How great does it feel to be able to ask the key question on most everyone’s mind across the golf world: Who are you picking to win at Augusta National in April? The 85th edition of the Masters has just about arrived. And with a tremendous field featuring most of the best professionals and a few of the top amateurs in the world, the first major of 2021 should be an epic ride from Thursday’s first round onward.
The Masters storylines are plentiful this week. Dustin Johnson is looking to become the fourth golfer to win back-to-back green jackets, while Rory McIlroy remains in the hunt for his first. Unfortunately for McIlroy, he’s not playing at his highest level at this time, which puts him further back on the odds board than he’d otherwise sit.
Justin Thomas — as the winner of the 2021 Players Championship — is hot entering the event, but so is Jordan Spieth, who has not only had an incredible start to 2021 but just won the Texas Open on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory since 2017. Both will be in Featured Groups on Thursday. Be sure to check our 2021 Masters coverage guide for more information on how to watch the event live.
So what is going to happen this week at Augusta? Let’s take a look at a full set of predictions and picks from our CBS Sports experts. Check out a full set of 2021 Masters odds via William Hill Sportsbook and 2021 Masters tee times to see when your favorite golfers will take the course.
2021 Masters expert picks, predictions
Kyle Porter, golf writer
Winner — Jordan Spieth (10-1): Well, I’m all in at this point. Might as well make it official. Try to ignore the Texas Open victory if you can and focus on the fact that he’s tops when it comes to recent iron play and history on this golf course. Last week’s win may have relaxed him a bit, though I have no idea if it’s even good for Spieth to be relaxed. Either way, he’ll contend (and I think, win) because he’s unbelievably smart on this golf course and he’s gained strokes on approach shots in 22 of his last 25 stroke-play rounds. The rumors are true, people. He’s back, and he’s been back for a while.
Sleeper — Sergio Garcia (45-1): I know I will regret this, but I cannot help myself. Since Feb. 1, only Paul Casey has hit the ball better than Garcia. I’m concerned about his recent history at major championships (nine missed cuts since his win here in 2017), but he has win equity at massive events, and the tee-to-green numbers (2.35 strokes gained per round since Feb. 1, according to Data Golf) are difficult to ignore.
Top 10 lock — Dustin Johnson: It seems amid the Spieth hoopla like we have all forgotten about the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion of this event. He has five straight top 10s here and has only lost to Tiger Woods in his last two outings. A tough course should actually benefit what he does best, and some of his recent struggles (if you want to call them that) have been on account of some unusually poor putting, which is far less concerning than if he was not hitting the ball well.
Star who definitely won’t win — Brooks Koepka: Does this count? Only one player in the field has more majors than Koepka, who won back in February, but I don’t buy into the bravado about being able to gut it out this week. It’s unfortunate because Koepka provides a nice depth to major championships, but I would be absolutely stunned if he came in and won this after undergoing a knee procedure and showing up at the tournament with no real tournament work in the weeks leading into it.
Surprise prediction: Phil Mickelson gets into contention at some point. Again, I don’t know how bold it is to say that a three-time Masters champion is going to play well at the Masters, but Lefty has also dropped out of the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings and does not have a top 10 here since 2015. However, he’s been flushing his irons, and on a tough, speedy setup, his course knowledge will be disproportionately valuable. I don’t know that it will run all the way until Sunday, but I think Mickelson might have himself a fun little week around Augusta National.
Lowest round: 66 (-6)
Winning score: 278 (-10)
Winner’s Sunday score: 70 (-2)
Chip Patterson, writer
Winner — Dustin Johnson (8-1): When D.J. capped his 20-under win in November, I immediately considered him my pick to run it back. It’s not specifically the way he managed the course and the current state of his game as the No. 1 player in the world but rather how the 2020 win was the culmination of recent success at Augusta National. Since 2015, D.J. has finished in the top 10 of every Masters start with a T2 in 2019 and a T4 in 2016. So often we refer to the course history and discuss who has “figured out the Rubik’s cube,” and the results clearly point to D.J. being one of those golfers who has got the game plan to win. The only reason to bet against D.J. prior was a belief that all those high finishes without wins were indicative of some extra piece missing from his major championship repertoire, but now that he’s broken the seal and joined the multiple majors club, I think we might see a floodgates-type of run.
Sleeper — Matthew Fitzpatrick (60-1): Often lost when discussing the great young players in golf is their successes outside the PGA Tour. Fitzpatrick, 26, does not yet have a winner on the tour but is a six-time winner on the European Tour. I like the value here because of his recent form in PGA Tour events, finishing T9 at The Players, T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T11 at the WGC-Workday Championship and T5 at the Genesis Invitational. Those are strong finishes against solid fields, and they have propelled Fitzpatrick to No. 16 in the OWGR, a new career high. Statistically, he doesn’t have anything I would categorize as elite based on his limited sample size in 2021, but it’s his improvements on the green (finishing No. 2 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting in 2020) that give me confidence he can succeed at Augusta National. Fitzpatrick has made every cut at the Masters since 2016 when he had his career-best major finish at T7.
Top 10 lock — Jon Rahm: Shout out to the just had a baby bump, but even without the trend of golfers playing well with a newborn in the world, this is a rock solid pick. Rahm is too good and has too much appreciation for this course to think he’s not going to finish 72 holes near the top of the leaderboard. He might win it, be in contention the whole way or backdoor his way in with a low score on Sunday. Either way, over the course of the week, he’ll be play well enough compared to the rest of the field to finish in the top 10.
Star who definitely won’t win — Brooks Koepka: I love the storyline of Koepka showing up to Augusta with surging confidence less than a month removed from surgery on his right knee. He says he was hitting balls “seven days out of surgery” and going through intense rehab sessions to get ready for this championship. Again, it’s one of my top five favorite storylines of the week, and I’ll be thrilled to talk about it but I don’t think walking the course for four days straight — a tougher walk than most would think given elevation changes that don’t always show up on TV — is going to have him positioned to win late Sunday afternoon.
Surprise prediction: Multiple hole-in-ones! I want to go a step farther and say we’ll have multiple aces at No. 16, as “Redbud” has provided the most hole-in-ones in Masters history, but let’s leave some room open for this prediction to hit. Each of the last four times the Masters has been held in its traditional April spot on the calendar there has been at least one ace on No. 16, including two in 2019 (Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas) and three in 2016 (Shane Lowry, Davis Love III and Louis Oosthuizen).
Lowest round: 63 (-9)
Winning score: 269 (-19)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-4)
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Kyle Boone, writer
Winner — Rory McIlroy (14-1): While McIlroy has not been able to topple Augusta National and claim a green jacket, he has been close in recent years with six top-10 showings in his last seven outings. McIlroy was nails in his Masters showing in November, too. If not for an opening-round 75, we may be talking about his attempt at a repeat come this week. His final 54-hole score of 202 was one stroke better than Johnson, who carded a 203 over his final three days to don the green jacket. At 14-1, McIlroy presents fantastic value. If he brings his “A” game, he’ll be in the mix to the end on Sunday.
Sleeper — Cameron Smith (35-1): Still relatively green on the PGA Tour, the 28-year-old Aussie makes up for his inexperience with some real, early success. He finished top 20 at The Players Championship and came in fourth at the Genesis Invitational. He’s also found tremendous success at the Masters led by a T2 finish last November and a T5 finish in 2018. Getting 35-1 odds on a player with two career top-five finishes in four Masters appearances is about as good a value as you can find.
Top 10 lock — Justin Thomas: When J.T. is on his game, he is one of the best tee-to-green golfers on the tour. And even when he’s not, he can labor and grind his way to contention as he figures things out on the fly. But the way he’s played most of the last six months is tracking towards a surefire top-10 finish. He finished fourth at the Masters in November and managed a top-10 U.S. Open finish in September despite fighting through a few ugly rounds to get there. He’s improved his final standing at this tournament each year over the last five years so it tracks that this week could be one of his best showings.
Star who definitely won’t win — Jordan Spieth: Winning the Texas Open in the lead-up to Masters week is a good indication that Spieth, whose career has been a roller coaster, is back on an upward trajectory. And no doubt, what he’s done over the past few months has been encouraging. But Spieth’s ghosts at Augusta are real. He has finished outside the top-20 his last two showings at Augusta National, and this course can be unforgiving when you get into your own head, which Spieth is wont to do.
Surprise prediction: Bryson DeChambeau leads after more rounds than the eventual champion. A lot was made in the lead-up to his Masters appearance last year because of his length off the tee and the confidence he displayed before the tournament in his ability to break Augusta, which ended in a T34 finish. That was a humbling experience for one of golf’s longest, strongest golfers. He’ll be in the mix entering the weekend and atop the leaderboard entering Saturday fueled by that failure.
Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 270 (-18)
Winner’s Sunday score: 67 (-5)
Adam Silverstein, editor
Winner — Justin Thomas (10-1): One month ago, in this same story, I predicted J.T. to win the 2021 Players Championship. Entering that event, he had been on a roll since the start of the season in September with three top fives and top-15 finishes at every event but one. He won his 14th PGA Tour event and first Players that week at 20-1, and now his odds are halved for the Masters. Guess what? He’s still a fantastic gamble. Check this: Thomas has improved at every single Masters in which he’s competed. He finished T39 in 2016 and subsequently placed T22, T17, T12 and 4th. Could he accomplish that once more and not win? Sure, but there’s only so much room and so many years for him to go before claiming solo 1 and his first green jacket.
Sleeper — Webb Simpson (35-1): You know who else has been playing exceptionally well at Augusta National? You guessed it. Simpson does not have the same progression as J.T., but he’s finished among the top 30 in five of the last six events and inside the top 10 in each of the last two. Simpson has four top 10s at majors since 2018 as he searches for his first such victory since capturing the 2012 U.S. Open. There’s other, more attractive picks with shorter odds, but hey, we’re looking for a sleeper here.
Top 10 lock — Dustin Johnson: The defending champion is tops on the odds board and has a legitimate chance to become just the fourth man to repeat with consecutive green jackets. His play has not diminished one iota since that victory in November, and he’s somehow flying under the radar with so much attention on Thomas, Jordan Spieth (who is also a likely top 10 finisher) and Bryson DeChambeau. Some may be overthinking this one. If you’re not picking D.J. to win, he’s damn sure still going to contend.
Star who definitely won’t win — Brooks Koepka: Look, if Koepka won, it would be an outstanding feat. But less than three weeks after knee surgery, he’s going to walk this course for four days and best many of the aforementioned names? Watching Koepka read putts on Tuesday and Wednesday was painful — as an onlooker. He can’t even squat and is sticking his leg out to the side to avoid bending his knee. And he’s 25-1 to win?! Best of luck to Brooks, but I’m not even sure he makes the cut let alone takes the entire thing.
Surprise prediction: The winner comes from the top three favorites. I guess a favorite winning is not a surprise per se, but when you’re talking about an 88-man field, the odds are quite long that one of any group of three men will win. It’s just clear that all three of these guys — Johnson, Thomas and Jordan Spieth — have the momentum entering this tournament. There’s sentimental reasons to believe Rahm can pull it out like Danny Willett did a couple years ago or exciting hopes that Bryson DeChambeau blitzes the field, but in the end, a fan favorite is going to wind up winning this Masters Tournament.
Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 272 (-16)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-4)
Jacob Hallex, producer
Winner — Patrick Cantlay (22-1): Spieth’s victory in Texas was a massive gift to anyone that didn’t want to back him in Augusta. As Jordan’s price fell in markets, we’ve seen numbers improve for other players that could just as easily win the thing. Cantlay is one of those guys. Data Golf has him as the fifth best player in the world. He finished three shots behind Tiger Woods in 2019. He’s been able to pop off big this season for excellent results, including a victory at the Zozo Championship in the fall. Cantlay comes in under-the-radar after a missed cut at The Players and failing to get out of his group at the WGC-Match Play. Cantlay is 6th on the PGA Tour in average strokes gained per round this season. I think he gains the most strokes on the field this week.
Sleeper — Adam Scott (55-1): How is Scott a sleeper? It has been over a decade since he missed the cut at the Masters. Augusta National is a second shot golf course, and Scott is a second shot player. That’s why he’s had so much success on the PGA Tour and at the Masters over the years. Scott is the youngest 40-year-old on the PGA Tour. ask anyone at the Titlest Performance Institute, and they’ll probably tell you he is the hardest working guy at the gym. Those gains have resulted in the Aussie ranking 19th on the PGA Tour this season in driving distance. Combine his longer than usual driving with rain in the forecast that could level out the field in the approach game, and I think Scott has tremendous upside this year.
Top 10 lock — Cameron Smith: Can we just copy and paste my love letter from our preview of The Players? November’s Masters was the exception and not the rule, but still, the young Aussie’s performance can’t be overlooked. In 2020, Smith became the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s. Even in November, that’s an impressive feat. If it wasn’t for Dustin Johnson, he’d have gone up against Sungjae Im for a green jacket in a playoff. Last year wasn’t his only standout performance at Augusta National. In 2018, he finished T5 after firing a Sunday 66. I’m taking the scrappy Aussie to finish near the lead again.
Star who definitely won’t win — Rory McIlroy: Rory is going through some things right now. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just something where we shouldn’t expect him to be competitive at this year’s Masters. He’s been sluggish ever since golf’s return from COVID-19 just over a year ago. Whether it’s new dad stress, speed chasing or a coaching shake-up … Rory hasn’t been Rory. Justin Ray has pointed out a concerning first round trend when it comes to McIlroy at the majors that has me thinking Rory won’t be making a charge out the gate this week. At some point, McIlroy will get it back and win another major, probably win one at Augusta … but it’s not happening this week.
Surprise prediction: Bryson DeChambeau matches “Bryson Par.” You may recall back in November that DeChambeau infamously said Augusta National played as a par 67 for him. Cue three rounds in the 70s. It’s because of that performance that I’m bullish on Bryson this week. He is showing up to Augusta with more humility and more importantly a new Cobra driver tailored specifically for him. Coming off a T3 at The Players and a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, I think Bryson will post his best finish ever at the Masters.
Lowest round: 66 (-6)
Winning score: 276 (-12)
Winner’s Sunday score: 69 (-3)
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