Masters Betting Preview
Well, it’s finally here. The world’s best players will take the trip down Magnolia Lane and up to the Augusta National clubhouse this week, trying to not only win the first major championship of the year, but to also join the illustrious list of players to win golf’s greatest tournament. Welcome to Masters week.
2013 Masters Fact Sheet
- Course: Augusta National Golf Club
- Location: Augusta, Georgia
- Yardage: 7,435 yards, par 72
- Defending Champion: Bubba Watson
- Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel
- Thursday – 3:00 PM to 7:30 PM ET (ESPN)
- Friday – 3:00 PM to 7:30 PM ET (ESPN)
- Saturday – 3:00 to 7:00 PM ET (CBS)
- Sunday – 3:00 to 7:00 PM ET (CBS)
What can you say? The Masters is the one tournament every year that golf fans and non-golf fans alike seem to agree on. Many of the most historic moments in all of sports have happened on the grounds at Augusta National, and coming into the 77th playing of the event this year, professional golf is hitting another high point.
Key Storyline This Week
The Masters is such an important event that there really isn’t a need for a secondary storyline. Winning the Masters is a career changing event. Fuzzy Zoeller, after winning the event in 1979 said that he probably wouldn’t get to heaven, but that the Masters was probably as close as he would get. On the flip side, losing one can be devastating, with former world number one David Duval saying that a runner-up finish at the Masters “like getting kicked in the head.” The player who wins this week will never be forgotten.
I know I just said that there isn’t a need for another storyline, but there are several at play here. Tiger Woods, who has won three times on the PGA Tour already this season, is playing the best golf I’ve seen him play in several years. If he were to break his near five-year major drought, he would grab his 15th career major victory and his fifth green jacket. Rory McIlroy has been playing much better in recent weeks and will be looking to improve on a spotty record at Augusta National. Will a good, young player like Thorbjorn Olesen or Nicolas Colsaerts be the first guy to win the Masters in their debut appearance since Zoeller 34 years ago? What about established players looking to win their first major championship, like Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott? It’s always fun at the Masters, and you’ll be forgiven if you plan on sitting on the couch for four consecutive days watching the coverage.
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National is known for being incredibly difficult, especially for those who haven’t seen the course. Ridiculously fast greens, likely to be near 13 on the Stimpmeter when the tournament gets underway, get most of the focus, but tough driving angles and massive undulations are present on most of the course’s 18 holes. The subtle intricacies that the course throws at you constantly make it difficult to think anyone who hasn’t been there a couple of times in the past will have success. Keegan Bradley’s T-27 was the best finish for a Masters rookie last year, and I can’t see it getting much better than that this week.
Before I get to my suggested plays, let’s talk briefly about the players I won’t be picking.
- Tiger Woods: At roughly 4-1, I don’t see enough value to put any money on him, but I fully expect him to be in the mix throughout the week. He’s playing too well and his track record is simply far too good to ignore, but with a field this deep, there needs to be more to it.
- Rory McIlroy: I really have no idea what to expect out of him this week, but he’s been rounding into form for a couple of weeks, leading to his solo 2nd at TPC San Antonio. Much like Woods, he’s too good to discount, but his past history here isn’t great. He’s going to win a few green jackets, but I don’t think he gets his first this year.
- Brandt Snedeker: Two months ago, Snedeker was the hottest player on the planet, culminating in his win at Pebble Beach. He sat out a few weeks due to a rib injury and since coming back, he’s missed back-to-back cuts. He’s the type of player that does well at Augusta, outside of his relatively meager distance game, but without knowing if he’s healthy, it’s really tough to put any faith in him.
- Steve Stricker: I love Stricker, and I respect his decision to play a reduced schedule, but playing Augusta is tough enough as it is when you’ve been playing, let alone making it only your fifth start of the year. Granted, he’s been playing well in those limited starts, but it just doesn’t make a ton of sense to put money on a guy who hasn’t been playing when the competition is this good. Also, only has one top-10 in the last decade at Augusta.
- Bubba Watson: Repeat winners have happened in the past at Augusta, with Woods (2001 and 2002), Nick Faldo (1989 and 1990) and Jack Nicklaus (1965 and 1966) accomplishing the feat, but it’s obviously a rarity. Watson’s had a good start to 2013, with his missed cut at the Northern Trust Open being the only event this season where he’s finished outside of the top-20, but his stats haven’t been great in the past few weeks despite the decent finishes. On to my picks for the first major of 2013.
Justin Rose (Best Odds 21-1 at Pinnacle)
You can make the argument that nobody had a better year in 2012 than Justin Rose. In his 26 worldwide starts, he posted one win and had thirteen other top-10’s. So far in 2013, his worst stroke play finish was a tie for 16th in Qatar and he’s got two runner-ups to go along with a T-4 at the Honda and T-8 at the Cadillac. In seven appearances at the Masters, he’s never missed the cut and has five top-25’s. The time is right for Rose to get his first major championship.
Keegan Bradley (Best Odds 29-1 at BETDAQ)
I really like to try and fade the public, which is why I was getting a little concerned a few weeks ago when Bradley was near the top of the board with Schwartzel and others. For some reason, Bradley’s four consecutive top-10’s have scared people off, as his 29-1 number has gone up recently. He does everything well, and had a decent showing last year in his first trip to Augusta National, finishing tied for 27th. He went to the course a few weeks ago with Phil Mickelson to get some prep work in, which is never a bad thing. I don’t enjoy watching him play, but there’s no denying his talent.
Luke Donald (Best Odds 40-1 at Pinnacle)
I know he’s never won a major, but this number is ridiculous. The only knock on Donald’s game is that he’s pretty short off of the tee, but everything else is so good, that he should always be considered a threat to win. Before Ernie Els and McIlroy won the final two majors of 2012, the previous nine winners were first-time major champions, and with so many good players in the field that have yet to grab that first major, it’s very possible that we see ten of the last twelve here. Donald’s got as good of a chance as any of those guys.
Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 51-1 at Betfair)
One of the knocks on Sergio Garcia over the years is that sometimes his mouth has opened before he thinks, and that definitely happened last year after the Masters when he told reporters that he didn’t think he was good enough to win a major. Does he actually believe that? I don’t think he does, and he did say afterwards that he didn’t really mean what he said. If we’re talking about sheer talent, he’s got every tool in the book and I do think he’ll get one eventually. 13 straight top-25’s, including two wins before withdrawing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I’ll probably keep betting him to my detriment until he wins one.
Ian Poulter (Best Odds 52-1 at BETDAQ)
Much like Rose, Poulter has never won a major and has also made the cut in each of his Masters appearances. It’s been 33 events since Poulter was cut anywhere actually, dating back to the 2011 Deutsche Bank, mostly because his putter and short game are good enough to keep him in any event that he enters. When Poulter finished in solo seventh last year, he was second in both scrambling and putts per round. People have said that his issue is that his mentality is better suited for match play events and that he is too tightly wound to win a major, but I disagree. His 16 professional wins suggest that there’s more there than just a good match play player.
Peter Hanson (Best Odds 94-1 at Betfair)
Hanson finished tied for third here last year, and I guarantee you that almost nobody in North America would be able to tell you that he is the world’s 22nd ranked player. He’s finished outside of the top-25 once in his last eleven starts and like Poulter, he is a world-class putter. Over the last three months, Hanson has been averaging 27.08 putts per round on the European Tour and 27.40 on the PGA Tour, ranking first and fifth in those areas. I think he’s a great each-way bet.
Enjoy the tournament, everyone.