The 2019 US Masters
Augusta National Golf Clubs
There's no event on either the European Tour or the PGA Tour for a fortnight so prior to the PGA Tour's 2019 opener, the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, which begins on January 3, I thought I'd look forward to next year's four majors. I'm going to start with the obvious, and with the first major of the year - the US Masters.
The US Masters is the only one of the four majors that's staged on the same course each year so looking back at the stats at previous renewals makes plenty of sense.
Reed's win was a bit of an anomaly
Last year's winner, Patrick Reed, topped the Putting Average stats, as well as the Par 4 and Par 5 Scoring stats and he made more birdies than anyone else but as a rule of thumb, the stats to concentrate on at Augusta are Scrambling, Greens in Regulation and Par 5 Performance.
Reed only ranked 21st for Greens In Regulation and 16th for Scrambling but the six winners before him all ranked inside the top-six for GIR and nine of the previous ten winners ranked inside the top-ten for Scrambling.
Reed also went against the trends when if came to previous course form. His figures read MC-22-49-MC and he was the first winner since Tiger Woods in 1997 to have missed the cut the previous year.
Up until 2015, 23 of the previous 24 winners had all previously shot a round in the 60s at Augusta but following Jordan Spieth in 2015, Danny Willett in 2016, and Reed in April, three of the last four winners had failed to break 70 before they won. At 27, Reed was also five years below the average age of the previous 81 US Masters winners.
That's a bit of a mess for us trends fans but I'd definitely favour those with plenty of course experience and I wouldn't back a debutant. Fuzzy Zoeller, in 1979, is still the only first timer to win, and we have to go back more than 20 years to find the last winner in his 40s (Mark O'Meara in 1998).
Looking at the relevant stats, course form and profile, Justin Rose is a very strong candidate and at odds of almost 20/1 on the exchange market, he's generously priced given he's no bigger than 16/1 on the High Street. I wouldn't put anyone off playing the ever-popular Englishman but I never get him right and he arguably needs things to fall right for him to win.
Billy could be one to back at a big price
An outsider that interests me is Billy Horschel. He doesn't have terrific event form figures and he's missed two of four cuts at Augusta, with 17th, in 2016, being his best effort to date but he looked like he was coming out of a bit of a slump at the end of last season and he ranks very highly for GIR and Par 5 Performance. If Horschel kicks on in the new year, he won't be priced at in excess of 200.0199/1 come April but the one whose price I really like is Jordan Spieth.
Take advantage of Spieth price
Spieth's form in 2018 was largely disappointing and incredibly, he hasn't won anywhere since he won the Open Championship in 2017 but you dismiss him at Augusta at your peril.
Despite being in poor form leading up to this year's renewal, Spieth began the event with a six-under par round of 66 which included five consecutive birdies from the 13th, giving him a two-shot lead and that was the third time in four years he'd ended the first round in front. Matched at just 2.6613/8 on day one, Spieth lost his way after that before an incredible charge on Sunday...
Entering the final round on −5, a stroke worse than he'd ended round one, Spieth was nine strokes behind Reed but he tied the best final round score in US Masters history, shooting an eight-under-par 64. He was matched in-running at just 2.68/5 during the final round before missing a par putt on the 18th to tie the tournament record score and he was eventually beaten by Reed by two. He finished on −13, in third place, and two strokes behind the champion Reed.
Spieth's course form figures read 2-1-2-11-3 and in addition to hitting a low of 2.68/5 this year, he's traded at odds-on - on three occasions at Augusta. It's going to be fascinating to see if Spieth can get his career back on track next year but even if he starts 2019 slowly, given what he did at Augusta in April, and at Carnoustie in July, where he found form from seemingly nowhere to put up a bold defence of his Open title, I can't see an awful lot of downside in taking 14.5 when he's no bigger than 11/1 on the High Street. .
Jordan Spieth @ 14.5
Billy Horschel @ 200.0199/1 plus
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