US Masters 2018: Your Augusta betting guide
Five favourites, three mid-rangers and two long shots to have a flutter on this week
Will the 2018 US Masters live up to expectations with so many top players in form or will a dark horse steal in and take the green jacket? Photo: Getty Images
Tiger Woods (12-1): Where else to start but with the biggest draw in golf? The excitement and the hype around Woods’ latest return to competitive golf is already well into overdrive so let’s take a step back for a moment and look at it all realistically. No one currently playing the game plays Augusta better than Woods. In 2010, without having hit a tournament shot in anger in the five months since his Thanksgiving car crash and the salacious details of his private life were thrown into the public eye, Woods rolled up to Augusta and finished fourth. That finish alone should be as lauded as the four green jackets he picked up between 1997 and 2005, given the circumstances. Since that last win he has played the Masters nine times and finished inside the top six on seven occasions. The course is made for him. His latest comeback certainly shows a lot of positive signs as he contended at both the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational but, to nit-pick, problems with the driver are still very evident. At Augusta – the course famed for ‘Tiger-proofing’ against the ever increasing length of the modern game – he will be forced to pull the driver out of the bag quite often. If he can get that under control we may well be about to witness the most incredible comeback story in the history of golf – if not the world of sport.
Rory McIlroy (11-1): If (when?) McIlroy finally does slip on that green jacket we can all breathe a sigh of relief as the never-ending narrative of whether or not he will complete a career Grand Slam will finally be put to bed. For a player of the talent and expectation of McIlroy, a career missing a Masters win could quite fairly be deemed as a failure. On paper the course suits him down to the ground but one could be forgiven for having some questions as to whether the 2011 back nine meltdown still plays on his mind a little bit. McIlroy has never won a tournament as close to the start of the Masters as he did this year in taking the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The early exit at the WGC Dell Matchplay can be discounted on the basis of fatigue and can even be looked at as being beneficial as it gave him more time to recharge before a green jacket tilt. All going well it will be the same story as ever with McIlroy – if he putts well he wins. Going on the evidence of Bay Hill, he could very well do just that.
Jordan Spieth (10-1): There aren’t many better ways to prove yourself as an Augusta specialist than by finishing second in your first appearance before winning the tournament a year later. It’s hard to envisage a Masters where Spieth doesn’t contend. He just seems to have the number of the Georgia course and he undoubtedly possesses the intangible quality of being able to produce his very best when the pressure is on down the stretch at a Major, as last year’s British Open proved. However, as we have also seen at Augusta in 2016, he has quite the collapse in him and you feel those demons may not have left him just yet. Don’t forget that last year, when he was on the fringes of contention in the final round, he found the water with his tee shot at the 12th once again. Recent putting travails also put doubt into the minds of many punters, but his tied third finish at the Shell Houston Open on Sunday should have dispelled most of that. It’s his best finish of the season so far and just in time as it’s difficult to imagine Spieth not at least being in contention every year at Augusta. He has also now been bumped into favourite, a tag which he holds well.
Justin Rose (12-1): As good a ball-striker as anyone on the planet, if it wasn’t for a lack of cooperation from the putter Rose would have a lot more than just his one Major title at this stage of his career. Indeed he would have a green jacket in his wardrobe if he had avoided either of the two three-putts on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta last year or if he had made the 10 foot putt for birdie on the last. It was Rose’s second runner-up finish in three years and a seventh top 15 at the first Major of the year. Tied fifth at the Masters, third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and another solid week in Houston shows that the form is there and few would be surprised if by Sunday evening he had made amends for last year’s near miss.
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Bubba Watson (16-1): This time last year it looked like Watson’s career was quickly falling away in a blur of multi-coloured golf balls and seemingly more interest in his various business ventures which include ‘Bubba’s Sweet Spot’ in Florida. However, since he ditched the inferior golf balls and got back to focusing on what he’s good at his immense natural talent has shone once again. A win at Riviera in February was his first in two years and he followed it up with victory at the WGC Dell Matchplay in Austin. As the most adept player in the world at turning the golf ball, Augusta suits him perfectly – as evidenced by the fact that he has won here twice. Whether he adds a third green jacket or not, he is well worth watching this year as Augusta introduce shot tracer technology for the first ever time. Shot tracer was made for Bubba and Bubba was made for Augusta. A perfect combination?
Paul Casey (22-1): Sixth, fourth, sixth at the Masters for the last three years suggests he’s really got the hang of Augusta after a couple of missed cuts in years before. Coupled with a first PGA Tour win since 2009 at the Valspar last month – when he held off Tiger Woods – Casey is very much enjoying a new lease of life. His return to the European fold at the EurAsia Cup – and inevitably at the Ryder Cup in September – has also contributed to that and very much confirmed this Paul Casey as a sort of Paul Casey 2.0. At 22-1 he is the only recent winner who still represents a bit of value as the bookies continue to shorten the odds of anyone in form. The Englishman never lacks in self confidence and could well be the player to make it three European winners in a row at Augusta.
Matt Kuchar (40-1): The walking ATM machine as he’s known, Kuchar has amassed an outrageous 96 top-10s on the PGA Tour alone, making him one of the most consistent players of the modern era. Four of those top 10s have come at the Masters – including a fourth place finish last year and the low amateur title in 1998 – and he’s also well used to competing at Majors with 10 top 10s in total throughout his career. While his ambition for actually winning has occasionally been questioned, much of that was put to bed at Royal Birkdale last year when his crushing disappointment was clear to see after the brilliance of Jordan Spieth denied him the claret jug. A green jacket would go a long way to remedying that.
Patrick Cantlay (60-1): The Californian was supposed to be the great hope of American golf in his early years when he was ranked number one amateur in the world for 55 weeks, won low amateur at the US Open and shot a record round of 60 at the Travelers Championship, all before he joined the paid ranks. The world was his oyster until he was forced to take 10 months off in 2013 with a back injury before things got even worse. In February 2016 he was out one night with his caddie and lifelong friend Chris Roth when they crossed a road in Newport Beach. Roth was struck by a car, which didn’t stop, and Cantlay watched him pass away. Now at the age of 26 it looks like a long-awaited stellar career is about to kick off after he claimed a first PGA Tour win at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open last November. In February he finished in a tie for fourth at the Genesis Open in Riviera. There is a lot of expectation and positive talk about Cantlay in the media stateside and it seems everyone is just waiting for him to break through. This year he makes his second Masters appearance. In 2015 Jordan Spieth made his second Masters appearance and burst onto the world stage by winning the thing and justifying years of hype. If Cantlay does the same, few in US golf will be surprised.
The long shots
Zach Johnson (100-1): Yes, Zach Johnson does not hit the ball a long way. Yes, Augusta is getting longer. Yes, wins are becoming more and more exclusive to those who can bomb it 320 yards plus. But hear me out. If anyone makes the absolute most out of their game it’s the 42-year-old from Iowa who has won two Major championships – including, of course, the Masters itself in 2007 – purely thanks to consistency, a sensational wedge game and even better putting. This season there have been signs of those traits getting back to their best with three top 15 finishes already. There is nowhere like Augusta to bring out the best in past winners and, while very few would expect to see Johnson pull on a second green jacket on Sunday night, just as few would be surprised to see him sneak a top eight finish which would still pay out at 20-1. Worth a small each way.
Russell Henley (125-1): His so-so form this season is probably the main contributor to his three figure odds but the truth is that Russell Henley is getting better and better at Augusta every time he plays. He has now made four appearances and has gone: missed cut, 31st, 21st, 11th. So naturally he should at least pick up an each way place this year then. As we all know it doesn’t work that way but Henley certainly has the attributes for Augusta – particularly when it comes to the greens as you will find few better putters on tour than the 28-year-old. He’s also a Georgia native so this tournament means more to him than anything. As with Zach Johnson the each way payout is still very appealing with a fifth of Henley’s odds coming in at 25-1.