US Masters

The Punter's US Masters In-Play Blog: Homa the value with a round to go

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler in action at Augusta on Friday

There's just one round to go at the 88th edition of the US Masters so Steve Rawlings is back with his final in-running thoughts from Augusta

  • Sheffler leads by one with a round to go

  • Stats suggest one of the front three will win

  • Morikawa seeking third major title in four years

07:50 - April 14, 2024

The wind dropped on day three of the US Masters yesterday, but the greens ran so fast that even the world's very best players struggled at times and only 12 men broke par.

The early mover was Collin Morikawa, who birdied the first three holes, but it was Nicolai Hojgaard that hit the front when he birdied three holes in-a-row from the seventh. The young Dane hit a low of 7.06/1 but this is his first visit to Augusta, and he followed the trio of consecutive birdies with five straight bogeys!

Having hit odds-on on Friday, and again early on in round three, the pre-event favourite, Scottie Scheffler, went all the way out to his SP of 6.05/1 after a double bogey at 10 and another dropped shot at 11.

His challenge looked like it may just fizzle out, but a great par save from five feet on the par three 12th stopped the rot and that was followed by this magnificent eagle.

The eagle was followed by a par at 14 and a birdie at 15 and following a bogey at 17, he birdied the 18th to edge ahead with a round to go.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:45.

Scottie Scheffler -7 2.0421/20
Collin Morikawa -6 4.84/1
Max Homa -5 9.417/2
Ludvig Aberg -4 10.519/2
Bryson DeChambeau -3 27.026/1
Xander Schauffele -2 36.035/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -2 150.0149/1
Cam Davis -2 180.0179/1
Cam Smith -1 95.094/1
Tommy Fleetwood -1 100.099/1
Cam Young -1 150.0149/1
Byeong Hun An -1 280.0279/1
Level par and 400.0399/1 bar

You need to be right up with the pace with a round to go to win the US Masters and Danny Willett, who benefited from Jordan Spieth's dramatic collapse in 2016, having sat three off the lead through 54 holes, is the only winner in the last ten years not to be sitting first or second after three rounds.

Charl Schwartzel, in 2011, is the only man to win from as far as four strokes back since 1987 but he sat tied for second behind the clear leader, Rory McIlroy.

To find the last winner that was outside the top four places and more than three strokes off the lead after three rounds we need to go back 35 years. Nick Faldo claimed his first Green Jacket in 1989, beating Scott Hoch in a playoff, having sat tied for ninth and five back.

As many as five of the last seven winners have been in front with a round to go and Scheffler remains the man to beat.

He finished runner-up at the Houston Open last time out, having been tied for the lead with a round to go, but he'd converted three of his previous four 54-hole leads and the fact that he's already won here before will stand him in good stead. Scheffler won his first Green Jacket two years ago having led by three with a round to go.

Collin Morikawa is the very obvious danger and he's in search of his third major championship having won the US PGA Championship in 2020 and the Open the following year.

Although out of form prior to this week, Morikawa has been superb and he's the only man in the field to break par in all three rounds, but will that be sustained today?

He was far from reliable in-contention for some time after he won impressively at Sandwich, and he lost a couple of huge leads.

He let a five-stroke 54-hole lead slip at the Hero World Challenge in December 2021, and he threw away a six stroke lead at The Sentry in January last year.

After two defeats like that, he can't be described as bombproof, but he did win the ZOZO Championship in Japan in October, having trailed by two through 54 holes. That was his first victory in almost two years, so he's been nowhere near as prolific as Scheffler of late.

Max Homa failed to make a single birdie yesterday, and he hasn't actually made one since the fourth hole in round two, but he still played brilliantly, bogeying just one hole (the 12th), and he won't go away.

Max Homa at Augusta 2024.jpg

He'll take a lot of heart form his gritty performance on such a tough day yesterday and odds of more than 8/19.00 make him the value alternative to the front two.

It's impossible not to be impressed by Sweden's Ludvig Aberg's Augusta debut and should he go on to win he'd not only be the first debutant to win since 1979, he'd also be the first man to win the US Masters in his first major championship.

If he manages to edge ahead of the three men in front of him to defy the stats it will be an incredible feat but he's no value to achieve it at around 10/111.00.

Bryson DeChambeau was all over the place after he'd birdied the 14th hole yesterday, and he was matched at a triple-figure price in-running, but he's just about kept himself in the race with this remarkable birdie at the 18th after a poor drive.

DeChambeau and those below him need an immaculate final round, as well as help from the leaders, if any of them are going to win and the only one that remotely interests me is Xander Schauffele.

He came into the event in form, he has a great record at Augusta, and he's crept into the event brilliantly after a slow start. His bogey-free two-under-par 70 was an incredible round yesterday and he's a better chaser than he is frontrunner. He has a chance but it's a very slim one given the historic stats at Augusta.

Having highlighted Morikawa as the value ahead of round three at 16/117.00, I'm a bit irritated not to have got him onside to put myself in an extremely strong position but I'm still of the opinion that Scheffler is very much the man to beat.

I'll be back tomorrow with the Debrief.

10:50 - April 13, 2024

After what transpired to be a fatiguing Friday at Augusta, we've reached the halfway stage of the 88th edition of the US Masters.

A two-and-half hour weather delay on Thursday morning resulted in a long second day for those drawn PM-AM and the challenging conditions on Friday made it even more gruelling.

As highlighted below, there was a big jump in the scoring average, and it would have been a wider margin had the first round finished on Thursday.

The wind was so strong yesterday that a suspension in play became a possibility and only one man, the Swedish sensation, Ludvig Aberg, managed to shoot a round in the 60's.

The 24-year-old's three-under-par 69 saw him climb from a tie for 35th after round one to solo seventh at halfway and he now has a very realistic chance of becoming the first debutant winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:40.

Scottie Scheffler -6 2.56/4
Bryson DeChambeau -6 5.85/1
Max Homa -6 7.06/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -4 36.035/1
Collin Morikawa -3 17.016/1
Cam Davis -3 80.079/1
Ludvig Aberg -2 21.020/1
Cam Smith -1 36.035/1
Tommy Fleetwood -1 50.049/1
Cam Young -1 60.059/1
Byeong Hun An -1 160.0159/1
Ryan Fox -1 250.0249/1
Matthieu Pavon -1 270.0269/1
Danny Willett -1 270.0269/1
Zander Schauffele Level 38.037/1
Matt Fitzpatrick Level 80.079/1
Level par and 170.0169/1 bar

After a brilliant drive at the par five 13th, Scottie Scheffler, was matched at odds-on yesterday when it looked like he might put daylight between himself and the rest, but his approach just fell short and into Rae's Creek from where he made a bogey six.

A run of pars followed, and he'll play alongside the Danish debutant, Nicolai Hojgaard, in the penultimate two-ball in round three (19:35 UK time) but he's still very much the man to beat.

Up with the pace is the place to be at Augusta and with easier conditions forecasted today, the leaders may prove tricky to catch.

As many as six of the last ten winners have been leading or tied for the lead through 36 holes and only eight winners in the entire history of the US Masters have been outside the top-ten at the halfway stage.

Charl Schwartzel, who sat tied for 12th and six off the lead 13 years ago, is the only winner to be outside the top-ten at this stage since Jack Nicklaus way back in 1986.

Schwartzel famously birdied the final four holes to win in 2011 and Tiger Woods, in 2006, is the only other winner this century to be more than four shots back at halfway, but he only sat third. Chris DiMarco, who Tiger beat in a playoff, had led by four at halfway.

Those stats paint a bit of a bleak picture for anyone below Aberg and having backed Scheffler before the off and Homa yesterday morning, I'm happy to sit on my hands for now.

I was tempted to play Collin Morikawa, who trails by three, at around 16/117.00 but he came into the event in poor form and although he has a very solid bank of Augusta form figures, reading 44-18-5-10, he's yet to break 70 in round three. And on his last three visits, he's shot 75, 74 and 74 on Moving Day.

Bryson DeChambeau impressed me greatly yesterday and Homa looks dialled in and unlikely to do anything daft, but I still like Scheffler.

Bryson DeChambeau day one US masters 24.jpg

I thought he was a tremendous price at 6.05/1 before the off and I know it's boring, and plenty of punters won't be interested in backing a 6/42.50 shot with two rounds still to play, but Scheffler is playing some superb golf and win or lose, he's still a very fair price this morning.

Sheffler's generally a 6/52.20 chance on the High Street and that's a better reflection of his chance.

14:50 - April 12, 2024

The first round of the US Masters is drawing to close, the second round has started, and we've already seen plenty of drama.

The wind is already up, the course is drying out quickly and the conditions are tougher than I thought they would be when I posted this morning's update.

Ludvig Aberg, who was matched at a low of just 22.021/1, bogeyed the 14th and double-bogeyed the 15th and poor Jordan Spieth made a nine at the 15th!

The 2020 winner, Dustin Johnson, has really struggled and the reigning Open Champion, Brian Harman, who had turned for home in two-under-par par yesterday, has just signed for a nine-over-par 81! It's tough out there and it's only going to get tougher.

Fortunately, this morning's in-play pick, Max Homa, fared quite a bit better and even though he bogeyed the last, this brilliant birdie at 17, that followed one at 16, has put him firmly in the picture, tied for third on -5.

Given how tough it is, I've also now added the aforementioned Joaquin Niemann, who appreciates a stern test.

09:25 - April 12, 2024

Day one of the US Masters is all done and dusted but the first round is yet to be completed after a weather delay of two-and-half hours yesterday morning.

The forecast had looked horrendous on the eve of the 88th edition but after heavy overnight rain, day one started in fairly benign conditions.

The threat of thunder resulted in a late start but once the event kicked off the wind was light and the course soft enabling some of early starters to kick the tournament off in style.

Playing in the third group out, the 2016 winner, Danny Willett, who's had shoulder surgery since he last played, at the BMW at Wentworth in September, signed for a fabulous four-under-par 68 just as the wind appeared to be kicking up, but it was LIV Tour player, Bryson DeChambeau, that posted the best round of the day.

Playing in the fifth group out, the 2020 US Open winner posted a quite brilliant seven-under-par 65 and this isn't the first time that he's led after round one of the US Masters.

DeChambeau was tied for the lead after a six-under-par 66 back in 2019 but he followed that with a 75 in round two and eventually finished tied for 29th!

The world number one, Scottie Scheffler, teed off almost two hours after DeChambeau and he played in slightly tougher conditions, but he still shot a bogey-free 66 to get to within one. It was his lowest round at Augusta, and it was the first time he'd got round without dropping a shot.

Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 9:15 and holes played in round one where applicable.

Bryson DeChambeau -7 6.86/1
Scottie Scheffler -6 2.767/4
Nicolai Hojgaard -5 40.039/1 (15 holes played)
Max Homa -4 21.020/1 (13 holes played)
Danny Willett -4 140.0139/1
Tyrrell Hatton -3 38.037/1
Ryan Fox -3 160.0159/1
Cam Davis -3 160.0159/1
Ludvig Aberg -2 28.027/1 (11 holes played)
Joaquin Niemann -2 38.037/1
Tommy Fleetwood -2 42.041/1 (10 holes played)
Will Zalatoris -2 50.049/1
Patrick Reed -2 80.079/1 (14 holes played)
Corey Conners -2 120.0119/1
Byeong Hun An -2 180.0179/1
Matthieu Pavon -2 200.0199/1 (14 holes played)
Rory McIlroy -1 21.020/1
-1 and 44.043/1 bar

Although the first round hasn't finished yet, it's still worth looking at the stats at Augusta, where a fast start is essential.

Tiger Woods sat tied for 11th and four off the lead after the opening round in 2019 but that's the only time any winner has sat outside the top-ten after round one since he sat tied for 33rd and seven off the lead way back in 2005. And 2005 was the last time the winner failed to break par on day one.

Tiger and Phil Mickelson have repeatedly bucked the trends at Augusta and they're the only two men to win the event having finished day one outside of the top-10 since Mark O'Meara won from tied 25th and five off the pace 26 years ago.

The last 18 winners, and 71 of the 87 previous champions, were all inside the top 11 after 18 holes so it looks like we need to be concentrating on the leaders.

DeChambeau will surely learn from his disastrous second round five years ago but even if he does, the man sitting in second is most certainly the one they all need to beat.

I was extremely bullish about Scheffler before the off and I'm obviously delighted by his start, but I have added one more to the portfolio.

As highlighted in the preview, form at Riviera, the host course for the Genesis Invitational, crosses over brilliantly at Augusta, so the world number 11, Max Homa, who won the 2021 Genesis, was someone I considered carefully before the off.

In the last 12 years, five players have won at both venues and as many as 14 different US Masters winners have won 24 of the 61 renewals of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.

Prior to last year's Open Championship Homa had a terrible record at major Championships so that was off-putting, but he might just be turning that all around.

He'd missed nine of 17 cuts and his best finish had been a tied 13th in the US PGA Championship so his tied 10th at Hoylake was an improvement and it looks like he's going to build on that nicely.

His Augusta form prior to this week was shoddy, reading MC-MC-48-43, but if his start to this year's US Masters is anything to go by, it looks like he's finally starting to enjoy the challenge of major championship golf, and Augusta.

Playing with Tiger Woods, who's one-under through 13, and Jason Day (level par), Homa played some lovely golf yesterday to reach four-under-par and he looks a fair price at around 20/121.00 on the exchange.

As many as 22 of the last 33 (67%) major championships have gone to a first-time major winner and eight of the last ten US Masters winners were inside the top-20 in the Official World Rankings so he ticks a few boxes.

The forecast suggests a windy but fine day so we should catch up today (play resumes at 12:50 UK time) and teeing up on the 14th is quite a nice place to start the day for Homa and co.

It's going to be tough for Woods to play 23 holes in one day, but Homa should be fine and he's the one I like this morning.

Rory McIlroy is the same price as Homa, but he missed a few very makable putts yesterday, the stats suggest he's already too far back, and there's a big chance he'll push too hard today playing alongside Scheffler.

The 2022 Genesis winner, Joaquin Niemann, who sits on -2, is someone I've also got my eye on but I'm going to wait and see how round one winds up before getting him onside.

There are a lot of quality players in and around the Chilian on the leaderboard that are yet to complete their opening rounds and they're going to get to finish up in what looks like being the best of the day's weather early on today.

15:40 - April 10, 2024

Although we look set for a benign weekend at Augusta, the first day of this year's US Masters is set to be windy and wet and although dry, Friday will be breezy too if the forecast can be believed.

If the forecast is correct, and we're lucky enough not to get a suspension in play, the latter starters could be slightly advantaged but as Dave Tindall writes in his First-Round Leader piece, it's impossible to know who'll get to play in the best of the weather.

With that in mind, I'm happy to leave the 1st Round Leader market alone for now but if the forecast pans out in favour of the late starters, the English veteran, Justin Rose, might be worth siding with.

Rose has played in the US Masters 18 times previously and he's led after the opening round four times. He's shot a round in the 60s eight times on day one, and three times in the last four years so at around 90.089/1 he may well represent value but whatever the weather, he looks a great bet in his three-ball at an industry-best 13/82.63 with the Sportsbook.

Rose is playing with Augusta debutants Peter Malnati and Eric Cole, and he probably won't need to shoot anything in the 60s to end day one in front of his playing partners.

Looking at the outright market, the prices of the market leaders have been fairly stable all week and the biggest mover is the in-form Xander Schauffele, who's shortened up from around 21.020/1 to his current price of 17.5, which is the lowest he's been since the market first opened.

xander schauffele 2021 masters.jpg

I haven't added to my sole selection - Scottie Scheffler - but I have topped up at 6.05/1.

His wife is due to give birth in three weeks' time so she's not currently in Augusta and that's a slight risk. In all likelihood, he'll up sticks and get out of dodge if she goes into labour so that has to be considered by I'm convinced he's a great price.

Pre-event Bet:
Scottie Scheffler @ 5.95/1

In-Play Picks:
Max Homa @ 21.020/1
Joaquin Niemann @ 36.035/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Sungjae Im @ 180.0179/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Adam Hadwin @ 400.0399/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

Now read more US Masters tips and previews here

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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