This week the most anticipated and coveted golf tournament takes place with The Masters. Up until about a decade ago the question wasn't who would win but rather how much Tiger Woods would win by. But things have changed, Tiger has never been the same after his public shaming and will not compete this year. In fact, it's questionable whether he will play again. The focus now focuses to the young superstars like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler but some of the seasoned veterans like Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Louis Oosthuizen must be considered as well. With that in mind here are some do's and don'ts betting The Masters.
We'll start with the Don'ts
1. Don't bet on the Par-3 contest. I learned my lesson on this about 4 years back when Adam Scott needed 2 putts from a short distance to win and proceeded to purposely hit the ball into the water. Scott was worried about "the curse" of winning the Par-3 contest since no golfer that won that ever went on to take the Masters. Aside from the ridiculous superstition golfers tend to let their children putt the ball for them on the green and before you know it their good score goes from say -4 to DS indicating disqualified. Bookies that offer this thing love it because it's a joke of a bet and is impossible to handicap so they are pretty much guaranteed to win large whoever bets it. This is truly a sucker's bet and only a fool would waste his money on it. That said if you're one of those compulsive sorts that has to bet on everything make sure your bet isn't on a golfer with his young family at the course.
2. Don't bet on a golfer with bad form. While there have been upsets in The Masters in recent years such as Mike Weir, Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel the fact is they were all playing well leading up to the tournament. Golfers who are not in good form do not play well in this tournament, which means the likes of Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan should be avoided like the plague. Golfers don't all of a sudden just wake up in a major.
3. Don't bet a senior player or an amateur. While it may be tempting to wager on someone like Bernhard Langer at 125-1 it's not worth it. Players on the Champions Tour are playing there because their best days are behind them and amateurs don't generally do well because it takes time to learn the nuances of Augusta. They may play well for a couple of days but will falter. Debutants are a different story although they too usually don't fare that well. That said Jordan Spieth did finish second in his debut year (2014) and won last year but he is the very rare exception.
4. Don't bet parlays with correlated bets. They will be cancelled and the sportsbooks may deem you as trying to cheat them. While it may be tempting to bet a parlay on Adam Scott as the top Australasian and Adam Scott to win a tournament matchup over Jason Day if it's not picked up by the system software right away by the betting site, it will be flagged and a stern warning sent not to bet correlated wagers any more.
1. If a golfer is more than 30-1 to win the tournament, then bet him to finish in the top 5 also. As a rule, the top 5 odds will pay 1/4 the win odds and it will save a lot of frustration if your golfer is playing well but doesn't win. With only 80 golfers in the field the top 5 finish wager is better than most tournaments where there are over 140 starters.
2. Give extra consideration to long drivers. Augusta is long and is generally forgiving. Having a 180 yard second shot to the green here from the rough is usually better than having a 230 yard shot from the fairway. Long hitters do exceptionally well which is why players like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have had so much success. Zach Johnson, who is not a long hitter, did win the tournament in 2007 over 3 players by 2 strokes but his score was one over par and the weather was terrible. For that particular year not driving the ball in the fairway was a huge disadvantage and Johnson who is accurate though not long was able to use his accuracy and superior putting to his advantage. But as a rule, distance is more important in The Masters than is fairway consistency.
3. Give extra consideration to Phil Mickelson. Many observers may have noticed that Mickelson always plays better in the majors than other tournaments but he has made it clear he could care less about other tournaments. In fact, in last week's Shell Houston Open Mickelson admitted that he played shots he normally wouldn't because he was "trying a few things for the Masters," even though they were ill advised. Other golfers also have so much money and fame that they only really try in the majors but Phil has made it clear that it's his philosophy and Mickelson is always there at the end. He may not be the best bet but he can't be discarded.
4. Bet in-play. For the longest time only European books, betting exchanges and WSEX allowed betting in play on golf tournaments, but now most sportsbooks offer this option. And many times this is the best opportunity to win. After the cut, bettors can often get similar odds to the start of the tournament but they don't have to worry about golfers that have missed the cut or are too far back to make a charge. I recall in 2012 Bubba Watson was 20-1 to win the tournament before it began and was similar odds going into the final day. He trailed 4 other golfers including Phil Mickelson but anyone who was watching realized Bubba was one good round away from the win. He didn't disappoint beating Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole.
5. Look for good prop bets. These are often the most fun and many times provide the best value. For example, one prop is what will be the highest 18-hole round in the tournament? This is currently available at some books with a total of 82.5. The over is a great bet. There are a lot of iffy players in there including the amateurs and Ben Crenshaw who shot a 91. And if the weather is off on any day it's almost a guarantee. And the best part is you have 2 real chances (day 1 and day 2) for this to happen. It's doubtful anyone who makes the cut will shoot that in rounds 3 or 4.
Another good prop bet is the number of eagles on the 13th hole. This is generally the easiest hole which is why the over/under is so high but this year the hole has been lengthened by 50 yards. That in itself should guarantee the number will be under.
And lastly will the winner be from the USA, Europe or The Rest of the World. The latter bet seems very tempting with golfers like Jason Day, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama included in there. At 5-2 odds it seems like a terrific bet. But again don't bet a parlay of that with Jason Day to win the tournament as it will be flagged as cheating. There are many other good prop bets available and the number will increase by Thursday. Check them all out.
That said the most people want to wager on the winner and I'll provide the options I like the best:
Adam Scott - odds 12-1. Scott won in 2013 and is unquestionably playing better now than then. He is in contention each week, has a ton of distance and his putting has vastly improved. He is my first choice.
Rickie Fowler – odds 16-1. For a while Fowler couldn't close things out, he always found a way to lose. As he's matured he is making smart decisions and is being rewarded with wins. He is always in contention of late, hits the ball a mile and is in great form heading into The Masters.
Bubba Watson – odds 12-1. The two-time winner is one of the longest hitters on the tour and always turns it up a notch for the majors. He will be there at the end.
Sergio Garcia – odds 65-1. Sergio can be frustrating to watch but he always seems to play well in the majors and unlike other years where he's struggled heading into The Masters, Sergio has actually looked quite good. He has the potential to win this if he can keep his mind on the game.
Harris English – odds 175-1. This is a bit of a hunch but Harris English seems to have found something of late which I expect to bring with him this week.
Golfer to avoid like the plague – Dustin Johnson at odds of 18-1. Johnson has all the talent in the world but clearly has a mental lapse when things are on the line. It happened in the 2010 PGA Championship when he touched the bunker costing him 2 strokes and the win, it happened in last year's U.S. Open when he 3 putted from short distance giving Jordan Spieth an undeserved win and it happened in the 2010 U.S. Open when he made several mental mistakes shooting an 82 and literally throwing away the tournament. Until Johnson wins a major he is best to avoid.