As the nine-event fall part of the 2021-22 PGA Tour is complete, let’s take this break to look ahead to some of the big events of 2022. And there are none bigger than the 2022 Masters Tournament, set for April 7-10, 2022 at Augusta National Golf Club in August, Georgia.
Last year, Hideki Matsuyama became the first person from Japan to win the tournament at 10-under, beating Will Zalatoris, who would end up at the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2021, by one stroke to capture the title. Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele were tied at seven-under while Jon Rahm and Marc Leishman were at six-under in fifth place. Rahm shot at six-under 66 on Sunday to move up the leaderboard into the top five. Justin Rose was seventh, Patrick Reed and Corey Conners tied for eighth, and Tony Finau and Cameron Smith were tied for 10th.
Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1933 and was operated by golf legend Bobby Jones, who had dreamed of building a course after he retired. The tournament became the most prestigious in the country with its picturesque setting each spring.
After Tiger Woods, at 21 years old in 1997, broke the tournament record by shooting an 18-under 270 and then winning again in 2001 and ’02, the course was lengthened from 6,925 yards to 7,270. It was further lengthened to 7,445 in 2006 and the greens were made more difficult as well. This process was unofficially known as “Tiger-proofing,” as to make the course more challenging for the big-hitting Woods.
Spieth tied Woods’ record in 2015 on the more difficult version of the course, and the record stood until 2020, when Dustin Johnson shot at 20-under 268 in winning the tournament in the fall of that year, after it was postponed from the traditional April period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players qualify to play in the Masters based on a number of criteria. The field usually ends up at around 90-100 golfers.
The process starts with the top-50 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings. They all receive an invitation along with the top 30 that reach the Tour Championship at the end of the previous season.
After that, former Masters winners, other major winners from the previous five years, The Players Championship winner from the past three seasons, the defending Olympic gold medalist, and several amateur champions from around the world are invited.
The field is then rounded out by the top 12 from the prior year’s Masters and the top-four finishers from the other three majors from the previous season are invited.
The format is a four-round, 72-hole event where the top 50 and ties advance to the final two rounds. Because of the limited field, each player plays holes one through 18 in succession, and competitors play in threesomes instead of foursomes in the first two rounds.
Matsuyama received over $2 million for the win last year and also receives a green jacket that the winner can wear on the grounds to signify that he is a former Masters champion. The winner also receives a lifetime exemption to play in any future Masters along with a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and the right to play in all of the other majors for the next five seasons.
Jon Rahm, who holds the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, is the betting favorite at +900, slightly ahead of the +1000 odds that Jordan Spieth faces.
While Rahm has performed extremely well in big events, including winning the U.S. Open last year and taking home The Memorial and BMW Championship in 2020, the current status of his game is in question. After losing in the Ryder Cup and then missing the cut at the Andalucia Masters on the European Tour, Rahm said that he was going to take a break from golf. Most expected him to be back for the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai last week, as he was third in the Race to Dubai season-long competition on the European Tour, but he withdrew from that event as well. One would expect Rahm to be back in time for the big events in 2022, but especially as the betting favorite, it’s worth holding off until he cements his status for the spring.
As for his performances at Augusta National, he’s been a consistent contender here, finishing in the top 10 in his last four starts after a 27th-place finish in his debut here in 2017. He placed fourth in 2018 after shooting a plus-3 75 in the first round. He’s shot at or below par in his last 15 rounds at Augusta National.
Spieth, after enduring a four-year winless streak, rebounded for a strong 2021 campaign, and that included a third-place finish in the Masters, coming back from a 46th place finish in 2020. He’s finished in the top three in five of his eight attempts in this tournament, including his win at -18 in 2015. The following year, he finished second despite shooting a -2 for the tournament, showing how weather conditions can make the golf course quite difficult. Spieth hasn’t yet teed off in a tournament this year since the Ryder Cup in September, so it’s been tough to assess his performance, but based on his 2021 season and his history at Augusta National, he has to be considered an early favorite.
At +1150, won here in 2020, setting the tournament record at -20. It was part of an incredible run in the fall of 2020 that saw him also win the Tour Championship. He was rather quiet for much of the 2021 season, but he did get back into the record books at the Ryder Cup, becoming the first American in over 40 years to finish a perfect 5-0-0 in the event. At Augusta National, he finished in the top 10 for five-straight events from 2015-20, as he missed the tournament in 2017. He surprisingly missed the cut in 2021 but recorded top-two finishes in the previous two years, so it’s safe to say that the 2021 performance can be considered a fluke and that he will be a contender here in 2022.
Come in next at +1300. McIlroy could be considered the most accomplished active golfer not to have won here, as he’s a two-time FedEx Cup Champion, a two-time Race to Dubai champ on the European Tour, and a four-time major winner. McIlroy recorded his 20th-career PGA Tour win in his only start this season at The CJ Cup in October. After a losing effort at the Ryder Cup, McIlroy took a break and believes that he has recaptured his game that was at an elite level prior to the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
McIlroy missed the cut in the Masters last year, the first time he had done so since 2010. But he also has six top-10 finishes here in 13 starts, including fifth-place efforts in 2018 and ’20. A win here would prove to be a popular one, similar to when Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia won for the first time here in 2005 and 2017, respectively.
Thomas had a rough summer but rebounded to finish fifth at the Tour Championship and parlayed that into a good performance at the Ryder Cup. He’s started two events this season, including a third-place effort at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. He doesn’t have a sterling track record at Augusta, recording only one top 10 in six starts, but he hasn’t finished worse than 22nd since 2017 and came in fourth here in 2020 with a 12-under 276.
His game suits Augusta National well and is at +1400 to win this year. Surprisingly, however, it hasn’t translated into results here. His best finish in the Masters was 21st in his first event in 2016. The last two years, he was 34th and 46th. While the odds show decent value, until he is a more consistent performer at Augusta, it would be tough to place a bet on him here this far into the future.
Are at +1800 and are proven performers. Morikawa starred at the Ryder Cup and won The Open Championship and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai to become the first American to win the season-long Race to Dubai title on the European Tour. He’s only played at the Masters twice, finishing in 44th in 2020 and 18th in 2021. But he’s playing so well that it would be tough to bet against him at this point.
Schauffele is the reigning Olympic gold medalist and has performed well here, finishing in the top three in two of his last three events here—a second in 2019 and third in 2021. He’s also finished in the top-five at the Tour Championship in three-straight seasons and made 20 of 22 cuts last year, so he can be counted on as a consistent performer.
The defending FedEx Cup champion and winner of his last two PGA Tour events, is at +2000. Cantlay outlasted DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff to win the BMW Championship and then held off Rahm at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup. Besides an appearance at the Ryder Cup, he hasn’t played on tour since those two victories, so he’s flying under the radar a bit. He doesn’t have a strong history here, missing the cut in two of five tries and owns a best finish of ninth in 2019.
For a defending champion, Hideki Matsuyama at +2500 isn’t a bad price. Matsuyama wasn’t impressed with his game in the fall, but it was good enough to will him to a win at the ZOZO Championship in his home country of Japan, so he’s great with the pressure on him. He won in his 10th appearance at Augusta National, and he’s been a contender here before. He was 13th in 2000 and was in the top-11 each year from 2015-17. Working against Matsuyama is the fact that there hasn’t been a back-to-back winner here in 20 years, when Tiger Woods recorded the feat in winning in 2001 and ’02.
Will Zalatoris didn’t follow up his hot 2021 results in the majors with tremendous results in the fall swing, but many are expecting him to break through and win for the first time in 2022. Given that he was a runner up here in his first attempt at Augusta, +4000 odds seem worth a flier. And he wasn’t just strong at the Masters, as he finished in the top 10 in three majors last year—eighth at the PGA Championship and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open.
An interesting name at +5000 is Tiger Woods. Woods, who severely damaged his leg in a car accident in February 2021, was seen taking full swings in a video recently, fueling speculation that he will be ready to come back by April. It’s unlikely, given the long odds, but Woods is such a popular name that transcends golf, if people are willing to make a bet on one of the most famous golfers of all time, oddsmakers will place a number on him.
Golf’s biggest early names have claimed victory at Augusta. Byron Nelson won twice, Sam Snead claimed victory three times, and Ben Hogan won in 1951 and ’53.
In the 1960s and ’70s, it was the trio of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player who dominated the Masters, winning 11 times in those two decades. Nicklaus has won a record six times while Palmer claimed four wins and Player three. The trio is so synonymous with the Masters that they would open the tournament each year with a ceremonial tee shot all the way until Palmer’s death in 2016.
Nicklaus’s sixth win came in 1986 at the age of 46, which was likely the most popular win at Augusta up until that time. In 1995, Ben Crenshaw won his second Masters in 1995 and sobbed after making his final putt, as his longtime teacher and mentor had just passed away before the tournament began.
The following year in 1996, Greg Norman looked like he was finally going to tackle Augusta, but he blew a six-shot lead heading into the final day and was outscored by Nick Faldo 67 to 78. In all, Norman placed in the top 5 eight times here but failed to win.
Woods is a five-time champion, one behind Nicklaus, as he was victorious in 1997, 2001-02, 2005 and again in 2019, which was his first major title in 11 years.
In recent years, Bubba Watson won two out of three in 2012 and ’14, Jordan Spieth became the second youngest winner and tied Woods’ course record in 2015, and Sergio Garcia finally won his first major with a playoff victory over Justin Rose in 2017.
Jon Rahm has to be considered a favorite to win, but given his status, it’s worth waiting to see how he does once he decides to return. As of this writing in late November 2021, our top three to win are Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Collin Morikawa. The latter has especially good value with his odds of +1800. McIlroy is one of those golfers who, if he’s in contention on Sunday, will draw plenty of interest from the gallery that will try to will him to a win like it has so many other popular golfers over the years who hadn’t quite crossed the hump and won a Masters. Even though he missed the cut last year, Johnson was a regular in the top 10 for years before that, and Morikawa improved greatly from his first to second appearance here and could contend in his third trip around Augusta National.
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