2015 Masters Preview

Masters Tournament
9-12 April
Augusta National Golf Club
Georgia, USA.

Introduction

Well, it's finally here, oozing tradition!

Amen Corner, Azaleas, Butler & Eisenhower Cabins, Magnolia Drive, Green Jacket, Champions Dinner, Honorary Starters, Rae's Creek, Crows Nest. That Bobby Jones / Alister MacKenzie heritage creation, The Masters!

For one particular reason, 2015's first Mens Major is, in my opinion, the most eagerly anticipated Major for a long time. That one particular reason is what I see as a classic 'Age' vs 'Youth' shootout!

Lining up for 'Age' we have the likes of over-30's: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia & the Johnsons - Dustin & Zach vs an astonishingly talented and confident collection of twenty-somethings: Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler & Hideki Matsuyama.
Will age or youth prevail?

The Course

Augusta always will as usual present more magnificently than any other course in the world and, again as usual, will require: reasonably long driving (occasionally demanding a bit of right-to-left flight), distance control and precision with the short shots along with good scrambling plus consistently good putting on bentgrass / rye greens that are typically fast - though I note rain is currently forecast for Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday of tournament week.

Augusta, while not especially difficult, is thus a tremendous all-round examination of the complete state of players' games.

The Favourites

Those at the top of the bookmaker market are:

Rory McIlroy 7.00
Jordan Spieth 10.00
Bubba Watson 12.00
Jason Day 15.00
Dustin Johnson 17.00
Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson & Henrik Stenson 21.00
Jimmy Walker 26.00
Matt Kuchar & Patrick Reed 34.00.
Tiger Woods' price currently ranges from 41.00 - 51.00 but it's hard to like Tiger's chances with this being his 1st start since a WD early Feb at Torrey Pines. In fact, he hasn't had a Top10 in a full PGA Tour event since his 2nd The Barclays in August 2013!

The top of the market has fluctuated significantly throughout the year as Tiger Woods' price has naturally softened from 15.00 out to 50.00.

Rory McIlroy started the year priced at 5.50 but, not quite yet his imperious self, has drifted a couple of points.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Walker (67.00 to 26.00) has been the big shortener along with a resurgent Dustin Johnson (41.00 to 17.00).
Tiger's price looks about right to me and both Rory & Dustin look a bit short-priced while Jimmy looks genuine value.

A Process of Elimination

Regular users of OnThePunt may already have read my 'Masters Eliminator' article. This was an attempt to apply a range of intelligently researched criteria in order to whittle the field down to just a few contenders. Price was not a consideration, by the way.

For those that have not yet been exposed to the pearls of wisdom contained therein, the article can be found here.

For those that can't be bothered to read it, it concluded that Bubba Watson should win ahead of Jimmy Walker & Jason Day.

There is no price value in Bubba or Jason; the market looks about correct on both BUT the market price on Jimmy (26.00) is a nice big fat 'over' as I rate him just 16.00 & 5th favourite to win it.

My Recommendations

Winner

My value win selection is Jimmy Walker (26.00 generally available) by virtue of the above price value rationale, allied with what I judge to be the compelling form and statistical data contained in the aforementioned 'Eliminator' article - all of which points to him contending.

I should add, as readers of the above 'Eliminator' article will know, that Bubba is my win selection but I simply can't recommend him at a price of just 11/1 or so when he hasn't competed for a month.

Top5 / Place / Each Way

My #1 selection in this category is, oddly, the same as last year, Gary Woodland (101.00 generally), who ticks almost every box: he hits it long, owns two Augusta Top30's (along with a meritorious WD) in his only three Augusta starts to date and who also has that requisite solid recent form with Top30's in three of his four most recent PGA Tour starts.

Others who were of Each Way Price Value Interest

For those who don't like Woodland, listed below are the four other players whose prices looked a bit generous in the early bookmaker markets; my price is in brackets:

Adam Scott 21.00 (18.00)
Zach Johnson 101.00 (81.00)
Cameron Tringale 251.00 (151.00)
Morgan Hoffman 251.00 (151.00)

Top10

I prepared my own Top 10 market & compared it with the early bookmaker prices to determine the biggest 'overs' – bookmaker price too generous.

The genuine standout was Charley Hoffman who is typically paying 13.00 - 15.00 around the bookies while I rate him just 7.50. He's finished 11th each of the past two weeks on tour and was 27th in his only Augusta start (2011).

Exotic Markets

I've scoped the multifarious other early markets on the event, hunting for a bit of price value. Based on my prices, the three best value bets on offer were:

Brendon Todd 8.00 Top Debutant (5.00 my price). Koepka is the favourite, but is he fit?
Gunn Yang 7.00 Top Amateur (4.50 my price)
Jonas Blixt 19.00 Top Continental European (11.00 my price).

Exchange Betting

In yet another week where laying the favourites can to an extent be justified, my advice as an opening lay gambit is to consider laying pre-tournament all of the players shorter than 40/1 (41.00) with the exception of: Watson, Walker & Day plus to lay selected others who are either course rookies (eg Koepka), proven course non-performers (eg Matsuyama, Bradley, Kaymer) or out of form in recent starts (eg Rose, Tiger).

If you like a bit of back-to-lay action, two quality players are at quite big prices on Betfair relative to their ability and who may significantly shorten should they get on a leaderboard at any point. They are:

150.00 Ryan Moore who is in tremendous form and who will contend if he manages to overcome a driving distance liability which will typically place him 25-30yds behind the bombers off the tee and;

110.00 Jim Furyk who always plays solidly at Augusta and who has 7xTop10's in his past in his past 13 starts since last year's US Open.

Finally, bear in mind that it's usually difficult to play catch-up at Augusta, so if the guy you've backed is well in it with a round or three to go, fewer than usual challengers, as compared with a regular tour event, will jump up the leaderboard to contend.

Good luck with your punting!
Tuesday 7 April 2015

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