I was hoping to be raring to go for this year’s Masters preview after a week off but even with the excitement of Spieth winning and the first major of the season I struggled to get too much enthusiasm for a preview. I think Burns and Westwood getting beaten seems to have properly knocked the stuffing out of me with regards the blog. Although with my major record so far on the blog nothing short of piss poor, it’s maybe no bad thing as I’ve tried to re-evaluate my major process this week. Easier said than done though. Anyway enough of the negativity, Spieth is a winner again and it’s Masters and Grand National week!!
2021 pts advised = 122
2021 pts returned = 73.98
Ah the Masters….yada yada yada. There are a host of brilliant previews kicking around and I’ll never top my first 2016 preview so rather than regurgitate that I’ll just stick the link here for anyone who wants that sort of thing and then focus on the bets.
The Masters – Betting Preview | Golf Greek (wordpress.com)
I will just give a brief summary though of what is required – generally a long driving game (ideally able to shape ball right to left), a high and accurate iron game to hold the fastest greens they play on each year. A sharp short game and confident lag and short putting when things heat up over the weekend. Taking care of the par 5s is always important but not quite as important as not making a mess of the long and difficult par 4s! A par on an easy par 5 isn’t the end of the world but an untimely double bogey on a tricky par 4 can signal the end of someone’s tournament over the weekend. Experience of the course is also crucial as no debutant has won since 1979 while current form seems to be a lot more vital than it used to be as the quality of the professional game is as deep as it has ever been so it’s a hard place to just pitch up and find your form.
I started out my Masters research this year determined to do two things; firstly to attempt to revise my strategy as the majors haven’t been going too well lately on the blog despite plenty of players contending. Secondly, to try not to back the same players that I normally do in the US majors. Sadly it looks like I’ve failed on both counts so I’d forgive anyone stopping reading now as regular readers can probably guess where I’m going. The problem with Jon Rahm is that he keeps on returning the place money and I also couldn’t bare to miss out on him winning the Masters, even at his price this week. He has placed in 5 of his last 9 US majors and more importantly his last 3 Masters. He simply has everything required to win here and the only slight concerns are the new clubs and now a new baby that arrived on Sunday. I don’t have a strong opinion on “nappy factor” but what I don’t like is the immediately cynical viewpoint on the matter. Any edge can be crucial in a sport like golf however I’d be worried it might have come a bit too close to the event. However he seems the sort of person that will have received a bit of a perspective from such a huge life event and if he can free wheel even in the slightest over the weekend off the back of it then that could be enough to get him over the line. Clearly just watching Rahm you can tell what a great fit he is for Augusta and that would be enough for many traditional golf punters but I also love the fact that he sits 3rd in strokes gained off the tee (also 3rd in total driving) and 6th in GIR. It’s a frightening combo for Augusta and to just highlight that further, Bryson and McIlroy who sit ahead of him in SG:OTT are only 65th and 105th in GIR respectively. Rahm also tends to putt a little better on faster greens or if not better then he appears to give up less of an advantage as he is more comfortable lagging putts on quick greens. This was never more evident than his eagle putt to win at Torrey Pines in 2017 and again at Olympia Fields last year when his 66ft birdie defeated DJ at the BMW. He is also a good enough chipper to win here even if that isn’t regularly borne out in the stats and again that is something that improves on quicker surfaces where he can pick a spot and not worry so much about pace. Ultimately though with Rahm I just expect that major win to come very soon and I’ve followed him for so long now I have to continue at least until I get close to the cliff edge.
Although I’ll be honest the slight lingering clubs concern and the close proximity of his baby being born make me want a back up from the head of the market and I cannot leave Jordan Spieth unbacked here, even at what might appear a restrictive price on first look. Like most of the golf betting world I wish i had backed him at some point over the last 6 weeks when it started to become clear that the bulk of his game was somewhere close to its best. That could have brought about a nice value ticket at anywhere up to the maximum of 85.0 that he traded on Betfair. But just because we missed out on bigger prices that doesn’t mean he is a bad price to win here at 14.0 having shown us that he is firmly “back” with his Texas Open win at the weekend. As the most diligent of value hunters will repeatedly tell you the only thing that makes a bet value is if you think it has a better chance than the available odds imply and with Spieth this week that is definitely the case for me now that all is well. Even if we include the last two years where his game has been in the doldrums he has placed in 4 of his 7 Masters events. That works out as 1.75 for a place or a top 10 we’ll say. Backing him with any of the bookmakers offering 10 places you are getting around 3.0 to 3.2 for a top 10 whereas the Betfair price is fluctuating between 2.46 and 2.70. But if you forgive him the last two events then he has been in the top 11 on all 5 starts here! He is also a winner that could easily have 2 green jackets and possibly 4 without being that unrealistic. But purely on that one win his Augusta figures are 1 win from 7 tries which would equate to 6/1. While that’s maybe being a little bit too cute I definitely expect him to finish his career with at least 3 Masters from maybe 24 realistic appearances which would be 7/1. I firmly believe that he wins in this situation more than 1 in 13 times so I still think Betfair’s 14.0 is a value bet. He simply loves it here and if he can drive it straight enough to win at TPC San Antonio then he can definitely drive it straight enough around the forgiving Augusta fairways. We have an in-form Masters winner returning to his favourite course off the back of a win in his home state and the course is set up firm and fast just as he used to enjoy at his peak. Given the likelihood of someone from the head of the market winning this I’m more than happy to have two picks from that range.
Which I guess means I have tweaked something this week as I’m going to have sizeable win and place bets on both Spieth and Rahm, with a view to getting their win stake back if they finish inside the top 10. I’ll be backing them both on Betfair so that’s what I’ll advise in the summary.
Despite firmly expecting this to be won by someone towards the head of the market there are three outsiders who I quite like the look of this week with Skybet’s excellent 11 places on offer. Ryan Palmer has been playing some of his best golf over the last couple of years and I think it could be telling that he hasn’t actually teed it up at Augusta since 2015. His major record in general isn’t great but he has made 3 of his 5 cuts here returning two top 40s and a best of 10th back in 2011. Of all the majors you’d probably say that the Masters suits him best and he is sneakily ranked number 27 in the world having spent most of the last year inside the top 50. There are no signs of the 44 year old letting up and we know that age isn’t generally too much of a barrier at Augusta, especially if you’re still ranking 46th in driving distance on Tour. Some of his other stats this year are also a big standout as he sits 8th in par 4 scoring, 16th in GIR, 5th in approaches from over 200 yards and 23rd in scrambling. The powerful Texan has always made light of the par 5s but this improvement on the par 4s is probably what has seen the big world ranking rise over the last year and it makes him very interesting here even if it would be a massive surprise if he properly contended or even won. The hope is that he can perhaps stay on the fringes of the leaderboard and maybe backdoor a T7th with the pressure off on Sunday. I’ll also add a safer top 30 bet at 2/1.
Victor Perez can boast stronger recent form than the large majority of this field and that makes him look like value in a number of markets. Perez just has one European Tour win to his name so far but it did come at St. Andrews in the Alfred Dunhill while his 2nd best finish was runner-up at Wentworth. For some reason there has always been a strong course correlation with these two courses and Augusta. This is the case through a variety of different types of players but the list of those who have won or played well at all three is a long one. Most recently Zach Johnson won at St Andrews and Augusta while Willett won the BMW PGA at Wentworth in 2019 four years after his Augusta triumph. Cabrera, Langer, Woosnam, Lyle and Olazabal have all won at both Wentworth and Augusta. Westwood and Howell have both won at Wentworth and St Andrews while Seve and Faldo have won at all three courses. Now it could seem to be fairly tenous and nothing more than being a case of all three generally producing top class winners but all require a high number of greens to be hit for a start and strong lag putting is also key at all three. But even the class angle in itself is perhaps a nod to Perez’s ability and that together with his 9th at the Players and 4th at the WGC Match Play tell me that he might be one to watch at this year’s majors. His long and accurate tee to green game looks perfect for championship courses particularly at the moment as he ranked 4th in both total driving and ball striking at the Players. He is also a decent putter these days having gained strokes on the green in 6 of his 7 starts this year and he tends to putt well on fast greens which is a bonus. His one weakness would be his chipping but at the WGC Match Play his short game was in good order. He finished 46th on his debut here in November but I’d expect him to prefer a firmer April Augusta and given he is now the 29th ranked player in the world there is a definite argument to be made for him being a shade of value at 100/1 with 11 places (the 300+ on Exchange also looks great if a little fanciful). I’ll also have a top 20 bet at a juicy 4/1.
I backed Sebastian Munoz in November here and he contended a lot of the way before sliding down the leaderboard on Sunday. I thought a soft Augusta would really suit his long game but having had four rounds at the course now his normally solid short game can help him go well again on a firmer April set-up. He has been firmly on my radar since November so it was nice to see him in and around the leaderboard at the weekend in Texas. Every area of his game was in good order and he looks primed for his second Augusta visit. I’ll also have a top bet at 7/2.
Finally I can’t let Augusta specialist Matt Kuchar go unbacked now he has found some form. His record here is excellent and if he hit the ball 15 yards further he may well own a green jacket by now. For some reason I can picture him in a green jacket more than any other player yet to win one, to the point that I feel like I’ve already seen a photo with him wearing one! But I can’t advise that anyone back him to win this although I’d be surprised if he didn’t put 4 solid rounds together given all 4 of his Augusta top 10s have come in difficult conditions when a single figure under par total won. So I’ll have a confident 3pts on a top 30 finish, something that has happened in 9 of the last 11 Masters.
The last two players off my list were Patrick Cantlay and Joaquin Niemann. Cantlay’s chance is an obvious one but such is his quality on long championship courses the bookmakers haven’t missed him and I would struggle to make an argument for 18/1 being a good price about someone with just two top 10s in 13 professional majors. I really think Niemann should enjoy Augusta but I just don’t like his price either considering his only two rounds here were 76 and 77 in 2018. He has vastly improved since and his controlled long game should be ideal but at 45/1 he is priced up like we know he can play Augusta while sadly that’s not the case yet. I’ll be watching him closely though and maybe looking to jump onboard on the Exchange where he is already tempting at 75.0. If Cantlay happens to drift to 28.0 on the Exchange I think I’ll be having a cover bet at the very least.
I’ve had 4 each way bets in the first round leader market – Brian Harman, Lee Westwood, Jason Kokrak and Scottie Scheffler. They have a good mix of tee times which I think could be wise this year despite the recent trend of later tee times oming out on top on Day 1.
Brian Harman is playing very well at the moment and is 8th in round 1 scoring over the last 3 months. In that time he has had a 68, two 67s and a 66 across just 6 stroke play events while he shot 8 under in the first round of the WGC Match Play. Having missed the last two Masters I think this Georgia native could fly out of the blocks again and looks a fair price at 66/1 in the 9am slot.
Lee Westwood is also in fine form and 5 of his last 7 opening rounds have been in the 60s. He has also shot his lowest round on Day 1 in 6 of his last 11 Masters and with his confidence as high as it’s been in sometime he can also be expected to make a fast start from a sociable 10:30am tee time.
Jason Kokrak has only played here once and missed the cut but he opened with a 71 and his powerful, high ball flight should really suit Augusta. His short game will be less suited but he has improved a huge amount on the greens this year so he looks capable of one low round even if he’s unlikely to put 4 good rounds together. Sitting 6th in round 1 scoring over the last 3 months there is a good chance that low round is his first round.
Finally another powerhouse Scottie Scheffler. His long game numbers have been off the chart lately and he actually leads the total driving stats which is amazing for someone who hits the ball so far. His approach play was poor last week in Texas but prior to that it had been excellent so he was maybe just trying something getting ready for the Masters. Not the biggest price but as long as the firm course doesn’t spook him he should continue where he left off in November after a 19th place finish on debut. Sits 10th in round 1 scoring so again he looks like he should start well.
Summary of bets
Jordan Spieth – 4pts win @ 14 and 2.5pts Top 10 @ 2.60 both on Betfair Exchange
Jon Rahm – 4pts win @ 14 and 3pts Top 10 @ 2.36 both on Betfair Exchange
Ryan Palmer – 0.5pts ew @ 125/1 and 2pts Top 30 @ 2/1
Victor Perez – 0.75pt ew @ 100/1 and 2pts Top 20 @ 4/1
Sebastian Munoz – 0.5pts ew @ 150/1 and 1pt Top 20 @ 7/2 all each way bets are Skybet and place markets are Betfair Sportsbook
Matt Kuchar – 3pts Top 30 @ 11/10
1st round leader (all 1/5 odds 8 places Betfair)
Brian Harman – 0.5pts ew @ 66/1
Lee Westwood – 0.5pts ew @ 33/1
Jason Kokrak – 0.25pts ew @ 70/1
Scottie Scheffler – 0.25pts ew @ 45/1
Weekly points advised = 28pts