The Masters is here again. It’s April and the beginning of the golf season for many of us and no tournament evokes the same anticipation and excitement as this first major of the year. Augusta National is so familiar that I am sure most hardcore viewers know the back nine holes and their nuances better than any other course the Tour visits. On top of all this, Tiger Woods appears to be ready to tee it up.
Handicapping this tournament is the hardest exercise of the season. There are so many players in this field that no one would be surprised to see win the green jacket. I count 12 such players – and my list does not include Tiger Woods.
My List (odds courtesy of bet365)
Cameron Smith 16/1; Scottie Scheffler 16/1; Dustin Johnson 16/1; Jon Rahm 11/1; Brooks Koepka 18/1; Jordan Spieth 20/1; Justin Thomas 14/1; Xander Schauffele 22/1; Rory McIlroy 18/1; Viktor Hovland 20/1; Collin Morikawa 18/1; Will Zalatoris 35/1
Smith and Scheffler are the two hottest players coming in to the event. Smith gets the nod as the player “who should win” based on his current form and his strong play at ANGC over the past four years. The course suits his game perfectly. It allows for the odd sprayed drive and demands precision around and on the greens. Scheffler looks 35 but he’s still a kid who has been won at all levels, handled Ryder Cup pressure and has recently gone on a “Woodsian” run.
DJ won in 2020 on a different course than he will encounter this week, but he’s driving it well and if he has even his A- game, he will be in the hunt late Sunday. Rahm has not been at his best lately but he loves this course, wants to win desperately and is another player who will undoubtedly contend. No player likes his chances at a major better than Koepka. His game is coming around after dealing with injuries and he is another player who hates second place.
Spieth‘s putter is not behaving as of late but he seems to be finally swinging it better – not as well as he once did but better. If he somehow regains confidence in his putter this week, he will be lurking come the weekend. Thomas is another gamer who could easily be sitting beside Hideki at Butler cabin on Sunday night. He has an all round game, hates to lose and knows his way around ANGC. And it doesn’t hurt to be Tiger’s favourite practice round partner.
I am starting to wonder if Schauffele will be that player who is always sniffing around majors without being able to close one out. A very talented player who has been a bridesmaid two of the last three years. I like Rory a lot but I just don’t feel as confident about his ability to be the top dog on Tour in the future. I hope he can be but lately it seems he needs all aspects of his game to be totally on for him to win.
One of Hovland, Morikawa or Zalatoris could easily win this week and it would be no great surprise. Zalatoris almost won last year, Morikawa is already halfway to the grand slam and Hovland is a winner and an extraordinary talent. However, my gut just tells me that the winner of this years Masters will come from one of the preceding nine players.
Hideki Matsuyama 35/1, Patrick Cantlay 22/1, Bryson DeChambeau 33/1, Tiger Woods 50/1
Matsuyama followed up his first major with some continued good golf but has fallen back lately. I just don’t think he is the back-to-back type. Cantlay has yet to prove he can win or even contend in the majors. He has the game to do it but when it comes to Cantlay, I’m from Missouri. DeChambeau‘s plan to overpower ANGC proved faulty last year and there is no evidence in his past play here that he has the game for this course….yet. I would love to see Tiger contend and even win his sixth green jacket this weekend but I believe it’s asking too much too soon – even for Tiger Woods. If he does somehow win this tournament, it will eclipse his win in 2019, Jack’s in 1986 and rival Hogan’s US Open win after his own near fatal car accident.
Longer shots to consider
Corey Conners 55/1, Marc Leishman 80/1
Conners plays this course well and just needs a hot putting week to win this thing – and he’s a fine Canadian lad. Leishman‘s form has not been good of late but he always seems to be lurking in the top ten at this event.
Who will win?
Jordan Spieth 20/1
There is scant recent evidence to support this pick except he plays this course very well even when he is not generally playing well. This is entirely a a gut call but I would like to see him win again to make up for his ghastly loss in 2016.