Scott Shapiro's 2021 Masters preview
After a once-in-a-lifetime November experience in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is outstanding to have golf’s biggest tournament back in its normal spot on the calendar, in early April.
Since 1934, the Masters has been played at one of the world’s most renowned golf courses, Augusta National. The club located in Georgia, near the South Carolina border, is known for its immaculate design, rolling hills, wide fairways, and fast, undulating greens.
It is not good enough to just be highly skilled in one or two facets of the game if one wants to be successful at Augusta. Sure, “bombing and gauging” can be advantageous, and an elite short game can be a difference maker, but in the end, it takes a full arsenal of skills to best the top golfers in the world and don the green jacket Sunday evening. With a number of the world’s best in great form, it should be a week to remember.
As usual, the Masters field is loaded, led by defending champion and top-ranked player in the world, Dustin Johnson. But the 36-year-old has not been in great form.
Although he failed to get out of the group stage at the WGC Match Play and finished outside the top 45 at the Players Championship, and WGC-Mexico prior to that, the two-time major champion tops the outright market at +900. Johnson is followed by 2020 U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, new father Jon Rahm, and 2021 Players Championship victor Justin Thomas.
2021 Masters odds
Normally, I avoid the top-tier golfers, because they lack value, and I rarely bet a golfer off a win, but I am breaking both “rules” at this year’s Masters.
Jordan Spieth (+1100, +275 top 5)
What a long, strange trip it has been for the 12-time PGA Tour winner. The former University of Texas star blasted out of the gate to start his professional career, including a runner-up finish in his Masters debut in 2014. Spieth followed up the incredible maiden voyage at Augusta with two major victories in 2015 and appeared poised for one of the great careers in PGA history, when he bested Matt Kuchar at Royal Birkdale to capture his second Open Championship.
However, it has been a bumpy road ever since. The 2015 PGA Player of the Year rattled off some top 10 finishes over the next couple years, including a third at the Masters in 2018 and a third at the PGA Championship in 2019, but he was not the same player who wowed the golfing world with his clutch putts and dominant short game.
Things began to change at the Phoenix Open a couple months ago, when Spieth shot a 10-under 61 in the third round and finished in fourth place. He followed that up with a third at Pebble Beach, a 15th at Riviera, a fourth at Bay Hill, and most recently his first victory in nearly four years at the Texas Open. He heads to Augusta in amazing form.
Course history is not always the “stickiest” statistic, but experience over the terrain matters at Augusta, and few possess a better résumé than Spieth.
He boasts four top 3 finishes, to go along with an 11th and a 21st, in his seven starts at the Masters, and unlike the past few years, he rates extremely well in terms of analytics as he looks to win back-to-back events for the third time in his career.
He ranks second in the field over the last 24 rounds in birdie or better percentage, fifth in strokes gained tee to green, sixth in par 5 scoring, fourth in par 4 scoring between 400 and 450 yards, and 11th in strokes gained putting.
Spieth appears ready to put on another show in Georgia.