Hello, gambling friends. It’s the second week in November, so naturally in this weird 2020 sports calendar that means it’s time for the Masters. But more importantly, it’s time to bet on the Masters.
So here are few things to keep in mind as you go about making your wagers this week — or even just trying to impress your friends. Unless noted, all odds to win were taken Wednesday from golfodds.com.
As the only course to host a major every year, Augusta National might be the ultimate horses-for-courses track on tour: Six of the past 10 and 10 of the past 15 Masters winners either already had a green jacket in their closet or had a previous top-10 finish at Augusta National. None was a Masters rookie.
Previous best finish
All of the above past champions will be in the field this year except for Cabrera, Immelman and Garcia. On Monday, Masters officials announced Garcia had tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss the tournament.
This is not to argue in favor of blindly betting a past champion, but you probably want to center your focus on golfers who have had success at Augusta National. This is your baseline.
Only three golfers — Fuzzy Zoeller, Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen — have won the Masters in their first attempt, and it has been 41 years since Zoeller last accomplished the feat. So this means sorry, Masters debutantes Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Scottie Scheffler, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Abraham Ancer, Cameron Champ, Max Homa, Jazz Janewattananond and Lanto Griffin: We’re staying away from all of you this year, at least as far as bets to win.
Is it DeChambeau’s time?
Bryson DeChambeau enters as the winner of the most recent major, the odds-on favorite to win this week at 8-1 and probably 2020′s most fascinating, talked-about golfer thanks to his incredible bulk, his absurd length off the tee, his goofy braininess and his on-course squabbles with rules officials and cameramen. He also has been the best player on tour since the restart, with six finishes in the top eight and two wins, including an absolutely dominant performance at the U.S. Open.
As far as the Masters is concerned, however, DeChambeau has never really contended. Although he has made the cut in all three of his appearances, he has never finished better than a tie for 21st, and that was as an amateur in 2016. It all comes down to his inability to navigate Augusta National’s treacherous greens: Among players with at least eight Masters rounds over the past three years, DeChambeau ranks last in strokes gained: putting.
DeChambeau did finish 10th on tour in strokes gained: putting for the 2019-20 season, which ended with the Tour Championship in August. But in eight rounds over two tournaments in the new season, he ranks just 59th.
Is it Johnson’s time?
If DeChambeau has been the best post-hiatus player, then Dustin Johnson (9-1 to win) is not too far behind him. Johnson hasn’t finished worse than sixth in his past six starts, with two wins and three second-place finishes. In his first tournament back after testing positive for the coronavirus, Johnson tied for second at last weekend’s Houston Open, and he has finished no worse than a tie for 10th in his past four Masters appearances. Only Jordan Spieth has shot a better combined Masters score over the past five years (39 under) than Johnson (29 under).
As noted by 15th Club’s Justin Ray, the players who led the field in strokes gained: approach at the past five Masters have finished first, first, second, third and first. And considering that tee shots probably will not be traveling as far this year — colder temperatures, lusher fairways and trickier winds will do that — iron play could be even more important.
So knowing this, where should we look?
Jon Rahm (10-1): Fourth on tour in shots gained: approach in 2019-20, Rahm has finished fourth and tied for ninth in his past two Masters appearances. He has two wins since the restart and has finished no worse than a tie for 23rd in his past seven tournaments. It’s going to happen sooner rather than later for the 26-year-old.
Justin Thomas (12-1): The 2017 PGA champion led the tour in strokes gained: approach during the 2019-20 season and has improved his Masters finish in each of his four appearances (T-39, T-22, T-17, T-12). As with DeChambeau, if he can figure out Augusta’s greens and avoid another bad start — Thomas has shot over par in the first round in all four appearances — he could challenge.
Xander Schauffele (16-1): Schauffele (eighth in shots gained: approach last year) was in contention until the end in 2019, ending up one stroke behind Tiger Woods. In 13 major appearances, he has seven top-10 finishes and only one missed cut.
Bubba Watson (35-1): Remember what we said about past winners being good bets? Watson not only has two green jackets, but he also is coming off a tie for seventh at the CJ Cup and a tie for fourth at the Zozo Championship, which both had strong fields. Watson tied for 12th last year and was strong everywhere except with his driver, but over 12 rounds this fall he ranks seventh in strokes gained: off the tee. He also finished the 2019-20 season seventh in that category.
Rickie Fowler (50-1): Fowler was on the upswing before the hiatus but has struggled since, with five missed cuts and nothing better than a tie for 12th on his résumé. So why do we like him so much here? Mainly because he and Augusta seem to be a great fit: Fowler is 24 under for his past eight Masters rounds, tops among golfers who made the cut in both 2018 and 2019. He led the field in strokes gained: putting last year. Over his past six Masters, Fowler has made five cuts and never finished worse than a tie for 12th in those five tournaments, with three top-10s and two top fives.
Ian Poulter (200-1): It’s the 15th Masters for the Englishman, and he hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2015. But his past two tournaments, which both featured strong fields, were a tie for fifth at the European BMW and a tie for 12th at the CJ Cup.
But what about Tiger?
Tiger Woods (50-1) always will attract money from casual gamblers who still think it’s 2005: As of Tuesday, he was the most-bet golfer to win at MGM’s sportsbooks. Such faith paid off last year, when Woods won his fifth green jacket at 16-1 odds.
But Woods and his wonky back haven’t been competitive at the five majors since that win, with three missed cuts and no finish better than a tie for 21st, and he has been downright mediocre since the restart (particularly with his putter, which doesn’t bode well for this week). So while there has probably never been a better fit between course and player like Tiger and Augusta, it’s hard to back him here for much more than a top-20 bet (+138 at DraftKings). If you feel like living on the edge, betting that he misses the cut (+200 at DraftKings) might be worth some thought.
Who are the favorites?
As of Wednesday morning, these were the 11 players with the lowest odds to win the Masters, according to golfodds.com:
Bryson DeChambeau 8-1
Dustin Johnson 9-1
Rory McIlroy 10-1
Jon Rahm 10-1
Justin Thomas 12-1
Brooks Koepka 16-1
Xander Schauffele 16-1
Patrick Cantlay 25-1
Patrick Reed 25-1
Tony Finau 30-1
Hideki Matsuyama 30-1
The Masters: What to read
The Masters moved from April to November this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.