GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of The Masters from Augusta.
The Masters | 12th-15th November 2020 | Sky Sports
The Masters returns to Augusta this week with a wrath of uncertainty. It's November for a start, there are no patrons and the likely weather and set-up makes for an interesting spectacle.
With no Open Championship, this concludes the major circuit for 2020. Again, a strange scenario as the course will kickstart the quartet of majors next year. Collin Morikawa won the USPGA in August and Bryson DeChambeau tore the field apart to clinch the US Open in September.
It is the world no.6 who opens the betting and he'll be looking to use his brawn and strength to overpower this historical course. In reality, it's hardly a surprise that he's the favourite this week. He's quickly joined by Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. All worthy of their places here.
Rory McIlroy's comments early this week have proven interesting. He claims conditions are soft and there is more Bermuda than usual on the fairways. Augusta National is already long, but I have a feeling it's going to be even longer and more gruelling than usual in this winter spot.
As always, the cream of the ball-striking crop will rise to the top. You'll garner most success around here by punishing the par-5 opportunities and playing it safe on the other holes, crucially not making any bogies on the tricky par-3s and par-4s. A touch of class around the greens is also imperative, even more so in these damp and colder conditions – something Rory also alluded to this week.
There are several trends to consider too, even if it's just food for thought. Course form is very important – ideally cuts made and rounds in the 60s for an added cushion of encouragement. You have to go back to 2009 to find someone outside the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking and back to 2011 that someone longer than 66/1 clinched the Green Jacket.
Previous winners have delivered wins at Doral, Chapultepec, Riviera, Houston, Quail Hollow and Bethpage Black and whilst none compare fully to the nuances of this week's major track, they are worth consideration.
With everything in mind, here are my outright selections for the long-awaited 2020 US Masters…
Xander Schauffele (14/1 Betfair)
There is a lot to like about all of the favourites mentioned above. In fact, it's hard to avoid either DJ or Rahm for me this week but I never tend to back at single digits.
Instead, I will take a chance on big-game hunter Xander Schauffele
at 14/1 (Betfair
). I think he's awfully close to joining the winners circle as a major champion and it could come this week.
Since the Masters in 2018, his worst finish in one of the ‘big four' has been a T41 whilst he was runner-up here last time to Tiger Woods. 5th in the US Open this year and T10 at the USPGA, he could go one further and land that Green Jacket.
All four of his PGA Tour victories have come in limited field, top-tier events – a WGC, two Tour Championships and the Tournament of Champions. It's also six top-sixes in six majors dating back to 2017. There's a good chance we at least get our money back with the 10 places on offer at Betfair
Based on the last six tournaments within this field alone, X ranks 5th for Scrambling, 5th for par-5 scoring, 6th for par-4 scoring and second for bogey avoidance. Whilst for the new season, he's within the top 50 for SG: Approach.
I doubt he'll be available at these odds much more if he continues to keep up his form, which reads WIN-5th-2nd-T17. If it's not DJ or Rahm, then it's hopefully going to be Schauffele.
Patrick Cantlay (25/1 William Hill)
Coming into this week on the back of a win in his last outing is world no.10 Patrick Cantlay
who should not be at 25/1 (William Hill
) given his talent and ability. Now a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, Cantlay stormed to a victory at the Zozo, seeing off both Rahm and JT, which is impressive in itself and shows he deserves to be respected in the same company.
On Masters Sunday last year, the 28-year-old made eagle on 15 to reach -12 before an unfortunate bogey in the next hole. Woods won with -13 and Cantlay would go onto finish in a tie for ninth. He'll have learned from that experience and can use it to convert a bitter end into a triumph this time around. His third round 64 provides added encouragement that he can score well at a tough track.
T3 at Bethpage, T17 at Riviera and a win at Muirfield Village in recent years are glaring hints at to why he can contend here too. Cantlay is an elite ball-striker with an aggressive attitude in the same ilk of Brooks Koepka, he just doesn't get noticed as much. His short-game and putting ability from within 15 feet is second to none too.
Tony Finau (28/1 William Hill)
I will stick my neck on the line and back perennial nearly-man, Tony Finau
at 28/1 (William Hill
). He ranks third in my overall model for this week, behind the aforementioned Rahm and DJ, and we know he likes this course having managed a T5 and T10 in the last two editions, one of which playing with a dodgy ankle too. You can also throw in a runner-up finish at Riviera as well.
He has made seven top-10s in his last ten major appearances. He has surely got to break through one day. In some ways, he's a bit like Xander in the big events but without the trophy cabinet to prove it. His ball flight is ideal for Augusta (21st for Distance to Apex last year), he's one of the biggest hitters on Tour (avgs 300+ yards) and he scores on those all-important par-5s – and even on the par-4s (14th). A niche little edge.
Finau has everything needed to win a Green Jacket. If it's not this year, he will win it one day.
Adam Scott (40/1 SkyBet)
I'll end the outright selections with a pair of Aussies in Adam Scott
at 40/1 (SkyBet
) and Cam Smith
Scottie is a one-time major champion, clinching the Green Jacket in 2013, so to say he knows this course inside out would be an understatement. He also goes into this year's tournament as a winner of the Genesis (Riviera).
Arguably, the veteran who is one of the best ball-strikers on the circuit, is in the form of his life right now. It's just five missed cuts from 30 events and four top-22s in his last six majors. Standing at no.15 in the OWGR, he has every chance of running it close.
Cam Smith (66/1 SkyBet)
Whilst Smith is someone who has made three from three cuts at August, flashing with a T5 in 2018. He's back in form, so could perhaps repeat that feat if not better it.
After winning the Sony Open earlier this year, the Australian hit a rough patch but has since come out of it with ten straight cuts made with form of T24-11-T4. He has also popped up at Rivera and Chapultepec, hinting towards further suitability here.
His ball-striking is at an all-time high and he's a master on the greens. Some of his best form throughout his career has come in the fall/winter swing, so perhaps the move to play the Masters in November is a major benefit.
I also want to play some of the side markets this week, starting with a First Round Leader in Jason Kokrak at 60/1 (Befair). He will be a player that many fancy this week but I have my doubts over whether or not he can truly make it last four rounds to win the Masters.
Instead, I'll back him to get off to a fast start. He followed up his CJ Cup triumph with a T17 in the Zozo. It's six top-17s in his last seven events, which included a fast start at the US Open. Only some of the elite names have a better first-round scoring average than Kokrak including DeChambeau, Rahm, Xander and Cantlay.
Likewise, with Louis Oosthuizen
at 50/1 (Betfred
), who ranks T8 for first-round scoring average this season. He knows a thing or two about majors, finishing runner-up in all four competitions, and knows Augusta very well. He started fast at the US Open with a 67 before finishing solo third.
He was the last off my shortlist behind Scott, so I will chance him to get off to a perfect start. Only DeChambeau has a lower opening average than the South African.
My final bet is a gamble that opposes someone who is well tipped for this event as I like the 6/1 on offer for Matthew Fitzpatrick
to be the Top Englishman
Over the last 36 rounds, Fitz ranks better for par-4 scoring, GIR and bogey avoidance than the favourite, Tyrrell Hatton. Whilst he's not the longest off the tee, hasn't missed a cut at the Masters in five attempts and has a T7 and T21 here.
Hatton is undeniably an immense talent in red-hot form but I just don't like this event for him. He's never broken 70 and has gone MC-44-56. His short-game could be the difference-maker but I feel there is better value on offer on Fitz.
Paul Casey is a threat, though the likes of Justin Rose and Danny Willett are slightly out of form.
The Masters – Xander Schauffele (14/1 each-way Betfair)
The Masters – Patrick Cantlay (25/1 each-way William Hill)
The Masters – Tony Finau (28/1 each-way William Hill)
The Masters – Adam Scott (40/1 each-way SkyBet)
The Masters – Cam Smith (66/1 each-way SkyBet)
The Masters – Jason Kokrak to be First Round Leader (60/1 each-way Betfair)
The Masters – Louis Oosthuizen to be First Round Leader (50/1 each-way Betfred)
The Masters – Matthew Fitzpatrick to be Top Englishman (6/1 Betfair)