The most anticipated week in golf is finally here as the players head to Augusta for the 1st major of the year. The betting for this event is very different to your average PGA Tour event as the betting market was opened months in advance rather than a few days as you get with most tournaments. The odds have shifted over that time as players seemingly go in and out of form. Big name former winners here, Bubba, Phil and Tiger have shortened dramatically over the last few months as their form improved.
The only major played at the same course each year. Augusta is a 7,400 yard Par 72 that plays longer due to the way the grass is mown. The fairways are wide and easy to hit, while the rough is so short it is not a real obstacle so driving distance is a big key this week. Missing fairways is not a huge problem unless you are spraying it all over the place.
Good form has shown to be important leading up to the event and while Augusta is a true test of all aspects of a player’s game, these are the main key stats we are looking at:
· Par 5 Scoring
· Proximity from 200+ yards
· Driving Distance
· Birdie-or-Better %
· Greens in Regulation %
Spieth, Mcilroy, Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at the top of the market all between 10-12/1. There has been times over recent months when Spieth and Rory were priced slightly higher and may have represented value but they are probably about right now. Tiger is just behind them @ 14/1 but he has struggled driving the ball since his return so is tough to trust unless he has figured that out since his last tournament. Many people’s tip Justin Rose is next up @ 14/1 and he has a great track record here. He’s finished 2nd twice in the last 3 years and has Top-25s in each of his last 7 trips here. He has a great chance but the value may be gone and we will have a look at some players who are more under-the-radar at this point to see if we can find value.
Jon Rahm @ 25/1 WH 7 places e/w 1/5 odds. Unibet 6 places 1/4 odds
The Spaniard is the 3rd ranked golfer in the world but we are getting about double the odds from the other top guys. This may be due to his inexperience at Augusta as this is only his 2nd visit, he finished 27th last year. The course is a good fit for him though. He is a bomber who is 2nd in this field in Stokes Gained:Off-The-Tee and Proximity from 200+ yards over the last 12 months. He has a win 5 tournaments ago at the Careerbuilder challenge but his form has cooled off a bit since then, mainly due to his iron play not being as sharp. Despite this his long iron play from 200+ yards has still been solid which is more important here. He makes a lot of birdies but the question is whether he knows the course well enough to avoid costly mistakes.
Hideki Matsuyama @ 35/1 Bet365 8 places 1/5 odds
A wrist injury has caused Hideki to drift but should finish well if he is 100% fit. An elite ball-striker at his best it is often putting that lets him down. At Augusta we have seen a number of lower ranked putters do well (think Sergio and Rose last year, Bubba with 2 wins, Adam Scott 1 of the worst putters on tour also with a win). He has played well here finishing in the Top 11 the last 3 years. The greens here are very tough to hit so chipping is vital to avoid bogeys and keep momentum which Hideki excels at. Often saves his best form for majors shown by Top 15 finishes in each Major last year. A good each/way shout.
It is well documented that course experience is important here. Only 2 1st timers have ever won here the last coming in 1979. That trend will surely be broken at some point but recently we have seen 1st timers perform well without winning. Spieth finished 2nd on his 1st appearance here and last year Thomas Pieters was 4th. There are 2 who we think provide each way value:
Xander Schauffele @ 90/1 PaddyPower 8 places 1/5 odds.
The Masters layout should suit the 2017 Rookie of the year. Over the last 12 months he is 7th in this field in Driving Distance and 11th in Par 5 scoring. In 2018 he has improved his long approach play and if he can get back to his prolific Par 5 scoring he can play well here. He loves putting on fast bentgrass greens which we have here and we have already seen he can rise to the big occasion when he won the last event of the FedEx Cup playoffs last year The Tour Championship.
Tony Finau @ 100/1 WH 7 places 1/5 odds. 90/1 Bet365 8 places 1/5 odds
Another bomber who putts much better on bentgrass greens. Finau leads the tour in driving distance this year. Surprisingly it has been Par 5 scoring which has held him back this year and probably cost him the victory at The Genesis Open. He is 2nd in the field in Par 5 scoring in the last year and he will definitely get back to his level soon. 4th In ball-striking and birdie% the key for him will be avoiding bogeys and keeping momentum. Has the profile of a winner here which may be more likely in future years but can certainly get a high finish this year.
Charley Hoffman @ 100/1 Bet365 8 places 1/5 odds
Despite not being the longest driver he is outstanding Off-The-Tee and scores very well on Par 5s. Good course history making the cut each time. He finished 10th 3 years ago and although he only finished 22nd last year he led by 4 after the 1st round and was only 2 shots back going into Sunday. Tends to perform better on hard courses with fast greens. Has played well Tee-To-Green so far in 2018 without putting well. Maybe the move to fast bentgrass greens can heat up the putter. More a 1st round leader bet, but I think the bookies are on to this so his odds are quite low. Maybe someone to trade.
Gary Woodland @ 150/1 Unibet 6 places 1/4 odds. 125/1 WH 7 places 1/5 odds
Despite not having a great pedigree here at Augusta Woodland has the profile of someone who can play well. He looks a better player now than when he arrived here in previous years. He missed the cut last year but was dealing with tragic circumstances off the course. He has a win this year after so many close calls in recent years so should bring confidence into the event. 9th in Driving Distance, 6th in Proximity from 200+ yards and 3rd in GIR% over the last 12 months bode well. The key for Gary will be scrambling and putting, areas where he can struggle. Has not performed well since his win but after a few weeks off hopefully he can get back to his best here.
Kevin Chappell @ 125/1 WH 7 places 1/5 odds. 110/1 Bet365 8 places 1/5 odds.
For us the best value on the board is Kevin Chappell. The only minor issue is a potential back injury after he pulled out of the WGC Matchplay but that appears to have been just a precaution. Has played consistently since last summer missing only 1 CUT since the Open Championship in July. He has gained strokes off-the-tee and on approach in each of his last 4 events with 2 Top 10s in that time. 3rd in Driving Distance, 4th in ball striking and 5th in Proximity from 200+ yards in the last year are good indicators. In 2018 he has improved his scrambling which will be vital at times here. Has slightly over-performed his baseline in major championships and has made the cut in both his appearances here. He finished 44th in 2012 and 7th last year. He has been trending up in the last couple years finally getting his 1st win at the 2017 Valero Texas Open after so many near misses. Scoring on the Par 5s will be crucial and if he can hole a few 10ft par putts he will have a chance to be there on Sunday.
Top 20s: Alex Noren has been in outstanding form recently finishing lower than 21st once in his last 7 events and Bryson DeChambeau was in contention for 3 rounds as an amateur in 2015 and is an elite Par 5 scorer who likes hard courses. Their odds have come in recently and may not present enough value for the outright win.
One of the most open tournaments in years, there are plenty others we like to do well but you can’t back the whole field J. Just sit back and enjoy…