palmer $6,500
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Design by Matt Sisneros.