Masters week is finally here. Golf fans everywhere are quietly holding their breath as the long-awaited stroll down Magnolia Lane quickly approaches. With only one day left before the start of the tournament, everyone is looking to answer the same question: “Who is going to win the Masters?” Whether you are looking for a leg up in your office pool or bragging rights between friends, our prediction hopes to answer your questions.

Since 1934, The Masters Tournament has been one of the most prestigious competitions in all of golf. It has long been said that earning the green jacket at Augusta National is far and away the most coveted honor in the sport. From the history of the famed course to the accolades that come with becoming a champion, winning at Augusta cannot be overstated.

So…Who will be the lucky winner of the most glorious award in all of golf? This year, we believe we have the answer.

Analysis

There is no shortage of statistics when it comes to the sport of golf. Whether you are looking at driving distance, greens in regulation, putting performance, or strokes gained, it is very easy to get bogged down in the infinite amount of data that is available. The hardest part is figuring out which of these factors really matter. To determine this, we have to look at what makes up a champion at Augusta.

Methodology

We are interested in predicting who has the highest likelihood of finishing first in the upcoming Masters tournament. We gathered player level PGA Tour data for every year from 2010 through 2020 from pgatour.com, and gathered Masters tournament results data for every year from 2011 through 2019 from masters.com.

Next, we specify a model that predicts each player’s finishing position in a Masters tournament using their prior year PGA Tour averages in various statistical categories. We apply a lasso regression method to predict each player’s finish, training our model on the 2011 through 2019 Masters results (using 2010 through 2018 PGA Tour data) and then employing our model to predict the 2020 Masters winner using 2020 PGA Tour data [1]. We hypothesize that, due to the inherent unpredictability of a golf tournament, the predictive power of any one specific statistical category should be limited. Lasso regression imposes constraints on both important and non-important variables in the training set, even forcing the predictive power of the most redundant variables to zero.

After testing our model on the 2011-2019 Masters results, we found that the most relevant factors in predicting Masters performance are Strokes Gained (putting and tee to green), Scoring Average, and Bounce Back %. The most nonrelevant variables were PGA Tour Rank, Putting Average, and Rough Tendency.

Strokes Gained Putting: Player performance putting. It compares how many putts a player took to the expected number of strokes to hole out based on the initial distance to the pin.

Strokes Gained tee to green: Number of strokes better or worse an individual player was than the field on average per round.

Scoring Average: Total stokes per player, per round, on average.

Bounce Back %: Player’s ability to follow a bad hole (over par) with a good hole (under par).

Top 10

We believe one of these golfers is going to win The Masters.

Projected FinishGolferOdds (via Oddshark)
1Justin Thomas+1100
2Bryson DeChambeau+800
3Webb Simpson+3300
4Jon Rahm+1000
5Patrick Reed+2800
6Dustin Johnson+900
7Xander Schauffele+1400
8Patrick Cantlay+2500
9Sungjae Im+5000
10Rory McIlroy+1200

Sleepers

Everyone loves to get behind an underdog. Based on performance data, we believe these three sleepers have a good chance of scoring low at The Masters.

Scottie Scheffler (+5000): After an incredible showing at the PGA Championship earlier this season (T4), this young golfer’s poise and natural ability should propel him to a nice finish during his first Masters appearance.

Sungjae Im (+5000): Another young gun looking to make a name for himself, Sungjae shows a lot of promise coming into his first Masters tournament. After a big victory at the Honda Classic earlier this season and a top 25 finish at the US Open, he has a great chance at shooting some low scores at Augusta. If he can keep it together over the first two days, expect Sungjae to make a run at the jacket headed into the weekend.

Cameron Smith (+8000): Perhaps the biggest sleeper in the group but not one to take lightly, we predict Cam to come in hot after his performance at the Zozo earlier this season. If he shows up the way he did in 2018 (T5), he could make a legitimate run at the green jacket. Expect this Aussie to display some stellar ball striking and to make a great case for himself early in the tournament.

Hot Takes

Brooks Koepka finishes outside of the top 10: Koepka’s season has been rocky to say the least. Between knee (then hip) injuries plaguing him for most of the season, it is safe to say he is not walking into the tournament at 100%. The only flat areas at Augusta seem to be the tee boxes which will only cause Brooks more trouble down the stretch. His shining light came last week where he finished 5th in Houston, but his ball striking seemed to be a bit lackluster. Brooks is an outstanding golfer who is definitely due for a Masters victory, but don’t expect his major-trophy case to gain a green jacket this weekend.

Conclusion

Picking a winner for any golf tournament – let alone The Masters – is an incredibly difficult task. Whether you are diving into an analysis or just going with your gut, its safe to say that come Sunday we will all be watching with enjoyment.


Appendix

Full Model Results: (Note: Players without sufficient sample size of rounds played were excluded)

Projected FinishGolfer
1Justin Thomas
2Bryson DeChambeau
3Webb Simpson
4Jon Rahm
5Patrick Reed
6Dustin Johnson
7Xander Schauffele
8Patrick Cantlay
9Sungjae Im
10Rory McIlroy
11Jason Day 
12Collin Morikawa 
13Tony Finau 
14Tommy Fleetwood 
15Tyrrell Hatton 
16Cameron Smith 
17Hideki Matsuyama 
18Justin Rose 
19Shane Lowry 
20Adam Hadwin 
21Gary Woodland 
22Sergio Garcia 
23Kevin Na 
24Ian Poulter 
25Lucas Glover 
Projected FinishGolfer
26Lanto Griffin 
27Adam Scott 
28J.T. Poston 
29Abraham Ancer 
30Phil Mickelson 
31Billy Horschel 
32Zach Johnson 
33Matt Wallace 
34Brandt Snedeker 
35Cameron Champ 
36Kevin Kisner 
37Matt Kuchar 
38Charles Howell III 
39Byeong Hun An 
40Danny Willett 
41Dylan Frittelli 
42Jordan Spieth 
43Jason Kokrak 
44Rickie Fowler 
45Matthew Fitzpatrick 
46Brendon Todd 
47Matthew Wolff 
48Paul Casey 
49Bubba Watson 
50Si Woo Kim 
51Louis Oosthuizen 
52Corey Conners 
53Max Homa 
54Brooks Koepka 
55Sung Kang 
56Tyler Duncan 
57Nick Taylor 
58Marc Leishman 
59Chez Reavie 
60Nate Lashley 
61Andrew Landry 
62C.T. Pan 
63Jimmy Walker 
64Andrew Putnam 
65Graeme McDowell 
[1] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Masters tournament was delayed from April until November. This gives us a unique opportunity to use 2020 PGA Tour statistics to predict the 2020 Masters outcome.


Authors

tom-millea-AMEND

Tom Millea is a Project Leader at AMEND Consulting. Specializing in Operations, he focuses primarily on business turnarounds, interim leadership, and change management. Aside from work, Tom loves golf, spending time with friends and family, and cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes.

Elijah Proffitt is a Senior Analyst focusing on technical solutions for clients. He loves the challenge of solving complex technical issues. He is passionate about data and technology, and his unique skill set covering methods in analytics, economics, and information technology helps him break down problems and hone in on solutions. He believes that good fortune happens at the intersection of opportunity and preparation, and that resilience and determination are the keys to success.


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