We’re swerving Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson and backing 100/1+ players instead
The first golfing Major of the year will soon be upon us and no doubt you’re thinking of having a bet. Please read on…
Of course, you might have already made your mind up that Rory McIlroy is going to walk it and complete a career Grand Slam (all four Majors) in the process, while that other prodigious young talent Jordan Spieth must have entered your head after his solo second to Bubba Watson on his debut last year. And Bubba could easily go back-to-back the way he tore the course apart on the Sunday, right?
Those same three players first came into my mind when asked to come up with my ‘four against the field’, and for the same reasons no doubt. However, this is a tipping piece and, for the sake of sparing you what you don’t already know, I’m going to give you four players who might just have slipped under the bookies’ radar in the outright market for Masters glory, whilst also being of interest in the speciality markets.
Louis Oosthuizen @ 50/1
Let’s start with Louis Oosthuizen, who is as good as any golfer on the planet when healthy, as has been the case for a while. The South African has been plagued with injuries but is perhaps swinging more sweetly than ever coming into this with a couple of top-10 finishes to show from four starts on the PGA Tour this season, including tied-6th at last month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship. His best ever finish at Augusta was his solo second in 2012, when he famously holed out for an albatross on the par-five second hole, and in his current frame of mind / healthy state he could be about to go one better. With his compatriot Charl Schwartzel struggling for form, “Shrek” (as he’s known) could be a shoe-in for top South African honours.
Gary Woodland @ 125/1
The American might not possess the nerve to contend for the green jacket as he is prone to a last-round wobble, but I’m convinced we will see his name high up on the leaderboard at some point given he has the perfect game for Augusta. Modifications to the course in recent years have turned it into a big-hitters paradise, which is why we may never see the likes of Zach Johnson – the 2007 champion is a brilliant striker of the ball but very short off the the by modern standards – wearing green on Sunday again.
Famous last words, perhaps. Woodland hits it miles (ranked 10th for Driving Distance on Tour) and that allows him to take advantage of the par-fives (ranked 12th for Eagles), which is exactly what’s required from the winner. His Augusta form figures read 24/MC/26 and that includes a third-round 67 last year and he can be expected to improve on those figures as he becomes more familiar with the track. Furthermore, his game is ticking along nicely after three top-three finishes around the turn of the year.
Jamie Donaldson @ 150/1
The Welshman is possibly best known for holing the winning putt at last year’s Ryder Cup, which was set up by a brilliant approach shot on the 15th hole when the world and his wife were watching.
He’s no one-trick pony, however, as his six international wins show, which includes the prestigious Abu Dhabi Championship back in 2013. What makes him really interesting, though, is the form he has shown Stateside in recent seasons and, indeed, at Augusta where he finished an eye-catching tied-14th 12 months ago. That could have been even better but for a third-round 76 and this late developing 38-year-old could improve on that finish having acclimatised nicely in recent weeks, with a tied-6th at the Honda Classic the highlight.
Danny Willett @ 200/1
Before you start thinking I’ve lost the plot with my fourth and final pick, I should state that I don’t for one minute expect this English professional, who is the son of a vicar incidentally, to win the Masters on his first attempt – although stranger things have and continue to happen in golf and no-one fancied Fuzzy Zoeller (the last winning debutant) before his playoff victory in 1979! There are more ways to skin a cat – or rather take money off bookmakers in this case – and the 27-year-old could return us a profit in several markets, although the outright 200/1 is almost insulting given he’s the number one ranked player on the European Tour and 47th-ranked player in the world right now.
He’s got to that position largely as a result of winning the mega-bucks Nedbank Challenge back in December, but that was no flash in the pan and he’s continued to play well since with his tied-12th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship most noteworthy. He closed out there with a final-round 68 and his superb iron play (ranked 20th on the European Tour) should stand him in good stead at Augusta, while he’s not short off the tee by any means.
Recommendations: back Top Debutant @ 9/1 BetVictor & Top Englishman each-way @ 11/1 BetVictor
NB – Of the more obvious picks, my ‘four against the field’ would be: Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler – watch the latter’s price drop if he plays well in this week’s Shell Houston Open!