Last Updated: 2018-04-04
The Stanley Cup. The Larry O’Brien Trophy. The College Football Playoff Trophy. The Lombardi Trophy. The World Series Trophy. The Green Jacket. Iconic images from the wide world of sports exist in all capacities, but a lot of the most memorable ones come with some sort of championship distinction. By the end of the day on Sunday, somebody will have a photo snapped while wearing a green jacket as the champion of The Masters.
Augusta National’s beautiful grounds will once again be the site of the most recognizable tournament in golf. Horton Smith won the first Masters in 1934. Except for a three-year period during World War II, the Masters has gone off without a hitch every year since 1946. Smith won $1,500 for that victory at Augusta in 1934. This year’s winner will take home $1.98 million, but that jacket is priceless.
Eighty-six players are expected to be on hand for this year’s Masters. Only 15 newbies are in the field and the returnees feature a lot of past champions. This is probably the best field we’ve had for the Masters in a long time because of how well all the top contenders are playing. There could be a ton of fireworks on Sunday if we get the right final pairings and the right names on the leaderboard. No matter what, this is the cornerstone event for golf in the US, but this thing has potential that is off the charts.
Augusta National is a fairly forgiving course off of the tee, but approach shots and putts win this tournament. There are a lot of challenging lies on approach shots and pin placement will matter a lot for the players. Greenside hazards can make it very difficult to spin the ball to get the desired effect on the green. There are a lot of two and three-tiered greens at Augusta, so location means everything on the putting surface.
Odds for the Masters have been up for a very long time across the market. It is amazing to think about how much they have changed, as guys like Bubba Watson have gone from 60/1 to 16/1 or Tiger Woods from 100/1 to 13/1. At 5Dimes Sportsbook, Jordan Spieth is the favorite at +900. Spieth has been terrific at the Masters. He has a win and two runner-up finishes over the last four years at Augusta. As discussed on our special edition Masters Podcast on BangTheBook Radio, Brian Blessing pointed out how this is the only major played at the same course year in and year out and horse for course plays work well at this event. Spieth was third last week at the Houston Open, including a final round 66, so he’s ready to go.
Rory McIlroy is +1060. Rory has never won the Masters, but he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and was second and third on the European Tour in two events before coming stateside full-time for this season. Rory needs this one for the career grand slam. He’s going to get one at some point, but we just have to wonder if this is the year or not.
Many are looking at Justin Rose in the same way. Rose does not have a win at the Masters, but he was the runner-up in both 2015 and 2017. He has three straight top-10 finishes at Augusta and he’s playing really well right now. He lost last year in a playoff to Sergio Garcia at the Masters. Since then, he’s won the WGC-HSBC Championships event to open up the 2017-18 season and has four top-10 finishes overall this year. Rose is always a threat here and he will be one again at +1360.
Augusta National is tailored really well to left-handed players. Bubba Watson has two wins. Phil Mickelson has three wins. Mike Weir won in 2003. Watson’s wins in 2012 and 2014, plus his recent run, including the WGC Dell Match Play title, have his stock way up. He’s in the +1600 range after being 50/1 or 60/1 earlier in the year. Mickelson is also in that +1600 range. Brian Harman is a good under-the-radar play as a southpaw in the field at +8500.
Playing familiar names is a good angle at the Masters. Most of the same guys wind up on the board. Angel Cabrera had six top-10 finishes at Augusta, including his 2009 win and his 2013 runner-up. He had four other top-10s in the other majors from 1997 through 2017. That’s not to say that he is worth a play, but guys like Charl Schwartzel at +10000, Louis Oosthuizen at +5000, and Adam Scott at +6000 are always worthy of consideration. Guys that have had success generally continue to, so look for those guys on the board.
Masters coverage will be on ESPN throughout the tournament and hopefully we get something really special on Sunday.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
A prize pool of $10 million is up for grabs this week at Augusta National with a first-place share of $1.8 million, but it is a different kind of green that every player in the field wants. That iconic green jacket is the prize that every player is going for and somebody’s life will change forever on Sunday.
The field for the Masters is the smallest of the four major championships. The criteria to get in are pretty strict. Only the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of the end of 2016 or March 2017 can get in, unless they fulfill one of the other requirements, like being a past Masters champion or a recent major champion. In other words, this is a very select field filled with the best of the best that golf has to offer.
It shouldn’t be any other way. The Masters has been played every year since 1934, except for 1943-45 due to World War II. Jack Nicklaus holds the all-time record with six Masters victories. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have four apiece. Jimmy Demaret, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson all have three. There hasn’t been a whole lot of drama over the last three years. Danny Willett won by three shots last year. Jordan Spieth set a course record at 18-under in 2015 and won by four strokes. Bubba Watson won his second Masters in three years with a three-shot victory in 2014. Prior to that, there was a playoff in back-to-back years.
Hopefully we get some drama at Augusta this year. The par 72, 7,435-yard presents so many challenges, both physical and mental for the players. You know you’re in for a long day when over 35 percent of players go bogey or worse on the first hole over an entire tournament. That’s what happened last year at Augusta National on #1. The par 5s are mostly manageable, but accuracy off of the tee is so important because the greens feature a lot of tough pin locations and greenside hazards that will punish off-target approaches. Consistently shooting par on the par 4s and birdies on the par 5s is the way to win at Augusta. A little bit of luck with some of the sloping fairways doesn’t hurt.
The favorite at DSI Sportsbook this week is Dustin Johnson at +575. The only Johnson to win the Masters is Zach back in 2007. DJ is getting closer, though. After never finishing in the top 10 at Augusta, Johnson was sixth in 2015 and fourth in 2016. He got the major monkey off of his back last year at the US Open with a final-round 69. He’s finished second in two majors, the US Open and the Open Championship, but fourth is his best finish here. It’s hard to find a player in better form than Johnson. He’s won each of last three events that he has entered with wins at the WGC-Dell Match Play, WGC-Mexico Championship, and Genesis Open. He played so poorly at Pebble Beach that he finished third. The value isn’t there on this price, but he’s got a great shot to win at Augusta this weekend.
The second favorite is Rory McIlroy at +785. We haven’t heard much from Rory this season, who has battled some injuries once again. He’s played four events between the PGA Tour and the European Tour this season. He’s finished in the top seven in all of them, with the most recent being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in mid-March. Rory showed some signs of rust with a 74-71 to barely make the cut, but he shot 65-69 over the weekend to finish fourth. He’s never won the Masters, but he’s won four major championships and has three straight top-10 finishes at Augusta. His most notable Augusta moment is his epic collapse back in 2011 when he went from first to 15th in the blink of an eye, but he’s played well the last three years and could be a factor this year. Given the rust factor, it might be tough to play him, but he’s got the skill set to win.
Jordan Spieth has a Masters win and two second-place finishes over the last three years, so his price tag at +865 makes a lot of sense. Augusta National just seems to fit Spieth’s game. He’s not the longest hitter, but he’s very accurate and technically sound with his iron play. Spieth is coming off of a brutal performance at the Shell Houston Open and he’s been pretty mediocre since his win at Pebble Beach, but he rides into this tournament with a lot of confidence, despite last year’s collapse that opened the door for Danny Willett. If you’re going to play one of the Big Three, he’s the one.
Let’s bounce around the board a little bit and look for some value because there’s going to be a lot of it. With three big favorites, a lot of exceptional players are in the +2000 to +3000 range. Guys like Henrik Stenson at +2800 and Adam Scott at +3400 are definitely worth some additional investigation. Stenson has never finished in the top 10 at Augusta, so this has been the weakest of the majors for him. Adam Scott’s only major win came at Augusta in 2013. He hasn’t played all that well there since, but he’s a world-class player.
Paul Casey might be the best bet in the 30-40 range. Casey is +3750 at DSI. He tied for fourth last year and tied for sixth the year before that. Players from England haven’t won a whole lot of titles, but they always find themselves near the top of this leaderboard. Danny Willett’s win last season shows that it is certainly possible. It hadn’t been done since 1996 when Nick Faldo won his third, but those Englishmen always find a way into the top five and top 10.
It’s been a long time since Lee Westwood has won a tournament, but he could be worth a look this week. He’s +8050 to win the tournament, but a top-10 prop seems very reasonable. Westwood was a fairly distant second last year, seventh in 2014, and eighth in 2013. He seems to save his best golf for this tournament. You can say the same about another guy in that price range in Matt Kuchar at +8050. Kuchar hasn’t played all that well the last two years, but he rattled off three straight top-10 finishes from 2012-14.
Thomas Pieters is at Augusta for the first time in his young career. The long-limbed 25-year-old really seems to be on the verge of a breakout. Pieters was fifth at the WGC-Mexico event, which was a good test for him in a field with the world’s best. He was terrific for Team Europe at the Ryder Cup, so pressure doesn’t really seem to faze him. Pieters is a massive hitter that can shorten some of these holes, but we’ll have to see how he does with the intricate elements at Augusta. At +10250, he’s certainly worth a shot.
Coverage of this year’s Masters will be on ESPN Thursday through Sunday.
Odds as of April 3, 2017
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