US Masters 2021 Each-Way Tips: Berger ready to make major breakthrough

American Daniel Berger
American Daniel Berger can win his first major

It's the first major of 2021 and Dave Tindall has three each-way selections for the US Masters at Augusta National with 10 places paid on the Betfair Sportsbook...

"The 27-year-old was second at halfway in the 2020 US PGA Championship which was another building block and I have a feeling this could be his time."

Back Daniel Berger E/W @ 34.033/1

Main Bet: Daniel Berger each-way @ 34.033/1

One of the biggest topics of debate in the build-up to Augusta this year is how differently the course will play compared to the 2020 November Masters when Dustin Johnson broke the 72-hole scoring record by shooting 20-under.

As I noted in my trends piece, seven of the top 10 finishers in 2020 had posted a previous top five at Augusta. In other words, November hadn't spawned a monster; the results of that Masters weren't a freak that should be killed off when researching for 2021.

However, and this may sound obvious, I do expect scoring to be significantly higher this time. But the thinking behind that lies in the history books rather than just glibly saying that conditions in November were atypical.

Here's what I'm using as evidence:

1997 Tiger Woods wins with -18; 1998 Mark O'Meara wins with -9
2015 Jordan Spieth wins with -18; 2016 Danny Willett wins with -5

On that evidence, the folk at Augusta National don't like to see the course taken apart. When it is, they react.

So, with DJ shooting 20-under last year, it's a decent guess that the winning score will come right down.

Jordan Spieth dropped a hint which supported that idea in his pre-Texas Open press conference:

"Rumours that I've heard already are that it's already firm and fast two, three weeks out from the golf tournament. I think it will play significantly different and I'm looking forward to that challenge."

That's backed up by Lee Westwood claiming it was the hardest he had ever seen it when he went on a dads and lads trip there with his son straight after finishing runner-up at Sawgrass.

I'll admit that I have a longlist of likely winners and, as this is an each-way preview with 10 payout places being dangled, I'll rather gloss over the market leaders. For the record, I'd have Justin Thomas, Spieth and new dad Jon Rahm as my three from the top end.

Rahm would be winning his first major if successful and seven of the last 10 Masters champions went to Augusta without one in the bag.

But at three times the price of Rahm, the one I'm landing on is Daniel Berger at 33/1.

Berger quickly got to find out how tough Augusta National could be when he made his debut in the 2016 edition won with 5-under by Willett.

But he dug in impressively, ending the week in tied 10th after two under-par rounds on the weekend. He played the next two years and added tied 27th (2017) and tied 32nd (2018).

Later in 2018, Berger fired a Saturday 66 to be the co-leader after 54 holes of the US Open at ultra-tough Shinnecock. He had to settle for tied sixth but the experience was invaluable for the future and what it could lead to. Think Shane Lowry. He was the 54-hole leader at the 2016 US Open, didn't get it done but went out and won the Open Championship three years later.

Three years on from Shinnecock, Berger is on that same path now. Since then he's added wins at the Charles Schwab Challenge (June 2020) and Pebble Beach (2021) and he said what everyone can see when interviewed at the recent WGC Dell Match Play: "I just think I'm a better golfer now than I was two or three years ago, so I'm a better putter, better chipper, I drive the ball better, so overall I'm a better golfer."

The 27-year-old was second at halfway and seventh after three rounds in the 2020 US PGA Championship which was another building block and I have a feeling this could be his time.

So many Masters winners have grown up or gone to college in the south-east and Berger is a born-and-bred Floridian who went to FSU (along with four-time major winner Brooks Koepka).

That rib injury which caused him to miss his home Honda Classic? He said at The Match Play: "This is the first day in like over two weeks that it's felt pretty close to perfect. So I think it was the right decision to not play last week, although it sucks obviously being my home event. But this is what I was hoping for, to take that five or six days off and come here ready to go feeling good."

His Approach and Putting numbers look great and don't be too put off by his 151st in SG: Around The Green as he was in the top 12 for that category at the Sony Open, Pebble Beach and Players Championship.

Tied ninth at Sawgrass on his last strokeplay start, Berger looks a strong bet at 33/1 with 10 each-way places.

Next Best: Matt Fitzpatrick each-way @ 41.040/1

There are lots of players I like around the 33/1 to 40/1 mark but several roads lead me towards Matt Fitzpatrick.

Matt Fitzpatrick Billy Foster.jpg

His best Augusta performance came in that tough Danny Willett 2016 edition when a superb closing 67 lifted him into a tie for seventh. He ranked 1st for Greens in Regulation that week.

He's matched that 5-under lap with 67s in both 2018 and 2019, and in the former he finished tied 21st despite starting out with 78. Fitzpatrick played the final 54 holes in 11-under in 2019 - the same as winner Tiger Woods.

Having made five cuts out of five as a pro and shot those low rounds, Fitzpatrick is comfortable at Augusta National and I like what he's done in the last few months.

Eight of the last 10 Masters winners had bagged a top 15 on the Florida Swing earlier that season (Berger ticks that box). Well, Fitzpatrick had three! He was T11 at the WGC-Workday, T10 at Bay Hill and T9 at Sawgrass.

Another course with great correlation is Riviera. A stat: seven of the last nine Masters winners who stopped off at the Genesis that same season placed in the top 15 at Riviera.

Fitzpatrick was fifth at Riviera thanks largely to some short-game magic so that adds another plus.

Simplified, he's in excellent nick and performs well at Augusta. Factor in his proven record on fast greens and wonderful ability to get of jail by holing lengthy par putts and there's lots to like at 40/1.

At 33/1, Cameron Smith comes close to selection having already banked a second and a fifth in this event. He shared runner-up honours in November with my trends pick Sungjae Im and the Korean is obviously someone else I'll be cheering on.

Paul Casey has impressive Augusta pedigree (five top 10s) and is in excellent form this season. He also won two Valspars with -10 (2018) and -9 (2019) and I have a feeling that could be around the winning score this year.

Casey is close to selection at 33s, as is Tommy Fleetwood at 40s. The latter has been inside the top 10 going into the final round twice in the last three years before dropping back but he has the tee-to-green game for Augusta and sounded very happy with the way he was hitting the ball when reaching the last eight of the Match Play.

Fitzpatrick, Casey, Fleetwood and Westwood make the English challenge a strong one. But with Billy Foster on the bag, I'm siding with Fitzpatrick.

Final Bet: Matt Kuchar each-way @ 91.090/1

My best idea of a juicy outsider is the resurgent Matt Kuchar.

Matt Kuchar Augusta.jpg

Even with just middling recent results, the veteran is worth an each-way look with 10 places given his stellar course record.

Kooch missed the cut in November when struggling with his game but was 12th in 2019, fourth in 2017 and reeled off a trio of top eights (3-8-5) from 2012 to 2014.

He's had five other finishes of tied 28th or better so that's an impressive body of work for the former Georgia Tech star who was Low Amateur (T21) on his Masters debut way back in 1998.

What makes him better than a 90/1 shot is a sudden upturn in form.

After alternating midfield finishes with missed cuts for a while, Kuchar finally came alive by finishing third at the WGC Dell Match Play.

He said soon after: "I'm so much more excited about my game. This year's been a struggle, but thankfully things have turned a corner, put in some good work with Chris O'Connell, really starting to feel good about my game.

"There's never a bad time to kind of be off, you would like to be on all the time, and I've been fortunate over the past several years to have a lot of on times, but certainly with the upcoming events it's a good time to kind of have the game clicking a little bit better again.

"Certainly I'm as pleased as I've been in a long time. I feel like I kind of can step up and know where the ball's going again. My misses aren't near as bad as they were the last few months and when your misses are in play, you got a chance to shoot some decent scores."

With tiredness an obvious excuse, Kuchar then headed to the Valero Texas Open and put in another strong performance, opening with three 70s to sit tied sixth after 54 holes.

He said there: "I actually think it's a wonderful spot just before the Masters. I think there's nice topography out here, nice undulations, nice kind of change of elevation. You've got to drive the ball well here, and then the approach shots have some characteristics similar to Augusta with the elevation changes, with the runoffs, the collection areas. I think it's a nice warm-up for next week's Masters as well."

Kuchar doesn't leap from the page if looking at season-long stats but his numbers in the last fortnight are encouraging.

I'm also drawn to the fact that he finished fourth at the 2017 Scottish Open the week before coming within a Jordan Spieth of winning the Open Championship a week later. In other words, he's good at riding momentum into a major and excelling once there.

A fast-running Masters should also help given his lack of length and, although expecting him to win is a big ask, reaching the top 10 is not. Before 2020, Kuchar had registered at least one top 10 in a major in seven of the previous eight years.

There's a legitimate theory that fatigue could kick after his 11-lap stint in Texas (WGC Match Play and Valero) but he only played two competitive rounds in March (MC at Sawgrass) before the Match Play. And even prior to that he'd had a very light schedule.

Of those around 80/1 to 100/1, he's the one to take the eye at 90s.

Dave's 2020/2021 P/L

Staked: £780.00
Returned: £1052.12
P/L: +£272.12

2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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