The Masters Preview10 min read
All eyes across the sporting world turn towards Augusta National for the Masters as the year’s first major takes place this week. There is huge anticipation ahead of this tournament with no shortage of storylines as Rory McIlroy bids to clinch the career grand slam and Tiger Woods attempts to win a fifth Green Jacket.
The 7,475-yard par 72 is always presented in immaculate condition for the field and there is no doubt the big hitters have a significant advantage. Handling the tough par threes and fours will be important along with scoring well on the four par fives at Augusta, with breezy conditions forecast during the tournament. The devilishly fast greens will ensure an excellent short game and confidence with the putter is also required to contend for the Masters.
Patrick Reed comes in as the defending champion after the American clinched his maiden major title 12 months ago. Reed has yet to post a top ten in 2019 and only three players have won back-to-back at the Masters, which underlines the scale of the task facing him.
McIlroy is the 7/1 favourite after a brilliant start to the season. The Northern Irishman has yet to finish worse than sixth in a strokeplay event in 2019 and his victory last month at the Players Championship backs up his credentials. He is followed by Dustin Johnson in the betting with the American winning twice this year.
Justin Rose has an excellent track record at Augusta but no world number one has triumphed here since Tiger Woods in 2002. Woods is fourth in the betting but the 43-year-old has not contended here since 2013. The market favourites are obviously respected, particularly McIlroy and Rose, but it is worth looking further down the betting for alternatives to challenge for the title.
Brooks Koepka has won three of the last six majors and the American is fancied to land another title this weekend. His breakthrough came at the 2017 US Open in Erin Hills as he produced a fearless performance. Koepka defended the US Open brilliantly last season at Shinnecock Hills, claiming back-to-back titles, before winning the PGA Championship a few months later at Bellerive.
Koepka has the ideal game for Augusta, with his effortless power and world-class short game, which has seen him improve his result on all three visits. The 28-year-old tied for 11th two years ago and will be relishing his return this week after missing last season’s Masters due to a wrist injury. Koepka comes in slightly under the radar, despite second place at the Honda Classic last month, with odds of 25/1 extremely generous. He simply has to be backed and looks the best value towards the top of the market.
Justin Thomas won the PGA Championship two years ago and looks ready to clinch his second major victory this week. The powerful American has had three top-three finishes already this season including runner-up at the Genesis Open. Thomas has the best scoring average on the PGA Tour this year and is first for par five birdies or better. He is also fourth for strokes gained tee to green and approaches to the green so all facets of his game are in excellent shape.
Thomas has made all three cuts at the Masters, steadily improving each year. The nine-time PGA Tour winner was 22nd in 2017 and 17th last season which would have been better if not for an over par final round. Thomas has described Augusta as the best course in the world for his game and a bold challenge for the Green Jacket is expected. With all the attention on the likes of McIlroy and Woods, a focused Thomas merits support at 20/1 each way.
Bryson DeChambeau has been the most prolific winner over the last year and looks to have a strong chance at appealing odds this week. Since last June, DeChambeau has won five times including a seven-shot victory at the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of this year. The Dubai victory could be significant because two of the three champions prior to him, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, went on to win the Masters later that year.
DeChambeau’s meticulous preparation and scientific approach to the sport has paid off handsomely and the world number six has the game to win a major title. The 25-year-old impressed as the low amateur at Augusta three years ago when 21st and finished 38th on his first professional start 12 months ago. He is second on the PGA Tour this year for birdies or better on par fives. With his cluster of victories behind him, a big performance is anticipated this year and odds of 33/1 are worth snapping up on the confident American.
Xander Schauffele has quickly established himself as one of the rising stars on the PGA Tour and already shown an aptitude for competing in the biggest events. The American finished fifth in the 2017 US Open as an unheralded player. Since then, he has claimed another top-six spot at last year’s US Open and was runner-up in the Open last summer. He was also second at the Players Championship in 2018.
Schauffele has won four titles in a short space of time and the 25-year’s biggest victory came at the WGC HSBC Champions in China in October. His form this season has been excellent as he also won the Tournament of Champions in January. Schauffele has been ruthless in contention and appears to have the temperament to become a major champion. He will expect to improve significantly on last year’s debut at Augusta, where he made the cut, with Schauffele a tempting bet at 40/1 each way.
The cream tends to rise to the top at the Masters although there is still the opportunity for bigger priced golfers to challenge for the Green Jacket. Charley Hoffman has established a strong track record at the year’s first major and the experienced American could be worth support at triple-figure odds. Hoffman has made all five cuts and finished inside the top 30 every time. His best result was ninth in 2015 and he is extremely comfortable at the course.
Hoffman can be a streaky player and comes in off his best finish of the season. The four-time PGA Tour champion did nothing wrong at the Texas Open taking second place on Sunday. Hoffman was 13-under-par for the weekend, dropping just one shot, as he found top gear. It was significant progress following a top 20 at the Valspar Championship on his previous start and Hoffman comes in with plenty of momentum at 100/1 each way.
Brooks Koepka Each Way
Justin Thomas Each Way
Bryson DeChambeau Each Way
Xander Schauffele Each Way
Charley Hoffman Each Way