The 84th edition of the US Masters is done and dusted after Dustin Johnson romped to a five-stroke victory at Augusta. Our man looks back on an historic few days...
"Trading at 5.49/2 and just a head of Rahm in the market, Johnson began round three like a scalded cat, playing the first four holes in four-under-par, and he never really looked like getting beat after that."
After a disjointed couple of days at Augusta, following a loss of nearly three hours play due to stormy weather on Thursday morning, nine players were tied for the lead after the first couple of holes of round three on Saturday. We looked set for a tense and tight couple of days but what we got was an out and out cakewalk by the world number one, Dustin Johnson.
DJ, who was just edged out fractionally by Bryson DeChambeau at the head of the market before the off but was still trading at around 9.89/1, began the third round tied for the lead with four others, including the world two and three, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.
Trading at 5.49/2 and just ahead of Rahm in the market, Johnson began round three like a scalded cat, playing the first four holes in four-under-par and he never really looked like getting beat after that.
Johnson, who had also been tied for the lead after the opening round, moved four clear of the field with a round to go. Apart from a brief spell early on, when he made back-to-back bogeys at four and five, those who took the long odds-on on Sunday morning never had much cause for concern once he did this at the par three sixth:
Throughout the weekend, a number of players contended and traded at fairly short odds. Thomas and Rahm hit lows of 4.03/1 and 3.814/5 respectively on Saturday and the two players to end the week tied for second, Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith, were matched at lows of 4.67/2 and 5.59/2 on Sunday. But victory for DJ was never really in doubt and won by five, setting the all-time lowest US Masters score of 20-under-par in the process.
DJ's only slight dip came in round two when he hit a two-under-par 70. With rounds of 67-68-69-69, Smith became the first player in history to shoot all four rounds at Augusta in the 60s.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I jumped on DJ during the first round, and Smith was one of my three Find Me a 100 Winner selections, so it's been a very nice week. I layed DJ back at odds-on, as he played the front nine in round three, and I tweaked the book throughout round four. Smith contending as well as he did was a big bonus as I managed to lay him at as low as 6.25/1.
I was a bit disappointed with my side market bets, which had all looked to be doing really well at halfway. Berndt Wiesberger had an awful weekend to miss out on a top-40 finish, Phil Mickelson failed by a stroke to tie Mike Weir for Top Lefty, after shooting 79 in round three, and the Hole in One on Sunday wager was sunk the moment they decided to change the pin position on 16. But Smith being the Top Aussie covered those losses.
What Have We Learned This Week?
Keeping an eye on the market for any major as they play the event the week before is crucial. Having taken time off after a positive COVID test, Johnson returned to the fray at the Houston Open and his price to win the US Masters collapsed as he showed the world his wellbeing.
Trading at around 14.013/1 on the exchange and 12/1 on the High Street before the off in Texas, DJ's price did nothing but shorten up and once he'd finished second behind Carlos Ortiz, his price continued to harden. Something that really didn't happen with some of the outsiders...
I've written repeatedly about going back to the outright market on the exchange on Wednesdays and once again there were some huge drifts last week. Smith, for example, who I'd backed on Tuesday at 140.0139/1, was trading at 200.0199/1 on Wednesday. This happens almost every week without fail and it's definitely something to bear in mind.
The Market was often unusually slow to react
I thought the days of backing or laying someone before the market reacted to certain shots had long gone but there were several occasions last week when it was possible to get on or get out on the strength of certain shots. The best example was on Thursday evening when the market was very slow to react to DJ's second shot to the par five second.
Having opened up the tournament with a par four at the first, DJ's price had drifted from it's SP of around 9.617/2 - 9.89/1 to around 10.5 but it took around 40 seconds to a minute to react to him stiffing his second shot to six feet on the par five second.
Hopefully, we'll see much of the same in April. I had assumed anyone putting decent chunks in to the market would be aware of how good the Masters website and/or app was and that they'd all be tracking every shot, but that clearly wasn't the case.
Beware of silly stats
I suspect there are even non-golf fans who know no debutant has won the US Masters since 1979. That is a stat to bear in mind. Time and time again we witness rookies playing shots to places that you simply can't do at Augusta. There's a reason why it's now more than 40 years since a first-timer won here.
Sungjae Im finished second, having never played here before, so there'll be plenty who argue it's only a matter of time before a first-timer wins but year after year a new draft of high-quality players get their first invites and we're still waiting for the next Fuzzy Zoeller.
That's a stat to follow but there are always some that just don't make any sense. I remember how many people said Adam Scott couldn't win the US Masters because no Aussie had done so before and this year's daft one was no world number one winner since Tiger Woods in 2002. Would DJ have even been aware of such a stat?
Late Off on Thursday a Plus Again
I know this year was a bit different as the late starters on Thursday had the benefit of coming back on Friday to finish off round one before they played round two. They were then able to relax for the evening before beginning round three on Saturday as per usual whereas those who were drawn AM-PM had a less appealing route to round three.
They managed to complete their first rounds on Thursday but that meant they had to wait around all day on Friday before starting their second rounds - rounds they never had any chance of completing that day. When interviewed after the event, Woods described how tired he'd been after having to get up so early on Saturday. Having to finish off round two before getting stuck into the meat of the tournament in round three on the same day, was clearly a hinderance.
But a late start has been hugely beneficial of late anyway. The two winners before DJ, Patrick Reed (2018) and Woods (2019), were drawn AM-PM but they both had late morning starts on Thursday and the six winners before them were all drawn PM-AM. A late start on Thursday is clearly advantageous and the top-five on the leaderboard this year all started late on Thursday.
Course Correlations Cemented
DJ's win nicely cements the two best course connections for the US Masters. Following the world number one's victory, all four winners of the WGC-Mexico Championship at the tree-lined Club de Golf Chapultepec are proud owners of a Green Jacket but Riviera is the number one correlating course. Incredibly, 12 Masters winners won 24 editions of the Genesis Open at Riviera.
It's never easy to get motivated after a major but we've got a couple of decent tournaments to get us back in the swing this week. The European Tour returns to South Africa for the first edition of the Joburg Open since 2017 and there's a cracking field assembling for the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour. I'll be back later today or more likely tomorrow with my previews.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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