Top 10 golf betting tips for the 2018 Masters
By Gary Trask
To reinforce our efforts, we've also enlisted the help of professional golf aficionado Brady Kannon, who we spoke to last week.
Kannon, who runs the Las Vegas office for TeeTimesUSA.com, is a prominent golf handicapper and radio personality who can currently be heard on the Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN). He was also a part of a four-man team called "Sans Souci" that took down the wildly popular Football SuperBook Contest in Las Vegas back in 2011.
So with Kannon's assistance and a boatload of key stats, trends and past history charts in hand, let's head down Magnolia Lane and try to turn a profit at Augusta National.
10. The case for betting Tiger
Let's get straight to the biggest storyline of this year's Masters: The triumphant return of Tiger Woods. At the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, home of the renowned SuperBook, Woods was listed at 100-to-1 last August to win the 2018 Masters.
But, despite all of his well-chronicled off-the-course "issues" and multiple injuries, the betting public still loves to throw their money on Tiger. When he started to show flashes of his old self beginning in December by finishing T-9 at the Hero World Challenge, the money poured in on him and his odds dipped to 30-to-1. Then, during a four-week stretch between late February and early March, Tiger finished 12th at The Honda Classic, second at The Valspar Championship and fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "Tiger Mania" was back, at least at sportsbooks, and this week he will enter the Masters as one of the favorites at around 12-to-1.
The Westgate reported on Sunday night that Tiger is the player with the most tickets written to win the Masters and he has the third-most money wagered on him.
Masters wagering stat leaders ...— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) April 1, 2018
1) Tiger Woods
2) Phil Mickelson
3) Rickie Fowler
4) Bubba Watson
5) Justin Thomas
1) Rickie Fowler
2) Justin Thomas
3) Tiger Woods
4) Dustin Johnson
5) Jon Rahm
"It's an amazing story," Kannon said. "He's playing very well. He obviously knows the course, being a four-time winner. His ball-striking has been very good and that means he's hitting his irons very good, which is paramount at Augusta. He's also scrambling and putting well and the biggest surprise is how good his short game has been. Those are all the things that you need to do in order to win at Augusta, so he's primed for a big week."
9. The case to bet against Tiger
Despite all of the above, if you’re looking to bet Tiger to win a fifth green jacket, you are obviously way too late to the party.
"I think his true odds to win are around 20- to 25-to-1," Kannon said. "But the oddmakers have to take cash flow and risk into account. They know people are going to bet him no matter what, so they can put his number a lot lower, and that's what they've done."
In addition, it's been more than 10 years since Woods won a major. And he no longer has that mental edge over the rest of the players like he did back in the day when he was destroying every field and every course he played.
Our advice regarding Tiger this week? There is no way you can bet on him. The value has been sucked dry. But that may open the door for some match-up bets where you can take advantage and go against him (more on this later).
8. Key stats
OK, if not Tiger, then who? Well, the great thing about handicapping the Masters is that it's the only major championship that's played every year on the same course. That allows us to look back at past history and eliminate some players from the equation and add players into the mix of who we think will play well and be there on Sunday afternoon, starting with key statistics.
As Kannon mentions above, ball striking is vital at Augusta National, so a stat like greens in regulation is important. Last year's champ Sergio Garcia ranked second in the field in GIR. Garcia also only had one three-putt all week, and Kannon said he'll lean heavily on the three-putt avoidance stat. Another huge variable to look at is par-5 performance. Last year, Garcia was 7-under on the par-5s for the week and over the last 11 years the winners are a combined 97-under on the course's longest holes.
"The par-5s are holes are there for the taking," said Kannon. "They present birdie opportunities that you need to convert and if you're not making birdies there they can sometimes be hard to come by elsewhere."
7. Avoid debutants
An easy eliminator when looking at the Masters field is crossing off players who are making their first-career start at Augusta, since it's been 39 years since a player won as a debutant. That's when Fuzzy Zoeller won the first major of what would be a career Grand Slam and took home the green jacket in 1979.
Kannon is on board with this logic, although it's not as strong a factor as it used to be.
"All of these young guys are so good and so talented it won't be a shock to me if we see a first-timer win at some point," he said. "You take a guy like Tony Finau. He's making his first start at Augusta this year, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least bit if he won it."
(If you're so inclined, you can get Finau at 4-to-1 in the Top Debutant Player market at Bovada Sportsbook).
Yes, outliers can certainly happen when it comes to handicapping sports. Remember, it was just last month that everyone filling out an NCAA men's basketball bracket was telling you that a No. 16 seed has never beat a No. 1 seed and, well, if you had Virginia in your Final Four, you know what happened.
6. The age factor
Over the last 17 years, 16 of the Masters champions have been between the age of 25 and 39. Jordan Spieth, who Kannon calls the "Masters Whisperer" because he has finished 11th, 2nd, 2nd and 1st in his four appearances, is the only exception after he won it in 2015 as a fresh-faced 22-year-old.
This factor plays into No. 7 above in that it's rare for a "young gun" to prevail at Augusta, as well as . . .
5. Course form
A wealth of experience and past success at Augusta are crucial to winning the Masters.
Over the last 18 years, the Masters winner made the cut at Augusta the year before. Also, 14 of the last 18 winners had made at least six previous Masters appearances and 24 of the last 28 winners had at least one top 20 finish at the Masters.
"Most of the time when it comes to handicapping sports, trends are completely random, but not the Masters," Kannon adds. "You have to log some hours at Augusta before you're likely to go out there and be a factor on Sunday. You have to learn the nuances of the course and really get used the pressure of playing a Masters."
4. Current form
One more factor to pay close attention to before we get to some actual picks. The Masters isn’t a tournament in which a player that is struggling with his game is going to all of a sudden flip the switch and start heating up.
For proof, look no further than the fact that every winner since 1990 with one exception (Trevor Immelman in 2008) had at least one top 10 finish in a tournament entering the Masters that same season and six of the last seven winners had multiple top 10s.
3. Sleeper picks
As we move on to our picks, let's have some fun and take a stab at some longshots. We asked Kannon for a couple "sleeper" picks and he gave us two solid choices: Matt Kuchar and Ryan Moore, which bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook has listed at 50-to-1 and 100-to-win, respectively.
Kuchar has enjoyed a stellar career, but is definitely in the argument for the dreaded "Best Player to Never Win a Major" award. He's got four top 10 finishes at the Masters in the last six years and he has been in the top 10 of five tournaments already this season, including the last two weeks when he was T-9 at the World Golf Championship Match Play and T-8 at the Houston Open.
Moore, meanwhile, also checks a lot of the above boxes, including a ninth place at last year's Masters and three top 10s this season.
"I already have a 150-to-1 ticket on Moore in my pocket that I bet a few months ago, so he's a guy I will certainly be pulling for and someone I really expect to play well," Kannon said.
2. Match-up bets
Betting on players "to win" is the most popular wager for golf, but "match-up" bets provide more value and much less variance. Using all of the stats and reasoning above, here are two match-ups that caught our eye at Bovada:
Justin Rose (-110) over Tiger Woods: Yes, it will be exciting if Tiger is in the hunt on Sunday and TV ratings will go through the roof. While the golf fan in me is rooting for just that, the business-of-betting side of me knows that there is value in betting against Tiger this week, so that's what we'll do. Not only did Rose finish second last year after losing a playoff to Garcia, but he also has five top 10 finishes in 12 Masters starts and was second, 10th and second the last three years. And in seven PGA TOUR and World Golf Championship starts this season, he's got one win, four top-5 finishes and five top-10s. In a wager that would have had a price of -150 or more just a month ago, we'll gladly lay -110 with Rose over Woods this week.
Matt Kuchar (-115) over Patrick Reed: We've already laid out why Kuchar is a fit for this week, thanks to Kannon's expertise, so we think it's a bargain to lay only -115 in a head-to-head with Reed, who has a sketchy past history at Augusta. In four Masters starts, Reed has missed the cut twice and placed 22nd and 49th. Just on track record alone, this is worth a wager.
1. Our pick to win
This is the smallest Masters field in 21 years, with 88 players, and that means there's more value than ever in the "to win" market.
"Obviously, the smaller amount of players there are to choose from, the easier it is to find the winner," Kannon said. "And with the Masters field, you can immediately eliminate the amateurs and some of the former champs that are in the field that really have no chance at winning, like Sandy Lyle and Vijay Singh. Before you know it, you're down to a group of about 40 or so guys that can actually win it.
"This is the most wide open I've seen the Masters in a while. There's no way I would pick anyone that's less than 12- or 10-to-1 to win it."
With that advice in hand and taking many of the other factors mentioned above (key stats, prior Masters experience and success, current form), we'll pick Paul Casey to win and head down to the Westgate SuperBook, which has the best price on the Englishman at 25-to-1.
Casey, who won the Valspar Championship three weeks ago, has a stellar record at Augusta, with three top 6 finishes in the last three years. In 11-career starts at the Masters, he has seven top 20s and five top 10s. He ranks seventh on TOUR this year in scrambling, 20th in par-5 scoring and 17th in GIR, all key stats.
The two places he misses the mark is three-putt avoidance, where he ranks 197th this year, and age, since he's 40 years old and it's been 20 years since a player 40 or older won the green jacket (Mark O'Meara).
But we're willing to roll the dice and hope these two factors don't bring Casey (and our ticket on him) down, especially since he ranks 30th in overall putting this year and even at the "old age" of 40 he is playing some of the best golf of his career.