US Masters Tips
Who’s going to wear the 2015 Green Jacket?
When looking at this major and deciding on my US Masters tips, I usually ignore my rankings and go with a bit more of a gut feel; the winner will presumably be from the top part of the market as you don’t usually get a big priced outsider winning this one although there have actually been some good mid-range priced winners in recent times – the emphasis is on experience and often previous tour (and major) winners usually but there has been a sea-change in recent years with many long time tour players finally getting a win, and a lot of the young guns showing they can do it too – probably due to Tiger no longer being the constant force but there is definitely a new belief these days which means more chance of a long-shot perhaps hanging in there.
98 tee it up this year with 49 of the World Top 50 ranked players on show. The winner of this though does tend to be an experienced tour winner, from the top 50 and really has to be a good putter so that’s the basis for my picks; decent distance off the tee helps although isn’t a dominant factor as ball striking / positioning is key on this undulating course. Augusta in the last couple of years has played the 2nd and 4th hardest on tour which just adds to the challenge this week
The link to the official site is here
and it is a terrific site full of info, stats and news
Being a major you would expect to see an unusual name up near the top of the leaderboard on day 1 (Justin Rose has however managed to be top after 1st round 3 times) but they usually fade and by Sunday the bigger names appear – definitely a case of ‘you can’t win it on Thursday & Friday but you can lose it’ – the evergreen pros still do well here so expect to see Couples up near the top at some point – this really isn’t a course /event for debutants or 2nd appearance players to flourish in although Schwartzel, Day, Spieth, Blixt and a few others have started to change that stat in recent times
Those who can putt well from distance obviously need checking as do those who can consistently hole out from 5-6 feet as you will get a lot of those par-saver distances here – great putters should benefit from the testing surfaces as they have the technique and confidence although there is always the chance of someone having a hot week with the flat stick. In general though, being a really good putter will be the main determinant in narrowing down your selections
GIR is more important here than accuracy or distance off the tee – you can’t keep missing greens at Augusta and expect to keep getting up and down in so those who do well will be probably top 5 in this statistic. Last year the stats showed the par 4s and par 3s as being some of the hardest (average score wise) so although it’s true you have to score well on the par 5s, you also have to mitigate any disasters on the short and medium holes too so perversely a good accurate par 4 player can do well here (a la Zach Johnson) but you have to have a stellar week with your wedges
Experience counts – it will be unusual for a non-tour winner to succeed here; you will probably have a champion who has won many times on tour and/or majors (last few winners have been Bubba(2), Scott, Schwartzel, Mickelson)
* In 2013 I picked Scott who won and had some great trades (including a ten-bagger) and last year I managed to again trade well (ten-bagger again!) with Blixt and Jiminez who finished 2nd and 4th respectively > see 2013 tips and 2014 tips
* Popular picks this year will no doubt include McIlroy, Scott, Spieth, Kuchar and Bubba Watson – I’m not sure Rory has his game just right yet and Bubba is trying to win for the 3rd time in 4 years, that’s pretty huge and he should go well but I’ll swerve him. Scott I have picked many times here as his game is ideal for Augusta, but I’ll skip him this week as he has played just 4 times in the past 4 months (although he reverts to his broom-handle putter apparently which should help).
Spieth ticks so many boxes and is a superb talent – he may well go on to become the world’s top player for a long while but it’s all a bit too obvious for my liking to pick him this week! His form is excellent though and with a brilliant debut here last year, I would not put anyone off backing him. Dustin Johnson is another good solid tip with his form since his comeback, hits it miles and should do really well but not quite convinced with him yet for this event. Rickie Fowler is another I back often and was stellar in his major performance last year (all top 5s) so should be on people’s ‘potential winner’ lists too
I’ll go with these:
Jason DAY > the Aussie for me will be young JD who has posted a 2nd and a 3rd here in 4 visits – has featured regularly in the big events and will have learned a lot from that. Players like Day are good enough to win a major, they sometime sjust need a few bridesmaid jobs before they convert. Good length off the tee, a solid putter and has the game to handle this course well. If he is on song and others are too busy watching Rory and Bubba, he may well sneak up and clinch the coveted jacket. Last year he was 20th but struggled on the par 4s (+11 for the week) so needs to improve that. 16 on BF currently
Henrik STENSON > probably hasn’t won as much as he should and definitely not in the majors but World Ranked No.2 Stenson ticks enough boxes for me this week. Four top20s here in 8 visits is reasonable but hasn’t threatened at the very top so that goes against him; however, he has bounced back from injury and got himself back up to the high world rankings so that needs respecting. Has finished 4th, 4th, 2nd in his last 3 US tour events and posted a 4th and 3rd in last year’s US Open and US PGA Championships respectively. Has 9 career top 10s in majors and has won a lot of big events without bagging a major. Worried that he may be destined to be 2nd too often but worth a punt at 24 on BF
Brandt SNEDEKER > remember he was the form player back in 2013 and has gone under the radar since although was back in the winner’s frame a few months ago on tour (AT&T at Pebble Beach). He has had a 3rd, 15th, 19th, 6th in his last 6 visits to Augusta which is impressive. A great putter and a streaky player at times, he may well shoot a low 9 somewhere this week and be right in the mix – currently 46 on BF
Lee WESTWOOD > as per 2014, Westy won’t be found on many people’s radar for the win so he could be an excellent top 5 or top 10 bet… but you never know; if he can hang around close enough to the top, then go out early on Sunday and shoot a good score and get in the clubhouse, then the others may falter and he could sneak a long overdue major. He has been extremely solid here in recent years with 2nd, 11th, 3rd, 8th, 7th in the last 5 years being a superbly consistent record. He may well have had his chance and could be destined to finish major-less a la Monty, but there could be a swansong for this top golfer even though my head is telling me he won’t win! 65 on BF is tempting as he is so consistent and older golfers can win here!
Ryan PALMER > I have always liked Palmer and have a soft spot after backing him at 390 a few years back when he won on tour – hits it long and is a good putter too; he may well fit in to the category of ‘seasoned old pros’ who plod along but he knows how to win and his stats are really impressive this season. Has made 7 cuts of 8 and finished top25 in all of those. Unlikely winner perhaps but could be worth a trade at 85 on BF
Jonas BLIXT > tipped him last year as a trade and did very well out of him to say the least! made a terrific debut with a 2nd place finish, putted great (3rd ranked) and was the only player to shoot under par in all 4 rounds. Good at avoiding 3-putts and if he his flat stick is working as well as usual then he looks way over-priced at 230 on BF as he will have positive memories of his one appearance here and could go really well again
These are my 6 for this week, nothing too adventurous here granted but high-priced winners are hard to find on a normal tour event let alone a major. So my top 10 would be the 6 picks plus Spieth 12.5 BF, Henley 150, Matsuyama 85 and Kuchar 50. I’m pretty much ignoring Woods, Mickelson, Watson and McIlroy which could be unwise but the form or prices don’t warrant much interest for me although Bubba is hard to discount on those points to be fair
Every year I make a point of mentioning Couples and Cabrera as they always do well here and usually pop up at some point – with a field of just 98 there is a better chance for the outsiders to be involved so don’t be surprised to see them or Olazabal/Els on the leaderboard through the 4 days
Trading-wise > makes sense to pick someone in decent nick, with some reasonably good recent performances and possibly a good effort here previously at a decent high price if you can find them! Or look after 2 rounds and see who is playing well but maybe hasn’t got the putts dropping and is due a 66 or so and could make a good move up the leaderboard. The trick is to spot a player who should play better than their price suggests – they may not win but you are trading on the price drop not the potential win likelihood.
My initial picks would be Kevin Streelman at 810 (streaky yet useful and capable of a shock), Brendon Todd at 450 (solid form), Bill Haas at 180 (class act and over-priced) and Kevin Na at 260 (good form and great putter). Henley is worth watching too at 150
FRL > First Round Leader market is interesting and Bill Haas led this last yr when he posted a 68 so he and Paul Casey are my selections in this market
Good luck all!