By: Edward Egros

April 2019

Previewing the 2019 Masters

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If you didn't know, Masters merchandise can only be purchased on the grounds of Augusta National. Officially, swag with the flagstick firmly planted on the Southeast corner of the United States can only be picked up by attending golf's first major. Tradition rarely ever changes in Augusta, Georgia.

Over the past few years I have researched which statistics best predict who will win the Masters, and just like Masters merchandise, time has not changed the approach.
As I have mentioned in previous conversations, my approach involves predicting who will earn the biggest share of purse winnings, not a score. This approach gives me a constant dependent variable instead of something discrete like "did they win" or what placement did each golfer finish with. To address that many golfers will not cash by failing to make the cut, I use a Tobit regression that, put simply, accounts for a lot of zeroes. Most of the factors used to diagnose a golfer's game come from Strokes Gained statistics. The last variable I look at is "Money Share" that is a proxy for course history, answering how well golfers have played at Augusta National before.

Of all of these factors, Strokes Gained: Putting proved not to be useful in terms of forecasting a winner. Putting is an uncertain activity where even the slightest break or inconsistency in the green can change a putt's trajectory. There also does not seem to be much of a trend in the ability to putt
from one round to the next.

For some additional trends, since 2010, every Masters champion but one was in the Top 50 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (and often in the Top 10). Also, since 2012, every winner was in the Top 25 in the
Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) heading into the tournament. Both trends were even more exclusive, until Patrick Reed's win last season lowered the aforementioned thresholds. Still, both trends are significant when determining a winner.

Now, to address the tiger in the room, Tiger Woods certainly falls in line with all of these trends. He ranks 9th in
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, sits 12th in the OWGR and, of course, he's won four green jackets, though the last one was worn in 2005. The favorite in Rory McIlroy has finished half of his Masters in the Top 10, is currently leading in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and sits 3rd in OWGR.

However, my pick to win is Justin Rose. One of the tricky things about Strokes Gained statistics is they do not account for international tournaments. International players are often miscalculated because how they perform away from American soil may not always come into the equation. On the PGA Tour, he's 26th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, but internationally, he's won the Turkish Airlines Open, finished 8th in the Sky Sports British Masters and earned
a Top 25 at the BNI Indonesian Masters. Lastly, at Augusta National, Rose has finished second in two of the last four years and can boast 11 Top 25 finishes out of 13 starts. He has come close, but I believe Justin Rose will finally capture his first green jacket and spend much more time at the souvenir shops nearby.

For those who play Daily Fantasy Sports, I submit two lineups as often as I can:

Justin Rose
Rickie Fowler
Hideki Matsuyama
Shane Lowry
Justin Harding
Sergio Garcia

Justin Thomas
Bubba Watson
Xander Schauffele
Henrik Stenson
Brandt Snedeker
Webb Simpson

As always, special thanks to
ShotLink for providing the data.