That has made golf’s first major tournament of the year a lucrative betting opportunity. Past winners include Patrick Reed (40-1 in 2018), Sergio Garcia (30-1 in 2017), Danny Willett (50-1 in 2016) and Charl Schwartzel (100-1 in 2011). Even Dustin Johnson, one of the best golfers in the world, managed to win last year’s Masters tournament and still pay 8-1.
Who could be this year’s surprise success? Here are five names to keep an eye on at Augusta National this weekend.
All odds taken Monday from GolfOdds.com.
Collin Morikawa (30-1, or +3000)
When your name is alongside Woods in the record books you know you did something right. Morikawa and Woods are the only players with a major win and a World Golf Championship title before turning 25 years old. Morikawa is also the seventh player since World War II to win four PGA Tour titles, including a major championship, before turning 25.
The key to his Masters success lies in his ability to hit his irons. He has gained an average of 1.2 strokes per round, the highest of 2021, on approach shots when compared with the average number of shots taken by a tour player to finish a hole from a given distance. Historically, players leading the tour in this category have fared well at Augusta. According to data from the PGA Tour, golfers who led the field in strokes gained: approach heading into the Masters have won four times, finished second once and third once.
Morikawa is also adept at avoiding trouble on par 4s, an enviable skill at Augusta. He is tied for 10th with a scoring average of 3.96 in 2021 and he gets a birdie or better on these holes 21 percent of the time. The tour average is 17 percent.
Sungjae Im (40-1, or +4000)
Im has made the cut in his last seven starts thanks in part to his putting, gaining almost a half a stroke per round this year (27th on tour). He is also accurate off the tee, hitting 643 of 920 possible fairways (70 percent, rankings eighth). That’s led to him gaining 0.7 strokes per round on the field (sixth best this season) off the tee. Both help fuel his gaudy 75 percent rate (fourth best) when going for the green with the first shot on a par 4 or the second shot on a par 5.
Im also co-led last year’s Masters field in birdies (24) on his way to a tie for second place.
Joaquin Niemann (80-1, or +8000)
Niemann can drive the ball with force off the tee (averages 312.7 yards, ninth) and hits almost 72 percent of greens in regulation. More importantly, his putting game is on the rise and he is averaging 0.5 strokes gained per round over the past 50 rounds played after adjusting for the strength of the field, per data from Data Golf, good enough to be on par with the top 25 players in this category.
His overall strokes gained mark over the past 50 rounds (plus-1.9) heading into this major is also high enough to be among the top 10 golfers in the world. (It also should be noted that some sportsbooks have Niemann at around 55-1 instead of 80-1.)
Sergio Garcia (80-1, or +8000)
Garcia checks off the boxes for past Masters performances (he won in 2017 and has three other top 10 finishes at Augusta) and current form (he won the Sanderson Farm Championship in October, tied for ninth at the Players Championship and tied for fifth at the WGC Match Play). Sure, he’s missed the cut in nine of his last 11 major-championship starts, including his last two at the Masters, but he’s still second in strokes gained off the tee and 10th in strokes gained from tee to green this season. And who knows? Maybe if he opens his eyes while on the greens he can improve from his 190th ranking in strokes gained from putting.
Brian Harman (150-1 or +15000 to win, +250 to be top lefthander)
In the 12 Masters between 2003 and 2014, left-handers won the tournament six times, with technology improvements and the need for right-to-left tee shots (easier for lefties) giving southpaws an edge at Augusta National. And while no lefty has won since Bubba Watson donned his second green jacket in 2014, Harman could be worth a long-shot look. A southpaw and a Georgia native, Harman has only two previous Masters appearances and hasn’t finished better than a tie for 44th. But he’s also missed just one cut this season and has top 10 finishes in three of his last six tournaments, including a tie for third at the Players Championship.
Still, his putting will be an asset at Augusta (0.56 strokes gained per round, 21st) as will his par-4 and par-5 scoring (he ranks 36th and 12th, respectively).