Hello friends. That’s right, more Jim Nantz. If you haven’t had your fill of Jimmy throughout the NCAA, it is time for a tradition unlike any other. The Masters is here and not a moment too soon. This year looks to be a good one. Great weather on tap and the best players in the game playing their best golf as we lead into the first major of the season (more on that later).
For the first timers, a quick recap on the course. It is long. it favors a right-to-left ball flight. GIR matter, as it is a second shot golf course and there is a premium on putting. The large undulating greens should be running around 13′ on the Stimpmeter and experience matters. Know which flags to attack and know where to miss. Also, first timers tend to have difficulty here. Experience matters. (Spieth doesn’t count in this statement because Ben Crenshaw gave him piggyback rides around the course every day for six months before tee off.)
Story lines that will make you sick by the end of the weekend – 30th anniversary of Jack’s last Green Jacket, 80th Masters, Spieth back-to-back?, Day for three wins in a row, Rory for the career Grand Slam and on and on…
Back to who is playing well… If we look at the last four editions of the Masters, we see a common thread. Each of the winners came into Augusta playing solid golf:
2015 (Spieth): T17, 1, 2, 2
2014 (Watson): T2, 1, T9, T2, WD
2013 (Scott): T10, T33, T3, T30
2012 (Watson): T13, T17, 2, 4
Sometimes guys show up and catch lightning in a bottle (hello Phil) but more often than not, playing your way into major form means something. Fortunately for us fans, several guys look good:
Day: T11, T23, 1, 1
Fowler: T6, T8, T38, T10
McIlroy: MC, T3, T27, 4
Rose: T16, T17, T9, T 28
Scott: 1, 1, T12, T28
Spieth: T17, T18, T9, T13
Watson: T70, 1, 2, T28
It is also important to note that some of the lesser finishes were in the Dell Match Play so the weaker finishes are a bit misleading. These performances should be a harbinger of good competitive golf from the best in the world. As a bettor, the problem is these guys are all chalk and there is (as usual) little to no value in any of them. As we often do here, we take the historical trend and look for other value opportunities. Where does that lead us? To the following:
Casey: T43, 7, T9, T51
Haas: MC, T49, P2, T9
Hoffman: T17, T11, T38, T33
Z Johnson: MC, T47, 5, T9
Mickelson: T37, 5, T18, T13
Moore: 10, 3, T74, T5
Schwartzel: T17, 1, T18, T13
If you were watching closely the last four weeks, you saw Haas dispose of Scott head-to-head, Moore a few putts away from contending for three straight weeks, Zach Johnson doing his usual quiet assassin thing and Phil Mickelson alternating between brilliant and awful while trying to figure it out before heading down Magnolia Lane.
Comparing probabilities to odds, I see the best values in:
Schwartzel +3,500 (1/4 unit)
Z Johnson +5,000 (1/4 unit)
Haas +12,500 (1/4 unit)
Moore +12,500 (1/4 unit)
Pre-emptive regrets… I am passing on Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman and Phil Mickelson. Reed and Hoffman both have some value (Phil is poorly priced because he’s Phil and he’ll be overbet) but four plays in a short field is enough. Reed is a great fit for the course but his results say otherwise. For a guy that played at Augusta State (and has seen plenty of this course), I’d expect better than 1 of 2 cuts made and a best finish of T22 and no rounds in the 60s. I’d rather have Haas and Moore at +12,500 than Hoffman at +10,000 and Casey at +6,500. For the record, if I have to pick a winner, I am picking McIlroy; just not at +900. Too tough a field and not enough value there.
Head-to-head matchups to follow soon.
Best of luck,