By: Matthew Clarfield
As a huge golf fan, there is nothing else like the first week of April. For a week, the sporting world tunes in to the Masters to watch the best golfers in the world do their thing. Whether you are laying down some cash, spending some quality time with mom and dad, or using Jim Nantz’s calm voice to soothe you into a glorious 3 hour nap on Saturday afternoon – I have you covered with all you need to know for the weekend at Augusta.
Success of Big Names
One of the major themes in the 2017 PGA season has been the success of the young big names. In January and February, we watched unproven, emerging stars Justin Thomas (twice) and Jon Rahm, as well as established elite players Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson (three times) and Rickie Fowler all win tournaments. All of these guys are under 35 and all but DJ are closer to 25. In a sport that is still dealing with the rapid fall from grace of its biggest name ever, the young wave of stars and the success that they have had bodes well for the popularity of the sport. Look for at least a couple of these young stars to be around on Sunday.
Consecutive Tigerless Masters
The Masters will be without golf’s biggest name for the second consecutive year for the first time since Tiger’s Masters debut in 1995. The Big Cat is dealing with serious back issues. He reportedly couldn’t even sit down during meals as recently as a month ago. Some questioned whether or not he would ever tee it up as a pro golfer again. The outlook during the last couple weeks has been better and he has apparently been hitting the range, but he is not tournament ready yet and will not be playing. Golf is evolving into a post Tiger world and a superstar winning this week will help draw the attention away from Tiger’s absence.
Although there will forever be a Canadian in the field at the masters as long as Mike Weir can swing a golf club, his game looks like he should be contending at his local club championship and not at Augusta National. This season has given us two Canadian PGA tour winners in Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Hadwin, qualifying them for the Masters and giving us Canucks something to root for. The Canadian surge is even more exciting if you are a Toronto sports fan as Mackenzie Hughes donned an Auston Matthews Jersey in Scottsdale and Adam Hadwin uses a Toronto Blue Jays scorecard holder. Hadwin is the more talented of the two and is a strong contender to make the World Team at the Presidents Cup in the fall.
Augusta National is the most famous course in the United States – and for good reason. The course is filled with signature holes and makes for one of the most exciting back nines in golf. Amen Corner, consisting of the second shot into the par 4 11th, the par 3 12th, and the first two shots of the par five 13th are up there with the most famous holes in golf. The Masters can be won and lost (as we saw last year with Spieth’s quad bogey on 12) at Amen Corner. Every shot has the risk of disaster but 12 and 13 also provide opportunities for birdies or even eagles. The rest of the course is perfect also. Scoring on the four par fives is key if you want to contend. They are all reachable in two for the longer hitters and can provide fireworks. The last 3 holes are tough and add drama to the final days. As you watch during the weekend and get familiar with the holes, you can start recognizing how the pros attack them and favourites emerge (mine is 15).
Golf is one of the best sports to bet on in the world. From the 1st tee Thursday morning to the 18th green on Sunday, every single shot matters. As an avid golf bettor, I can tell you how random the game can be so predicting winners is not an easy task. It can lead to devastation but also can be very rewarding especially if you hit someone at long odds. My best advice for golf bettors is that no one really knows more than the books so just bet the guys you like and hope they win. Nevertheless, I have been monitoring my favourite handicappers all week as well as picking the guys that I have been watching play all season. Here is a list of guys that I like at each Tier and their current odds (odds may differ by book). I’m far from a professional handicapper as my sportsbook can probably tell you so tail me at your own risk.
With the top guys being so low this year, betting them all will be impossible. My suggestion to you is either to bet really big on two or three guys from the first couple tiers and then snag a couple longshots or spread it out more evenly and put some more money on longer odds guys. My gut feeling is that a big name will be putting on the green jacket on Sunday but there is definitely some value farther down the board.
Dustin Johnson: 5.5/1
As you might know, DJ is my favourite player on tour. He has moved on from a life debauchery and partying to settle down with his wife Paulina and start a family. His golf game has reflected this change and there is no one hotter than the number one player in the world right now. He has won three straight tournaments and has looked unbeatable. Now that DJ can putt and hit wedges, when he is on he can’t be stopped. He is just too long and too consistent for anyone to challenge him. 5.5/1 is a really low number but if I am going to bet anyone at the top it is going to be Dustin until he shows that he can lose. Dustin has had back to back great finishes at Augusta and if he scores on the Par 5s he is unbeatable.
Rory McIlroy: 7/1
Rory is looking to complete the career grand slam at Augusta. Coming in with good form and a couple top 5’s in the last month, Rory is looking good. He has played well at Augusta before but has never put four rounds together in a weekend to contend. I picked Rory to win the Masters in January and I would like 7/1 to be a little higher but he is too good to ignore. I love Rory’s competitiveness and would take him one on one on a Sunday down the stretch against anyone in the field. I am going to bet on Dustin and not Rory but if you still don’t trust DJ, Rory is a great bet at slightly better odds.
Rickie Fowler: 18/1
Rickie has always been a fan favourite but has developed into an elite golfer over the last couple years. He has been peaking for the right time and his length will help him at Augusta. I bet this at 25/1 after Rickie won the Honda classic but I still like it at 18/1. Rickie has also shown that he is a great wind player and the forecast is calling for heavy wind for the first couple days.
Justin Rose: 25/1
Justin Rose has sneakily been the second best player at the masters behind Spieth the last three years. He is in good form and I think 25/1 is a good number for him. Rose has won some big tournaments at very tough courses and is consistently good.
I won’t be betting Hideki because too much of my capital is tied into DJ but I do like the bet if you are spreading out your money more evenly. Hideki was smoking hot early in the season but has cooled off a bit in recent weeks. He is an elite tee to green player and the greens at Augusta are so tough that being a good putter doesn’t matter as much because no one can sink putts anyways. There is a good chance Hideki is there on Sunday afternoon. If I see this number above 22/1 I will be betting it.
Paul Casey: 40/1
Paul Casey is another guy who fits my formula of good form and good course history here. I don’t love his chances to win but for fantasy purposes I think he is a great pick.
Brooks Koepka: 66/1
Brooks is one of my guys on tour. Pretty good results in the masters in his last two starts and is long and can get the putter going, two things I think are very important to win here. He played well at the match play in Austin and I like him as a longshot here.
Daniel Berger 75/1
Fellow Jew Daniel Berger is one of the young guns on tour. Rookie of the year two years ago, Berger played well last year coming T10 in his Masters debut. I bet Berger at 90/1 earlier in the season and I am looking at him to breakout at some point this year. Berger came top 10 last week and I like the number at 75/1.
If your book offers E/W betting or Top 5 bets, I like all these guys to contend for that.
Matt Fitzpatrick: 80/1
Solid young player with good Masters history. Like him to be in contention on Sunday.
Alex Noren: 80/1
10th ranked golfer in the world. Unknown because he is on the Euro tour but similar to Danny Willet last year, getting a top 10 player in the world at a number like this is too good to not put a couple bucks on. Strong finish at the match play a couple weeks ago and I like his game a lot.
Kevin Kisner: 125/1
Kis is a guy who grew up in Georgia near Augusta and knows the area well. He is a big beauty and came second a couple weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer invitational.
Danny Willet 125/1
Even though he is playing like garbage, the guy won last year his odds shouldn’t be this bad.
Rafa Cabrera Bello 150/1
This is my last guy. Rafa was hot coming into last year and performed well. Great number to get him at.
Because only one guy can win, there are some props that I like that can make the weekend more interesting if someone runs away with it.
Jordan Speith First Round Leader: 12/1
I am not a Speith guy. I know he is amazing but I find him very plain and boring. I make this bet so that I am not kicking myself when Speith takes the lead on the first day and goes wire to wire to win the tournament by 6 strokes.
Scott Piercy First Round Leader: 125/1
Scott Piercy has been known to get a hot start in tournaments before. Further, he is teeing off early in the morning and might miss most of the strong winds on Thursday.
Johnny Vegas First Round Leader: 75/1
All time name and same logic with the tee times.
Fred Couples Top Senior: 2.75/1
Love cheering for old guys at the Masters and Freddy Couples is one of the all time greats.
Adam Hadwin Top Debutant: 7.5/1
As long as Jon Rahm doesn’t run away with it, I like Hadwins game for Augusta and I want to be cheering for the young Canadian. I also like him for top rest of world player at 12/1.
Will there be a hole in one? No: 1.1/1
This is my favourite bet just because I like to have heart attacks whenever they cut to some random guy who is 15 strokes back on Sunday on a Par 3.
Thanks for reading this, shout out to Adam Pasternak for letting me on the site and follow me on twitter @ClarfTO. Comment below and let’s talk golf!