Tomorrow sees the start of the first Major of the 2018 Golf season, when the US Masters begins at the iconic Augusta course.
87 players are due to tee off, with the top fifty going through to the weekend plus (uniquely) those players within ten shots of the lead.
The return of Tiger Woods is the main talking point, at least over the pond, and if we could spell ‘hysteria’ we’d be typing it in now. The 42-y-o Eldrick has been acquitting himself pretty well since successful back fusion, but not well enough to justify odds of just 14-1, so, however he fares, there is no value in that price.
Bookmakers are going 10-1 the field, with ultra generous place terms and there is little doubt that any player at or near the head of the market could be triumphant come Sunday evening, such is the plethora of talent in the game at the moment.
When it comes to betting on golf tournaments, the first name to be written on your slip should be Justin Thomas.
JT has won no less than seven events during the past twelve months, including his first Major and has the game to take it to the course big time. Now ranked No. 2 in the world, if winning his semi-final against Bubba Watson in the recent WGC Matchplay he would have knocked Dustin Johnson off the top of his year-long perch. As it happened, he was thrashed by the weird and wonderful Bubba, but admitted afterwards that the prospect of gaining the coveted No.1 spot had prevented him from sleeping the night before and he ‘played rubbish golf’.
He gave the Houston Open a miss to concentrate on The Masters and at 11-1 he should be backed each way with the utmost confidence. When doing so, ensure that your Bookie of choice is offering at least eight places (2 firms offer ten) and avoid Ladbrokes (5 places) like the proverbial plague.
Of the others in the favourites’ position, Rory McIlroy came back to his best form last time out and a repeat might see him run away with this – but don’t rely on it.
Jordan Spieth, he of the impeccable Augusta credentials, finally recovered his putting touch in the final round of the Houston Open, but his woes with the flat stick may not have gone away, while Dustin Johnson has become, how shall we say this, inconsistent, since his tumble down a flight of stairs prevented him from competing in this last year.
For a sporting alternative to the big guns, we recommend an each way bet, at 80-1, on Patrick Cantlay. No.1 Amateur for 54 weeks in a row before his well-documented physical and mental traumas kept him off a golf course for three years, he’s back, with all the skill seemingly intact and with a steely determination to make up for lost time. He was last seen shooting 7 birdies in 13 holes to defeat Hideki Matsuyama 6 & 5 in the aforementioned Matchplay and has since been camped at Augusta, playing as many rounds as they will let him.
The specialist markets provide our other recommendations, as follows:
Top Spaniard: A four runner field, but effectively three (hands up anyone who thinks Olazabal can win this – no, thought not). Favourite is Jon Rahm, who has temporarily lost the plot and is temperamentally flawed, while the second favourite, defending Champion Sergio Garcia has been busy getting married and has only played six events all season – not an ideal preparation. Recommended bet, therefore, is the ultra consistent and still improving Rafael Cabrera-Bello at a juicy 5-1. Substantially over-priced, Rafa will give us a guaranteed run for our hard-earned.
Top Australian: Another four runner event, with Jason Day as favourite. Another golfer who appeared to lose it, JD has only shown limited signs of recovery of late and is still plagued with health problems. Second in is Adam Scott, who can’t buy a putt – not exactly ideal on this course. Our bet, then, is on Marc Leishman at 10-3. Regularly in contention in all the Majors last season, he is a confident selection.
Top Amateur: Only one name to consider in this and that is Joaquin Niemann. Due to turn professional at the start of this year, this 19-y-o from Chile won the Latin America Amateur Championship in January, which earned him an invite to The Masters. Shrewdly he has chosen to retain his Amateur status until Monday and the hint should be taken. Lump on at 6-4.
Bring it on.
Outright: Justin Thomas e/w @ 11-1 bet365 (8 places), 10-1 Skybet (10 places)
Outright: Patrick Cantlay e/w @ 80-1 Betbright (6 places), 75-1 bet365 (8 places), 66-1 Skybet (10 places)
Top Spaniard: Rafael Cabrera-Bello win @ 5-1 Ladbrokes
Top Australian: Marc Leishman win @ 10-3 William Hill
Top Amateur: Joaquin Niemann win @ 6-4 Coral