Masters Betting Preview
April 2, 2018
By Dan Daly
Editor's Note: Be sure to follow @_DanDaly on Twitter this golf season for his off-the-cuff remarks and entertaining commentary!
The azaleas are in full bloom, JD is set up in the Hooter’s parking lot on Washington Ave., and the most beautiful 365 acres on the planet are on full display this week. We return to the place where idiots screaming MASHED POTATOES after every shot are replaced with Patrons, cell phones must be checked at the door, pimento cheese sandwiches are a delicacy and of course with the help of their sponsors, Augusta National and CBS will continue to bring us 56 minutes of every hour of golf coverage. In other words, Hello Friends, and welcome to the greatest week of the calendar year.
On any given year the Masters stands alone as the single most anticipated golf tournament of the year; with that said, the 2018 is unquestionably the most anticipated Masters Golf Tournament I can ever remember. The hype going into the 2018 Masters is like nothing I have ever seen before, not only heading into a golf tournament, but a sporting event in general. Unfortunately, most times in life, and especially in sports, the hype leading up to an event tends to be far more exciting that the event itself. I just hope this isn’t one of those times.
As an unintended consequence to all the hype, the 2018 Masters might also be the hardest Major I can ever remember trying to handicap. There are literally 10 guys you can make a very compelling argument for to win this week (and a few you can’t).
With that said, here goes nothing…
(As always, odds are at the time this was written and will probably change throughout the week)
The few that can’t:
Sergio Garcia 25/1 – Let’s start with the defending champion. The guy that went 0 for his first 73 majors, I give little to no chance that he is going back-to-back at Augusta…even if he did name his kid Azalea after the 13th hole.
Jason Day 20/1 – Day won two months ago for the first time in almost two years and followed that up with a T-2 at Pebble, a T-22 at the API and then failed to advance out of the group play at the WGC. Day has three Top-10’s in seven starts at Augusta and his form seems to have improved since his abysmal 2017. With that said, his iron play hasn’t. You can’t win at Augusta with poor or even mediocre iron play and Day so far in 2018 is mediocre at best.
Jon Rahm 22/1 – The fact that John Rahm is the 3rd ranked player in the world blows my mind. I realize he has 4 worldwide wins in the last 15 months (which is impressive), but the guy has never finished higher than 23rd at a major…and that was as an Amateur. He is a solid player, but not the third best player in the world. As for Augusta, he is making only his second start here (which is a huge red flag for me), has yet to contend in a major (red flag number two) and like Jason Day, his iron play is the weakest part of his game. Plus he has the maturity level of a 3 year old, which, until that changes, will never allow him to win a Major.
Patrick Reed 60/1 – He’s played well the last month…buuuuut still hasn’t closed the deal on the PGA Tour in 18 months. He did finally crack the top-10 in a major at last year’s PGA Championship so he’s finally got that going for him, but with two missed cuts, a T-22 and a T-49 at Augusta he could be 600/1 and I still wouldn’t take him this week.
Adam Scott 55/1 – You remember him right? Tall, good-looking fella from Australia. Former Masters champion. Yeah, that guy. He seems to have disappeared off the planet for the past two years or so. He still has one of, if not the prettiest swing in all of golf, but unfortunately the guy can’t putt. And I mean really can’t putt. I don’t care how good you hit it tee to green, if you can’t putt, you can’t win at Augusta.
Rickie Fowler 20/1 – 2014: This is the year Rickie wins a major. 2015: This is the year Rickie wins his first major. 2016: THIS is the year Rickie wins his first major. 2017: This is the year Rickie FINALLY breaks through and wins his first major. The definition of insanity is doing (or saying in this case) the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Now Rickie might actually break-through and win a major one of these years but you’re going to go broke before you are proven right. If the guy is anywhere near the leaders come Sunday he has no chance. The guy melts faster than butter in a microwave on the first page of a leaderboard over the weekend. His only chance is going stupid low 90 minutes ahead of the leaders with no pressure on him and hoping it holds up; and I simply don’t see that happening on the back nine Sunday at Augusta.
Haotong Li 125/1 – Who? What? Well, he doesn’t really have a chance in hell to win this week, nor would I bet on him or recommend that you bet on him, but, the last two Dubai Desert Classic winners (Willett – 2016…Sergio – 2017) went on to win the Masters. Your 2018 Dubai Desert Classic winner…none other than Haotong LI (beating out Rory no less). So there’s that.
Rafael Cabrera Bello 80/1 - The missed cut in Houston actually makes me like him even more since he has more time at Augusta to practice. A lot of people don’t have any idea who this guy is despite being the 22nd ranked player in the world. He’s one of the better fast green putters in the world and he currently ranks 2nd on tour in SG approach to the green and 1st in proximity to the hole. Those are two very key components at Augusta. Of course he drives it more crooked than a Politician and only has two previous Masters Starts (T17 and MC) so there is a reason he is 80 to 1 this week, but if you want a small risk/high reward guy this week, Rafael Cabrera Bello is your guy. I got him at 100 to 1 a few weeks back so he is slowly dropping.
Alex Noren 40/1 – Look, anyone that can not only hold a golf club, but swing it as well as Alex Noren does with hands that jacked up is impressive in my book (side note, don’t google Alex Noren hands if you are at lunch). He has one Masters start and it was a MC last year. He putts it decent, drives it decent and hits solid irons. In other words he doesn’t do anything spectacular but also doesn’t do anything terrible. I followed him for a while at the WGC in Austin a few weeks ago and was impressed watching him play. This is a total gut play for me this week but getting the 14th ranked player in the world at 40 to 1 just seems too hard to pass up.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance:
Hideki Matsuyama 35/1 – You can get the 6th ranked player in the world, and a guy that has gone 5th, 7th and 11th in his last three Masters at 35 to 1? That seems too good to be true, and it is. Matsuyama is a phenomenal iron player, which bodes well at Augusta, hence his success there over the last few years. The problem is, the guy simply doesn’t putt well enough on fast greens to take advantage of his iron play. Now he’s improved dramatically over the last few years, but not enough to take advantage of his incredible odds this week. He isn’t a terrible bet at these odds just in case he has a magical week with the putter, and his iron play will definitely keep him in contention, but he would have to replicate what Rory did at the Arnold Palmer with his putter to win this week and the odds of that happening are much higher than 35 to 1.
Dustin Johnson 11/1 – Since his “slip” (one day the real story will come out) last year on the eve of the Masters DJ hasn’t been the same player. Sure he’s still the number one player in the world, and yes he has still won since then (albeit not quite on the same rapid pace) but the one thing that made DJ such a threat at Augusta going into last year was the fact that he dialed in his wedge game to go along with his mammoth drives. DJ is 159th on tour this year in proximity to the hole. Considering he is number one on tour in SG off the tee that is an abysmal number. DJ probably would have won the 2017 Masters if he had teed it up, but he didn’t, and a lot has changed in the last 365 Days. He certainly has the firepower to win this week and he’s still the number one player in the world, but his biggest weapon in 2017 has been missing so far in 2018.
Jordan Spieth 12/1 – Would I bet against Spieth at Augusta? Not a chance. Could he win this week? Absolutely. Will he win this week? Probably not. He obviously played well in Houston this weekend but there were still signs of struggling with the putter and specifically short putts and three putt avoidance, which is a major key to winning at Augusta. The guy is 185th in strokes gained putting on the year. That is almost incomprehensible. There are other areas that concern me as well though. The guy was quietly the best iron player on tour the last few years and so far this year has been just a bit off (by his standards anyway). He can get away with that most places, but not at Augusta. Look, if he gets to Augusta and the magic with flat-stick returns, watch out, the guy has the lowest score to par at Augusta the last five Masters for a reason. While I’ve learned not to bet against Jordan Spieth in his short career I just have a hard time believing he can get everything squared away that quickly in such a short time…even at Augusta, and maybe especially at Augusta. I also need to see him play #12 on Sunday when it matters before I fully trust him again…or he trusts himself.
I really like their chances:
Justin Thomas 11/1 – In the words of Maury Ballstein; This guy is so hot right now he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple fish hooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings. Trying to find a flaw in Justin Thomas’s game right now is like trying to find a flaw on the Hope Diamond. Drives it well, putts it well, hits his irons well…you name it, he does it well. Is he the best at anything in particular? Not really. But he is the best player on the planet right now and that’s not really debatable. Betting on Justin Thomas this week is pretty much just a safe hedge. While he did win the last Major Championship played at the PGA last August, his record at Augusta isn’t exactly stellar. Then again he only has two starts with a T39 and a T22. I’m guessing he improves on that this week in a Major way.
Justin Rose 16/1 – Outside of Spieth, Rose has the second lowest score to par over the last five years at Augusta including a playoff loss to Sergio last year, a T10 in 2016 and a T2 in 2015. In other words the guy really likes this golf course. Couple that with three Top 10’s on Tour already in 2018 and Justin Rose is a pretty solid pick this week as well. Put all that together and Rose will probably the most popular “experts pick” this week…and for good reason. The one thing that might hold Rose back is his ability to close down the stretch. See 2017 Masters and more recently the 2018 Valspar.
Bubba Watson 20/1 – Despite being my least favorite person on the planet, yes Bubba Watson has a very legitimate shot at winning this week (I’m literally sanitizing my fingers as I type this). For reasons I will never understand, Bobby Jones designed a golf course that perfectly fits Bubba’s eye. The guy has two green jackets for a reason. Throw in the fact that he stopped playing with a putt-putt ball and thus has been playing really well thus far in 2018 and that leads to a very dangerous combination. The guy has two wins already in 2018 for a reason. All things being equal, he is a pretty good bet at 20/1 but I would rather live under a bridge than win money on Bubba Watson so I will pass. Well, that and the fact that he has zero Top-20’s outside of his two wins and statistically has one of the worst short games on Tour this year.
Phil Mickelson 18/1 – Three Green Jackets, 11 Top 5’s and 15 Top 10’s in 25 trips around Augusta National. Yeah, I would say the guy knows his way around the course pretty well. More than almost anyone in the history of the game Mickelson is able to flip a switch when he drives down Magnolia Lane. On years he is playing bad he is still a favorite to win, and for good reason. On years he’s playing well, like this year, he is incredibly dangerous. He has the winless streak monkey off his back, he is coming in playing some of the best golf of his career and as a result, he is cocky (and I mean that in a good way) and cocky Phil Mickelson is a dangerous Phil Mickelson. The one thing that will hold him back is big numbers. If Phil can avoid the big numbers this week he will probably win, I just don’t see him going 72 holes without a couple of “Phil moments”…and not the good ones. Although there will be plenty of those as well.
Rory McIlroy 11/1 – This is real simple, if Rory putts like he did at the API this thing is over before it starts. No one, and I mean no one in 2018 or the history of golf for that matter has a chance to stay within 5 shots of him on this golf course if he leads the field in putting. However I just don’t see that happening again. That was a once in a career putting performance from a guy that is week in and week out is one of the worst putters on tour. I have no doubt his lesson with Brad Faxon has improved his putting. The question is, how much? The guy has four straight top 10’s at Augusta and did so with a complete inability to make anything over four feet. If you believe that Rory has fixed the putter, by all means, take him this week at 11 to 1, he will probably run away with it. Personally, I need to see more than one career weekend before I’m ready to fit him for a green jacket.
Tiger Woods 9/1 – The fact that the 103rd ranked player in the world is the betting favorite at Augusta is just insane to me…even if his name is Tiger Woods. Yet here we are. Does he have a chance? Absolutely. The guy has four green jackets, 11 Top 5’s and 13 Top 10’s in his career at Augusta. Now obviously none of those are recent but the guy knows his way around that place probably better than anyone alive not named Jack Nicklaus. Sure he can’t find a fairway with a GPS but that’s part of the beauty of Augusta for Tiger, you can win there missing fairways. You just have to know where to miss them, and he does, and you have to be deadly accurate with your approach shots, which he has shown he can do so far this year. Throw in the fact that his short game and putting is as good as it’s been in 10 years and you have the perfect formula for a Tiger win this week. While Tiger winning this week would arguably be the biggest story in golf…maybe ever, I just don’t know if this is his week. I know this sounds crazy for a guy with 14 major championships but I think he needs to contend in a major at least one time again before he can close the deal. I would love to see him win this week and my surprise level would be 0.0 if he did, I just like his chances at a 15th major much more at Shinnecock in June than this week.
As I said earlier, the 2018 Masters is the most hyped golf tournament I can ever remember. The number of storylines and big names that have a very legitimate shot to win this week is unprecedented and I would love to see them all play out perfectly. I just don’t think they will, if for no other reason than because they almost never do. So for me, the question I asked myself was, who has the best chance to win this week that almost no one is talking about? And the answer was very obvious…
Paul Casey 25/1 – He checks all the boxes. Recent form is great; a win at the Valspar with a Top 10 at Pebble and a T12 at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. He plays well at Augusta with a T6, T4 and 6th in his last three starts there. He has the third lowest score to par in the last five Masters behind only Spieth and Rose. He’s top 10 in SG approach to the green this year, 5th in SG total for the year and 11th in SG around the green. The putter is the one thing that can run hot and cold but he has proven he knows how to putt well at Augusta. He doesn’t get easily rattled and doesn’t make big numbers. The one thing that has kept him from winning the past three years is one bad round per year (75 in 2017, 77 in 2016 and 74 in 2015). I think Casey avoids that the blowup round this year (he doesn’t have a round over 73 thus far in 2018) and a result turns his previous good finishes at Augusta into his first Major Championship. I know it’s not the sexy name that everyone is hoping for but again, I think that is one of the best things going for him this week.
No matter what happens or who wins*, "Happy Masters to all, and to all a good-week!"
*Unless it’s Bubba, then we all have a right to be pissed.
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