Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, April 4 at 1:00 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is April 5 at 10:00 AM EST.
This Week's Course Preview
Augusta National’s status as one of the most iconic golf courses on the planet remains overwhelmingly intact. Built on the site of an old nursery, Augusta remains true to its roots with some beautiful flower-beds made up of Azaleas and other species. Indeed, Sergio was so enamored with the site of his first major victory that he has named his first child Azalea. The course remains heavily tree-lined too and each hole is named after a tree, plant or flower.
Originally designed by Rees Jones back in the 1930s, the course was given something of a makeover by Tom Fazio in 2002. Holes were lengthened to keep up with the trend of players ‘gaining’ length off the tee, fairways were tightened (although the rough remains fairly agreeable) and the greens were switched from Bermuda to Bentgrass. These run at a fierce lick – roughly 13.5 on the stimpmeter. One of the chief defenses of the course is the weather, which goes some way towards explaining why Jordan Spieth won in -18 in 2015 and Danny Willett in -5 just 12 months later. If the conditions are benign, we can expect a lower score; if the wind is up, conditions become rather trickier. The forecast says to expect a bit of everything over the four days.
The Par 72 stretch measures 7,435 yards but plays much longer, as the grain of the fairways points back towards the tee boxes. The winner at Augusta is in for a long old slog.
There are so many narratives this week that it is hard to know which is the main story. Can the comeback kings – Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson – continue their fine form? Will Justin Thomas win a second major? Can Jordan Spieth or Sergio Garcia return to the winner’s circle? Or can Dustin Johnson, bizarrely going under the radar somewhat, confirm his status as the best golfer on the planet? And Tiger….he couldn’t, could he? It’s been 21 years since he won his first green jacket and 13 since his last. It would be one of the most incredible stories in Masters history if he could land a fifth title at Augusta this week.
Weather Forecast for Augusta, GA
It’s a warm start to the week, with temperatures topping 86 degrees and as such, the light rain predicted on Wednesday will do very little to soften the conditions. Thursday and Friday are almost identical: they dawn quite cool at around 46 degrees, before the sun comes out and warms things up a bit. The wind is the differentiating factor though: on Thursday it will chart around 7 mph in the morning before dropping to 2 mph in the afternoon. On Friday, it will go from approximately 5 mph at 9am to 11 mph by 3pm. Saturday could be an interesting moving day. The mercury will barely get above 54 degrees, with rain featuring heavily in the forecast from dawn to dusk. The wind will peak at around 12 mph by midday. Sunday is expected to be cool and calm, with less chance of rain but not much sunshine either.
What we’re looking for at Agusta National GC
As far as the majors go, The Masters is arguably the best in terms of spotting situations and angles of attack given that it is played at the same course each year. There is a barrage of trends that are available and some do seem to have genuine significance. You might think that golf is an open sport when it comes to age, for example, but statisticians will note that each of the last 10 winners of The Masters were under the age of 40 when they tried the green jacket on for size. There are countless other angles that come into play and here are perhaps the pick of the bunch:
Each of the last four Masters champions had won on the PGA/European Tour in their last eight starts.
16 of the last 20 champions had made the cut in their previous start on Tour.
10/10 had played at Augusta at least once before.
10/10 had made the cut in the previous year’s Masters.
9/10 were ranked inside the world’s top 30.
9/10 had posted a top-30 at Augusta before.
No defending champion and no world number one have won this title in the past decade.
As for player suitability, there is an obvious premium on Bogey Avoidance over Birdie Making. Seven of the last 10 winners have ranked first for Bogey Avoidance and as if to highlight the point, 9/10 champions had ranked inside the top-10 for Scrambling. Our champion is going to have to putt well on these super quick Bentgrass greens too. Nine of the last 10 winners had ranked inside the top-12 for Putting Average, and that isn’t a surprise given the number of two-putts and twitchy 10-footers required to do the business here. Finally, take a look at the combined breakdown of the last 10 Masters champions:
Par 3s: -6
Par 4s: -24
Par 5s: -86
Any picks we make this week have got to get the job done on the longer holes. Again, this is a monster track that measures a shade under 7,500 yards for its Par 72. Augusta National actually plays longer with a number of uphill holes. Factor in the dense tree lined fairways and those Bentgrass greens, which are lightning fast and typically feature run-off areas, slopes and multiple tiers. This is the ultimate test of ball striking to ensure approaches land on the right tier and it is a fascinating assignment as a result.
Of the 84 golfers in this event, we can instantly eliminate the Larry Mize’s, Mark O’Meara’s and Trevor Immelman’s, which narrows the field down a bunch to around 70. One should also eliminate the top-9 favorites in terms of betting to win outright unless you are making just one single bet. For us, that takes McIlroy, Spieth, DJ, JT, Tiger, Justin Rose, Bubba, Phil and Jason Day out of the mix because the odds are simply too low when you consider that picking the winner of the 2018 Masters is akin to cracking the Da Vinci Code. All of the above are between 10-1 and 18-1 and there is just so much better value on the board that it is not worth betting the lowest priced pros. A guy like Tony Finau for instance, at 90-1 has just as good of a chance as a guy like Jason Day at 18-1 that it is very simply extremely bad strategy to go after Day over Finau or many others in Finau’s range or higher.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event:
To win outright:
Xander Schauffele 117-1
What a year 2017 was for Xander Schauffele. In his first term as a PGA TOUR pro, he won twice – including the season ending TOUR Championship – and was named Rookie of the Year. Equally as impressive was his turn in the US Open. On debut in a major, he shot a round of 66 – the first time in that tournament’s history such an occurrence had happened and in turn he became one of only 15 men to get to -10 in a US Open. If you needed any further hint that Schauffele is the real deal, that is it. His long, straight hitting should suit Augusta National, and there are little bits of form of late – T9 at the Genesis Open, T17 at the Phoenix Open and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finish over five consecutive events late last fall. One could bet this at Bet365 at 80-1 because of their cashout option but we suggest you bet half of it at Pinnacle at 117-1 and half at BET365 because if he is leading on Sunday or in the mix, you can cash out at BET365 and let it ride at Pinnacle (Risking 0.1 units at 80-1 and 0-1 units at 117-1).
Ryan Moore 100-1
There have been signs of late that Ryan Moore is returning to something approaching his best form and that was confirmed with his top-five finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last time out. It was a performance that led British commentator Euan Murray to declare that ‘Moore will win soon’, and while he might not be a soothsayer, it wouldn’t be beyond the pail that the predicted victory comes at Augusta, where he finished T9 a year ago. That was his best effort at this famous course to date, but with three other top-20s to his name here – including one as an amateur – it’s clear that Augusta is a layout which suits his eye. Moore checks a lot of boxes for this event in that he’s played here before with good results. After finishing 34th at the Arnold Palmer Invitation a year ago, Palmer went on to finish 9th at the Masters, This year he finished 5th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has three top-9’s over his last six events. Moore ranks 15th ON TOUR in Scoring Average, 15th ON TOUR in SG: Around-the-Green and 24th in Scrambling, which should allow him to continue on a great stretch of golf (Risking 0.2 units to win 20).
Austin Cook 373-1
Last week, @mfinnie and myself cashed out on Beau Hossler at 160-1, as he is a pro that we bet every week because he’s that good. There are others that are priced way too high every week that we’ll cash in on too eventually like Aaron Wise and Talor Gooch for instance, and you can add Austin Cook to that list too. For our “bomb” this week and at odds like this, Austin Cook must be played. We don’t know how he will handle the pressure given that this is his first major start, but the 27-year-old won the RSM Classic in November in one of his first appearances as a PGA TOUR regular, and contended at the Houston Open as a rookie in 2015. Houston has the same lightning fast greens as Augusta so we can conclude that he is made of the right stuff. His stats look good too, with Cook ranking highly for Par 5 Performance (10th ON TOUR), Putting Average (30th ON TOUR) Bogey Avoidance (33rd ON TOUR) and Scrambling, so why would we not make a small bet for a massive payout? Again, we’ll split this one up between Pinnacle and BET365 (Risking 0.1 units at Pinnacle to make 37.3 units and risking 0.1 units @ BET365 at 250-1 to win 25 units).
Russell Henley 128-1
Henley flew up the leaderboard on Sunday at the Houston Open with a final round of 65, securing him a slice of T8. That’s a nice platform for him to build on at Augusta, a venue at which the Georgian is just starting to find his feet. A run of MC-31-21-11 is showing encouraging improvement, and fans of such patterns might suggest the next number in that sequence is ‘1’! All joking aside, there is something about Henley that suggests he has the minerals to grasp victory when it presents itself. He is a three-time PGA TOUR winner, with the highlight of those being a victory at a tough PGA National layout where he won a four-man playoff against Rory McIlroy et al. If he gets into the mix at Augusta, don’t expect Henley to crumble and if you watched his outstanding putting on Sunday at the Houston Open, you could not help but be very impressed. A hot putter is not a bad place to start for a pro at these odds. Henley has been here enough and checks more than a few boxes, yet he’s two, three, four or five times the odds of so many that have less of a chance than he does. In terms of value alone, you would be hard-pressed to find better value than on the entire board than this guy. We’ll split this one up too between Pinnacle and BET365 (Risking 0.1 units at Pinnacle at 128-1 for a return of 12.8 units and 0.1 units at BET365 at 110-1 for a return of 11 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for The Masters
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for The Masters
The quality of talent at this level is getting better every year and there are literally between 45 and 50 golfers every event that have a truly legit chance to win but we can’t bet them all. To pick a winner outright is a big time challenge but the real money in these events is in the head-to-head challenges and that’s where our bread and butter will be earned. We may post daily head-to-heads as well so keep your eye out for those. In the meantime, the H2H wagers below are for 72 holes:
Justin Rose -110 over Tiger Woods BET 365
Tiger Woods has not won an event in five years. Yeah, he had some great showings over the past five weeks or so and we would not put anything past him but the fact of the matter is that Tiger is to golf what nobody ever has been to any sport, not even Wayne Gretzky to hockey. Watch any Masters preview this week and if there are four stories, the first three will be about Tiger. Tiger is everywhere this week because he attracts millions of viewers on his own. The networks cash in when Tiger is on the scene and a big part of it is promoting that he can win. Every single shot that Tiger takes this week will be center stage. Don’t get us wrong, as Tiger can handle the pressure better than anyone and even thrives in it. The pressure in not the issue. The issue is that because of all the “Tiger is back” hype and the media playing it up to the ninth degree, dude is overvalued, 100% for sure. That Tiger is the fifth lowest odds and is lower than almost everyone else is nuts. Tiger Woods being grossly overvalued is the story here and therefore is a great head-to-head fade and a horrible bet to win outright.
Meanwhile, Justin Rose is the straight goods that nobody talks about. The stats on Rose at Augusta are staggering. He's finished in the top 10 five times in his last 10 appearances and in the top five three of those times. His average finish on the leaderboard in the last five years is 10.6. He's clearly proven he has what it takes to win this event. After losing in a playoff last year to Sergio Garcia, Rose has played sparingly but when he does show up, he almost always contends. Rose loves Augusta. Veteran presence, smart caddie, length off the tee and improved putting this year actually might make him the man to beat. He also ranks 7th ON TOUR in Bogey Avoidance and 34th in Par 5 scoring. Incidentally, Tiger ranks 104th ON TOUR in Par 5 scoring. (Risking 2.2 units to win 2).
Bryson DeChambeau -110 over Tyrell Hatton BET365
DeChambeau had an eye-opening Masters debut as an amateur in 2016, posting a T-21 that was actually more impressive than that finish showed. Furthermore, his game came alive recently in a runner-up at Bay Hill in which he played well enough to win. He’s already played practice rounds this year at Augusta with Tiger and now throw in that he ranks SECOND on TOUR in Par 5 scoring, which also makes him a big threat to win it all. We like his disposition we’ll bet that he finishes ahead of Hatton.
Tyrell Hatton is good, make no mistake about that. Hatton grew up a stone’s throw from Wentworth, a classically tree-lined layout in England, and just a matter of weeks ago he was contending in Mexico on a similar track, eventually finishing T3. That means he has four top-10 finishes to his name in majors and WGC events; a sure sign he raises his game when taking on the big boys but the Masters is different. Hatton missed the cut here last year. At Bay Hill two weeks ago, he finished an ugly 69th after rounds of 70, 74, 73 and 75 respectively. That was the event that DeChambeau was in a position to win. His questionable temperament is a big time concern, especially on Augusta’s complex greens and that’s the main reason for this fade. Augusta ruins pros that can’t keep it together. After finishing in the top 10 in the last two majors of 2016, Hatton missed the cut at all four in 2017 and one can’t help but question just how much is he thinking about that. Hatton is not the type of golfer to get behind on golf’s biggest stage (Risking 2.2 units to win 2).
After battling injury, personal heartache and numerous swing changes, Gary Woodland’s win at the Phoenix Open earlier in the year felt like a watershed moment. He hits long, straight and putts well but he chokes when the lights are the brightest. Woodland’s short game isn't good enough to keep rounds tidy and has rarely, if ever stood out in a major. The 33-year-old’s form has dipped somewhat since winning in the winter and we can’t find one reason not to fade him here.
By contrast, the neat and tidy style of Adam Hadwin will secure him more PGA TOUR titles in the future. The Canadian proved he could grind in winning the Valspar Championship in 2017, and earlier this year at the WGC Mexico he confirmed his penchant for tree-lined layouts with a T9 finish. Brilliant when chipping and scrambling, Hadwin has finished inside the top-15 in four of his last six stroke-play starts, and he seems to have the attributes that will one day elevate him to the upper echelons of the Tour. In 72 holes against Woodland, we would take Hadwin 100% of the time and make no exceptions here. (Risking 2.02 units to win 2).
Others to consider to win outright or for DFS (Daily Fantasy):
Horse for the Course is
Our Horse for the Course here is Justin Rose and we’ll also try and put in some Fantasy lineups that nobody else will have. That means using Austin Cook on every ticket while leaving out most of the usual suspects.
Others to consider:
There are players around this $7,500 price point that are ‘bigger’ names, and as such, Brian Harman is likely to be a low owned option this week. The Georgian has only played at Augusta once, but you wonder if the sight lines will suit this left-handed shot shaper; it’s a layout that has been kind to Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson through the years after all. Harman also finished T2 and T13 in the US Open and PGA Championship last year, and you sense that a grind suits him more than an out-and-out birdie fest. He won the Wells Fargo Championship last year, and held off Dustin Johnson among others to do so; a feather in the cap as we analyze players who have the mental fortitude to prosper in the final group of a major.
He’s the top-ranked amateur in the world with all the good vibes, as his pro debut awaits shortly. This kid is unbelievably talented, has already played in a major (2017 U.S. Open) and posted a closing 64 to finish top 30 in a PGA Tour event. There’s a strong amateur contingent this year, but it’d be a mild surprise if Niemann isn’t head of the class. As a fantasy option at a low price, you just never know who might put you over the top.
The three-time PGA TOUR winner has contended in majors before, including that play-off defeat to Zach Johnson at the British Open in 2015. That followed a T4 effort at The Masters in 2013, so we know that Leishman has the game for the big occasion. The Australian won twice in 2017, with the first being the prestigious Arnold Palmer Invitational – you don’t win at Bay Hill unless you are the real deal – and the second a FedExCup event, the BMW Championship. That shows that Leishman can mix it with the big boys, and his dream-like swing is one which experts conclude has very little that can go wrong with it, such is its smoothness. That’s key, because under pressure, Leishman will remain long and straight in his ball-striking.
Fantasy pros to avoid:
Wesley Bryan (First appearance):
Bryan is currently outside the top 200 (!) in strokes gained off the tee and hasn't really been using a driver. That's not a good formula for Augusta. You have to be absolutely unbelievable with your short game to make this work and while it’s possible, it’s also possible that Bryan crumbles and misses the cut. Pass.
The craziest Simpson stat might be that his only top 10 ever at a major championship was his 2012 U.S. Open victory. He's never finished in the top 25 at Augusta.
A lot of people like his game and we can understand why because the Barn Rat can really play. However, in this day and age when pros are in such great shape, this guy is 70 pounds overweight and we’re also pretty sure that vaping is not allowed in the Augusta National clubhouse so this could be an angsty week for him. He’ll be chilling with John Daly any time now. Pass.
TOTAL RISK FOR THIS tournament is 7.22 units and we'll update it when the event is official.
4 golfers to win outright @ 0.2 units each = - 0.8 units
#7121 Adam Hadwin -101 over Gary Woodland = +2 units
Bryson DeChambeau -110 over Tyrell Hatton = +2 units
Justin Rose -110 over Tiger Woods = +2 units
Therefore 6 units in wins - 0.8 units in losses = a NET PROFIT of 5.2 units for this event
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They offer win-only odds in the outrights and for the PGA, European, Champions and LPGA Tours only, but they make up for this in terms of value in their matchups. They consistently offer unique tournament matchups for the PGA which at 10-20 cent lines and no ties are the best on offer in the business.
The Masters (Risking 7.22 units - To Win: 0.00)