Spring began a few weeks ago, but it kicks off in earnest Thursday when televisions across America are tuned into the color explosion of pink azaleas, white dogwoods and finely-manicured green as far as the eye can see.
It’s the Masters, and there’s nothing quite like it. It is a major sporting event and seasonal celebration rolled into one.
And Augusta National’s design seems to offer so many players a chance — the fairways are wide and inviting, the rough is hardly hazardous, many bunkers aren’t in play for today’s big hitters, and the property’s size limits how much organizers can stretch the layout’s length.
Then the wind blows and swirls, the greens get drier and slicker, and suddenly this arboretum of golf becomes a gorgeous impossibility.
The Masters is maddening for bettors, given how great players whose games seem tailor-made for Augusta can find themselves bedeviled by an unseen undulation or the bough of a pine tree. To try to bring some clarity to a tournament that can be equal parts accessible and unyielding, here’s a golf betting guide to the four best days in the sport.
Best Bets to Win 2019 Masters
Rory McIlroy, +700: The road to the career grand slam is at full throttle for McIlroy, who hasn’t finished worse than ninth in a blistering 2019, making him the clear odds favorite. His recent Masters performances have been outstanding, with top-10s in each of his past five starts. A victory at some point seems inevitable on a course that fits all his strengths, though memories of that final-round collapse in 2011 still linger.
Justin Rose, +1200: With all eyes on McIlroy, Rose has quietly climbed to No. 1 in the world rankings thanks to a victory and two top-10s in three starts in the U.S. this season. Rose also presents that enviable combo of hot form and a history of playing well at Augusta. He lost a playoff to Sergio Garcia in 2017, tied for second in 2015 and owns three more career top-10s.
Brooks Koepka, +2500: Koepka’s 2019 results have been all over the place, and he missed last year’s Masters with an injury. But an 11th in 2017 offered a hint of what he’s capable of as a huge hitter on fairways that don’t offer much obstruction. If he can stripe it at the U.S. Open, he can do the same here. The whole ballgame is putting, where he’s 118th on the PGA Tour.
Best Masters Each-Way Bets
Tiger Woods, +350: A 69 in his final round last year offered a glimpse of the old Tiger. He has been solid if unspectacular in five tour starts this season, but Augusta continues to fit his game if he doesn’t try to do too much off the tee. He has been really solid since late last year and is more than capable of getting in the mix.
Jordan Spieth, +450: It has been a miserable 2019 for Spieth, who has had all kinds of putting issues and hasn’t finished better than 30th. Yet his Masters record is gangbusters, with four finishes of third of better in five career appearances. He clearly knows and excels on this course, and perhaps being back around the dogwoods and azaleas will propel him back into the top five.
Matt Kuchar, +650: Players over 40 don’t win the Masters anymore — at least, not since Mark O’Meara in 1998. But a top-five is hardly out of the question for Kuchar, who has two wins this season, finished seventh last week in San Antonio and has played well here since he was an amateur. Kooch has finished eighth or better at Augusta in four of his past seven starts.
This hole-in-one was meant to be. https://t.co/FV2eJi5Evh— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 8, 2019
Best 2019 Masters Prop Bets
Hole in One on No. 16, +115: There have been 29 holes in one in a tournament that dates to the 1930s, so they don’t occur all the time. But they have been happening recently: One in 2018, one in 2017 and three in 2016. Each of those have unfolded at the 170-yard 16th, as have all but nine aces in Masters history. Just don’t fall for the sucker bets: There only has been one ace ever in tournament play at No. 4 and the 12th has yielded just three, the last in 1988.
Fred Couples as Top Senior Player, +250: The 1992 champion is 60, but he still plays consistently well at Augusta. Couples has finished in the top 20 in six of his past eight starts there and missed the cut just once in that span — pretty good stats for any player, much less one on the Champions Tour. Bernhard Langer is the odds favorite, but Couples has the better track record.
Keith Mitchell as Top Debutant, +600: The former University of Georgia star played Augusta each year in college and has carded some nice results on tour including a win at the Honda Classic. Among the non-amateurs making their Masters debuts, he has had the best season thus far and has taken three weeks off to prepare.
Masters Betting Trends to Know
Watch the Odds: The to-win odds of the last three Masters champions have been in the range of +3000 to +5000, a span that this year would encompass players such as Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Patrick Reed.
Young Guns Rule: Three of the past four winners have been in their 20s. Woods remains as a huge potential exception to this trend at 43.
Beware the Favorite: While McIlroy’s sizzling play has established him as the betting favorite, no player entering in that position has won the Masters since Woods in 2005. Spieth and Mickelson were the No. 2 betting favorites in 2015 and 2010, respectively.