The Masters betting market and overview
Masters week is finally here and unfortunately, there's still no sign of Tiger Woods, with the former world number 1 having officially pulled out. What we will see however is potentially the most competitive and highest quality Masters in recent history. There are concerns over world number 3 Jason Day's status with health issues in his family but there's an elite group of players dominating the market and many are peaking at the top of their form. One step ahead of the rest is market leader Dustin Johnson - 7.00 - officially the world's best player, and DJ has won his last three events. With his new improved wedge game, he's the man to beat at Augusta this year.
A number of players chose to hone their skills with competitive action at the Golf Club of Houston - The Masters precursor - which is set up similarly to Augusta. It was mixed fortunes for some of the big names but I wouldn't read too much into that with conditions in Texas tougher than the norm and some big numbers being made with a lot of water in play.
Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth - 9.50 - surprisingly missed the cut but that may not be a bad thing with an extra two days specific prep now behind them for Augusta. Jordan was the winner of the Masters in 2015, and he capitulated on the back nine on Sunday last year to surrender the Green Jacket to Danny Willett - 126.0. Rickie Fowler was in contention all week, while Jon Rahm found first gear again over the weekend. Phil Mickelson - 31.00 - never got it going but no doubt he was focusing more on this week and tailoring his game for Augusta.
The course - Augusta National Golf Club, 7,435 yards, par 72
A right to left shot shape, length off the tee and a high trajectory from approaches to tiered greens at the Masters would be the ideal game required to get the job done this week but we've seen chalk and cheese Augusta over the last two years. Par 5 performance is huge here and the soft conditions in 2015 saw a mountain of par breakers on the long holes. Last year however, with Augusta back to its usual fast and firm test, and the wind up, the par 5s were not so easy and the 15th in particular caused havoc. Players looking to take the water on in two found it hard to hold the green, and serious trouble awaits behind that surface. A lot of big numbers were clocked up.
Greens at Augusta have sub air systems implemented and are referred to by the pros as greens within greens. Finding the right part of the multi-tiered, elevated and fast (usually around 13' on the stimp but faster in 2016) surfaces is key. A lot of putts and chips from around the greens were running out, leaving 5-10 feet testers for par and this is always a theme at Augusta. Rumour has it there has been some rain in the area and this will continue through the week. Rough, as usual, will not be a factor here. Landing areas are generous and players can sometimes escape with errant drives. Bombers are a big theme at Augusta and tend to dominate leaderboards. Bubba Watson - 41.00 or 9.00 - was first in driving distance on tour in both 2012 and 2014 when he picked up his green jackets.
The Masters Best Betting Tips
Rickie Fowler - 23.00 or 5.50 - was firmly on the radar here during the WGC Mexico when he led the yearlong total driving stats, led the scrambling stats and ranked 2nd in putting from 10-15 feet. Not a lot has changed since except he's been backed in off a great performance in Houston. Rickie has the ideal game for Augusta and placed 12th and 5th at The Masters prior to what was his only missed cut here last year. Fowler was T3 in Houston after a low round 64 to open. He won the Honda Classic only a few weeks back and I fancy him as a strong each way play here.
Adam Scott - 34.00 or 7.50 - had a funny week at the Houston Open with a bogey free 68 (this was his 3rd straight 68 in his last three competitive rounds) but he followed that up with a mistake ridden 77 to miss the cut. I still feel former Masters' champ Scott will have his A-game for the major test and that he represents the value amongst the top 10 or so in the betting. The Aussie led both the strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained approach stats in 2016 and he also led the all-important proximity to the hole stat, which is vital around Augusta. Scott is 17th in driving distance in 2017.
A lot is being made about Jon Rahm - 23.00 or 5.50 - and the rookie theme, but I firmly believe maidens making their debut here (of which there are 19 this year) struggling will be a trend of the past in the coming years. I made the mistake of not backing Rahm at US Open style venue Torrey Pines earlier this year due to this reason and I won't be making it again. Rahm fits the Augusta winning profile criteria perfectly ranking 22nd in driving distance and 12th in strokes gained approach, while his short game is also in good shape, ranking 17th in scrambling. Notably Rahm is a par 5 wrecking ball, currently sitting 27th in par five performance and he's already clocked up seven eagles this season. If the expected softer conditions come to fruition, this will suit the big Spaniard even more. Rahm showed mental toughness to come back against Dustin Johnson in the final of the WGC Matchplay the other week after a horror start, and as mentioned earlier, he was back into first gear again over the weekend at Houston shooting 69-67 to clock another top 10.
Masters Outsider watch
Bill Haas - 101.0 or 19.00 - was flushing it in the WGC matchplay, picking up a 3rd place in the playoff vs Hideto Tanihara. Haas has a sneaky record at The Masters finishing in the top 25 in each of his last four starts and never worse than 42nd in seven. The 34-year-old has the required draw from the tee for the Augusta track. He's generally long and straight ranking 16th in strokes gained tee to green, and Haas also tops the scrambling stats. He's definitely one to watch in the sub markets if not outright EW, as is the man he beat in the WGC Playoff - Hideto Tanihara - 301.0.