US TOUR specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) runs the rule over the US Masters outright market, picking out his best bets for Augusta.
US Masters | 6th-9th April 2017 | Sky Sports
The 81st US Masters is upon us.
Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, Green Jackets – Augusta National is all about tradition. Four days that take us back to a time before sport was not mostly about the commercial implications of success, but the glory of winning.
The most beautiful piece of sporting real estate in the world looks pretty much as it did when the legends of the sport walked its beautifully manicured fairways in a different age.
For those purist fans of the sport, The Open Championship is the pinnacle of the sport, crowning the champion golfer of the year. For the romantics like me, the entire golfing year is about the Masters.
It’s a one off. The only one of the four Majors played at the same course; it generally rewards the best golfers in the world. It’s beautiful to look at and produces finishes like few others. If you don’t love Augusta, I have already judged you.
Eagerly anticipated renewal
The 2017 renewal is one of the most eagerly awaited in the tournaments long history. Just 12 months ago, the patrons were ready to crown their champion and with ‘just’ the back nine to play, surely Jordan Spieth at the age of just 22 was about to retain his title.
If only the sport and this golf course were that simple. Bogies on 10 and 11 ate into a five-shot lead but for a young man who was rapidly becoming one of the best putters of all time, nothing more than an annoyance.
Then came the 12th and a Par-3 that changed the course of Spieth’s day and Danny Willett’s life.
There is no doubt Jordan had a little bit of a meltdown – much like Rory McIlroy in 2011. Will that five minutes where Spieth twice put it in Raes Creek have a lasting effect? None of us will truly know until he plays a competitive shot there but I suspect not.
It went mostly unseen, in the furore that followed his triple bogey seven, but Spieth played the last six holes in one under to finish tied second.
Augusta National is officially a Par-72 of 7,435 yards. You can add 350-400 yards to that official figure. This is such and undulating course and often does not come across on the screen that way – many approaches are to uphill greens.
The course was last remodelled in 2008 and this really has turned the tournament over to the power hitters. I’m really not sure a Zach Johnson could ever win here again as he did in 2007 without going for the green on any of the Par 5s.
The advantage that the bombers have on this golf course really does lie in the approaches to greens. The large green complexes can turn great approach shots into bogies.
I want my players hitting seven irons and wedges into the fastest most difficult putting surfaces in the world. It’s near impossible to hold the ball on the short stuff with three and four irons.
Miss the green at Augusta and up and down is by no means a given. We may have seen the 2015 champion equalling the record score of -18 but that was on a rain-affected course and breaking 72 here is still an achievement.
Dustin Johnson (6/1 888)
Since victory in the US Open, Dustin Johnson has been the best player on the planet.
A player that I openly mocked for his inability to close out tournaments under pressure has for around 10 months played the best golf I have seen since Tiger Woods had the world on its knees screaming for mercy.
Something changed in Johnson the day he claimed that first Major. Personally speaking, I’m not sure I have seen such a change in any sportsman. Not only did DJ join the elite big three of Rory Mcilroy, Jason Day and Jordan, he left them in his wake.
A win at Riviera took him to world number one for the first time. He then went on to claim a fourth World Golf Championship which was followed up with an authoritative march to victory in the World Matchplay a fortnight ago.
He’s in astonishing form and has been my choice for this all year. 6/1 (888) will put off most of but I can’t not tip a player I expect to win and win well. He’s my NAP.
Jon Rahm (25/1 188BET)
Another player that has featured heavily on my Twitter feed is Jon Rahm.
The Spanish rookie has risen to the world’s top-20 in just 22 tournaments as a professional. That’s stunning and a direct reason that the 70/1 I advised in January has long gone – 25/1 (188BET) is the best you will now get about the young man now.
Only the wonderfully named Fuzzy Zoeler has won the Masters on debut, back in 1979, but Rahm is more than capable. Spieth was second here on his first appearance in 2014.
Watching Rahm drive the ball 400 yards in Austin the thing that jumped out at anyone watching is that he only takes the club back part of the way. This guy is giving it nowhere near full power. What has also caught the eye is a complete lack of nerves for one so young.
Still a solid each-way play.
Mark Leishman (70/1 BetVictor)
Mark Leishman would be a fairytale winner – he nearly became the second debut winner in 2012.
Leishman comes here off of the back of stealing the Valspar from Kevin Kisner. A day that Rory Mcilroy threw away his first win of 2017.
The fairytale for Leishman surrounds the circumstances that forced him to miss appearing here 12 months ago when he didn’t know if his extremely ill wife would survive the coming weeks.
Fast forward a year and the Leishmans are expecting another child and the expectant dad is playing well enough to be a factor at Augusta once again.
Great value at 70/1 with BetVictor.
Ross Fisher (150/1 Coral)
Until Danny Willet won here in 2016 English golfers, Lee Westwood apart, had a dreadful record going back to the days of Nick Faldo.
For the first time, 11 Englishmen will tee off on day one. A lot of them have high hopes and realistic chances in most cases.
Westwood himself is not in the greatest form but that rarely seems to matter. Few players in the history of the tournament have a better record. Seven top-11 finishes in his last eight outings include no less than three top-threes. If anyone ever deserved a green jacket, it’s Lee Westwood.
My other English interest this week is Ross Fisher who I expected to see a lot smaller than 150/1 (Coral).
Fisher’s four appearances here read 30, Missed Cut, 15 and 47. Those figures tell me Fisher at least likes the course and has the game for it.
Recent form, especially at the WGC in Mexico has been hugely encouraging and he stands out as a little bit of value at twice Tyrrell Hatton’s price.
Sean O’Hair (400/1 888)
There is always someone in a Major at massive odds that somehow sneaks into the places. With at least a couple of major bookmakers paying eight places, it’s certainly worth a couple of small bets at huge prices but with sound reasoning (I hope).
Sean O’Hair hits the ball miles and is more than capable with a putter in his hands on slick putting surfaces. Finishes of 10, 14, 30 and 32 from six appearances says that 400/1 (888) is way to big.
Fred Couples is a Masters institution. The old champion has a ridiculous record here with multiple top-20s in recent years even though he was almost always suffering from a chronic back problem on most days.
He’s been competitive on the Seniors Tour in recent months and nobody will manage their game around this place better than Freddy. 500/1 (William Hill) is worth a pound of anyone’s money as is 28/1 for a top-10 finish.
I expect DJ to be pulling on a green jacket on Sunday night. I expect at least a couple of hole in ones on the 16th especially on that final nine and I expect Danny Willet to make a dignified defence of his title, albeit one that ends on Friday.
I hope that Rory finds a putting stroke that works and that Spieth can find his driver once again. I hope that Jason Day overcomes his mum being so ill and that the four best players in the world along with Hideki Matsuyama make this one of the best Majors of all time.
I hope so but I’d rather bet on Johnson winning by four.