Ahead of the 2018 Masters Tournament, Rick Gehman used his skills as a data analyst and golf aficionado to craft a sophisticated model to predict the results.
The Philadelphia native used his model as guidance while cashing over $10,000 in DraftKings 2018 Masters contests by creating the optimal lineup, meaning he picked the six golfers with the best scores while staying under a salary cap.
Fast forward to 2020, where Gehman is now a full-time fantasy sports analyst and the proprietor of a complex model that simulates the performance of each golfer on each hole at a course 1,000 times to produce likely results.
With the 2020 Masters was postponed, Golf Digest jumped on the opportunity to use Gehman’s model to go beyond prediction, and serve as the main event.
Friday marked the final day of Gehman’s 2020 Masters simulation, which has been accompanied by a notes-style column from Shane Ryan to mimic the quirks and excitement of the historic golf tournament.
“This is something that kind of came out of necessity with [no sports] going on, but I've actually been doing this for a long time,” said Gehman, who played college baseball at La Salle and has worked in marketing automation for college and professional sports teams in California.
“[Golf Digest] gave this thing context and brought the numbers to life in a way I could never imagine. Shane Ryan has put his spin on it and really made it feel like I'm reading the results of a real golf tournament.”
Ryan’s coverage detailed the surprise rise of 31-year-old Masters rookie Lanto Griffin, who vaulted to the top of the leaderboard over the simulated event’s first two rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, Corey Conners and Shane Lowry leaped over Griffin with 8-under-par scorecards. Griffin fell to third at 6-under with heavyweights Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods sitting right behind him at 5-under.
On Friday, the winner was revealed: Patrick Reed, who won the 2018 real-life Masters.
From Ryan’s notes on the final round: “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 [Tyrrell] Hatton and Conners back in the mix, and Reed is not the collapsing type.”
Reed’s final-round 64 was the lowest of the tournament.
“It’s kind of how we envisioned it,” said Golf Digest deputy editor Stephen Hennessey. “Golfers are still coming to us for content during [the pandemic] and this has been one of the main traffic drivers on the site. It’s nice to bring people to this world where there could be a Masters starting [Thursday] and give them a chance to connect and engage.”