Golf Betting & Odds ⏤ A Tradition Unlike Any Other Arrives at Last ⏤ The Masters Tournament

Fantasy Golf

Augusta National3

It's been an awfully long time since the best players in the world have assembled at Augusta National Golf Club, but at long last the week of the 2020 Masters Tournament has finally arrived. The azaleas may not be blooming this time of year, the roars may not be echoing through the pines thanks to the first patron-less edition of the tournament, but this world class Alistair MacKenzie design is sure to present every bit the test of golf in November that we've become accustomed to seeing every spring. 

Tiger Woods will be defending the fifth green jacket he procured over eighteen months ago at the 2019 Masters Tournament. That magical week in April this generation's greatest player turned back the clock and returned to the winner's circle in a major championship for the first time in over a decade. He persevered through emotional, mental and physical challenges maybe not seen since Ben Hogan as he watched his life and his body fall apart entering the 2010s. As the decade came to a close, Woods (at age 42) completed one of golf's greatest comeback stories by defeating the best players of today's generation (including Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Xander Scahuffele, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day and others) with a 13-under par total of 275 that was good enough for a one-stroke win and his fifteenth major title. While his place in the Champion's Locker Room was cemented over twenty years ago, his hosting of the Champion's Dinner this year is sure to be an extra special experience for him.

The Field and the Favorites

While Woods is never to be discounted at Augusta, Tiger enters the week miles away from being the favorite we became used to seeing here in the early 2000s. There was a time Tiger would enter this event even money to win it, but this week he finds his odds among the back end of the top-ten favorites at +2500. Somewhat unsurprisingly, newly-minted U.S. Open Champion Bryson Dechambeau comes to Augusta as a clear favorite at +800. His newfound-length could revolutionize the way players attack Augusta as he's expected to take lines off the tees and hit clubs into the green the likes of which we haven't seen since Tiger's length helped him dominated the Augusta we knew back in 1997.

The next four favorites feel like a dealer's choice as Jon Rahm (+1100), Rory McIlroy (+1100), Dustin Johnson (+1200) and Justin Thomas (+1200) all seem like potential winners. All four have the length you need to attack the par-five holes at Augusta National and you'd expect all four to win if they bring their A game to the table this week. If we're digging into which of the four is on form this week, you could make cases for all but Rory McIlroy as the other three players have contended and won frequently in the time since the COVID pause. Curiously, McIlroy was looking like one of the hottest players in the world as he entered the pause but his game has all but deserted him since his return.

Xander Schauffele is just a step further back at +1400 and his recent form certainly earns him serious consideration here. His last finish outside of the top-25 came all the way back in mid-June at the RBC Heritage and he has three top-five finishes in his last four events. While he has not done any winning in that stretch of golf, he's been doing a lot of contending both on a weekly basis on the PGA TOUR as well as in the major championships. He finished 2nd at the Masters by a shot last year to his boyhood hero Tiger Woods on the heels of making a best-in-the-field 25 birdies for the week. We don't know if this will be his week to finally bag his first major championship, bu we feel safe betting that he will be among the top-ten finishers come Sunday afternoon.

The Golf Course

Many would argue that the myriad of nuances to the Augusta National Golf Club make it the course on the PGA TOUR that most rewards local knowledge. Their position is not without merit as just one player (Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979) has won the Masters Tournament in their first appearance in the event. Moreover, the Sunday performance of Tiger Woods in last year's event demonstrated the virtue of experience around Augusta. Woods didn't do anything remotely spectacular in last year's final round, but he placed the ball surgically throughout the closing nine holes while his competitors made amateurish mistakes at key times. Both his and many other historical examples argue in favor of weighing experience heavily when it comes to your selections this week.

The key holes do an excellent job of illustrating both why experience matters at Augusta National as well as what skill sets are critical for success at the storied venue. While the first nine has its own critical shots to keep an eye on, the second nine is where fortunes seem to turn one way or another. The closing side's plethora of water holes (at eleven, twelve, thirteen, fifteen and sixteen) and greens with small shelves and low collection areas (at thirteen, fourteen, sixteen and eighteen) can polarize the results of golf shots just off by a percent here or there. A few feet to the good in the right places can be a two or three shot swing over a few feet the wrong way on the second nine at Augusta National Golf Club.

The par-four tenth and eleventh holes are the hardest pars on the second nine at Augusta. They require opposite shapes off the tee but at both holes the misguided drive is likely to find pines on either side of the fairway. Depending on the day, well placed tee shots will leave in middle irons to a pair of greens that slope from right to left. At the tenth, the miss on the high side right will leave a bunker shot back down the hill. Conversely, the eleventh green slopes down towards a pond that runs the length of the entire left side. The pro miss to the high there leaves a terrifying pitch down towards the water.

The judgment and control of distance into the greens is paramount everywhere at Augusta National, but no hole provides a better illustration of this than the terrifying one-shot twelfth. The par-three plays as the shortest hole on the golf course, but the shallow greensite located on the banks of Rae's Creek always proves to be a confounding target as the wind swirls through the nearby pines. Many Masters hopes have drowned in the creek and last year proved to be no exception. Experienced Tiger Woods played the ball over the left side of the front bunker to safety while leader Francesco Molinari and chasers Ian Poulter, Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau all failed to clear the hazard and made bogies and doubles.

The two five-par holes at thirteen and fifteen present scoring opportunities fraught with danger. Eagles can attained by all but the shortest players in the field but water in play will punish the bold stroke poorly executed. A yard short coming into either green and the player will find a shaved bank that will send the ball trickling back into the creek at thirteen or the pond at fifteen. Quality tee shots are required by both holes as well with a tributary of Rae's Creek in play left at thirteen and a grove of tall trees in play left at fifteen. Bailed out second shots long at both holes will require a deft touch racing back downhill on the green towards the water.

Jack Nicklaus always found Augusta National to be a second-shot golf course and to that end it is the strong Strokes Gained: Approach players who will likely have success this week. As we described, the margin between great shots and disastrous results can be so thin that the golfer who can control his distance will receive an even more distinct advantage. Beyond that skill set, length and experience in playing the golf course make up the three core competencies that we expect to be commonalities among this year's leaderboard.

Here are our selections for this week's Masters Tournament:

Group A (Dustin Johnson)

Group B (Xander Schauffele)

Group C (Tony Finau)

Group D (Tyrrell Hatton)

Group E (Matthew Wolff)

Group F (Lee Westwood)