Author: Paul Atkin
Published: 08:21 07/04/2015
The first golfing Major is nearly underway, and I feel we could be in for a classic this year. The Augusta National course measures 7,450 yards, but as many of the landing areas of the tees play into an uphill lie, it will feel more like 8000 yards. Many of the holes will be instantly recognisable to the returning viewer, with the iconic back nine arguably having a couple of the best holes in golf. Holes 13 (Azalea) and 15 (Firethorn) are both Par 5s, and any likely winner will have to play these holes very well over the four days. Longer hitters have a major advantage here, underlined by the fact that last year's champion Bubba Watson played a nine iron into the 15th for his second. Amazing when you consider that the great Jack Nicklaus played a four iron to the 15th for his second in 1986 for the last of his Masters win. As ever with the Masters, sloping, fast greens and hilly fairways with hollows and dips are the order of the day. Any missed greens and the players be confronted by the shaved aprons, letting the ball trickle away from the green, which can leave some deadly chips. Players need to position the ball on the fairways to have the correct angle to the greens, or they will not be able to take the aggressive line to give a birdie chance. A high draw of the tee, and irons with a high trajectory is a real advantage this week.
The early forecast is for periods of rain, and possible thunderstorms. So length of the tee could be an even bigger factor this week, and from a betting angle I will be concentrating on long hitters who are good bad weather players. It's could take for ever to play a round if it rains, so players with a good temperament will be at an advantage.
This is an invitation event, and therefore a reduced field, it should be easier to get the winner this week. Unfortunately from a betting point, there are a host of players in form, and I could easily make a case for a dozen players to win this year. So as always, I will be swayed to picking players who offer value.
For my first pick, I am going to have to have Jason Day on side. He is playing well this season, with a win in the Farmers, and appears to be fully fit, after suffering with a hand injury last year. He's knocked on the door a few times, and it would be amiss if his career goes without a major on his resume. I also like players when in the heat of the fight will just don't not back down, and this Aussie is one of the most tenacious on tour.
I usually only like to back players who have a locker full of knowledge built up from multi visits to Augusta. But although Jimmy Walker has only played here once, (8th on his debut), he ticks so many boxes he has to be picked. Again he has that long high draw, and is a player with a win under his belt. He has to be one of the most improved players over the last couple of years, and he knows how to win. Last year he looked as if he was going to contend, but didn't quite find the gears to mount a real challenge. He should be looking forward to this week with plenty of confidence, and if it does rain has shown he doesn't mind getting the rain jacket on.
It's amazing the number of times that players come into this event without much form, but find the irregularities of this course bringing out the best in them, Angel Cabrera seems to conform to this every few years, and could easily go well again. But I'm warming to Adam Scott putting up a good fight, especially since this ex Masters Winner has said that he will go back to the long putter after his brief flirtation with the short version. His tee to green game has actually been quite good, but the putting has stopped him from contending. His odds could look quite good if his confidence returns in time on the greens.
Rory Mac has obvious claims this week, but his record at the Masters isn't actually that good, though if it rains and the greens soften (like his US Open win) he will have even a bigger chance. Although a case could be made that he's almost value at 6/1, I'm happy to oppose him. Last year Jordan Spieth went very close, though he looked very nervy at the end. He looks a much more rounded player, but there's simply no value left in his price. Phil Mickelson has showed glimmers of form last week, and though he loves Augusta, I would really be backing him from the heart, rather than the head. He simply has to many fragilities for me nowadays. Others to possibly contend are the revitalised Dustin Johnson, the brash but very good Patrick Reed and it would be no surprise to see Bubba Watson defend.
For my last bet in the special markets I will have a small bet on Miguel Jimenez to win the Seniors market. Most of the players in the market are purely ceremonial players, i.e Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam etc. He really only has to beat Couples, Singh and Langer, and I'm sure he can follow up from his top five place last year to win this market.
I also have to mention Tiger Woods, but it would be a herculean effort to even make the cut, never mind winning here. Last time we saw him him he was hacking it around like an 18 handicapper, and his chipping game was abysmal. Surely he needed to play last week at Houston to gain confidence or to prove to himself that he still has a game. I'm afraid even if he is practicing well, its a huge leap to competition hardness. One bad chip, and I could see the confidence drain from his game. If I can find evens for him to miss the cut, it would be of interest.
Jason Day 16/1 E/W Betfair Sportsbook (7 places)
Adam Scott 20/1 E/W Betfair Sportsbook (7 places)
Jimmy Walker 25/1 E/W Betway (6 Places)
Miguel Jimenez 5/2 Stan James (Top Senior Market)