US Masters 2018: A quintet of three-ball bets for day one

European Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters
Thomas Pieters if fancied to get off to a flyer
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Paul Krishnamurty previews the opening round at Augusta National, recommending five bets from our three-ball coupon...

"I doubt the Aussie will need anything special to win this. Reavie hasn't played Augusta for six years and this short hitter's average of 77.33 from six rounds must be a huge negative. Horschel's return from three tries is better but nothing special, and hasn't made a top-40 in a full-field event since last July."

Back Cameron Smith 4u @ [2.5]

As always, coverage on the opening day at Augusta National will centre around a series of elite groups. In this exceptionally strong renewal, it seems like there are more than ever and they look extremely tricky to predict.

Here's just a few examples. At 16.04, twice former champion Bubba Watson takes on Jason Day and Henrik Stenson. Later at 18.27, course specialists Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar are up against Rickie Fowler. At 18.38 Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Adam Scott start out. Next at 18.49, Jordan Spieth takes on Alex Noren and Louis Oosthuizen. Arguably the best is saved til last at 19.00 with Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Rafa Cabrera Bello making up the final group.

If you fancy taking a view on any of those groups, we'll have live betting throughout. Pre-match though, they do not appeal much as value options. All 12 are realistic title contenders, and these groups will likely boil down to a made or missed putt here and there. Instead, my opening day focus is on the following quintet.

Back Bryson Dechambeau 3u @ [2.5] (vs Wiesberger, Fitzpatrick) (Starts 14.14)

Though all of this trio have performed respectably at Augusta, only one really looks a realistic contender. Fitzpatrick hasn't been anywhere near his best of late and, while Weisberger is tipped elsewhere for a Top 40 Finish, the Austrian is rightly dismissed as a no-hoper in the outright market.

Dechambeau, in contrast, is carrying many a shrewd pound this week. Steve Rawlings makes the youngster his each-way pick and that looks a wise call. While he's probably too inexperienced to win, Bryson made a big impact on his debut as an amateur, hits the ball miles and put in a cracking warm-up when runner-up at Bay Hill.

Back Marc Leishman 2u @ [3.75] (vs Woods, Fleetwood) (Starts 15.42)

Here's one of the marquee three-balls, although I'm not wholly convinced it will match the standard of the other groups mentioned above. Like any true golf fan, I would love to see Tiger back to his best but there has been a market over-reaction to his admittedly impressive comeback. Plus even at his peak, Woods wasn't an especially great starter in this major, only beating 70 once in 19 first rounds at Augusta.

Fleetwood is another big-name I'm happy to oppose. Tommy has one of the finest long games on the planet but his short game remains a weakness and that generally proves very costly here. Rounds of 74/78 and a missed cut on last year's debut doesn't bode well. Therefore Leishman could be a bit of value as outsider of three. The Aussie is another of our each-way picks, courtesy of Joe Dyer.

Back Adam Hadwin 3u @ [3.5] (vs Reed, Hoffman) (Starts 16.14)

Augusta is a test that many great players take years getting to learn and some never really come to terms with it. So until Patrick Reed improves on an absymal record - only twice under par in 12 rounds, with a best of 22nd from four visits - he must be taken on. In total contrast, Charley Hoffman loves it here but last year's first round leader is hard to make a case for on the basis of recent form.

A three-ball bet may be the perfect way to back Hadwin. I've already put him up for a Top 30 Finish and, like Dave Tindall, toyed with backing him at big outright odds. The truth is this short-game expert will probably fall short at this level but that doesn't mean he can't enjoy a lucrative week.

Back Cameron Smith 4u @ [2.5] (vs Reavie, Horschel) (Starts 16.26)

One of the outsiders that edged Hadwin out of my Find Me a 100 Winner plan looks very strong here. Smith may not have the Augusta credentials yet but his putting prowess bodes very well and this highly progressive type showed cracking form last time at the World Match Play.

I doubt the Aussie will need anything special to win this. Reavie hasn't played Augusta for six years and this short hitter's average of 77.33 from six rounds must be a huge negative. Horschel's return from three tries is better but nothing special, and hasn't made a top-40 in a full-field event since last July.

Back Thomas Pieters 4u @ [2.6] (vs Kisner, Schauffele) (Starts 18.05)

Finally, I'm in total agreement with one of Dave Tindall's First Round Leader picks. Pieters went into my notebook as a definite bet for future Masters when finishing fourth on debut despite some disasters. This ultra-attacking bomber looks ideally suited and liable to butcher the par-fives. Granted the Belgian hasn't been on fire of late but I expect him to be inspired by the memories and he often starts very strongly. In the last year he led after R1 in the elite WGC Bridgestone and was top-five in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Schauffele is of course every bit as good a prospect but this will be his first ever competitive round at Augusta. Kisner played superbly at the World Match Play but that was his first decent event of 2018 and the evidence from a couple of mid-division finishes here is that Augusta is probably a little too long for him.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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