UG Tips: The Masters

As Jim Nantz likes to tell us every year, The Masters is a tradition like no other. After a long, dark winter Masters week gets us seriously juiced-up – and it seems to getting more serious every year! Nothing really changes from one year to the next, but the anticipation continues to grow at an alarming rate.

As ever, the field is limited to just 87 players, many of whom can be discarded from the betting straight away. As ever, course experience is going to play a huge factor in the outcome, but it is worth considering the likely conditions that the players will face. Having already had a decent amount of rain this week and with more in prospect throughout the weekend, the course is going to play very long and clearly into the hands of those blessed with added power.

Whatever the conditions, it’s been somewhat of a rarity for one of the elite players to don the jacket come Sunday in recent years.

Rory McIlroy 8/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £120

In the last few years I’ve been reluctant to back Rory at Augusta given that he has history of not delivering. Why this year then? Well, the odds aren’t that attractive, but he’s playing so well. His win at Sawgrass feels like a huge step forward and having played those dangerous last few holes flawlessly must give him confidence that he can close even under the most intense pressure – up to this point his major victories have been near processions.

Everything in Rory’s game at present points to him being a Masters Champion. Working with Brad Faxon, his putting is plenty good enough, but it’s his long game that is so impressive. He is head and shoulders ahead of everyone in terms of strokes-gained with ball-striking – an incredible 2.1 shots per round. With the state of his long-game he can afford to miss the odd putt and still win at a canter. Facts are that he’s never been in such good form heading into The Masters.

Jordan Spieth 25/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £332.50

This may raise a few eyebrows, as Jordan Spieth has been very much in the wilderness since his Open Championship victory at Birkdale in 2017. He’s had some serious issues with his putting and his ball striking has been abject at times. In fairness, he’s never distinguished himself as a supreme ball-striker, but he plays the game like none of his peers.

Barring his front 9 meltdown in Texas on Saturday he showed some encouraging form and looks to be doing a reasonable impression of the Jordan Spieth that looked to sweep everything in front of him in 2015.

He’s a man who lives and breathes Augusta National. He’s played 5 Masters, and only once finished outside the top 4. Given this and his upturn in form, he’s got to be worth considering for this year’s edition.

Louis Oosthuizen 38/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £495

Yet to win in the US, Oosthuizen has an impressive CV that would be the envy of the majority of this field. He’s bringing in some from to an event that he not only loves but has come close to capturing in the past. A 2nd place at The Valspar (The Augusta of Florida apparently!) was swiftly followed by a run to the quarter finals of the WGC Matchplay.

He’s certainly putting much better than he has for a while, and even when he couldn’t control his flat stick he recorded 4 top 25’s in his last 5 visits to Augusta. Length won’t be a problem for the sweet-swinging South African.

Phil Mickelson 45/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £582.50

It’s hard to understand why Augusta specialist, Mickelson, is at longer odds for The Masters than he has been for many years. Having already won on tour this year’s and having proved his length off the tee, you’d think he’d be among the upper echelons in the odds market.

With 15 (Fifteen) Top 10’s at Augusta and a win just six starts ago mean that the 48-year-old is very much part of our plans, and age is certainly no barrier at The Masters.

Marc Leishman 50/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £322.50

While it’s of course likely that we get a truly elite winner here, there’s no denying the fact that Masters champions have tended to be from that second wave – those who are perhaps a little more experienced, a little less explosive than their peers who dominate the market.

Danny Willett, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, even Bubba Watson the first time – these were all away from the very front of the betting yet brought to Augusta the right sort of game, and a confidence level enhanced by strong recent play.

Leishman certainly fits this description, having bagged three top-five finishes in seven stroke play starts in 2019, before a run to the last-16 of the Match Play where Bryson DeChambeau was among his group-stage victims.

The Australian isn’t a player to set the pulse racing, but he does boast a wealth of high-class major form, including when playing alongside Adam Scott as his compatriot won this title in a play-off six years ago. That experience could yet prove significant, and it’s one Leishman referenced after playing his way into contention this time last year.

At 15th in bogey avoidance and 19th in strokes-gained approach, there’s a level of depth to his form which works particularly well for this and he simply looks a rock-solid wager.

Charley Hoffman 100/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £635

Hoffman is unlikely come to the forefront of your mind when formulating a list of potential major champions, but he does have an impressive Masters record having twice played in the final group on Sunday. Granted, he faltered on both occasions, but he has consistently preformed well, particularly over the first couple of rounds.

A second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open followed swiftly on the heels of a couple of decent Top 20 finishes. He may look like Beavis from Beavis and Butthead, but he’s a better golfer – and certainly one capable of securing a good finish among the 10 places that most bookies are paying out for the tournament.


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