Sunday, 29 March 2015

The Masters 2015 Betting Preview

There is a new era upon us as we head down Magnolia Lane this year for the first Major of 2015. A change of guard in the shape of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and others vying to dominate the sport. All young guns ready to take over from the Tiger Woods era. As I write this post it looks as if Tiger won't make Augusta but Rory is already a comfortable World Number One with 4 Majors in his locker with just the green jacket missing to complete the "Slam". The Irishman goes searching for a hat-trick of majors having won The Open & PGA Championship last summer and arrives in good form despite not having won since Dubai in the last week of January. Having missed the cut at the Honda Classic, Rory followed up with a 9th at the WGC Cadillac and 11th at Bay Hill. To complete the Slam, Rory has to deal with the added pressure of joining that elite group of players to have won all 4 golf majors, an added pressure that I believe Rory can use to motivate himself. He knows he can win here and it's highly likely that he will win a green jacket some day, the question is, will it be this year ? The bookies think so, and make him the favourite at 6/1. Rory's form at Augusta is ok, having produced results of 8-25-40-15-mc-20 the past 6 years. He infamously blew up in 2011 when it looked odds on he would win taking a 4 shot lead into that final round, a lead he still held entering the back 9. A triple at the 10th and a double on the 12th saw the lead evaporate and Rory would eventually sign for an 80 and tie for 15th. Those demons are long since gone as Rory won his first major just 2 months later at Congressional GC when winning the US open and has moved on to a much higher level since. What he can take form his Augusta experiences is that he can play the course well and contend. That experience is crucial as results down through the years shows that having that course experience is vital and its the one major where certain players tend to contend time and time again, and has often happened, age and recent form are no barriers once they step on to this hallowed turf. Tiger, if he makes it, will be relying on all that experience if he is to indeed contend.

Referring to the 2011 Masters, the leaderboard throughout that final round saw quite a number of players exchange the lead and its worth noting that these players are the usual crew that vie for the title or have indeed since, won eventually. Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Jason Day all held the lead at one point and even Tiger, who started the day 7 shots back, got to the lead before the 12th put paid to his chances as it did Rory's. Looking at my preview last year, I alluded to 16 players that had won at Augusta in recent times and what Augusta experience they had before winning, and the trend speaks volumes. Taking these trends on board, then you may ask why is Bubba Watson not favourite this week ? In my opinion, he should be.

Bubba loves Augusta, twice winner in 3 years and has since become a lot more consistent.His form in 2015 is superb having won the HSBC Championship in dramatic fashion, Bubba went on to record TOP10s at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Phoenix Open, and the recent WGC Cadillac at Doral. His only non TOP10 finish this year was his T14th at Riviera. Those last two outings augurs well and act as a good guideline for Augusta as form on those courses usually point to a good showing here.Bubba is available at double the price of Rory on Betfair at 13.00, and I know betting wise who I'd rather have my money on between the two! The only question mark around him is can he defend the title this time around? He certainly couldn't cope with the pressure of defending two years ago and made public his discomfort in arranging the menu etc. for the Champions Dinner. Having gone through it before though should make it much easier this year and I fully expect Bubba to be in the mix this year again,if not win.

Last year I backed Dustin Johnson.....and I did the same again this year before he teed it up at Torrey Pines in February @ 60.00 believing he would come in with the betting with some solid performances. I've backed him @ 50.00 and @40.00 since and his best price now sits @ 19.00. He's in great form having won at Doral, and losing a playoff at Riviera when he looked certain to beat James Hahn in the playoff. Like McIlroy, DJ has moments of form at Augusta and he opened with a superb 67 in 2013 before coming a cropper on the back 9 in his second round. A learning experience I hope. DJ finished T13th that year, his best finish here to date. He was 30th on his debut in 2009. If he brings his A game here this week and shows the patience and control that has served him well thus far in 2015 then he can win. He has the long game and his short game is superb at the moment and he knows how to compete in the pressure come back 9 Sunday. He may tempt some @ 19.00 still but I'm glad to be on board early.

I've yet again got Lee Westwood in the book for this year's instalment!. Holding firm @ 65.00, the Englishman has maybe had his chances to win a Major and perhaps the price is holding in the widely held belief that we have a choker on our hands and can't close the deal. His stats may back up the Sunday wobbles, but I also believe he has been a bit unlucky. Has he got the bottle to compete here one more time? Absolutely! Since 2007, Lee has not only made the cut, but he has produced 4 TOP10s, 2 T11ths and a 38th finish and a 30th.Breaking that down over the last 5 years reads as 7-8-3-11-2. He made no impact on the par5s twelve months ago, his short game is somewhat improved and maybe that's in part to playing his second full season on the PGA Tour having relocated there last year. In his 6 starts on the PGA Tour this season, Lee has returned 5 TOP20s and a 25th. Looking at results at Doral & Copperhead, we find Lee's game in good shape and with his wealth of Augusta experience I see no reason why he can't go close again this time round. I've been on board with Lee a few times here and I'm happy at the price to stick with him given his recent form,but it's his Augusta form that cannot be ignored.

Whilst Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth will be many peoples picks this year, and with a lot of decent Augusta form between them, this years Masters will truly be the most open for quite some time. I wouldn't discount any of them. Some English players will have their backers apart from Westwood, most notably the in-form Ian Poulter and Paul Casey(if he qualifies). Poults likes it here, and should probably have won at PGA National instead of Padraig. Poulter can boast results of 20-mc-7-27-10-20-25-13 the past 8 years and he arrives this time in better shape than ever before. Casey is having an excellent season and was beaten in the playoff alongside Dustin Johnson to James Hahn at Riviera recently. He was 3rd the week after at the Honda Classic, a shot shy of the playoff alongside Poulter. Augusta is a course that suits but he hasn't played here the past two years but boasts three TOP20s from 2009-2007.

I have also backed a couple of Georgia boys in Chris Kirk and Russell Henley @ 200.00 and 250.00. The former has gone off the boil in recent weeks so I'm really hoping he can have a good week in Texas to bring some momentum into The Masters. If he brings last Autumn's form here he'll definitely have a great week to back up his debut TOP20 twelve months ago.

Henley could be the real surprise packet this year, he missed the cut on his debut but finished in the top 30 last year and is showing a real liking for the difficult tournaments. He knows Augusta well, is very comfortable amongst his peers on Tour now and can utilize his solid putting game to score well. We've seen the local boys go so well in the Texas Open with Jimmy Walker & Jordan Spieth leading the way, so I'm hoping the same happens here.

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