Player Profiles with Match-ups and Props Should be Focus at The Masters
There is so much to cover when analyzing a golf event and a major one like The Masters. I've provided some insight on betting the Masters with a betting guide with the expected contenders based on world ranking and odds to win. So many storylines, but also plenty of betting action on the tightly-bunched contenders and favorites in the 2018 Masters with a bias towards recent results, play and big brand names.
The most recent money in Las Vegas and a number of leading online sportsbooks has come in on Rory McIllroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who is up to #2 in the world ranking and playing the best golf in the world over the past 12 months. Of course Tiger Woods is the biggest liability to the sportsbooks with more tickets and wagers on him than any other golfer, by at least a 2-1 margin. Woods should be in the 20-1 range to win the Masters, but he's so overbet, that he's bunched with other top players near 10-1. Woods is a bad bet IMO, but he's certainly great for golf, fans and the sportsbooks.
The handle on the 2018 Masters had already surpassed the record handle set last year days in advance of the event. That's according to the SuperBook in Las Vegas, which has the largest betting menu on the Masters in Las Vegas, and has posted 100 props for this year's event compared to a normal year of 40 props on the Masters and 20 on the other majors. That's what Tigers Woods' interest creates, and Woods has 11 props himself at the SuperBook and his match-up against Mickelson is the biggest bet head-to-head match-up off them all. Woods is a -120 favorite at some sportsbooks, yet others offshore and in Las Vegas at William Hill have Mickelson (-115) over Woods (-105).
When Tiger Woods is in the field for a PGA event, the handle would increase by approximately 20% in years past. This year the betting handle is up 30% and rising. I'm not involved in the Woods vs. Mickelson match-up, and certainly not wagering on either one to win, but would lean Lefty's way over Tiger. Both can be wayward with the driver, but you can get away with that more at Augusta. Woods will have to hit his driver more this week, and that's more of a concern when supporting him with that inconsistent club in his return to relevance.
Each of the last 10 Masters champions were under the age of 40 when they won and put on the green jacket. Phil won in 2010 at age 39. Mickelson is now age 47 and Woods 42.
I pointed out some keys to success when handicapping the Masters in a recent article, and you can add these to the importance of ball-striking, approach play and putting. Augusta National caters to those that hit lots of greens, can scramble well, avoid three putts and play well on the par 5s. There are so many angles and trends when evaluating the Masters, some of which are meaningless while others could be more telling.
Regarding stats, only 58 of the 87 players in the Masters field this year have PGA Tour stats for 2018. The Masters is not part of the PGA Tours ShotLink program so you won't see stats, like Strokes Gained, this week.
Angles and Trends of Note
Winning form to note when considering props and predictions on the players includes:
- Each of the last four Masters winners had won on the PGA or European Tour in their last eight starts.
- 9 of the last 10 champions were ranked in the top 30 of the world rankings at the time of their Masters victory.
- 9 of the last 10 champions ranked inside the top-10 of scrambling for the week
- 9 of the last 10 champions ranked inside the top-12 for putting average for the week
- 5 of the last 6 years the winning score has gone over 277.5
Rain over the weekend (80+% chance) along with cooler temperatures below 65 could make scoring a little more difficult, and even delay the tournament, and wind gusts may not reach 20 MPH at Augusta. But over 277.5 is a prop to consider. Combined with severe, undulating and fast greens, pin placements and just two players able to go better than -7 (281) last year, it may be tough to make 11-under again this year. Par is 72 at Augusta, and the scoring average in the 2017 Masters was 73.89. Even eliminating some of the older champs high scores, you can see that Augusta National is still a strong challenge and it ranked No. 2 on the PGA Tour last year as the 2nd hardest course to score. In 2016, the Masters scoring average was higher at 74.42.
Strong scramblers of note include Spieth, Mickelson, Casey, Rose and Thomas, all currently rank in the top-15. McIllroy, Fowler and Woods complete the top-25. Par 5's are the scoring holes by a huge margin at the Masters, so bigger hitters have an advantage, but approach play, placement and putting is still more significant.
Mid-Range Players 20-1 to 50-1
So that does give me a decent shot with some longer shots that I've placed with Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar and many months ago Adam Scott (75-1), a former Masters champ who has struggled some and dropped to No. 60 in the world entering the Masters. Maybe someone would buy that ticket on PropSwap if he somehow opens with a strong round Thursday. Note that Casey is 40 years old and Kuchar 39, but both have excellent course form and results at the Masters and are also in solid current form. Casey has finished 6th, 4th and 6th in the last three years at the Masters and is a very strong ball-striker. I picked up Casey at 60-1 odds in February at William Hill, and he's down to 20-1 in many places in Las Vegas and 22-1 at leading offshore shop BookMaker. Again, getting ahead of the market before the tournament and flood of money is part of the process and anticipation when handicapping, and a wise investment strategy when wagering and filling out your portfolio. Jon Rahm is included in here, now up to #3 in the world and an intriguing player who is in good form, 27th on Masters debut last year with a poor final round, solid stats to support for this event and top-10 on Tour in Par 5 birdie or better. Henrik Stenson is getting discussed but gets dismissed here based on zero top-10's in 12 Masters appearances.
Contenders less than 20-1
Two of the contenders I have bet to win in that group of 15-1 or less are Rory McIllroy (14-1) and Justin Rose (22-1), which I picked up previously at better odds with each now 12-1 or less. I did play Jason Day months ago, and while he's still a contender, he's not played many stroke play events this year and there is a stat of concern with his irons and approach play along with his readiness to perform his best. Rose is among the very best in current and course form, and a true horse for the course with a pair of runner-up finishes at Augusta in the last three years, five top-10s overall and 12-for-12 in made cuts in the Masters. McIllroy, I believe, is the best player in the world when he's at his best, and Augusta is well-suited for his game. McIllroy has the fourth-best scoring average in the history of the Masters, and this will be his 10th appearance at age 28. An extraordinary talent, McIllroy shot 65 in his opening round in 2011 and collapsed on the final day. He's had four top-10 finishes at the Masters in each of the last four years with 12 of 16 rounds under par. McIllroy blew away the field in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional on a soft golf course, and that may matter over the weekend at Augusta with rain and a softer course potentially in play. McIllroy has shown elite level play recently with that extra gear and sensational putting when winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Not as consistent as Rose in current form, or even Justin Thomas, but McIllroy says he's feels great and is in very fine form. I expect McIllroy to be in top contention again Sunday with a chance to complete the career grand slam. My pick as the most likely winner.
In drawing the line somewhere, like you would when isolating a few horses to win the Kentucky Derby and setting up other wagers, I'm not including win wagers on Spieth, Thomas, Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson or Matsuyama, who returns from a wrist injury out of any quality current form. Spieth is a Masters champ but has not been sharp this year and his putting has been off and flat. Perhaps he's been pacing himself getting ready for this major, but we're not on his bag this week. Watch Johnson and Thomas score on the Par 5's, as they rank 1-2 on Tour in Par 5 birdies or better. Johnson is the best of this bunch who can win the Masters this year if he's on his game.
Longshots greater than 50-1
Many of these guys of interest have just as good a shot to win as many of the bigger names and those in the 20-1 range. A guy like Rafael Cabrera-Bello has a solid skill set with ball striking, approach play and putting stats with htop-10 in strokes gained and putting in 2018. Some of these others are exceptional ball-strikers, bigger hitters or have proven performances including in the Masters. Many are well-under the radar with strong skills and play. Add Byson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Adam Hadwin, Russell Henley, Ryan Moore, Thomas Pieters, Ian Poulter, Xander Schauffele and Cameron Smith to your win wagers if you want a value long shot, top-20s and consider in isolated match-ups.
First timers to watch and consider: Austin Cook, Tony Finau, Patrick Kizzire, Joaquin Niemann, Xander Schauffele
Despite all the win wagering and media attention on who will win the Masters, know that the sportsbook hold on win wagers is a strong 30%, where in other sports it's 20-25%. I've indicated before it's so difficult to pick a winner of a golf event, and when spreading your risk, win wagers should be a much smaller portion of your portfolio. The sharpest bettors focus on the head-to-head match-ups and selected prop bets, which makes up near 90% of their betting action and portfolio when wagering on golf. So if you have spread out say $200 in win wagers to win the Masters, you would have nearly $2,000 in match-ups and prop bets if you plan on having a good chance to profit. If it's more for recreation and entertainment, and you want a bigger score, then fine, place some win wagers, but at least have some bets to cover those likely losses with some match-ups and props.
Last year we provided some winning information and picks in our Masters player profiles article with Justin Rose over Jon Rahm. Rose nearly won the Masters, losing in a sudden death playoff to Garcia, but he beat Rahm by 12 strokes.
This year I have more than 8 match-ups of interest, and we'll try to hit another winner with this one at the 2018 Masters.
Paul Casey (-120) over Hideki Matsuyama
Matsuyama is coming off a wrist and thumb injury, and can't image him being too sharp diving back into competition, and especially on an Augusta course that requires precision approach play and shot making and among the toughest greens of a tour event. Add in the first major of the year and top-tier players to compete again, and we're fading Matsuyama in a handful of match-ups. Casey of course is super sharp in both course and current form, having won most recently in March in the Valspar Championship at Copperhead along with six other top-20's this year. His recent record at the Masters of three top-6 finishes since 2015 is elite execution and performance.
Best wishes as you shoot for more birdies and green at the 2018 Masters.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay