The 2020 US Masters
Augusta National Golf Club
All four days live on Sky Sports
The golfing year is pretty relentless and the short Christmas break is the only pause for reflection available. Like many golf punters, I found 2019 a bit of a grind at times but it finished nicely enough and it's not a year that I'm especially glad to see the back of. There were the usual high number of near misses, as there always are, and one came at Augusta in April, when Brooks Koepka, who I backed at 35/136.0, finished tied-second. Beaten by just a stroke. I'm not sure I can begrudge the winner though, given it was Tiger Woods, who, at the age of 43, was winning his first major championship in more than ten years and his 15th in total. Can he make it 16 in April?
A strong case can certainly be made for Woods repeating. A third of his 15 majors are US Masters titles and while he's no spring chicken, he still has time. Jack Nicklaus won his sixth Green Jacket at the age of 46!
Recent history suggests we can't scan too far down the list of contenders given the last ten winners all went off at a double-figure price. Phil Mickelson was a 10/1 chance when he won the third of his three titles in 2010 and a year later, Charl Schwartzel won at 90/1 but the other eight were all priced up somewhere in-between, with Woods going off at around 20/1 in April.
Stats-wise, Woods went against the grain a little bit. He ranked number one for Greens In Regulation and nobody played the par threes better than him (-4) but he only ranked 47th for Scrambling and he only played the par fives in eight-under-par. The three players to finish tied for second - Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Koepka - played them in -12, -12 and -13.
GIR, Scrambling and Par 5 Scoring are the key stats year after year. Francesco Molinari, who finished tied for fifth, having led with a round to go, ranked number one for Scrambling, Johnson (tied second) ranked second, and Tony Finau, who finished alongside Molinari in fifth, ranked third for Scrambling.
Although he doesn't have a great record at Augusta, with form figures that read 39-22-17-12, at odds of around 20/1, Justin Tomas really interests me. He finished inside the top-ten for both GIR and Par 5 Performance on the PGA Tour last season and although his Scrambling figures aren't superb, they're improving, and he ranked a respectable 11th for Scrambling at Augusta in April when finishing 12th.
Thomas has a strong record at tree-lined venues and he should have won at two courses that appear to correlate nicely with Augusta - Club de Golf Chapultepec, which hosts the WGC Mexico Championship, and Riviera, which hosts the Genesis Invitational. The latter, in particular, is a great guide given 11 Masters champions have won 22 editions of the Genesis. And that doesn't include Tiger, who's finished runner-up at Riviera twice but is yet to take the title.
A fast start at Augusta is crucial but Thomas is yet to begin a US Masters well - firing opening salvos of 76, 73, 74 and 73 but he's definitely getting to grips with the course. With rounds of 68, 69 and 70, he shot only two strokes more than Tiger over the last three rounds in April and he's trending in the right direction. If you can pick away at odds of around 22/123.0 on the exchange you may well get yourself a really nice position if he starts 2020 well but if you want one at a juicier price, Matthew Fitzpatrick looks well worth an each-way interest at 125/1 with the Sportsbook.
Fitzpatrick really thrives at tree-lined tracks and his Augusta form is very interesting. Having missed the cut on debut in 2014 as an amateur, he finished seventh on his next visit in 2016. Since then he's finished only 32nd, 38th and 21st but his performance in April was very eye-catching. He shot 78 on Thursday but followed it with rounds of 67, 68 and 70, which matched the scores shot by Woods.
Without a win in 2019, Fitzpatrick finished runner-up four times and he looks certain to come out fighting in 2020. The 125/1 could look very big come April.
Justin Thomas @ circa 22/123.0
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 125/1 each-way (Sportsbook)
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