As usual, the Masters has no shortage of interesting storylines, and this year’s version is no exception. Here are some of the biggest storylines, along with best bets from Brady Kannon, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans.
Storylines to watch
Will he or won't he?
Tiger Woods is on the grounds at Augusta National looking to play his first event 14 months after his horrific car crash. He is a perfect 21-for-21 in Masters cuts made as a professional, and for the first time in his career that streak could be in potential jeopardy.
Grand Slam or Grand Slump?
It is hard to believe that Rory McIlroy last won a major championship on August 10, 2014. This means that the 2022 Masters will be the eighth time for him to try and complete golf's version of the modern Grand Slam, which has only been accomplished by five players -- Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.
Masters of their domain?
Numerous contenders such as Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka have been vying for their first Masters victory after years of close calls.
It is not just Tiger that comes in with questions regarding health and fitness. Top contenders like Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Abraham Ancer, and Bryson DeChambeau are coming to Augusta in less-than-ideal health.
Two months ago, Scottie Scheffler was seeking his first PGA Tour victory; now he has three in less than two months. He will come to Augusta making his first start as the new World No. 1. Can he live up to new expectations?
Reynolds: The Masters Tournament began in 1934 and has been held at the Augusta National Golf Club each year. Since 1949, a green jacket is awarded to the champion who must return it to the clubhouse one year after his victory, although it remains his personal property and is stored with other champions' jackets in a specially designated cloakroom. The winner also receives a sterling replica of the Masters trophy and a gold medal to go along with the green jacket.
Spectators are scheduled to return to the event, but in reduced numbers with social distancing requirements put in place.
Players will need to be in the Top 50, including ties, in order to make the cut.
There are 91 players comprising this week’s field for the 2022 Masters, all of whom I’ve broken down right here.
Reynolds: Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA has hosted the Masters Tournament since 1934 and this will be the 86th Masters (cancelled from 1943-1945 due to World War II). ANGC was designed in 1933 by Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. It is a Par 72 of 7,510 yards that plays longer than its listed yardage. Augusta National usually plays to its standard firm and fast conditions. ANGC is a classical, undulating meadowlands track. Water is in play on five holes. The fairways are Overseeded Perennial Ryegrass with Bermuda grass base. The rough isn't very thick (1.5') but there are trees and pine straws that provide obstacles after errant tee shots.
Meanwhile, the greens are Bentgrass that will be fast and slick and run from 13-14 feet on the stimpmeter. Shots not in the right spots can fall into tough, shaved run-offs. The lack of rough around the green complexes creates indecision both with approach shots and recovery chips. Longer hitters certainly benefit here, and players must take advantage of the Par 5s, but on-target approach shots are what put you in position to win here.
There are 41 bunkers and 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 are the wild undulations. These are some of the hilliest and fastest putting surfaces the players will encounter all year.
No course really is a direct comparison nor has a direct correlation to Augusta National, but Muirfield Village, Plantation Course at Kapalua, Bay Hill, Riviera CC, Accordia Golf Narashino, Torrey Pines, and Quail Hollow have had the most common characteristics and most common winners.
Masters Recent History/Winners
2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10/278); 45/1
2020: Dustin Johnson (-20/268); 9/1
2019: Tiger Woods (-13/275); 16/1
2018: Patrick Reed (-15/273); 50/1
2017: Sergio Garcia (-9/279); 40/1*
2016: Danny Willett (-5/283); 66/1
2015: Jordan Spieth (-18/270); 10/1
2014: Bubba Watson (-8/280); 25/1
2013: Adam Scott (-9/279); 28/1**
2012: Bubba Watson (-10/278); 50/1***
2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14/274); 90/1
2010: Phil Mickelson (-16/272); 10/1
Playoff win over Justin Rose - *
Playoff win over Angel Cabrera - **
Playoff win over Louis Oosthuizen - ***
Masters Recent Trends
· Nine of the last 10 Masters winners ranked 16th or better in the official World Golf Rankings coming into the tournament (2021, Matsuyama was 25th).
· The past 17 Masters winners have all finished Round 1 tied for 10th place or better.
· Nine of the last 12 Masters winners had played in at least three Masters tournaments before getting the victory. Going back further, this trend used to be at least six trips to Augusta before winning. The point is that experience matters here.
· Six of last 12 Masters winners had posted a win earlier that same season.
· Each of last 12 Masters winners has posted a Top 10 finish that same season.
· Nine of the last 10 Masters winners had at least two Top 15 finishes in their three events leading up to the tournament. Matsuyama in 2021 is the lone exception.
· The Masters defending champion has not successfully defended his title since Tiger Woods (2002).
· In 2020, Dustin Johnson became the first World No. 1 to win the Masters since Tiger Woods (2002).
· Dating back to 2007, only two event winners the week before the Masters finished Top 10 or better at Augusta (Anthony Kim, third in 2010; Jordan Spieth, winner in 2021).
Justin Thomas 14-1 (Caesars Sportsbook)
Reynolds: Phil Mickelson may not be in the field this week, but his longtime caddie that was on the bag for all of his Masters victories is at Augusta. Jim “Bones” Mackay liked working in television, but always had the itch to return as a caddie for the right player. That player for “Bones” is Justin Thomas. Before last year’s T-21st, Thomas had shown incremental improvement every year at Augusta, capped off by finishing fourth in 2020 (where he was the 36-hole leader).