(Mock) Masters 2020

We simulated the 2020 Masters with advanced data—and the winner is …

Though the 2020 Masters has (thankfully) been rescheduled for November, it still begs the question: Who would've won if it were played this week?
April 10, 2020
The Masters - Final Round

The Masters - Final Round

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09: Tiger Woods puts the green jacket on Phil Mickelson after he won The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club after the final round on April 9, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia. Mickelson won with the score seven under. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Photo by: Andrew Redington

Andrew Redington

Hello, friends. We have reached the end of our Mock Masters Simulation, which has rolled out over the past four days (scroll down to read the progression of each round), after data scientist Rick Gehman simulated every hole 1,000 times for each golfer and created a hole-by-hole score for every player in the (simulated) field for every round, incorporating historical data that includes long-term form, short-term form, scoring rates for holes of every length, and specific results at Augusta National. All those birdies and bogeys have been spit out into the digital ether.

We had a glorious 54-hole leader board heading into the final round. The hues of Mock Augusta were vibrant, the patrons filled the grounds with excitement to watch Tiger Woods, just three back, going for a repeat; Rory McIlroy, on that number as well and playing with Tiger, going for the career Grand Slam; Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed also three back. OK, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer …

One of golf’s most polarizing figures, Patrick Reed, has added the 2020 Mock Masters to his 2018 Masters title.

(Insert your reaction here, printable or otherwise.)

With an utterly brilliant 64, the best round of the tournament and what would have tied for the lowest final round for a Masters winner, Reed torched the competition and came from three behind to win by three over Corey Conners and Tyrrell Hatton. Paired with Mickelson, Reed birdied three of the first four holes and never really looked back. Perhaps most important, he took Tiger and Rory—and hence, the crowd—out of the equation early. The back-nine drama came down to Reed and Hatton, but with Hatton in the clubhouse at 10 under and Conners behind Reed at the same score, the 2018 Masters champion took a one-shot lead with a birdie at 15, then padded his margin with birdies at 16 and 17 to seal the victory.

Your final leader board:

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRdTop10.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRdTop10.jpg

Reed is the most controversial figure in professional golf, and this result would undoubtedly have stirred reaction among the digital fans and pundits. I’m already mourning my (mock) Twitter feed, which in this alternate universe is alight with people telling me that I’m a hater and a loser for ever criticizing Reed in the past, and that with this second Masters victory, he’s owned me yet again.

The storylines, if we could jump into that world, would be staggering: How much heckling did he endure, even on the rarefied grounds of Augusta National? Did he break out his air shovel? How many features were written about his family? What was it like to have Tiger, his golf hero, help him slip on the green jacket?

The Masters - Final Round

The Masters - Final Round

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States is presented with the green jacket by Sergio Garcia of Spain during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Photo by: Getty Images/Jamie Squire + Ben Walton

Getty Images/Jamie Squire + Ben Walton

So many questions! So few answers, at least until we figure out how to transport our consciousness into cyberspace! (I asked Gehman if he’s making any progress on that front, but he only smiled cryptically.)

A few final thoughts as our experiment winds to a close:

• Tiger and Rory both bogeyed the first hole, and Phil actually made double. That’s what we call a collective rally-killer, particularly for Rory, who would birdie the seventh to get the stroke back—but otherwise made par all the way to the 13th hole, far too late to make a real move. Things went even worse for Tiger, who shot 37 on the front, failed to make birdie on the back-nine par 5s, and finished 11 strokes back of Reed.

• My guess for Jim Nantz’s victory call, doubling as a plea for humanity: “If you cut him, does he not Reed?” Yeah, that was probably it.

• I can’t stress enough that despite the packed, glorious leader board, this was a very low-energy final round. Only three people were within range of Reed by the back nine, and in fact the old adage about the Masters not starting until the back nine on Sunday was turned on its face this year. By the 10th hole, the writing was on the wall, and by the 15th it was basically over. Only a Reed collapse could have brought Hatton and Conners back in the mix, and Reed is not the collapsing type.

• Moving on down the leader board, kudos are due to Bryson DeChambeau for lodging his first top five at a major. The Scientist was impressive on Sunday, shooting 68 to finish in solo fourth. Of particular note was his use of quantum mechanics and the Pythagorean theorem to avoid double bogey at nine.

Bryson DeChambeau 2019 Masters - Round One

Bryson DeChambeau 2019 Masters - Round One

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 11: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States and caddie Tim Tucker lines up a putt on the 13th green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photo by: (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

• Cam Smith notched his second top-10 finish at the Masters, while my boy Sungjae Im, who I was pulling for from the start, hung around at two under for a top 15. I feel he’s going to win a simulated major before long.

• The opposite is true for 54-hole co-leader Shane Lowry, who turned in a disappointing one-over 73. Lowry seemed to have beat back the demons of his 2016 U.S. Open collapse with his victory at last year’s Open Championship, but this will bring back some unwanted questions. Only from me, mind you, since this isn’t real life, but here I am, asking them.

• Yet again, Jordan Spieth made par on 12. That’s four in four days, and even though it was a middle-of-the-pack finish for the former champ (T-28), perhaps he’s at least exorcised some of the ghosts of 2016. Quick, somebody tell him the good news.

• Kevin Na managed a 68 to backdoor his way into a top 10, but you have to wonder if he’s part of the reason why Reed’s final putt didn’t go down until 10:15 p.m.

• Along with Tiger, the biggest Sunday disappointments belong to Lanto Griffin (75) and Patrick Cantlay (76), two players who couldn’t quite face the final-round pressure. Things weren’t any better for Gary Woodland, who made three doubles on the back nine to kill any chance he had of cracking the top 10.

• Once again, there was just a single eagle in the entire field, by Hideki Matsuyama on No. 13, and once again, despite my warnings and outright threats, Gehman has given us zero holes-in-one. I cannot in good conscience tell you not to storm his house.

• Here’s the full list of eagle-makers who won Augusta crystal: Matsuyama (twice!), Lee Westwood, Reed, Na, Dylan Frittelli and Ian Poulter. Considering the fact that there were a record 47 eagles scored at the Masters in 2015, this was a very bad year for crystal.

• The biggest disappointment in the digital universe belongs to McIlroy, who missed another great chance to complete the career Grand Slam. But the greatest relief in the real world also belongs to Rory, because it would have been really annoying to win the computer Masters while sitting at home, not playing golf.

And that brings us to the end of the 2020 Mock Masters. It’s a strange feeling, because while this was great fun, and the Gehman Simulation was a thing of beauty, obviously we have to root against doing it again. We do want real golf, after all. But we hope you enjoyed the place-filler, and congratulations once more to Patrick Reed on his historic victory. I would have asked him for a quote, but then I’d have to explain what we did here, and … well … this is better kept between us, as friends. Scroll down for each day’s recap, and we’ll provide the full leader board with every player’s scores just below this last paragraph.

Until next time, if indeed there is a next time, we now return you to the real world. Begin twinkly music.

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRd - final.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRd - final.jpg


Day 3

It’s Masters Week in the Spring Without a Masters, and while we’re delighted that the first* major will be played in November, we couldn’t let the week go by without paying homage to the tournament that wasn’t. Instead of asking, “Who’s winning?”, we decided to ask, um . . . “Who would have been winning?”

To answer that question as precisely as possible, we’ve enlisted Rick Gehman, founder of DFS On Demand and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel and co-host of the First Cut Podcast, who used complex player data to simulate the Masters on a minute scale. Thanks to him, we have hole-by-hole scores for every player in the field and a comprehensive leader board. With today being the third day of our round-by-round roll-out, on Friday, we will also have an eventual winner that will shock and amaze you. For more detail on his methodology, scroll down to the Day 1 write-up (you'll find our recaps from the first and second rounds by scrolling down!).

Now it’s time for MOVING DAY.

And boy, did the digital golfers move. Yesterday, Lanto Griffin held a two-shot lead heading into the weekend, but there were some questions—all of them asked by me—about whether the one-time PGA Tour winner and Masters rookie would have the stomach to remain calm while facing the most crushing pressure of his life. As it turned out, Griffin’s Saturday was fine, but not great. He posted a one-over 73, and while that wasn’t good enough to keep the lead, it wasn’t so bad that he shot himself out of contention. If not for a double on 13, he’d still be tied for the lead. All in all, you have to tip your cap to Lanto for keeping his head and managing to resist the following totally reasonable course of action:

1. Sense the impending pressure on the practice range.

2. Realize it won’t go away for the next five hours and that he’d probably think about it for the rest of your life.

3. Steal one of Ian Poulter’s fancy cars and make a break for Mexico.

Under the circumstances, a 73 is a feather in his cap. But he’s no longer our top dog heading into “Sunday.”

Here’s the updated leader board after 54 holes at Simulated Augusta:

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRd.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardFinalRd.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardRd3.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardRd3.jpg

We have quite a lot to get to, but I want to begin by pointing out the obvious: The group at five under, three shots off the lead, is nothing short of phenomenal/insane/breathtaking. Tiger! Rory! Phil! Reed! Those are probably four of the five biggest needle-movers in professional golf today (with Koepka, who unfortunately missed the cut), and they’re all crammed together in the hunt for a green jacket. I mean, this is jaw-dropping: We’re not just getting a Tiger-Rory Sunday pairing, we’re getting a Mickelson-Reed pairing right before them! What an unbelievable final round this will be. Personally, I’ll be pulling hard for the top four to collapse immediately, so we can see the big guns fight. I’m cruel to “underdogs” like that.

Phil Mickelson 2019 Masters - Round Three

Phil Mickelson 2019 Masters - Round Three

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 13: Phil Mickelson of the United States plays a shot on the first hole during the third round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 13, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photo by: (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

But I must rein myself in and avoid the temptation of looking ahead. Some notes from the third round:

• Lowry, the defending Open Champion, has only had one round in the 60s in 10 tries at Augusta National. But he’s found himself tied for the 54-hole lead at Augusta. Needless to say, a green jacket would do more than burnish his legacy; Padraig Harrington would have to start worrying about his own status as the greatest Irish golfer ever. (At the risk of infuriating anyone, I’m obviously treating Ireland as distinct from Northern Ireland in this analysis.) Lowry would, in fact, be the first man from the entire island, six northern counties included, to win the Masters. No pressure!

• Tiger and Phil in particular lit up the back nine, with Phil making three straight birdies from 14 through 16, and Tiger birdieing four of the last six holes. This would have been really, really fun to watch in real life. Oh God, I’m sad now.

• When I said that “Moving Day” lived up to its name, I meant it—there were nine rounds in the 60s at Augusta on Mock Saturday, and of those nine, eight of them wound up in the top 20, and five in the top 10. Players moved in the opposite direction, too—the conditions must have been particularly difficult yet again, either hot and dry or unseasonably windy, because the likes of Justin Rose (79), Xander Schauffele (77), Matt Kuchar (78), Francesco Molinari (78) and Marc Leishman (80), among many others, all went a ‘tumbling.

• In the first two rounds, Tiger made two double bogeys on 16, and though the Gehman Simulation doesn’t go shot by shot, I have decreed with the limited power available to me that he found the water both times. I’m happy to report that on Saturday, he made birdie, exorcising those exhaustive demons. I’d like to imagine the crowd gave a slightly ironic roar when his ball landed on the green, and Tiger indulged them with a wry smile as he left the tee box, as if to say, “I get it, guys … good one.” While inside, he was thinking, “You will rue the day you lightly kidded Tiger Woods.”

Tiger Woods 2019 Masters - Preview Day 1

Tiger Woods 2019 Masters - Preview Day 1

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 08: Tiger Woods of the United States and caddie Joe LaCava look on during a practice round prior to The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 08, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photo by: (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

• I haven’t even mentioned co-leader Corey Conners yet! Sorry Corey. The Canadian is actually playing in his third Masters, having qualified by virtue of making last year’s Tour Championship, and like Lanto before entering Day 2, this is heady territory. Conners finished T-46 last year, so he’s not as inexperienced at Augusta as Griffin, but he still only has one tour victory to his name. This is going to be some really intense pressure, and because I noticed on Wikipedia that Conners has a birthday very close to mine in January, and that we’re both Capricorns, I think we need to turn to the Zodiac horoscope to get a sense of how he’ll fare on Mock Sunday. From horoscope.com, here’s what it says for tomorrow:

A lack of physical and mental energy as well as motivation could have you in a lethargic mood today, Capricorn. You won’t feel like doing much of anything. You might get extremely irritated at the thought of having to work in any way. It might be a good idea to go to a movie in the evening, preferably a thriller or action movie. This will get your juices flowing again.

No physical or mental energy at THE MASTERS??? Come on Corey, where’s the heart?

• It won’t get as much play because of the men ahead of them, but the Tyrrell Hatton/Bryson DeChambeau pairing at four under is pretty enticing, too. If you had to rank the pairings by the likelihood of a fight breaking out between the players, this would rank No. 2, right behind Brendon Todd and Brandt Snedeker. Those guys are vicious.

Tyrrell Hatton Honda Classic - Round Three

Tyrrell Hatton Honda Classic - Round Three

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Tyrrell Hatton of England laughs on the second tee during the third round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on February 25, 2017 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Photo by: (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

• Fred Couples unfortunately did not drop in on the top 10 as he normally does, failing to live up to Saturdays past. He shot 78 and will have to wait for next year.

• Jordan Spieth, once again, made par on No. 12. We will continue monitoring this situation.

• Yesterday, I wondered whether Shugo Imahira could handle the pressure of being paired with Tiger, and it turns out … he could not. Shugo finished with 74.

• If you were curious about which holes played the hardest in the third round—and why wouldn’t you be?—the honors go to No. 12 (3.308 average), No. 11 (4.269) and 14 (4.25). Despite the lack of eagles, the par 5s were the only holes that played under par on average, with 15 playing the easiest at a 4.75 average. The overall scoring average was 73.2, better than both the 74.11 in the second round and 74.2 in the first.

• For the third straight day, no aces. Why does Rick Gehman hate fun? The people will riot if we don’t get one tomorrow. And I will lead them.

• Max Homa, showing the kind of resilience you normally only see in people who live on deserted islands for years after a plane crash, shot his first round under par with a magnificent, historical 71. Max, you were kind enough to retweet us on Day 1, but frankly, it’s only made us ravenous for more. We need that sweet retweet, Max. Please, we’re shaking.

And now, with great anticipation, we await the results from what will surely be a thrilling final round.

Will Tiger defend his title, like he did in 2002, and match Jack’s green jacket total?

Can Rory complete the career grand slam at last?

Will Reed get his second green jacket … even as he inevitably gets heckled all day?

Can Phil become the oldest major winner ever?

Will Lowry break the Masters dry spell for Ireland?

Or will some dark horse stun us all? I’m so excited that I will spend the night outside the window of Rick Gehman’s house, staring longingly at his computer. Sorry, Rick.


Day 2

When we last left you, the Mock Masters had delivered the goods, with Tiger and Rory in the top five and a slew of young geniuses like Patrick Cantlay (leader), Sungjae Im and Abraham Ancer enriching the top 10. Things change quickly at Augusta, though, so let’s see how our leaders fared in Round 2, with the weekend and the dreaded cut looming. Here’s how things stand after the second round:

Masters2020LeaderboardRd2.jpg

Masters2020LeaderboardRd2.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, Lanto Griffin! The 31-year-old who earned his spot in the field with a win at the Houston Open last October—his first-ever victory on the PGA Tour—has certainly taken advantage of his maiden voyage at Augusta National. Not only is this his first Masters, but it’s his first career major. Griffin torched the place on Day 2, shooting a field-best 66 with eight birdies to surge to the top of the leader board at seven under. The highlight was his birdie barrage through Amen Corner.

I would imagine that in the aftermath of this performance, many simulated fans are clicking on Dave Shedloski’s story explaining that Griffin’s parents named him after Lord Lanto, an “ascended master, a Chohan of the Second Ray of Illumination, or less formally, the Lord of Light.” That’s right, folks, in the universe of the 2020 simulated Masters, you’re going to be hearing more than a few Game of Thrones jokes on Twitter. If Griffin is the son of R’hollor, presumably winning because he made an evil Stannis-style bargain with Melisandre that cannot be described on a family website, who is the Night King?

Perhaps it’s Tiger, who shot an even-par 72 to stay in the hunt in a tie for third. Or Rory, who had a disappointing 73 but remains just four shots off the lead at three under. Or perhaps it’s Patrick Reed, who recovered from an opening 74 to post a 70 and get back to even par for the event. They’ll all be back for the weekend to duel it out. In the meantime, here are a few other observations from a thrilling second day:

• It’s a well-known fact that the last Masters rookie to win was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Lesser-known is the fact that the only other “rookies” to win were Horton Smith, in 1934, when everyone was a rookie, and Gene Sarazen, the very next year when there were still a ton of rookies. In some ways, Zoeller is pretty much the only true rookie to have won, and that’s the history Lanto finds himself up against.

2019 Houston Open - Final Round - Lanto Griffin

2019 Houston Open - Final Round - Lanto Griffin

HUMBLE, TEXAS - OCTOBER 13: Lanto Griffin of the United States reacts to his putt on the 16th green during the final round of the Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston on October 13, 2019 in Humble, Texas.

Photo by: (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

• For the second straight day, Tiger made double on 16, which leads me to believe he’s found the water twice. These are, you might reason, extreme outliers, as Tiger has never double bogeyed 16 … let alone doing it in consecutive days! (He’s six under for his career at No. 16.) I can’t help noting that if he’d only made par on both days, he’d be leading this tournament by a stroke.

• Defending U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland sits in solo second at five under, despite a double bogey at 10. But you have to wonder: In a simulated universe, is Gary Woodland in fact just a simulation of his doppelgänger Brooks Koepka? I called Rick to ask, but he told me to stop bothering him late at night. What is he hiding?

• Speaking of Koepka, the nightmare scenario laid out yesterday has come true. With a 76 to follow his 75, Koepka has missed the cut at a major for only the third time in his entire career, and the first time since 2013. Up to this point, his Masters appearances had steadily improved in each of his four starts, up to a T-2 last year, so this is an unlikely setback for the big-game juggernaut. Is he healthy? I imagine Koepka was tight-lipped afterward, but speculation will run amok. I would like to be the first to suggest that Mock Koepka is lifting too many weights.

• The conditions were really, really tough on Friday (doing our best Conor Moore/Tiger Woods impersonation) as only six players broke 70. And there was some definite carnage …

• On the wrong side of the leader board, Tommy Fleetwood went from the top 10 to missing the cut by a single stroke after a disastrous 79 that saw him double bogey the 17th to slip into oblivion. Matthew Fitzpatrick followed up his opening 80 with a 77, Danny Willett couldn’t fight back from his first-round 78, and Ian Poulter went 75-75. It was not a great day for these English golfers. However, Tyrrell Hatton is carrying the three lions banner nicely for his country, shooting 72 to remain in a tie for 12th.

• Other big names missing the cut: Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel and Webb Simpson. Simpson is probably the most surprising of this bunch, as prognosticators liked his chances, considering he’s had eight top-10s and a win since last June. It’d be Webb’s first missed cut at major in 11 tries, the last of which came at Augusta in 2017.

• In a situation we continue to monitor, Jordan Spieth once again made par on the 12th hole. He’s playing marvelously by recent standards, sitting at one under along with Cameron Smith and Bryson DeChambeau. By the looks of things, we’re going to get a Hatton-Spieth pairing on in the third round, which should be a blast.

• Another third-round pairing? Kevin Na and Rory McIlroy. You have to wonder if the slow play is going to drive Rory absolutely nuts, and if he’s going to come off the course steamed when he and Na get put on the clock after the fourth hole, leading to a massive implosion for the Northern Irishman. Something to monitor.

• In the third-to-last pairing, Tiger Woods will be going out with Shugo Imahira. I don’t know much, if anything, about Shugo, but I do not feel good about his ability to handle the pressure of weekend contention at Augusta while being followed by the Tiger hordes. (Note: Gehman’s simulated universe, I have decided, is entirely free of coronavirus, so the patrons will be there en masse.)

• There are a number of enormous names lurking about seven to eight shots off the lead, including Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Reed, Justin Thomas and Francesco Molinari. A huge Saturday, and all of them could be back in contention.

• Over the first two days of competition, there have been no aces on the par 3s. Disappointing, Rick. Can’t we make some up?

• For those of you like me who are new fans of the Presidents Cup international rookies, you’ll be pleased to see Sungjae in the mix at two under and Cam Smith just behind, along with Joaquin Niemann at one over, but less pleased to know that Abraham Ancer posted a 42 on the front nine to blow his decent start.

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard - Final Round - Sungjae Im

2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard - Final Round - Sungjae Im

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 08: Sungjae Im of South Korea reacts on the eighth green during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 08, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.

Photo by: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

• Max Homa stormed his way to a brilliant even-par 72. Unbelievable showing. Retweet us, Max.

• Yesterday, I wrote this: “The record for fewest pars belongs to Andy Ogletree, the U.S. Amateur champion, who had only six pars on the round. The fact that he distinguished himself is the good news. The bad news? Of the remaining 12 holes, 11 were bogeys.” Well, the same thing is true today, except the bogey:birdie ratio was 9:3. Still, he beat Larry Mize!

• My top four Saturday pairings: Mickelson/Day, Reed/Thomas, Smith/DeChambeau, Hatton/Spieth with a shout-out to an underrated comedy pairing in Westwood/Homa.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that with an even number of players making the cut, legendary marker Jeff Knox will not be dusting off the clubs. For all that’s wonderful about his simulation, Rick Gehman will have to live with that result for the rest of his life. I hope he can’t sleep.

See you all tomorrow for Moving Day.


Masters2020Leaderboard (1).jpg

Masters2020Leaderboard (1).jpg

Day 1

You may not realize this, since time as we understand it has ceased to exist and many of us have become involuntary shut-ins, but this week was supposed to be Masters Week. In two days, the golf world would have bowed its metaphorical head in reverence as the first tee shots were struck at Augusta National, and a collective sense of serenity and anticipation, somehow co-existing, would have brightened our days.

Instead? Well...you know. This.

Though we do have some good news this week with the Masters rescheduled for November, we’re still left to wonder: Who would’ve won the year’s first major if it had, in fact, taken place in April? Golf Digest is bringing you a simulated version, the Mock 2020 Masters, a.k.a. “A Simulation Unlike Any Other,” to answer that question in the most precise way possible. Though a prediction of what would’ve happened this week in Augusta can’t truly be a substitute—the only thing we have in common with the actual Masters is a total absence of squirrels—why not have some fun?

Plus, this is no ordinary simulation. To make things as lifelike as possible, we’ve brought in data scientist and fantasy-sports luminary Rick Gehman, founder of DFS On Demand and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel and co-host of the First Cut Podcast. Along with these bona fides, Rick is a verified Mad Statistical Genius. Using what I can only assume is some kind of 10-story supercomputer that runs on enriched plutonium, he is "capable" of running a simulation in the same way that Einstein was "capable" of doing some physics.

Here’s Rick’s actual methodology, near as I understand it: He simulates every hole 1,000 times for each golfer, creating a hole-by-hole score for every single player in the (simulated) field for every single round, inputting data that includes long-term form, short-term form, scoring rates for holes of every length, and specific history at Augusta National. He then incorporates a random number generator to create some variety, and even includes a cut with the top 50 and ties, and anyone inside of 10 of the lead.

When you consider the dizzying amount of information that goes into this, the only conclusion to draw is that the Gehman Simulation is better than real life, and that we don’t need actual golf anymore. (That’s a joke, but seriously, it’s very good...even if the words "Gehman Simulation" sound like a terrifying death experiment in a sci-fi film.)

And now that your head is reeling, let’s see how Day 1 of the 2020 Mock Masters played out. The results will be played out over the next four days, before we crown a champion to this data-driven Masters. Scroll up to see the leaderboard after the conclusion of the first round.

As Digest’s Stephen Hennessey aptly described it, that leaderboard is “juicy.” Tiger and Rory in the top five? Red hot world-beater Sungjae Im lurking four shots back? The Wood Brothers, Land and Fleet, at two under? Jordan Spieth mixing it up at one under? VIJAY SINGH IN THE TOP TEN?? I like Cantlay in the lead, too. I sat next to his family in a shuttle from an Australian hotel to Royal Melbourne during the Presidents Cup, and while I didn’t speak to them, I feel there’s a connection between us now. In all seriousness, Cantlay is one of the most talented players in the world, and had a top 10 at last year’s Masters, which has a tendency to portend success.

One request for our readers: You must swear a solemn oath that if Rory ends up winning, you won’t show this article to him. It would feel more than a little cruel to tell the man desperately chasing a green jacket that he won a simulated version the year the tournament wasn’t held.

The leader board is a blast on its own, but the real fun of the Gehman Simulation is looking at the hole-by-hole breakdown. A few things to note:

• Tiger shot 68 despite a double bogey on the par-3 16th, which almost surely means he went in the water. I’d like to imagine Tiger teed off late in the day, and when he came back and birdied 17 and 18 to move into a tie with Rory for third place, the patrons went absolutely bananas as dusk fell. Also worth noting that Tiger led the field with eight birdies, just edging out Cantlay’s seven. And Tiger’s 68 ties his best opening round ever at Augusta.

TigerScorecard (1).jpg

TigerScorecard (1).jpg

• Rory’s 68 came despite zero birdies on the par 5s. If there’s such a thing as a disappointing 68, this it. He’ll leave feeling like he should have been at least tied for the lead based on how he played the other holes, and folks … (puts on pundit cap) …you have to wonder if the missed opportunities will weigh on him heading into Round 2.

2019 Masters - Round One

2019 Masters - Round One

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 11: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks across the 18th green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2019 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photo by: (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

• Patrick Cantlay’s opening 66 would have been his second-best career round at Augusta. His third round 64 in ‘19 was critical to his T-9.

• Fred Couples, seemingly preparing to briefly sniff the top five on the weekend as per annual tradition, opened with an even-par 72.

• At the bottom of the leader board, there are a few of the usual suspects—Larry Mize, Sandy Lyle, Olazabal, and some ams—but it’s a major disappointment for the likes of Matthew Fitzpatrick (eight bogeys and a double on the way to 80) and Billy Horschel (four doubles on the day).

• There were no eagles on 13 all day, and the only eagle on 8 belonged to Ian Poulter … a bright spot in an otherwise rough day that ended in a 75. Hideki Matsuyama had the only eagle on two. Dylan Frittelli, Kevin Na and Patrick Reed had eagles on 15, but Reed in particular had to feel disappointed after his opening 74.

• The good news for anyone who struggled, Gehman tells me, is that "going low on Thursday is not a prerequisite for winning.The last ten winners have averaged 68.8 on Thursday. If you go back to the start of the "Tiger Woods era" in 1997, the 23 winners have averaged 69.8 in their opening rounds.

• Charley Hoffman is not in this field, but in my head canon, he qualified the week before by winning the Valero Texas Open, and shot 65 for a one-shot lead in the opening round. This message is specifically NOT approved by Rick Gehman … I’m going rogue, and I believe I’m right.

• Speaking of Hoffman types, the only way a time traveler from the past would know this leader board wasn’t real, if you showed it to him with no other context, is that Marc Leishman shot an opening-round 77.

• Jordan Spieth made par on 12. We’ll be keeping a close eye here as the week progresses. It’s tough to say whether Rick’s model accounts for extreme demons on a given hole.

2016 Masters - Jordan Spieth - Final Round

2016 Masters - Jordan Spieth - Final Round

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 10: Jordan Spieth of the United States takes his first drop on the 12th hole as caddie Michael Greller looks on during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Ga.

Photo by: (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

• Where is Brooks Koepka, you ask? Well, the man who’s never met a major he doesn’t love started his Masters with a double bogey on No. 1 and stumbled to a 75. If he can’t right the ship tomorrow, it will be the first major cut he’s missed since the 2013 Open Championship.

• The sneaky impressive round of the day goes to Tyrrell Hatton, who shot 71 despite still being hungover from his Bay Hill victory.

• Nobody in the field made triple bogey or worse on any hole. Excellent damage control.

• The record for fewest pars belongs to Andy Ogletree, the U.S. Amateur champion, who had only six pars on the round. The fact that he distinguished himself is the good news. The bad news? Of the remaining 12 holes, 11 were bogeys.

• Max Homa finished with a spirited 74, a real gutty performance that could have been much better if not for some terrible luck. Am I spinning his round more positively than it deserves so that somebody sends this to him and he tweets it out? Maybe. Max, please be kind to digital media in these strange times.

Since this is not real, and there’s no reason to be neutral, I’m pulling for Mock Sungjae.

That’s all for Round 1, but we’re just getting started. The Gehman Simulation is so good it’s almost like being at Augusta … and as a bonus, there’s no pimento cheese in sight. See you tomorrow.


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