GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of the US Masters.
US Masters | 8th-11th April 2021 | Sky Sports
Golf heads to Augusta National for the first major of the year, just five months after the long-awaited 84th edition in November. Dustin Johnson clinched his first-ever Green Jacket and second-ever major with a record 20-under-par.
History suggests that we'll be in for a tougher renewal after the big-hitting American made a mockery of one of the Tour's most difficult venues.
Augusta is always a true test of one's all-round ability. It's a beautiful par-72, intertwined amongst pine trees and azaleas, stretching just under 7,500 yards in length, though it usually plays even longer.
In terms of statistics, high-flight, precision approach play and a sharp short game are often the keys to success; capitalising on the par-5 scoring opportunities and avoiding bogey or worse on the other holes.
We managed to pick out a second place to the rampant DJ in Cameron Smith (66/1) in November – in any other year, his score would've been enough to win but unfortunately, we stumbled right into the warpath of Johnson, so here's hoping we can go one better here.
The 36-year-old opens the market at 9/1 and is closely followed by Bryson DeChambeau, 11/1, and last week's winner Jordan Spieth, 11/1. You can pick holes and make a case for them all at the front of the betting here, but for me, the value is in the next rung of players and is indeed where our staking plan will begin.
Justin Thomas (12/1 William Hill)
I keep coming back to two names here, the other being Jon Rahm (12/1). It's hard to split either of these, but the 2017 USPGA champion gets the nod narrowly.
Rahm's form here reads fourth (2018), ninth (2019) and seventh (2020) and that is so hard to ignore, so with recent ‘dad duties' thanks in part to his newborn child, I'm going to use that as an excuse to avoid him this week. He may have been playing a bit-part schedule lately, but finished 5thth last time out in the WGC Match Play.
Thomas' form here is trending towards that victory, improving each visit from 2017's 22nd-place finish to November's 4th. He then ended the year as the PGA Tour's prize money leader for the third time in four years and has started 2021 like a house on fire. A 15th at the Concession (WGC Mexico) was encouraging enough, but he followed it up by clinching the PLAYERS a month ago.
Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, and Sergio Garcia have won both events, and I think JT is a name that can follow suit. He's the perfect fit here as he can shape it both ways with his high-ball flight, long and accurate iron play, length off the tee and is impeccable on par-5s and around-the-greens more often than not.
He's the world no.2, yet is fourth or fifth in the betting. Maybe he can be spurred on by the fact that his best mate finally got back in the winners' enclosure last week, too.
Daniel Berger (33/1 Betfair)
Daniel Berger makes for an intriguing price, given he's playing some of his best stuff of his career. In the last year, he's clinched a PGA Tour victory twice – Charles Schwab Challenge (June 2020) and Pebble Beach (2021) – and recently admitted that he's a far better golfer now than he was two of three years ago, claiming he's a better chipper and putter.
That makes him even more interesting. Often, a lot of first-time major winners clinch their first here, and perhaps Berger can be the next. He's got experience around here too, managing a 10th on debut in 2016, In other majors, he's held the 36-hole or 54-hole lead – US Open 2016 & 2018, USPGA 2020 – so it's now time to convert that into a win.
His approach game is amongst the best in this field, as is his putting. The one concern would be around-the-green but top-12 for strokes gained at the Sony, Pebble and Sawgrass shows he can get hot out of nowhere. Whilst last time out, excluding the match-play, he finished T9th, so he has the form to carry over.
Patrick Reed (33/1 Bet365)
The price of 2018 winner Patrick Reed makes for great appeal this week. He secured the Farmers at Torrey Pines by five shots earlier in the campaign, and then finished 9th at the Concession. Winning in the same year as the Masters has often been a key trend towards a positive showing at the Masters.
Captain America has tailed off somewhat in his last two events but he returns to a venue that he always seems to contend at, and it's easy to see why. Last year, he secured a top-15 at all three majors and Augusta should bring the best back out of him.
When his short game is on point, he's amongst the best in the business and that could prove crucial over the four days. He's also long and straight off the tee, so he should be able to capitalise on those long par-5s.
Matt Fitzpatrick (45/1 William Hill)
There are a lot of backable names in this bracket of players, but I rate Matt Fitzpatrick's chances highly. He finds himself in redhot form, ending the year with a win at the DP World Tour, he has since picked up a fifth at Riviera (a correlated venue), a T11 at the Concession, a T10 at Bay Hill (API) and a T9 at Sawgrass.
In November, we tipped him up as top Englishman and finished near the bottom of all those to make the cut but the course was a lot softer, so in the end, it didn't suit his game. Now that it is expected to be firmer and faster, he can truly contend with the big boys, even more so after increasing his driving distance since the turn of the year.
He has done well here before, too, finishing T7 in 2016, where he also ended the week first for GIR. Then in 2019, his final 54 holes around the track saw him record an 11-under-par – the same as the winning Woods.
The Englishman is another with a deft touch around the greens, so all in all, his recent form, history here and skillset suggests he could well outplay these odds. Not to mention that his caddy is the vastly experienced Billy Foster, who has helped Lee Westwood to a pair of runner-up finishes here.
Adam Scott (66/1 Bet365)
Our final outright goes to Adam Scott, as if any regular reader is surprised. He makes the most appeal in this next rung of players, and I do believe he deserves a little bit more respect as one of the best ball-strikers in the game and as a former Masters champion (2013).
His putting woes are quite the myth, in all honesty. He's gained strokes on the greens in six of eight events since the November edition, whilst last time out at the Honda, he recorded his best approach numbers of the season.
The Aussie is long and straight off the tee and has only missed the cut here twice since his debut in 2002, so he unlike some further up the betting, knows all the nuances of this track and that should be a massive advantage.
Last year was the first time since 2016 that he failed to top-10 any major, so I'm sure he'll be looking to make amends here at Augusta.
I have a few side bets to offer this week, too.
The first is backing Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 11/4 (Unibet)
in the Top South African
market. There are plenty of doubts over Louis Oosthuizen every time he tees it up and that certainly shouldn't put him closer to odds-on than the rest of the South African's teeing it up here, even despite his previous track record.
Bezuidenhout is a fiend for super tricky and tough tracks, as seen when winning at Valderrama by a whopping six strokes in 2019. Last year was his course debut, so he can certainly improve on a T38. He only has three others to contend with and I have to say he looks the best value.
Similarly, Bernhard Langer, 5/1 (bet365)
in the Top Senior
market looks a little too long to not get involved. This year, Phil Mickelson is included as he has been competing – and winning – on the Senior's Tour.
In soft conditions last year, the German finished six shots better off than the Lefty, and I really do think he could do the same again. Langer – a two-time winner here – has missed the cut at Augusta just once since 2013, and in that run includes a T8. He clearly loves coming here and thrives off the opportunity to show that he's still got it.
Phil's a three-time Green Jacket winner but has missed the cut here twice in that same run, and has also failed to record better than T18 in any major since 2017. It's unlikely that any other name in this list contends, so to get 5/1 on a head-to-head seems great value to me.
US Masters – Justin Thomas (12/1 William Hill)
US Masters – Patrick Reed (33/1 each-way Bet365)
US Masters – Daniel Berger (33/1 each-way Betfair)
US Masters – Matt Fitzpatrick (45/1 each-way William Hill)
US Masters – Adam Scott (66/1 each-way Bet365)
US Masters – Christiaan Bezuidenhout to be Top South African (11/4 Unibet)
US Masters – Bernhard Langer to be Top Senior (5/1 Bet365)