While it feels like the beginning on the season proper for golf fans it is in fact the halfway point of the PGA Tour season. As such the contenders have had plenty of prep time and as is often the case many of those at the head of the market come here with solid credentials. Consider that 6 of last dozen running’s have gone to the front 10 in the betting and that this year almost all of them look to be in some sort of form then you could easily make a case for simply opting for one or more of this group:
Spieth, Rory, Justin, Dustbin, Milky, Rose, Tiger, Blubber,Sergio and Jase.
Less than a month ago I was pinning my hopes on the possibility of 20/1 each of two Jordan and Rory. Rory was struggling on the PGA Tour but was still massively under par for his season and his C game will do for a top 10 at Augusta. Jordan 3 putted 4 times on Saturday at the Shell but then found something on Sunday. So there goes the dream of 20/1 each of two.
While I’ve advocated any one of the top 10 above I can’t reasonably separate them now and so with a heavy heart will death ride Rory in particular. Spieth is a freak but his putting, his weapon, has been iffy, and yes this is his backyard and like Rory his off game will still be good enough to contend..but as always it’s the price. Dustbin has been quiet of late and yet still clings on to his No 1 status. Justin’s record around Augusta, despite being a much improved player doesn’t inspire me. Of the rest Day’s game seems not quite there and Rose I can never find a hook to hang my hat on but so what? The man has form and a great Masters record it’s just that he seems to get the pulls under pressure. Sergio will be inspired, has good form including a win in the last 3 months and with the Major pressure off might even win two or three more. He’s also number one in scoring average and strokes gained approaching the green! Blubber won the match play which will do plenty for his confidence and Tiger’s story, while amazing, seems improbable. Tiger can spray it around here but maybe not under pressure on Sunday. A for and against case can be made against all ten but I’m struggling to separate them. If I had to pick two from the ten it would be Rory (always) and Milky. His key stats, strokes gained putting (2nd) and strokes gained approach play (4th) are sensational. His record – 3 wins and a truckload of high finishes are testimony to his love of this place and the big time in general. He won for the first time in years at the WGC in Mexico and I’ve said before his back nine at Muirfield was as good as it gets down the stretch. Add in his runner up to Henrik and the drought doesn’t seem so important. I’ve maintained for years he looks to be the player most likely to win a major post 50.
As for Augusta itself…what’s new? The fairways will be mowed green to tee and the weather looks good for Thursday and Friday with a solid chance of a wet weekend. It will have to be biblical for the greens to truly lose their sting given the under soil ventilation systems so don’t expect a swamp. If it gets softish then that simply magnifies the big hitters advantages.
Driving is allegedly not so important around Augusta. Tell that to those 40+ yards behind Rory etc. Length is important and that advantage is self evident with Rory in that he’s then hitting much shorter clubs with his astonishing moon-ball flight. Rory has the added confidence factor from his Arnie P Invitational romp. He could hack up. But for ball flight reasons I’m happy to rule many players out including likes of the talented Mathew Fitzpatrick.
Other big names include Casey (price too short) with a great record and a recent win and Rickie who looks to have the putting woes. Henrik’s record is really poor for such a quality player. Patrick has come back into form and hits the much-desired draw (Kaymer ruined his game in the quest) and yet for ball flight I can’t have him.
Despite the weight of evidence presented about the front 10 in the market I can’t see how to make it pay so we’ll look to one or two with the potential, and the accompanying prices, to contend. What we want is to get on a player who then looks 2-3 years down the line an obvious world class player with the game to excel at Augusta.
Bryson DeChambeau 1pt win at $101 on Betfair
Xander Schauffele 1pt win at $151 on Betfair
Bryson DeChambeau is a stable star of ours and comes here in fine form. He’s 31st in strokes gained approaching the green and 128th in stokes gained putting – seasonally. Hardly sets the world on fire given we’re always trying to make a case for players based on performance. What isn’t revealed but these numbers are his most recent efforts and that includes chasing home a rampant Rory at the Arnie P. Not an isolated effort either as he posted a T5 at the Waste Management and a T7 at the Shriners. DeChambeau can be DeShambles but he does things his way and when on looks a world class player. He has a solid debut effort (T21) in 2016 ruined by a few horror holes and is a much better player trending in the right direction. Easy to envisage being in contention and at 80/1 fixed and bigger on the exchanges carries ours.
Xander Schauffele hails from our stable as well and will need to become just the 2nd first time winner at Augusta (bar the very first winner). Schauffele’s form isn’t all that but it’s hardly sloppy with his Tour Championship win last year, 26th in the world rankings and some solid results over the last 3 months in a limited schedule. Schauffele’s game with his length and ball flight look ideally suited to Augusta. Yes he’ll have to overcome the excitement of being at Augusta – but comes across as very laid back and mature – and his lack of experience but someone has to win first up since Fuzzy in ’79 and this guy could be it. Generally 100/1 fixed there’s much bigger on the exchanges.