Even with the gallery size being a question, to have the Masters back in it's traditional early-April spot as the season's first Major is nice.
The No. 1 ranked player in the world, Dustin Johnson, comes into defend the green jacket as the favorite (+900), and he's also off the shortest reign as champion ever (about six months). In today's game where you've got a number of guys chasing distance, how Augusta National holds up against today's bombers is always going to be a topic.
Bryson DeChambeau has shown just how big of an advantage length can be on certain holes after what he did at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, and overpowering Augusta when you can has proven to be a winning method here in the past.
But the beauty about the Masters is how many risk/reward questions it asks of guys on nearly every single shot, and it's those choices that create all the drama. Length may be an advantage if you execute, but wedges have to be tight here, and putts undoubtedly have to fall. The latter is usually what gets most guys by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, and the puzzles that are Augusta National greens are why debutants are best left alone in the Masters every year.
Since the nature of this field is seeing at least a handful of debutants mixed with older past champions that have little likelihood of reclaiming that glory, an already small field event condenses to where there are plenty of great options to add to anyone's betting card.
Date: Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021 to Sunday, Apr. 11, 2021
The thing about Augusta that always gets lost in television cameras is just how treacherous of a walk these 18 pressure-packed holes can be. Finding a flat lie is always a challenge here, and guys had better be able to control their ball flight on distance and direction enough to put themselves in the right spots on this golf course. Knowing where to miss and leave one's self on certain holes is another specific trope of Augusta National that hurts debutants in this tournament as well.
Slick, sloping greens are always going to be the feature of this venue that most recall first, and the greens and putting drama will make sure it finds its way into this Masters tournament as it does every year. Because course history is quite valuable here, guys who've played here enough can really get rolling with the putter some days and it's those kinds of rounds that really can add drama to this event.
Statistically, the approach and scrambling games are going to be what saves guys the most strokes relative to the field, as that risk/reward aspect of this course widens the range of possible scores on many holes if there are issues into or around the greens.
Still, with this type of quality field, nearly all the names at the top are going to be quite strong in those categories, so who you believe can execute the best here is the way to go. Whether that's relying on recent form, recent form at Augusta, or some combination of the two, it's hard to poke too many holes in most of the betting selections you'll hear for this event.
Dustin Johnson, the defending champion, will enter the 2021 Masters as the top betting choice. (AP)
Even with a loaded field in a Major tournament, there still can only be a handful of names in the sub-+2000 range, and that honor for the 2021 Masters belongs to Dustin Johnson (+900), Bryson DeChambeau (+1000), Justin Thomas (+1100), Jordan Spieth (+1100), Jon Rahm (+1300) and Rory McIlroy (+1900).
Tough to really go wrong with any of those selections, although, considering since Jordan Spieth's last win (The Open in July 2017), DJ's won 11 times worldwide, Rahm's racked up nine worldwide wins, DeChambeau's won eight times, Thomas has 10 victories, and McIlroy has five victories, it's not a hard argument to say that Spieth's price is rather questionable regardless of his finish in Texas (writing this before the event ended).
Personally, I still haven't forgotten about that eight-shot lead Spieth coughed up in his head-to-head matchup with Morikawa at The PLAYERS a few weeks ago, as any hint of being overpriced is more than enough reason to pass on Spieth at Augusta.
Concerns are there with McIlroy as well as he has really struggled with his swing of late. But considering that he's usually flooded with questions about the career Grand Slam when he's at Augusta, the fact that many don't believe he can even really contend right now with his golf swing, let alone win a Major, may be the pressure relief McIlroy needs at this tournament.
There is still the harsh reality of that work-in-progress swing he's using these days though, meaning it's tough to have a McIlroy ticket in your pocket pre-tournament in my view. But if he starts to show something in the first few days with that swing, and maybe more importantly he's playing free and loose despite the possible Grand Slam looming, I wouldn't rule out adding him to the card on Saturday/Sunday either.
The next wave of names from +2200 to +4000 is loaded with great betting options as well, with many of the game's younger names (Morikawa, Hovland, Im) involved in this group. Morikawa and Im are two names that did make their debut appearance here back in November, and with how soft Augusta played overall then, I am skeptical about those Masters debutants from November living up to expectation here in April.
Things are likely to be much faster from top to bottom on this course, and remembering back to how many guys said it would/did play differently in November than it typically does in April, the guys that have only seen competition here in November are ones I'm likely to avoid as well.
Expanding the selections out at the top as there are just too many good names to have at least some stake in for this sub-100 player event, and it begins with two of the hotter players in the game.
Golfers to Watch - 2021 Masters
Top Picks and Predictions
Contenders to Back
Bryson DeChambeau (+1100) | Justin Thomas (+1100)
Bryson is a guy that's eventually going to figure out his best way to get around Augusta in my view, and with how confident he is in how things are going these days, I think you've got to have a piece of DeChambeau this week. Remember, he was the name that couldn't stay out of people's mouths when picking that November edition of the Masters, but he's only gained in his execution and belief in what he's doing out on the golf course which is always going to make him dangerous at Augusta.
It's still got to be about execution – especially with the wedges – for DeChambeau here, and if concerns about his wedge game are what keeps someone off DeChambeau this week it's easy to understand. Furthermore, “eventually” figuring Augusta out also might not mean he does so in his fifth ever attempt (4th as a professional), but how much better are his prices going to really be getting down the road? DeChambeau's got a win within two months, has the absurd length to really bend Augusta over his knee if scoring conditions are routinely good, and the intimidation factor just having the length that he does could force foes into some uncomfortable spots on Sunday afternoon if he's involved in chasing down the green jacket.
From a statistical standpoint, there aren't really any concerns in any of the Strokes Gained categories across the board, as even concerns in his wedges and approaches are easier to live with when DeChambeau is having a wedge in his hand on nearly every hole. Length works as an advantage that way as well.
Everything checks out from a numbers perspective with Thomas as well, as he's been a fantastic ball-striker in recent weeks, with the recent form of winning at The PLAYERS to fall back on. Being the PLAYERS champion might be the one negative in the numbers for JT this week, as no player has won The PLAYERS and Masters in the same year, but the former was also played in May during most of that span, not prior to the Masters.
Thomas has got to be feeling plenty confident in his game right now, and with him improving on his finish at the Masters in each of his five starts (39th – 22nd - 17th - 12th - 4th ), the course knowledge is there as well. Going to be tough to keep improving on those finishing spots with just three possibilities, but anything better than 10/1 on Thomas this week is a worthy risk to take in seeing that happen.
Tony Finau (+2200) | Webb Simpson +3300
These two names are similar in that their putting used to always be a slight concern coming into Augusta, but both of them have seemed to figure things out for the most part with the flatstick that past couple of years. And with the way both guys can stripe it in the approach game when they are on, a scorable Augusta National will almost always have these two names involved at the top, and even in tougher conditions, it will be the ball striking of these two guys that will still give them a chance.
Webb has figured out his putting enough to have two Top 10's here the past two years, making it three Top 20's in a row for him at the Masters. Simpson has enough length to where he won't be at a severe disadvantage to most on this track, and the shot shaping that is often needed at Augusta plays right into his strengths.
The same can be said for Finau, as a 10th here as a debutant a few years back was quite impressive. He's been striking the ball so pure of late that he had a run of three straight runner-up finishes following a 4th place finish in the span of five weeks a few months back, and he's always been a name right on the tip of everyone's tongue to break through and get that first career Major victory.
For it to come at Augusta would make plenty of sense, as Finau's length as easily a top-five guy in that distinction here will play as an advantage for him, and with him sitting 11th on Tour in SG: Approach at +.708, there aren't many who are more consistently solid from tee-to-green than Finau.
His history of always finding ways to not have his name end up in the winner's circle is always something to consider, but if you've ever really thought he would eventually become a Major winner over the course of his career, it's still hard to give up on him as he turns just 32 years old this year.
Remember, Phil Mickelson's first career Major victory didn't happen until he was almost 34. Whether it's at Augusta or at pretty much any US Open site, Finau's a name that still warrants plenty of consideration in Majors, even with his closing ability still rather suspect.
Long Shot Pick
Bubba Watson +5500
Mickelson's most recent Major victory was the 2013 Open Championship at 43 years of age, precisely the age Bubba Watson is turning later this year, as he would love to match Mickelson's three Green Jackets as a lefty.
Watson's been quietly putting together some very strong Strokes Gained numbers overall this year outside of his putting, and it's been his play on the greens (SG: Putting -0.571) that has absolutely killed some very good rounds for Watson. He did find a way to put it together for a decent showing in the match play event a couple of weeks ago, and considering his career history at Augusta and with putting here, for this price, I'm easily willing to look past Bubba's recent struggles with the putter.
Watson's game and his shot-shaping ability has always been a great fit for this course, and the added benefit of being a lefty to where he can play more fades (and have more control) than a right-hander who has to worry about where a ball rolls out on their predominantly draws is why lefties have had so much success here in the past.
After some up-and-down seasons from Watson, he's really found a way to put his game back together since the start of October, and I'm excited to see how he runs this week at Augusta. A Top-20 or Top-10 play with Watson is by far the better way to go for the health of one's bankroll here, but Watson's play has flown so smoothly under the radar that some change on the outright should be done this week as well.
Masters Betting Results 2016-2020 (Odds)
2020 - Dustin Johnson (17/2)
2019 - Tiger Woods (14/1)
2018 - Patrick Reed (50/1)
2017 - Sergio Garcia (30/1)
2016 - Danny Willett (50/1)
Sergio Garcia of Spain was the last International golfer to win the Masters from Augusta, doing so in the 2017 installment. (AP)
How to Bet on Golf
Golf betting has gained much more exposure and interest in the past few years, and with plenty of plus-money prices littered throughout the various forms of golf wagers, the chance for bigger scores is part of the reason behind that increased popularity.
Sportsbooks ensure that there are no shortage of wagering options on golf tournaments every week, and it isn't all about picking the winner. Grabbing the outright winner of a golf tournament is the best way to get that 'big score' but it's also the hardest wager to cash. After all, a typical professional golf tournament has a field of 140+ different players to consider.
Understanding Golf Odds and Bets
Most golf odds are listed in the fractional format – 10/1 on Dustin Johnson for example – and in that particular case you would multiply the amount bet by that first number to project your winnings. So a $100 bet on DJ to win that particular event would win you $1000.
If you are more comfortable with the American version of odds listings that you typically see across the other major North American sports – ie +1000 – these numbers are easily convertible. Online and app based books may already have that option built in, but the easiest way to do it yourself is to add two zeros to the first number in the fraction. So a 10/1 price on DJ converts to +1000 in that format.
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