In golf’s biggest event, Ollie is backing three of its biggest natural talents to wind up in the Green Jacket come Sunday evening.
And so we find ourselves, once again, at Augusta. The point at which, for many sports fans, the golf season truly starts. For every player in the field, it’s the week they have circled in their calendar as soon the previous year’s Masters concludes, and the tournament around which they plan their schedule every season. For golf bettors, it’s a gem of a tournament also – a limited field event with a whole heap of no-chancers, a huge back book of course form, every player legitimately trying, and many companies falling over themselves to offer you concessions for their business.
For exchange players, this presents opportunities to gain yourself some excellent EV bets at minimal risk utilising the lay function. Of course, if you’re happy to ride out the variance, you’ll also find some great value in the outright market, with industry best prices.
What a time to be a punter.
So what is it that makes the Masters so special? The course, the history, the many traditions, the exclusivity of the event both for players and spectators – it all of the above combined but for me, it’s the reverential tones in which the event is discussed that creates that additional buzz. Take any top player and they’ll have talked of their love of Augusta at some point, and whenever a lesser light wins a tournament they immediately talk about the thrill of getting an invite to Augusta.
The chance to be written into the annals of history is present for every player this week, and there is seemingly a narrative for every player in the field. The task we have is pinning down which one will be the story that fits best so that we’re collecting our winnings on Sunday evening as the victor is being handed his green jacket by Patrick Reed.
It hardly feels necessary to talk too much about the course given how popular it is in the golfing world but suffice to say, it’s a brute. The beautiful azaleas and snooker-baize like fairways belie a test that requires all facets of a player’s game to be functioning at 100%. The course, host since 1934, has been lengthened out to just under 7500 yards, so the ability to shift the ball off the tee is a pre-requisite, particularly since the four par 5s are really the only scoreable holes on the track, though length alone won’t get the job done.
The common consensus is that a draw is the go-to shot for Masters champs, though in this day and age most players can shape shots both ways. Regardless, approach play is critical as the severely undulating bentgrass greens are running up to 14 on the stimpmeter, so the ability to hit a lot of greens and control your spin is critical as repeatedly scrambling is not going to lead to a particularly pretty scorecard. Ultimately, players will make bogeys but the players who control the big numbers will win out. As such, the key stats I’m looking for this week are a strokes-gained approach, par 4 scoring, bogey avoidance and driving distance.
Fading The Field
The field for the Masters seems to get smaller and smaller each year and this year we’ve got just 87 starters. Thankfully for us, roughly half of those players are priced at 501.00 or higher so we can reasonably discount them from our equations. Indeed, over the past 10 renewals of the event, we’ve seen just one three-figure winner (Charl Schwartzel in 2011, 101.0) and an average price of 41.0 for the winner. Granted, this is a small sample but the Masters is just not an event that most players in the field can win and having scanned the market, I couldn’t find anyone outside of the top 25 in the market that I genuinely felt was a value bet.
With that said, of those 25 there were a fair few with reasonably claims – Spieth, DeChambeau, Scott, Woods and Mickelson were the easiest to dismiss at their prices – but I eventually settled on three of the top 15 for my bets.
DJ In The Mix
Though Rory McIlroy’s claims are obvious given his excellent start to the season, the price of 8.6 about a man who has struggled to get over the line for the past couple of years seems a touch too short, especially at an event which leaves little room for error. Instead, I want to side with a much more prolific winner at a slightly more workable price and prefer Dustin Johnson, as he bids to win his first green jacket.
The big South Carolinian was going off nearly half the price for this two seasons ago before an untimely slip down some stairs derided his bid before the off. His form leading in this year is not dissimilar as he has already won twice and recorded three other top 10 finishes in his past six stroke play events and I think he’s entitled to be a couple of points shorter given he’s been the most consistent player in the field over the past five seasons.
Top 10s in his past three Masters starts shows that the course suits just fine and he’s the ideal statistical fit, ranking 8th in par 4 scoring, 10th in strokes gained approach and 4th in bogey avoidance to go along with his prodigious length off the tee.
For a man of his talent, it’s a mystery how he still only has the one major title but I’m firmly of the belief number 2 will be this week.
Thomas Tailor-Made For Augusta Test
My next best is another prolific winner on the PGA Tour, who has a game perfectly suited to Augusta, Justin Thomas. The nine-time Tour winner has an improving form line at the Masters reading T39-T22-T17 but that doesn’t tell the whole story as he sat 5th at halfway last year, having fired a blistering second round 67, only to stall over the weekend. His aggressive style of golf means that no golf course is immune to his talents and when on song, his iron play is arguably the best in the world. Having started the season in impressive fashion with four top 10 finishes his first five events, he’s hit a little lull with just two non-descript top 35s in his past two outings.
In truth, that’s likely just served to length his price for an event where he’s entitled to be a few points shorter so I’m not too worried about his short term form. He ranks 4th in strokes gained approach, 8th for par 4 scoring and 30th in bogey avoidance so could well outrun his 20.0 price and bag a second major.
Hideki To Cap Comeback
My final selection is Japanese superstar, and Brad Allen favourite, Hideki Matsuyama. The 27-year-old looked to have the world at his feet a couple of years ago having bagged five PGA Tour wins in 3 seasons and multiple top 10s across all majors. However, he suffered from a wrist injury that derailed his progress and only really recaptured that previous form at the beginning of this season. However, since the turn of the year, he’s been one of the most consistent ball strikers in the world, ranking 2nd for strokes gained approach and 18th in driving distance.
His (big) struggles have been with the flat stick but every player at Augusta is going to be struggling on the greens, and having two putts for par is obviously way more advantageous than having one, having missed the green on approach. He ranks 22nd for bogey avoidance and 38th in par 4 scoring this season and, looking back to his best, it’s no stretch to see him improving upon his Masters best of 5th in 2015. Four consecutive top 20 finishes here should definitely become five and I expect him to be well in the mix come Sunday.
- Dustin Johnson, 4 points @ 12.5 (lay 4 points @ 3.0)
- Justin Thomas, 2 points @ 20.0 (lay 3 points @ 6.0)
- Hideki Matsuyama, 1 point @ 35.0 (lay 3 points @ 6.0)
Check out Matchbook’s extensive US Masters offering here