Gdula's Golf Simulations: The Masters

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the Masters, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Dustin Johnson8.0%44.7%92.1%+950
Bryson DeChambeau6.7%40.5%91.1%+950
Justin Thomas6.1%38.6%90.5%+1100
Jon Rahm6.1%39.2%90.6%+1200
Xander Schauffele5.4%38.1%90.2%+2500
Jordan Spieth3.7%25.1%82.2%+1100
Tony Finau3.3%28.3%86.2%+3500
Patrick Cantlay3.3%27.8%86.2%+2000
Daniel Berger3.2%29.0%86.2%+3900
Viktor Hovland2.8%24.9%84.4%+3500
Patrick Reed2.5%24.2%84.2%+3200
Webb Simpson2.4%24.0%83.7%+4300
Rory McIlroy2.4%21.2%82.2%+1900
Brooks Koepka2.3%21.7%82.3%+2600
Tyrrell Hatton2.2%21.3%81.9%+4700
Collin Morikawa1.9%19.3%80.4%+2900
Joaquin Niemann1.8%21.1%82.4%+6000
Matthew Fitzpatrick1.7%19.4%80.8%+4600
Paul Casey1.6%17.5%79.2%+3600
Scottie Scheffler1.5%16.9%78.7%+4000
Cameron Smith1.3%16.1%77.4%+3900
Will Zalatoris1.3%19.1%75.8%+9000
Hideki Matsuyama1.3%15.1%77.3%+4000
Jason Day1.3%15.4%77.3%+6000
Louis Oosthuizen1.2%13.6%75.9%+9000
Sungjae Im1.0%11.7%73.0%+3900
Corey Conners1.0%14.2%76.0%+9500
Sergio Garcia1.0%13.5%75.3%+4900
Ryan Palmer1.0%13.0%74.9%+16000
Abraham Ancer0.9%12.9%75.4%+9500
Brian Harman0.9%12.3%73.9%+12000
Jason Kokrak0.9%16.2%77.7%+12000
Si Woo Kim0.9%12.6%74.4%+16000
Kevin Kisner0.9%12.4%74.1%+19000
Harris English0.9%12.6%72.6%+12000
Billy Horschel0.8%11.4%73.1%+10000
Adam Scott0.8%10.4%71.7%+4900
Lanto Griffin0.7%12.0%73.7%+21000
Bubba Watson0.7%9.8%70.6%+8500
Kevin Na0.7%9.7%70.5%+19000
Matthew Wolff0.6%9.7%70.6%+12000
Tommy Fleetwood0.6%8.3%67.9%+4900
Christiaan Bezuidenhout0.6%10.1%70.1%+16000
Zach Johnson0.6%9.8%70.7%+21000
Brendon Todd0.6%9.4%69.4%+29000
Shane Lowry0.6%8.5%68.1%+10000
Lee Westwood0.5%5.7%63.1%+3600
Mackenzie Hughes0.5%8.4%68.8%+29000
Justin Rose0.5%8.3%68.0%+10000
Max Homa0.5%8.4%68.6%+10000
Carlos Ortiz0.5%8.7%67.7%+18000
Matt Wallace0.5%8.1%67.7%+12000
Matt Jones0.4%8.0%67.4%+18000
Ian Poulter0.4%6.7%65.0%+16000
Sebastian Munoz0.3%6.8%65.2%+18000
Dylan Frittelli0.3%6.1%63.9%+18000
Matt Kuchar0.3%4.9%60.9%+12000
Gary Woodland0.3%5.3%62.5%+16000

The models are liking Dustin Johnson's chances to repeat. He's listed at +950 on FanDuel Sportsbook, same as Bryson DeChambeau. Neither are positive values, according to the model, but DJ would be the better bet among the favorites.

The next tier also rates out fine but as overvalued: Jordan Spieth (+1100), Justin Thomas (+1100), and Jon Rahm (+1200). Spieth is fresh off a win and has four career top-three finishes at Augusta (with a win), and Rahm has great form at Augusta, too. Thomas is trending up at the Masters long term.

Where the value really stands out is with Xander Schauffele, who has fallen to +2500 this week. Statistically -- from a sheer data standpoint -- he is on the same plane as Johnson, DeChambeau, Rahm, and Thomas long-term but just hasn't converted his wins. He has a runner-up at Augusta in 2019 and a 17th back in November. Blocking out the name and "closing factor," Xander is a very obvious value bet at the number.

Speaking of failing to close out potential wins, let's talk Tony Finau at +3500. He's a positive value according to the simulations and has done well at Augusta historically: 10th, 5th, 38th in three tries.

Other even or plus values include Daniel Berger (+3900), Viktor Hovland (+3500), Webb Simpson (+4300), Tyrrell Hatton (+4700), and Joaquin Niemann (+6000).

I don't want to get sucked into long shots for the Masters because of the field strength but will look to them for top-10s. Guys who have my eye include Corey Conners, Louis Oosthuizen, Ryan Palmer, and Jason Kokrak currently.

I've already bet Schauffele, Finau, Berger, and Simpson to win this week. I covered a lot of my favorite alternate bets on this week's episode of Covering the Spread with Jim Sannes and Dr. Ed Feng.