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Top 10 Masters golf betting tips and trends

8 Apr 2019

By Gary Trask
Any time you can mix golf and gambling together, I’m all ears.

Toss in the storied tradition of the Masters, the brilliant green fairways at Augusta National, and what is typically the most dramatic Sunday afternoon of the entire golf calendar and, well, you can clearly see why this is one of my favorite weeks of the year.

What makes betting on the Masters so intriguing is that it’s played at the same course every year and the field is usually a lot smaller than most PGA TOUR events. And by virtue of those two key elements, we can whittle down the number of players we want to back, much like when handicapping a horse race. By using a process of elimination, a small group of players will rise to the top as those you actually think have a legitimate shot to be sitting across from an emotional Jim Nantz on Sunday afternoon and wearing a certain green jacket.

So, cue the iconic Masters theme music. It’s time to roll out some key betting factors, trends and stats with the hopes of uncovering the 2019 Masters champion while (hopefully) winning some money in the process.

10. Avoid the defending champ
We start by crossing 2018 Masters champ Patrick Reed off our list.

There have only been three back-to-back winners in Masters history (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods) and none since Tiger turned the trick in 2001 and 2002.

In fact, the last two defending champs (Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia) missed the cut the following year. Over the last 16 years, three defending champs have missed the cut and only six have landed in the Top 20 and three of those were guys named Woods and Mickelson.

9. Stay away from Masters rookies
Not including the first Masters champion (Horton Smith in 1934), just two players have won the Masters in their first career start at Augusta National. The last time it happened was 40 years ago when Fuzzy Zoeller captured the first major of what turned out to be a career Grand Slam when he walked away with the green jacket in 1979.

There are 17 Masters first-timers in this year’s field, and we’re going to bet that none will win — although much like we saw a No. 16 seed finally beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament last year, I don’t think we’re too far away from someday seeing a rookie win here. But not this year.

By the way, bet365 Mobile Sports has Matt Wallace listed as the 7-to-2 favorite in the Top Debutant Pool.

8. Experience counts at the Masters
So, if we’re eliminating rookie participants, it’s only natural that past experience at Augusta National is crucial. And, despite Reed spitting into the wind last year and ignoring the below numbers, past history still backs us up on this.

Before last year, the previous 18 Masters winners had made the cut the year before. Reed, who missed the cut in 2017, managed to prevail last year and win at Augusta.

Two other key stats that Reed went ahead and ignored last year: Heading into the 2018 Masters, 14 of the last 18 winners had made at least six previous starts at Augusta (Reed had four and missed the cut in two of those starts) and 24 of the last 29 winners had at least one top 20 finish at the Masters (Reed’s best finish was a T-22 in 2015).

7. Look for players under 40
Down six strokes with 10 holes to play, Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46 years old in one of the most breathtaking final rounds in the history of the event.

The Golden Bear remains the oldest player to win the Masters, but in recent history, the winner of the Green Jacket has been predominantly under 40. Of course, the youngest winner is Woods, who won his first Masters at the age of 21 in 1997. But in recent history we haven’t seen those extremes.

The last 10 Masters winners have been under the age of 40 and 17 of the last 18 winners have been between the age of 25 and 39, with the lone exception of Jordan Spieth, who won it in 2015 at the tender age of 22.

6. Current form matters
Augusta National isn’t the type of course where a player who isn’t in top form is going to come in and suddenly figure out his game and start firing low numbers.

Current form matters when it comes to predicting the Masters champion, as seen by the fact that the last 10 winners all had at least one top 10 from the current season and only three of the last 10 winners were ranked outside the top 20 of the World Golf Ranking as they headed to Augusta.

5. Bogey avoidance is key
I picked up this tidbit last year from following golf handicapper Dave Tindall, one of the very best in the business and an absolute must-follow on Twitter, if you are betting on golf.

Of the key statistics you always want to look at as players tee it up at Augusta (greens in regulation, scrambling, par 5 performance, etc.), one of the most vital is bogey avoidance. Tindall pointed out that heading into last year’s Masters, the last 10 winners ended up ranking No. 1 in bogey avoidance seven times and none of them ranked outside the top 5 or had a bogey count of more than 10 over par (total score for bogey holes).

Of course, once again, renegade Reed broke the mold on this stat last year when bogeyed two of his first six holes in the final round last year, finished with a bogey count of +11 and still won the Masters.

Nonetheless, bogey avoidance is a stat we’ll be keeping an eye on as we get closer to picking our winner.

4. Fade the favorites
Long gone are the days when Tiger would stroll through the gates of Augusta National as the overwhelming betting favorite and win at a single-digit price. Yes, the Masters has been an event where underdogs have thrived in recent years.

According to, the average price of the Masters winner the last 12 years has been a whopping 69-to-1. The last three winners (Patrick Reed at 40-to-1, Sergio Garcia at 30-to-1 and Danny Willett at 50-to-1) have averaged a nice 40-to-1 payday and going back further we have seen huge longshots such as Charl Schwartzel (100-to-1 in 2011), Angel Cabrera (125-to-1 in 2009), Trevor Immelman (150-to-1 in 2008) and Zach Johnson (125-to-1 in 2007) cash big tickets.

So, as attractive and logical it may seem to pick one of the betting favorites this week, think again.

As of this morning, the renowned SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino has Rory McIlroy (7-to-1), Dustin Johnson (10-to-1) and Justin Rose (12-to-1) as the top three favorites.

3. In play betting advice
Let’s face it. It’s very difficult to pick the winner of a golf tournament. So, while the odds shrink and the payouts aren’t as high, an optimal way to bet the winner comes as the tournament goes along. I especially like trying to pick the winner after Round 1, when, according to recent stats, you can pretty much narrow it down to 10 players or less.

While the Round 1 leader has gone on to win the Masters just twice in the last 33 years, only two winners have been outside the Top 10 following Thursday’s round since 1998. Also, 10 of the last 11 winners fired a sub-70 score in Round 1.

Chances are you’ll still be able to get a decent price betting on the winner heading into Round 2, as the last three champs (Reed at 20-to-1, Garcia at 15-to-1 and Willett at 30-to-1) all had double-digit odds after Round 1.

2. Match-up bets provide more value
If you are wagering on golf on a regular basis, you are much better off testing the match-up market than picking players to win.

There is so much variance in the to win market that you really aren't getting any value on those prices, not to mention it's hard to pick one winner out of hundreds of golfers. It's one of those "needle in the haystack" bets that we rarely like to make.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other betting options in golf, and the most popular are the match-up bets that pit two golfers head-to-head. Most sportsbooks had yet to post their complete roster of match-up bets as of this writing, but we did find one at Intertops Sportsbook that caught our eye.

Call us stubborn, but we're going to ride with Paul Casey (10/11) against Tommy Fleetwood. In last year's Masters betting preview, we picked Casey to win at 25-to-1 odds. Ultimately, Casey failed to come through with a 15th place finish, but he did so despite ranking dead last out of the 53 players who made the cut in fairways hit.

This year, the 41-year-old ranks 10th on TOUR in driving accuracy, so if he keeps it in the fairway this week as we expect, we're guessing he's going to be in contention, because he brings most all of the other attributes we discussed above, particularly his past form at Augusta (five Top 10s in 12 career starts) and current form (four Top 10s in his last six starts, including a win at the Valspar Championship three weeks ago).

While Fleetwood is a burgeoning star on TOUR and we would bet he'll win a major within three to five years if you gave us the right odds, he simply doesn't have a wealth of experience at Augusta, especially when compared to Casey. Yes, he was 17th last year, but the year before he missed the cut and his bogey count the last two years is +27 in just six rounds.

At a pick'em price, we'll go with the Masters veteran Casey and lay $220 to win $200 that he'll topple his fellow Englishman.

Marc Leishman checks all of the necessary boxes to win the Masters.

Marc Leishman checks all of the necessary boxes to win the Masters. (photo by Flickr)

1. And the winner is . . .
Taking all of the above into account, we’re going to throw a half-unit on Aussie Marc Leishman to win the Masters.

To recap, Leishman checks all of the necessary boxes. He is 35 years old and has 29 career major championship starts, including six Masters, where he finished ninth last year and fourth in 2013. He is also in great current form with six Top 10 finishes this season, including a T-9 in his last start at the World Golf Championship Match Play, and a World Golf Ranking of 20 heading into this week.

Last year, his bogey count at Augusta was +8 and he has been much better in bogey avoidance this season, ranking 15th on TOUR with just 76 bogeys in 612 holes played.

Above all, the price is right. The prevailing number on Leishman at virtually every sportsbook we checked was 50-to-1.

So, let’s play $100 on Leishman to win the 2019 Masters to win a cool $5,000.
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