We have finally arrived. Christmas in April. The best golf tournament in the world: The Masters. As there always is with the first major of the season, storylines are aplenty, but one could argue this year offers more pre-tournament drama than any other in recent memory.
Tiger Woods in the field may not be at the top of the pecking order as we arrive at Augusta for the first major tournament featuring many LIV Golf tour âdefectorsâ playing against and alongside the best of the best on the PGA Tour.
Every bettor has their take on what to do with the LIV contingency. After six-plus months of debate, we will finally exit a tournament with some actual feedback on what, if anything, changes with the sports’ elite when playing exhibition golf tournaments for a living.
Rory McIlroy, the de facto leader of the opposition of the LIV Tour, will be chasing the career grand slam and the elusive green jacket for the ninth time as he comes in with solid form.
World number one Scottie Scheffler will try to do what only three men have ever accomplished (Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Nick Faldo) in the history of The Masters by winning it in back-to-back years. His recent form and statistics show that he is as ready to repeat as anyone since Eldrick got it done in 2002.
It would also be foolish not to mention the lengthened Par 5 13th hole, Azalea, as an added 35 yards with a narrow line from the tee box projects to modify this captivating hole on the back nine from a routine two-shot approach to something much more complex than in years past.
Weather-wise, as of this writing, we are looking at one of the worst forecasts The Masters has ever had, with cold temperatures, gusty winds, and torrential downpours projected for each day that may have the typical allure of an Augusta weekend missing from viewers’ televisions.The Masters Top 10 Finishers
My first tout for the week will be on a past champion that projects to benefit from the windy, rainy conditions that seem to be ahead of the players at Augusta National. Danny Willett, the 2016 champion, gains 0.6 strokes per round to the field in windy conditions and also heads into this year’s Masters in some of the best forms in his recent career.
The 35-year-old Brit has made five consecutive cuts and is gaining significant strokes with his irons (1.4 strokes per event) and around-the-green play (1.9 strokes per event) during that span. He should feel comfortable and confident on the course regardless of the weather, but I like his chances more if things get very out of hand with the rain and wind.
Back Willett at +1100 for a Top 10 and also look to use him in betting pools with tiered selections and DFS formats.The Masters Top 5 Finishers
Another past champion I will be playing for a Top 5 finish (+700), an outright win (+4600), and in tournament head-to-head groups and matchups is Hideki Matsuyama. After an up-and-down end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, Hideki has found some recent form with a T-5 finish at THE PLAYERS and a T-15 place at last week’s Valero Texas Open.
His play and body language on the golf course leads me to believe he is free from the back injury that had seemingly been bothering him for quite some time. His success at Augusta cannot be overstated. The low 2011 amateur and 2021 tournament winner ranks seventh in this field in total strokes gained at The Masters and has made the cut in 10 of his 11 starts here.
The price was better a month or so ago, but I still find great value in him at 46/1.The Masters Outright Winners
Sungjae Im has a T-2 and T-8 to his name in three tries at The Masters, and he fits the bill of a first-time winner at Augusta, along with an excellent price tag of +4100. Im checks the box of solid recent form with three top 10 finishes since January in premium fields (Farmers, Waste Management, THE PLAYERS) and has gained an average of 4.9 strokes per tournament tee-to-green over his last 20 starts.
As is always the case with the sport’s top players, it comes down to the flatstick, and Im has been positive in that department in five of his past seven starts and two of three trips to Augusta National.
My take on the LIV Tour for betting purposes only is to not automatically throw the entire contingency of them out due to less competitive, infrequent golf, but instead to evaluate on a player-by-player basis and adjust accordingly.
It is fair to say many of the players in the older generation left just for a cash grab and practice less often than they used to when competing for the tour cards each season. However, many LIV players are still at or near the prime of their careers and will bring the best they have to offer regardless of what event they are playing in.
My favorite outright bet (given the pricing and value) for this year’s tournament is the 2022 Champion Golfer of the Year, Cameron Smith, at +2800.
The 29-year-old Aussie shocked the golf world after he chose the LIV Tour over the PGA following his July win at St. Andrews, and since then has been less outspoken on the matter than most other LIV golfers. Still, the little he has offered makes me believe he will want to validate his decision and status amongst the game’s best this week.
His world-class wizardry around and on the putting greens has also pegged him to be a popular choice to be an eventual wearer of a Green Jacket, and he very nearly got the job done here in both the 2020 event (T-2 to Dustin Johnson) and last year (T-3 to Scheffler).
Since then, he won his first major in a pressure-filled situation facing down the super-elite, and took home the 2022 PLAYERS Championship by executing shot after shot under the most intense pressure.
Smith will likely be one of two or three golfers that backers go to should they get involved with LIV players, but I will also not be surprised if there is very little ownership of him in tiered selection pools and DFS formats.
No result other than Woods pulling off the unthinkable or McIlroy completing the grand slam will set the golfing world ablaze than the man they call The Mullet winning this Sunday, and I, for one, am here for it.
Final Betting Card
- Danny Willett: T-10 – (+1100)
- Hideki Matsuyama: T-5 (+700)
- Sungjae Im: T-5 (+600)
- Hideki Matsuyama: Outright (+4400)
- Sungjae Im: Outright (+3600)
- Cameron Smith: Outright (+2400)
- Tournament Matchups: Cameron Smith (+140) > Patrick Cantlay
- Props/Group Betting: Matsuyama Win âGroup Eâ (+250), Cameron Smith Win âGroup Bâ (+300)
Odds courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook