2020 MASTERS PICKS, ODDS, PREDICTIONS: GOLF INSIDER BREAKS DOWN FIELD, REVEALS SURPRISING PICKS
Consummate golf stats expert Sal Johnson was all over Tigers Woods in his 2019 best bets for the Masters
It’s finally time for the 2020 Masters, and an elite field let it fly on Thursday at Augusta National. Bryson DeChambeau is the favorite at 8-1 in the latest 2020 Masters odds from William Hill Sportsbook, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson right behind at 9-1. Before you make any 2020 Masters picks, you MUST see who Sal Johnson is backing.
A media legend and consummate golf insider, Johnson knows exactly what it takes to win at Augusta National. Before last year’s Masters, he featured Tiger Woods in his best bets despite the four-time winner coming off back surgery. Johnson noted Woods’ tee-to-green game looked almost as sharp as it did in his prime, “and this will be the reason for him winning.” The result? Woods shot 13-under, edging Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele to earn his fifth green jacket.
Johnson has been spot-on all year. He pegged Sungjae Im as a top contender before his first Tour win at the Honda Classic in March and touted surging Tyrrell Hatton before his breakthrough at the Arnold Palmer the following week.
At the St. Jude Invitational, he said 100-1 longshot Phil Mickelson would contend, and the 50-year-old tied for second. And before their epic duel at Olympia Fields, the stats expert had Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson listed as his top two golfers.
Now Johnson, the first producer of “Inside the PGA Tour,” a longtime ABC Sports golf producer who worked with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman, and the founder of the world’s top golf stats database, has released his highly confident 2020 Masters picks, and they will surprise you.
We can tell you Johnson is fading Bryson DeChambeau even though he won the last major and comes in as the favorite! The tour’s big bopper doesn’t have a solid history at Augusta National, where he has never finished in the top 20, and a driver change could hurt more than help. The golf insider suggests you steer clear of the U.S. Open champ this week.
Instead, Johnson is all over a shot higher than 30-1 who has been playing well at Augusta for many years! This veteran enters the week on fire, so his game could be peaking at just the right time. Anyone who backs this underdog could cash in BIG!
Here are Johnson’s picks and analysis. Click here for more golf news and picks.
Masters week is always the best of the golf year, and there are many reasons. Augusta National is considered one of the best courses in the world, and it’s usually the beginning of spring, when Augusta is blossoming. It also is typically the first major, and the beginning of the events where the best players in the world converge.
But mostly what makes the Masters special is the magical effect you feel once you step on the property. It’s what I imagine heaven being, something close to perfect.
But COVID-19 seemed to end our dreams of a Masters for 2020. Fortunately, the golf world found a way to coexist with the pandemic, and the 2020 Masters will be played this week, seven months later than expected.
One of the wonders of the Masters is seeing the azaleas in full bloom, but the robust colors of Augusta won’t be around this week.
It will still be Augusta National, but the fairways and greens will not be as firm as we are used to. The greens will always be terrifying, as the speed will be the same, but shots to the green could be a bit easier.
For years, we have heard the experts say only about 25 players have a realistic shot at winning at Augusta. But historically, that is a myth.
The last decade started out right, with favorite Phil Mickelson shooting 67-67 over the weekend to notch a three-shot win in 2010. But since then, the favorites haven’t risen to the top. Instead of the Rory McIlroys or Dustin Johnsons, we have seen players like Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson, Danny Willett and Patrick Reed winning.
The question for this week’s Masters will be, can one of the top players win? Dustin Johnson sits atop the World Ranking, Jon Rahm ranks second, Justin Thomas is No. 3 and Collin Morikawa ranks fourth, followed by Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele.
Conventional wisdom points to one of those eight donning the green jacket on Sunday. But reality and history tell us that a player like Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Matthew Wolff or even Tommy Fleetwood could be a better choice.
So what will it take to win? Eight of the past 10 winners hit a lot of greens, and the two who were not in the top 10 in greens hit (Charl Schwartzel in 2011 and Patrick Reed in 2018) had hot putters.
Playing well coming into the event always helps. Jordan Spieth won the Valspar and was second at the Texas Open and Houston Open in the weeks leading up to his 2015 Masters title. Only one missed a cut in the weeks leading up to the Masters, with Patrick Reed missing the weekend at the Honda six weeks before his win.
Maybe that is good news for Dustin Johnson, who tied for second in Houston and hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his last six starts. He seems to be playing as well as he was in 2017 when he won three in a row before injuring his leg on the eve of the Masters and having to withdraw.
So does that mean anyone playing well can win, like Daniel Berger, Sungjae Im or Jason Kokrak? Probably not, because one thing Masters winners have in common is, they have been in contention at a major before. Players who don’t have that experience don’t do well at the Masters. The last Masters winner who had never been in contention at a major was Zach Johnson in 2007.
You can also pretty much eliminate players who have never won on tour. Could someone like Abraham Ancer or Max Homa win? Absolutely not. The last player to win the Masters without a PGA Tour victory was 1948 Masters champion Claude Harmon, and he never won another event.
Augusta National Golf Club
This is the 84th edition of this event, and it has been played every year except when it was suspended from 1943-45 during World War II. It is the only major played on the same course each year.
The Masters was conceived by Bobby Jones, who had dreamed of having a U.S. Open played at Augusta National. With the hot summer in June, Jones approached the USGA about playing the Open at Augusta in April. The idea was rejected, so Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to hold their own event beginning in 1934.
Roberts proposed that the event be called the Masters’ Tournament, but Jones thought it was too presumptuous. It was known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament until 1939, when Jones relented and the name was officially changed.
The course has been changed several times over its 86 years. The grasses have changed between bent and Bermuda grass, Today, Augusta National’s tees and fairways are Bermuda, and they are overseeded each fall with rye grass. The greens are bent grass that gives them their tremendous speed and smoothness.
The average green size at Augusta is 6,150 square feet, which is about the PGA Tour average. Water comes into play on five holes on the backside, and there are only 43 bunkers.
In past years, the course has played hard. In 2014, it played to a 73.95 average. But last year, the course was tame, and for the first time since 1992 it played under par at 71.87.
Could that happen this year with fall conditions? Possibly, and the weather will be a big factor. There is an 80 percent chance of rain Thursday, it drops to 40 for Friday and Saturday and rises to 50 percent for Sunday. Winds will be low, but with the course playing soft, look for those who hit it long.
Keys to winning
It takes a lot to win the Masters, including precise ball striking like Ben Hogan, power like Tiger Woods, deft touch with a putter like Ben Crenshaw and a mind like Jack Nicklaus. All of these are important if a player wants to don the green jacket.
Precision is a must. With the stepp, contoured greens, shots to the green have to be placed in an area where you will have an easy putt. That’s why players like Nick Faldo and Ben Hogan have five titles. A poor putter usually doesn’t win, and being able to avoid three-putts is essential.
Stats are great, but in reality they don’t mean much when it comes to picking a winner at the Masters. Since 1993, the only real favorites to win the Masters were Tiger Woods (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005) and Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010). How many folks placed a bet on Woods to win last year or Patrick Reed the year before? Or 2016 champion Danny Willett?
Players like Sergio Garcia (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015), Bubba Watson (2014) and Adam Scott (2013) weren’t big surprises, but few thought Watson would win in 2012. And Charl Schwartzel (2011), Angel Cabrera (2009), Trevor Immelman (2008) and Zach Johnson (2007) were all well off the radar.
Still, you can’t beat success, and guys like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka know how to win. It’s hard to believe we are looking at these two, who weren’t playing well five months ago and are both getting over injuries from 2019.
√ The major key is the ability to hit greens and place the shots on the correct side of the pin. You could hit 65 greens and it could be a failure if you placed the ball 40 feet from the hole and ended up with three-putts.
√ The players who manage the weather will have the advantage. The rain will create slow rounds and make it nearly impossible to keep things dry.
√ Green’s have a lot of undulation, and if you’re on the wrong side, the putt is nearly impossible. Keeping it on the right side makes life a lot easier.
√ Birdies will be hard to come by, but if you can make your fair share you can win.
√ Experience and getting to know the course are important. Caddies always make a difference for players, but this week they will play a huge role in helping players judge shots into the greens and helping read breaks.
One of these three should win
1. Dustin Johnson
√ When he gets on a roll like this, he is nearly impossible to beat. He is a man with a purpose, and that is to win another major. In his last six starts, he has a win and three runner-ups and has been in the top six in all of them.
√ His record in his last four starts at the Masters is better than anyone’s. He was the runner-up last year, was T-10 in 2018, T-4 in 2016 and T-6 in 2015. In those 16 rounds, he is 29 under.
√ The key for Johnson at Augusta is his dominance on the par-5s. He is 43 under on the par-5s in his last 16 rounds.
2. Xander Schauffele
√ Has only played Augusta twice, finishing T-2 last year and T-50 in 2018. His game is perfect for the course.
√ He has played well lately, with a T-2 at the Tour Championship, fifth at the U.S. Open and second at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.
√ Is 12th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 13th in strokes gained putting and fifth in birdie average, and all of these show Schauffele could have a great week at the Masters.
3. Brooks Koepka
√ There’s an old saying in golf, “beware the injured golfer.” Koepka showed last week in Houston with his T-5 finish and shooting 65-65 over the weekend that his knee is doing well after two months of rehab.
√ He was T-2 at the Masters last year, showing that he can do well, and he was T-6 in greens hit and played the par-5s in 12 under
Players with momentum
4. Justin Thomas
√ His record at Augusta is not the best, with his T-12 last year his best finish in four starts.
√ He is trending in a positive direction, finishing T-2 at the Zozo Championship and T-8 at the U.S. Open. He will be sailing under the radar this week at Augusta, and he is one to really watch.
√ Is 18th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 33rd in strokes gained putting, 31st in greens in regulation, and in his last 12 rounds at Augusta, he is 21 under on the par-5s.
5. Jon Rahm
√ Was fourth at the Masters in 2018 and T-9 last year. He is 29 under on the par-5s in his 12 rounds.
√ Is a streaky player, but he won on tough courses at the Memorial and BMW Championship. His only problem is his temper. Can he keep his cool on a course like Augusta National?
√ Is eighth in strokes gained tee-to-green, T-43 in greens in regulation. You have to like that he was 10th in greens hit at last year’s Masters and was 15th in 2018.
6. Jason Day
√ The key for him is to be healthy. Augusta is a course he always plays well on. In nine starts, he been in the top 10 four times, including a T-2 in 2011, third in 2013 and T-5 last year.
√ Finished T-7 in Houston, and he looked like his game was coming around.
√ Keep track of how he is doing in the practice rounds to be sure the weather isn’t going to affect his back.
Solid credentials to win
7. Rory McIlroy
√ Rory has disappointed us all year, even though his game hasn’t been that bad. We know he can regain the magic in a heartbeat, and maybe it’s this week
√ Looking for that Masters win to complete the career Grand Slam. Has been in the top 10 in five of his last six starts at Augusta, his best a fourth in 2015.
√ He finished T-8 at the U.S. Open.
8. Tony Finau
√ One of those guys who can surprise us at the Masters. He was T-5 last year and T-10 in 2018.
√ Has played well in the last three months, with his best finish T-3 at the 3M Open.
√ Is 11th in strokes gained tee-to-green and has putted well in his two Masters starts.
9. Webb Simpson
√ Was T-5 in last year’s Masters.
√ His game hasn’t been as sharp, but he finished T-8 at the U.S. Open.
√ Parts of his game show he could be good at Augusta. He hits a lot of greens, is a good scrambler and plays well on the par-5s.
10. Patrick Cantlay
√ Was T-9 at the Masters last year.
√ His game finally came around with his win at the Zozo Championship.
√ He is a shot maker playing a course that rewards shot makers.
Rookies who will do well
11. Matthew Wolff
√ Have to like the fact he was second at the U.S. Open and T-4 at the PGA Championship.
√ It will be interesting to see how his game fits at Augusta, and his length will help him a lot.
12. Collin Morikawa
√ His game has not been sharp since he won the PGA Championship.
√ He is great from tee to green, but his putting will take a beating on the very sharp Augusta greens
Can he do it a sixth time?
13. Tiger Woods
√ Augusta is probably the only major course he can contend on.
√ Hasn’t been in contention since winning the Zozo a year ago
√ Always a sentimental favorite, but realistically he will have problems.
Be careful about them
14. Bryson DeChambeau
√ Yes, he has made the cut in all of his Masters starts, but his best finish is T-21.
√ The new driver with a longer shaft won’t make much difference, and if anything it could disturb him.
15. Hideki Matsuyama
√ He was fifth at the Masters in 2015 and T-7 in 2016.
√ His game is good from tee to green, but he has a tough time at Augusta.
√ He isn’t good at all on the greens despite how good he is getting there.