The Masters – 5 Weeks and Counting
Thursday the 6th of March…we are exactly 5 weeks away from the first ball being hit at Augusta!
The bookmakers currently have the following prices:
Rory McIlroy 13/2
Tiger Woods 8/1
Adam Scott 16/1
Jason Day 16/1
Phil Mickelson 16 /1
These 5 provide us with a shade over 42% of the current book, thus showing the power at the top of the market. I guess I’ll start by discussing these guys. I like Rory and will come back to him. Tiger cannot be backed at 8/1 in my opinion. One thing to note for Tiger backers is that he has never won the Masters in a season where he has not won a previous tournament. You may want to keep this in mind if he doesn’t win in the next month. Mickelson has incredible Augusta form but for me, there are slightly more appealing players to back with the prices involved. I’d rather have defending champion Adam Scott at the same price, for example. Adam Scott hits it further, putts better and scores better on par 5s (all key factors to finding a Masters champion!). Defending your Green Jacket is remarkably difficult but Adam Scott has looked a different player since his first major victory. Jason Day is another who I’d back before Phil although he is another I would have to leave at 16/1. There is a saying within gambling…”don’t go to the funeral if you missed the wedding”. This fits perfectly with Jason Day. He was as big as 28/1 at the start of February and I think all the juice has been sapped from his price now. It would be absolutely no surprise to see last year’s 3rd place and 2011’s runner up finish right up the top of the leaderboard this year.
Away from the obvious then, how are we going to find the winner? I think the most important factor at Augusta is prior experience. There are many great players who have failed to perform on their first time to this prestigious venue. Only 3 players have won at here at their first attempt. Naturally, the course is very difficult but the hype surrounding your first ever Masters tournament is something that the players will never have experienced before. I am, quite quickly, therefore crossing out players that haven’t played here before. This may well change if I think a rookie suddenly develops a great chance but of the leading contenders for players who haven’t played at Augusta we have Jordan Spieth (40/1), Graham DeLaet(100/1) and Jimmy Walker (66/1). The DeLaet price is the only that may tempt, but for now, they go in the “ignore” pile.
Next, I’m looking for players that can putt. I look for players that can putt with great conviction in and around the hole. These are the 5, 10 and 15 foot putts that I’m looking at. Anything around the high 80s (in terms of percentage) is a good score here. I also want players that average around 28 putts per round. Of some of the names that are high up in this statistic, those that have great Augusta form include KJ Choi, Hunter Mahan, Luke Donald and Tim Clark. Immediately, I’d cross out a lot of the field simply because I don’t think they putt well enough to win a Green Jacket. It will take some decent performances over the next 3 or 4 weeks to change my mind on some players.
Thirdly, I want someone who hits the ball a fair distance. I don’t think this is a make-or-break factor but it’s certainly important. Adam Scott hits it far, Bubba Watson whacks it, Schwartzel isn’t a short hitter and neither is Angel Cabrera. That’s 4 of the last 5 winners…I think we should be looking for someone with a similar profile! Now I want a big hitter that can putt…the main ones that come under this category are: Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney, Martin Kaymer and Scott Piercy. Some of those mentioned have tremendous form here, others don’t!
Finally, for now, my last statistic will be the performances on the par 5s. Scott shot 5 under on them when winning last year; Bubba shot 8 under and Schwartzel shot 9 under. It’s quite clear these 4 holes are massively important in the outcome of the tournament. There are many players in and around the 4.50 average shots this season. These include: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, KJ Choi and Martin Laird.
I would rather be backing a player that plays most of his golf in America and crunching all of these things leaves me with a shortlist of 17 for this year’s competition. Their best prices succeed them.
Of those, I think most are priced pretty correctly. One stands out at this current point in time though and I will be taking the 100/1 about Bill Haas. I think any player mentioned above has a great chance but the bookmakers have protected themselves near the top of the market. Haas scores well on the par 5s (4.54), hits it over 290 yards and he putts near 87%. His total putts are sitting around 29.5 but tie that in with a top 20 last year and 4 successive cuts here, I think he is overpriced. My only antepost play today would be Bill Haas at 100/1 (Skybet, BetVictor). I look forward to hearing your comments and welcome a discussion below. Good luck if anyone is playing at this early stage! Only 35 days to go now, guys.