It's one of the most eagerly anticipated majors for a long time and this is where are our money is going.
The world’s best golfers teeing it up at the sport’s most iconic of venues for what is the first Major of the year, never fails to get my punting juices flowing. And if that wasn’t enough, we have bookmakers falling over themselves to attract your cash with odds of 10/1 the field generally, a raft of enticing offers and some frankly ludicrous place terms. How can you possibly resist a bet on the Masters at Augusta?
And finding the winner is far from the crap-shoot that golf punters are faced with most weeks of the year, when just about anyone can win, as winners here tend to be more findable and especially if you concentrate on those players who have strong Augusta form in the bank. The success of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who have seven Masters and umpteen places between them, only serves to highlight this as a ‘horses for courses’ track and you have to go back to Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 for the last winning debutant.
So, I make no excuses for putting up three players who have become regulars on the the final-round leaderboard here and, not only that, arrive here with their game in great nick, along with a couple of relative outsiders who might just outplay their odds.
Bubba Watson @ 18/1 Betfred (1/5 odds, 6 places)
It has been four years since Bubba last donned a green jacket, having first worn it in 2012 at the fourth attempt, and he’s not bettered 37th in three attempts since, missing the cut last year. However, he’s back to form with a vengeance in 2018 having added the WGC-Match Play to his trophy cabinet in imperious style just two weeks ago, to go with a third Riviera triumph in March. It would be some coincidence if he were to go on and add the Masters, as he has done after each of his previous Riviera wins, but maybe not, as both tracks help to bring out the left-hander’s creative side. Certainly, his ability to shape and invent shots around the unique Augusta fairways is priceless and, when you factor in his current rich vein of form, it’s a wonder he’s not disputing outright favouritism.
Justin Rose @ 14/1 Boylesports (1/5 odds, 7 places*)
Few would begrudge the Englishman a coveted green jacket after yet another near miss 12 months ago, when beaten in a playoff by his great friend Sergio Garcia. What scenes! His Masters form now reads 39-22-5-36-20-11-8-25-14-2-10-2 and, after ending last year by playing the best golf of his life, it’s been abundantly clear that his schedule this season has been all about peaking for this week. A greens in regulation monster and very reliable on the par-fives at Augusta, so often the key to success, where he can fall down around here is around the greens. However, the good news for potential backers is that his modest scrambling figures have been considerably tightened up this season – he ranks 14th on Tour for that particular stat – and in which case he might prove unstoppable.
Paul Casey @ 25/1 Boylesports (1/5 odds, 7 places*)
Talking of ace scramblers, there are few better in that department than Casey (ranked sixth on Tour) and if the current trend for first-time Major winners (seven of the last eight fitted that bill), the Englishman would be near the top of any list of candidates. There is something about Augusta that brings about the best in him and he’s looking increasingly comfortable, with top-six finishes to show from his last three visits. Now a 40-year-old, it’s criminal he hasn’t won more tournaments in his career, and that has led some to question his bottle. However, winning the Valspar Championship in early March (his first victory since 2014) was due reward for his re-dedication to the game and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he followed in the footsteps of Garcia by claiming a long overdue green jacket.
Brian Harman @ 80/1 Betfair (1/5 odds, 8 places)
It might be a surprise to some that Harman has posted the most top-10 finishes this season, with his seven being two more than anyone else, and that’s because he is one of those players who quietly goes about their business without being too flashy. However, he knows how to win and is not afraid to take down a big name in the process, holding off the likes of Dustin Johnson to bag his second Tour title, as well as doing a job on Rory McIlroy at the recent WGC-Match Play. Now up to 23rd in the world rankings, he certainly has the short game to excel at Augusta, being ranked highly in both the putting and scrambling stats, and it’s only a relative lack of length off the tee that might hold him back. Still, he can be fancied to greatly better a missed cut on his only competitive visit here two years ago and being a Georgia man through and through, he won’t lack for support from the gallery.
Russell Henley @ 100/1 Coral (1/5 odds, 10 places) or 125/1 Betfair (1/5 odds, 8 places)
Another player who should enjoy playing in his home state and an even bigger positive to his chances this week are his progressive Augusta form figures, which read MC-31-21-11. Sequence fans will be all over his triple-figure price then and while he’s barely threatened to add to his three career victories in 2018, he is coming off a strong defence of his Houston Open title, shooting a final-round of 65 to catapult himself into the top-10. Clearly, he’s found his A-game at just the right time and, although a more sensible way to support him is in the Top American market (once this becomes available), he’s hard to resist in the outrights with a ten-place cushion.
*money back as a free bet (up to £25) if second or third including ties (applies to win part of each-way bets)
With Watson, Rose and Casey, I’m resisting going with those bookmakers who are offering the most amount of places, preferring to snap up the biggest available prices as I expect them to be contending for at least a top-six finish. But the more places the better for my more speculative picks of Harman and Henley, although you might want to play safe with all and, if so, Coral is the place to go with 10 places available no less, albeit at shorter odds.
All odds were correct at time of posting.