Five months after Dustin Johnson recorded the lowest winning score at Augusta National, 20-under 268, he was among the star players who failed to make the cut last week at the 2021 Masters. With the course running firm and fast instead of soft, as it played last November, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and a surging Lee Westwood also failed to make the weekend. On Sunday evening, with the sun setting behind the loblolly pines, Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese player and the first Asian-born golfer to win the Masters.
Matsuyama has reached as high as No. 2 on the Official World Golf Ranking. But, for the last year, his ranking has been swaying between 20 and 30, so he did not garner a lot of attention in the days leading up to the Masters.
It begs the question: If prognosticators didn’t see Matsuyama’s Masters win coming, did the stats give us a clue that he could be a contender and was primed to win his first major?
In a word, no.
During last year’s COVID-interrupted season, Matsuyama earned five top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the BMW Championship and a runner-up finish at the Zozo Championship, which was actually played in October 2019. This season, in 16 events leading up to the Masters, his lone top 10 was a tie for second at the Vivint Houston Open, the event played before 2020’s autumnal Masters.
“It’s been a struggle recently,” Matsuyama said on Sunday evening while wearing his green jacket. “This year, no top 10s, haven’t even contended. So I came to Augusta with little or no expectations. But as the week progressed, as I practiced, especially on Wednesday, I felt something again. I found something in my swing.”
As you can see in the chart below, Matsuyama’s strokes gained approach the green and putting averages since he started playing full time on the PGA Tour in 2014, Matsuyama has been among the elite iron players in the game in all but one season (2015). At the same time, his putting has been, at best, average.
Coming into the 2021 Masters, Matsuyama tied for 13th at the 2020 Masters, was T-32 in 2019 and 19th in 2018, so he had not established a pattern of elevating his game after driving down Magnolia Lane either.
We know that Matsuyama tied for seventh in Greens in Regulation (69 percent) last week, was second in Scrambling (73 percent) and 10th in Proximity to the Green (38 feet, 2 inches).
However, while there are mechanisms to create unofficial stats, the Masters does not release official strokes gained statistics, so aside from rudimentary information, it is hard to compare Matsuyama’s performance to other players. However, we can look at the average score for each hole in every round, then compare Matsuyama’s scores with the average scores to reveal where he gained the most advantage.
For example, on Thursday, the par-5 eighth hole played to a stroke average of 4.761, and it surrendered only three eagles. But Matsuyama got one of them, so it earned him a 1.76 strokes gained advantage over the field. There were six other holes where he gained more than a full shot against the field
|Hole||Average Score||Matsuyama’s Score||Matsuyama Strokes Gained|
|Round 1, Hole 8||4.761||3||1.761|
|Round 2, Hole 9||4.057||3||1.057|
|Round 2, Hole 13||4.494||3||1.494|
|Round 3, Hole 7||4.556||3||1.556|
|Round 3, Hole 11||4.333||3||1.333|
|Round 3, Hole 12||3.037||2||1.037|
|Round 3, Hole 15||4.759||3||1.759|
As you can see, on those seven holes, Matsuyama gained nearly 10 shots on the average player in the field, a massive number. At the same time, a bogey on the par-3 16th on Friday and a late bogey on the par-5 15th Sunday were the only two holes where he lost more than a shot to the field.
So, based on the numbers, it appears that Matsuyama, long an elite ballstriker, picked a great week to avoid making costly mistakes, avoided big numbers and putted well enough to allow his iron play to shine.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/13/masters-hideki-matsuyama-win-statistics/