A solid each way return for this column last week in the shape of 16/1 hope Dustin Johnson’s third place finish, although it could have been so much better had he not conducted his customary final round capitulation when the spotlight intensified. Just imagine how much he would have won in the game had he the mental fortitude to support his undoubted skill.
Never mind, onwards we march into the year’s first major: the Masters, from the iconic Augusta National club. This is perhaps the most favoured ‘biggie’ amongst punters as it is played at Augusta each and every year; which handily builds a nice profile of players who tend to do well around this stretch.
Naturally, all of the world’s best players are here, and with the holy trinity of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy set to lock horns with the likes of Adam Scott, two-time winner Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, we could be in for one hell of a ride.
Augusta: The Lowdown
There is a certain complexity to playing Augusta, and that is reflected in the generally low winning scores that have been recorded here; although Spieth unlocked the course in his first round of 64 last year and never looked back as he secured his first major win.
This stretch has been the home to the Masters for more than 80 years, so as you can imagine it has witnessed its fair share of glory and heartbreak over the years (and that’s just for punters). The 7,435 course naturally favours the long hitters, but this is a major so we’re not looking for someone who can hack their 320 yard tee shot into bushes – we need a bit of quality too. The last five winners of the Green Jacket are Spieth, Watson (x2), Scott, Charl Schwartzel and Mickelson; which highlights the level of ability we need to be looking for in our selections.
As you might expect, the greens are lightning fast and wildly undulating – so being able to putt under pressure is a nice skill at Augusta, but really length off the tee and then a bit of magic from fairway to dancefloor are the key stats to look for here: 80% of winners in the past decade have ranked top-10 for Greens in Regulation, and around the same mark have finished in the upper echelons for Scrambling too.
But as is often the case in majors, playing the ‘scoring’ holes better than anyone else is vital. In 2014, Bubba Watson played the Par 5s in -8….the margin by which he won the tournament. So we’ll be taking selections who go well on the longer holes onside.
Who Will Win the Masters 2016?
This is the million dollar question of course, and unfortunately it is hard to unequivocally pin our hopes on one or two selections. But with the powers of deduction, we can eliminate some from our enquiries.
Nobody is playing the game quite like Jason Day at the moment, and he is the rightful favourite here. But no world number one has won the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2006; a decade-long drought. That will be enough to put off some.
Likewise, no Masters champ has successfully defended their crown since that man Tiger in 2002. For this reason, and a relative lack of form, we can eliminate Spieth from our enquiries.
And then there’s Rory McIlroy: far from his best at the moment and with a solitary tour win in the past calendar year. Of all the majors, the Masters is the one in which he has performed least successfully, so we’re happy to oppose the Ulsterman.
So that’s the three from the head of the market gone, so who are our selections?
Our Betting Picks
Bubba Watson (12/1 each way)
The epitome of a wild card, Bubba’s record at Augusta reads 38-1-50-1-38, so yes this is a death or glory pick. But Watson has this knack of pulling it out of the bag, and our other selection is a more consistent performer so we’re happy to take the plunge.
All of the stats are there – the left-hander ranks in the top five on tour for Driving Distance, GIR and Par 5 Scoring, and while his Scrambling stat is in the low 100s we’re not too worried about that: if he’s hitting fairways in good order then scrambling becomes irrelevant.
We’ve got current form on side too – Bubba has trotted out 1-10-14-70-1-2 in the past few months (ignoring the Matchplay that doesn’t necessarily appeal). And remember, this is a two-time Masters winner that has challenged at the US Open and the PGA Championship too. Bottle? Bubba’s got more of it than your average milkman.
Adam Scott (12/1 each way)
It’s hard to ignore the claims of one of the success stories of 2016, and two tour wins plus a runners-up spot put Scott firmly in the spotlight for Augusta.
No need to worry about that though: the Aussie is a former winner here in 2013, and he has delivered three top-10 finishes in five visits. It is clear Scott loves Augusta’s unique atmosphere.
All of the key stats are in place too (Driving Distance: 11; GIR: 6; Putting Average: 12; Par 5 Scoring: 1), so let’s get behind Scott and in decent fashion too.
Long Shot Contender
Paul Casey (66/1 each way)
We were surprised to see the Englishman as long as 80/1 at the start of the week, and rightly the market movements reflect the chance that Casey has here.
After three years away from Augusta for various reasons he finished sixth here last year – and remember, most bookies will run to six, seven or even eight places here – and 12 top-10 finishes on tour in the past two years says it all. Casey is the perfect back-to-lay option too.