April 6, 2020

This will be a weird week. For the first time since World War II, a green jacket will not be handed out on the second Sunday in April. For golf fans, it’s necessary, but still sad. In the meantime, we hope to make your (original) Masters week a little more fun by acting as though 94 of the best players in the world actually teed it up at Augusta National this week. How exactly would it play out?

That’s what we asked DataGolf to help with. The wizards at DataGolf (check them out here) use statistics from the golf world to do all kinds of things: determine win percentages, aid golf gamblers, rank which players are actually the best in the world, etc. Much of that work reacts to players’ recent showings and analyzes what has happened and how it happened. But they have impressive predictive powers, too, so we asked them to turn their sights on golf’s ultimate target: Augusta National.

DataGolf’s Masters modeling accounted for player skill and recent form, but also factored in historical performances at Augusta. That means a Sunday charge just might happen on the back nine with some tasty pin positions. (Hint: get ready!) Is there an element of randomness to the process? Of course! The first time you run a simulation, for example, will produce different results from the 7th or 23rd time you run it. But it’s still a ton of fun to see how things shake out. For what would have been the 84th playing of the Masters, we asked for the 84th single-run simulation of how DataGolf’s system would predict this year’s event.

The 2020 (simulated) Masters kicked off as usual with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hitting ceremonial tee shots in front of giddy patrons. And we’re off!

Gary Player hits a ceremonial tee shot down the first fairway at Augusta National.
Gary Player hits a ceremonial tee shot down the first fairway at Augusta National.
Getty Images

Thursday, April 9

How many times have we seen a former champion, from Ben Crenshaw to Fred Couples, recall that old magic at Augusta National? It seems to happen every year, on some level. In 2020, that man was two-time winner Bubba Watson. Per usual, Watson was the first player to arrive on campus this week, and on Thursday he was one of the first players to tee off. The 41-year-old plodded along through much of his round before striking late, making birdies on 15, 16 and 17. After signing for a 5-under 67, the featured group coverage was quick to note that every time Watson opened a Masters with a round in the 60s, he has gone on to win. Fellow 41-year-old Matt Kuchar scratched out a 69 on his own, holding a spot near the top of the leaderboard until the Jon Rahm Show began.

Rahm began his fourth Masters with birdies on the first three holes. Using his prodigious length, he did what many fine Masters competitors do best: he neutered the par-5s. Rahm made 4s on each of the four par-5s at ANGC, easily shaking off his lone bogey at 6 to shoot the round of the day: 7-under 65. Tyrell Hatton, playing one group ahead of Rahm, made six birdies and an eagle on 15 after double bogeying the 10th. Though Hatton has played great in 2020, his 67 was still a surprise: the round was a career-best at Augusta National by three shots. For Rahm, well, it just fit the mold. The 25-year-old has now averaged a phenomenal 68.125 over his last eight rounds at Augusta.

Only 19 players carved out a score under par in the first round, including Lanto Griffin, who shot 68 in his first-ever round at Augusta. Mr. Major Brooks Koepka continued his struggles in 2020, shooting 76, while Phil Mickelson opened with a sloppy 79, matching his career-worst score at the Masters, and leaving him in need of one helluva Friday round to make the cut.


OTHER NOTABLES:
Rory McIlroy -1
James Sugrue (a) -1
Tiger Woods +2
Patrick Reed +2
Jordan Spieth +4
Tony Finau +4
Adam Hadwin +8

Friday, April 10

Playing late on Thursday meant a morning tee time for Rahm on Friday, and he brought the field plenty of hope with three bogeys on his front nine. With just one birdie on the par-5s, it was a much different round than the one he completed just 18 hours prior. Rahm’s 74 was still good enough to keep him atop the leaderboard by day’s end, but he would not be alone.

Continuing a stretch of some of the best golf of his life, Lee Westwood made five birdies Friday to reach five under and a tie with Rahm. It has been a half-decade since Westwood was ranked this high entering the Masters, and the crumbling scores around him had many thinking if a lifetime of close calls were about to pay off for the 46-year-old. Finishing early on Friday left him in a familiar position: the final pairing at the Masters. Just three weeks shy of his 47th birthday, Westwood would be the oldest winner in the history of the event and would provide an important feather in his cap for a future Hall of Fame consideration.

Getty Images

The second-round 76 by Hatton was far from the only ejection from top of the leaderboard. Griffin succumbed to some rookie struggles, undoing his Thursday 68 (and then some) with a Friday 79, putting himself in danger of missing the cut. But as more second-round scores rolled in, it became clear that Augusta was angry. Justin Thomas made triple bogey on the par-5 15th en route to a 76. Jason Day and Danny Willett followed with a 76 and 78, respectively. Only three players shot under par in both rounds: Westwood, newcomer Nick Taylor (-3) and 2013 champion Adam Scott (-2).

With the 36-hole lead all but set at five under, the talk of the afternoon surrounded the cut line. Did reigning champion Tiger Woods have enough in him to make the weekend? After being sidelined for more than a month with back stiffness, Woods made it clear to the press he just couldn’t resist an opportunity to defend his 15th major. But while he may have made an appearance, his all-world ball-striking did not make the trip up from Jupiter. Tiger made just two birdies in an opening 74, and somehow one fewer in the second round. As we’ve come to understand, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. Woods was just off this week, and that was never more apparent than when he yanked an 8-iron short and into the bunker on 16, leading to a double bogey.

After a second-straight 74, Woods’ placement on the weekend relied on the finish of Bubba Watson, who reached five under with a birdie on 16. But Watson missed birdie putts inside 8 feet on both 17 and 18, enacting the local 10-shot rule, keeping many hopefuls around for the final two rounds. Koepka and his 149 strokes were spared while Marc Leishman, Justin Rose, Collin Morikawa and fan-favorite Fred Couples were all sent home, missing the cut by one shot each (+6).


OTHER NOTABLES:
Sergio Garcia 72-71 (-1)
Rory McIlroy 71-73 (E)
Patrick Cantlay 72-73 (+1)
Bryson DeChambeau 72-74 (+2)
Brooks Koepka 76-73 (+9)
Phil Mickelson 79-72 (MC)
Jordan Spieth 76-75 (MC)
Francesco Molinari 76-79 (MC)

Saturday, April 11

Moving Day at Augusta. Is there anything better? With overnight and early morning rain, the course softened up, turning into a second-shot bonanza. Some of the best ball-strikers on the planet made their move early Saturday. We saw charges from the likes of Xander Schauffele, who made three birdies on the front nine, and Jimmy Walker, who has never shot in the 60s at Augusta National but played the first five holes in five under thanks to an eagle at the 2nd.

Adam Scott continued plodding along, looking great and avoiding calamity. Young Korean sensation Sungjae Im, playing in his first Masters, worked his way into contention for the first time in a major. Through 45 holes, he had made 10 bogeys and one double, and yet he made enough birdies to hang around.

Three amateurs made the cut — Yuxin Lin, Lukas Michel and James Sigrue. After an impressive 73-71 start, Michel lost control of the low-amateur title with a front-nine 39. Unfortunately for him, the worst was yet to come.


A plurality of the Augusta National patrons spent the early part of their day tracking Tiger Woods, per usual, but the remaining lot was largely focused on pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy. In what has become custom for McIlroy, his pre-tournament press conference convinced much of the media and fans that this would be the year he claimed the green jacket, and the career grand slam in the process.

For a few moments Saturday, that seemed like it could come true. McIlroy birdied holes 2, 4, 6 and 8 to get within two shots of the lead. His firepower had brought him into the mix! A solid finish would place him squarely in contention entering the final day — but that’s where Augusta tricks you. It’s easy to gaze ahead to the back nine’s gettable par-5s and start to think about 67. Well, two of the most famous water hazards in the world foiled McIlroy. His approach into 13 didn’t draw as much as he’d hoped, landing in the creek on the fly. Then on 15, a red-ass drive left him with just a mid-iron in hand, which he flew one pace too short. He made bogey there plus another on 18 and signed for a disappointing 72.

Those who followed McIlroy likely missed out on the real fireworks of the day, from the pair three groups ahead. Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who began the day a full two hours ahead of the final pairing, shot a ho-hum 35 on his front nine. He quickly made birdie from 15 feet on 10 and added a standard two-putt bird on 13. It was a much different scene than Saturday afternoon of 2019, when Fleetwood flipped off the 13th hole after a 3-putt.

Getty Images

As one of the best players in the world without a major championship, Fleetwood in contention provided plenty of fodder for English broadcaster Nick Faldo, who floated the idea of adding a “Sir” to Fleetwood’s name. Fleetwood made No. 14 look easy, hitting the middle of the 14th fairway and flagging his approach. Then he found the left edge of the 15th green in two, setting up the biggest roar of the entire week when he somehow made the 74-foot putt for eagle. Birdie-birdie-eagle vaulted him into a tie with Rahm at 6 under, which is exactly where both would finish their rounds.

Saturday afternoon saw a steady decline from Westwood, who made it clear that he would not be winning the 2020 Masters. His bogey-bogey finish pushed him four clear of Rahm and Fleetwood and into a much earlier tee time Sunday. Sergio Garcia, meanwhile, showed that he still possesses some Augusta magic. He made eagle on the 8th hole — later joking that he’d name his next child Yellow Jasmine — en route to a third-round 70. At 3 under for the week, a second green jacket was certainly plausible. On Sunday, he’d be chasing after his countryman Rahm from three groups ahead.

A pair of 68s from Schauffele and Sung Kang placed them in the penultimate group for the final round. It was a familiar situation for Schauffele, but less so for Kang, who was trying to become the first first-timer to win at Augusta National since Fuzzy Zoeller did so in 1979.


NOTABLES:
Jimmy Walker 71-74-69 (-2)
Dustin Johnson 72-69-75 (E)
Brooks Koepka 76-73-69 (+2)
Tiger Woods 74-74-73 (+5)
Bryson DeChambeau 72-74-77 (+7)
Patrick Reed 74-73-76 (+7)
Rickie Fowler 73-73-78 (+8)

Sunday, April 12

Sunday morning at Augusta National is often notably quiet. The suspense builds. Golf history is just hours away from being made. It’s a good time to make a charge. Enter Dustin Johnson.

Johnson had played a so-so Masters to this point, but no one has amassed the recent success that he has at ANGC, with four top-10 finishes in his last four tries at the Masters, always playing from a few groups ahead of the leaders. This Sunday was no different. Johnson made birdies on 1, 2 and 3. If you can birdie the 1st, the others seem easy. His name crept onto the leaderboard. Then he really got going, adding another quartet of circles to his scorecard at 6, 7, 8 and 9, three of which are not birdie holes. A front-nine 29! That’s a Masters record. Johnson turned to the back at 7 under for his round and for his week.

We had seen Johnson play from behind before. He chased down Shane Lowry at Oakmont and damn near did caught his pal Koepka at Bethpage in 2019. When he rounded Amen Corner, adding birdies at 12 and 13, this felt as real as it could get. For Rahm, elsewhere on the property, each roar must have sounded louder than the one that preceded it. And then along came the Rors.

McIlroy had been cruising along himself, looking at another backdoor top 10 in a major to add to his stockpile. With it was sure to come another year of questions about his quest for the career grand slam. But a pure 9-iron on 12 landed a foot in front of the cup — and never touched the green again. Straight into the hole! Amen Corner shook, and aftershocks took place as his red number changed on each leaderboard around the famed venue.

Things got VERY interesting on the back nine at Augusta National.
Things got VERY interesting on the back nine at Augusta National.

Unfortunately for McIlroy, his day sputtered again on the 15th hole, where par sealed his fate. On to 2021.

Johnson, meanwhile, followed his own personal history of Masters letdowns, making par-par-par coming in when another birdie may have crowned him. He posted one helluva score — a final-round record of 63 — and nonchalantly called the round “really good” in front of the media.

Other final-group contenders faded on Sunday. Watson, Kang and Fleetwood, playing in the final three times but never seriously threatened on Sunday. In the end, the tournament was left to their playing partners: Rahm, Scott and Schauffele.

Scott made an unlikely birdie at No. 11, but gave it back with a bogey at 12 and was undone with a devastating bogey at 13. Despite a strong response — he birdied 14, 15 and 17 — the former Masters champ finished one shot shy of Johnson’s clubhouse lead.

Schauffele’s efforts came up officially short through the back nine’s crucial middle stretch, going 5-5-5 on 13-14-15, easily giving up two shots to the field. He would finish birdie-bogey at 17-18 to post 7 under, a shot behind Scott.

It was Rahm who stayed mistake-free down the stretch. Johnson’s seismic 63 had come from several groups ahead, which meant Rahm had a very specific target to shoot for. He didn’t crack. His back-nine 35 featured just one birdie — at 13 — but not a single bogey.

Their back-nine scorecards:

Scott:               4-3-4-6-3-4-3-3-4 — 34 (-8)

Schauffele: 4-4-3-5-5-5-3-3-5 — 37 (-7)

Rahm:            4-4-3-4-4-5-3-4-4 — 35 (-10)

This was Jon Rahm’s year! The Spaniard finished off his win with five pars in a row, including clutch 4s at 17 and 18 with the tournament on the line. Rahm had actually bettered 10 under at Augusta before, but this week it was enough to claim his first major championship — by a single shot. “A sixth for Spain!” Jim Nantz bellowed as Rahm rolled in the clinching putt to join his other green-jacketed countrymen: Sergio Garcia (2017), Jose Maria Olazabal (1994, ’99) and Seve Ballesteros (1980, ’83).

With his (simulated) win, the 25-year-old phenom vaulted ahead of McIlroy into the No. 1 spot in the world ranking. He also had the treat of his childhood idol, Tiger Woods (who finished T57 in his title defense), placing the green jacket on his shoulders. Vamos!



FINAL LEADERBOARD

NAME

R1

R2

R3

R4

TOTAL

TO PAR

FINISH

Rahm, Jon

65

74

71

68

278

-10

1

Johnson, Dustin

72

69

75

63

279

-9

2

Scott, Adam

71

71

71

67

280

-8

3

Schauffele, Xander

72

71

68

70

281

-7

T4

Harding, Justin

73

68

72

68

281

-7

T4

McIlroy, Rory

71

73

72

67

283

-5

6

Im, Sungjae

73

70

70

71

284

-4

T7

Conners, Corey

74

72

72

66

284

-4

T7

Smith, Cameron

73

68

74

70

285

-3

T9

Casey, Paul

72

72

74

67

285

-3

T9

Fleetwood, Tommy

72

72

66

76

286

-2

T11

Kang, Sung

73

70

68

75

286

-2

T11

Watson, Bubba

67

72

73

74

286

-2

T11

Walker, Jimmy

71

74

69

72

286

-2

T11

Putnam, Andrew

76

69

74

67

286

-2

T11

Frittelli, Dylan

75

70

71

71

287

-1

T16

Glover, Lucas

73

74

72

68

287

-1

T16

Garcia, Sergio

71

72

70

75

288

0

T18

Westwood, Lee

70

69

75

74

288

0

T18

Griffin, Lanto

68

79

68

73

288

0

T18

Kuchar, Matt

69

74

73

72

288

0

T18

Wolff, Matthew

74

72

71

71

288

0

T18

Oosthuizen, Louis

72

76

70

70

288

0

T18

Horschel, Billy

75

72

69

73

289

1

T24

Matsuyama, Hideki

74

73

72

70

289

1

T24

Finau, Tony

76

72

71

70

289

1

T24

Van Rooyen, Erik

74

70

73

73

290

2

T27

Hatton, Tyrrell

67

76

75

72

290

2

T27

Reavie, Chez

75

71

72

72

290

2

T27

Wiesberger, Bernd

71

75

74

70

290

2

T27

Duncan, Tyler

73

76

71

70

290

2

T27

Snedeker, Brandt

72

74

75

69

290

2

T27

Lashley, Nate

72

77

73

68

290

2

T27

Simpson, Webb

75

69

73

74

291

3

T34

Day, Jason

70

76

73

72

291

3

T34

Johnson, Zach

75

74

70

72

291

3

T34

Lin, Yuxin

74

74

73

70

291

3

T34

Willett, Danny

70

78

73

70

291

3

T34

Fitzpatrick, Matthew

71

78

73

69

291

3

T34

Cabrera Bello, Rafa

76

68

74

74

292

4

T40

Koepka, Brooks

76

73

69

74

292

4

T40

Poston, J.T.

76

70

75

71

292

4

T40

Lowry, Shane

73

73

75

71

292

4

T40

DeChambeau, Bryson

72

74

77

69

292

4

T40

Kokrak, Jason

71

72

72

78

293

5

T45

An, Byeong Hun

69

73

74

77

293

5

T45

Sugrue, James

71

74

74

74

293

5

T45

Perez, Victor

73

72

75

73

293

5

T45

McDowell, Graeme

73

75

72

73

293

5

T45

Howell III, Charles

75

72

74

73

294

6

50

Thomas, Justin

70

76

75

74

295

7

T51

Bezuidenhout, Christiaan

72

77

76

70

295

7

T51

Cantlay, Patrick

72

73

76

75

296

8

T53

Poulter, Ian

72

75

75

74

296

8

T53

Wallace, Matt

75

73

76

72

296

8

T53

Champ, Cameron

73

75

74

75

297

9

T56

Reed, Patrick

74

73

76

74

297

9

T56

Fowler, Rickie

73

73

78

73

297

9

T56

Woods, Tiger

74

74

73

77

298

10

T59

Taylor, Nick

71

70

81

76

298

10

T59

Na, Kevin

73

76

75

74

298

10

T59

Homa, Max

73

73

78

78

302

14

62

Michel, Lukas

73

71

80

81

305

17

63

Leishman, Marc

78

72

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Landry, Andrew

76

74

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Morikawa, Collin

76

74

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Kisner, Kevin

75

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Rose, Justin

75

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Couples, Fred

74

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Woodland, Gary

74

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Hadwin, Adam

80

71

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Mickelson, Phil

79

72

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Spieth, Jordan

76

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Immelman, Trevor

75

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Stenson, Henrik

75

77

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Singh, Vijay

74

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Langer, Bernhard

77

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Olazabal, Jose Maria

77

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Pan, C.T.

77

76

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Imahira, Shugo

75

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Munoz, Sebastian

75

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Todd, Brendon

74

79

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Weir, Mike

73

80

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Ancer, Abraham

79

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Niemann, Joaquin

79

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Augenstein, John

76

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Molinari, Francesco

76

79

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Mize, Larry

81

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Lyle, Sandy

77

79

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Ogletree, Andy

77

79

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Janewattananond, Jazz

79

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Kim, Si Woo

83

75

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Schwartzel, Charl

81

78

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC

Cabrera, Angel

83

82

NA

NA

NA

NA

MC