*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 8 Places
It's fairly easy to justify a punt on Oosthuizen at 60/1 in any major given that he's finished runner-up three times in the last 12 of them. That adds to his victory in the 2010 Open Championship while a play-off loss at Augusta National in 2012 means he has a full set of second places. As well as his near miss six years ago he is on a run of 25-19-15 in the Masters from 2014-2016 so it's a place where the sweet-swinging South African has a solid bank of history. His form coming in (9-MC-16-30-24) shows signs of encouragement although, to be honest, he's not particularly advertised his previous big finishes at this level. Put simply, Oosthuizen is a class act, who has a proven ability to peak for the majors.
After years of steady yet unspectacular progress, Rafa Cabrera Bello has started bringing his A-game to the biggest events and is fancied for his best ever performance in a major. Since really breaking through with a stellar Ryder Cup debut in 2016, Rafa has been placed in an Open and the last two strokeplay WGC events. Failure in last year's Masters is easy to overlook, considering he'd previously recorded an impressive Augusta debut. Plus a fine record in the Dubai Desert Classic suggests this test should suit. Famously the last two Masters champion had won that Gulf event earlier in the season and the correlation stretches much further back. Cabrera Bello won his maiden title there seven years ago, has since been runner-up and has a total of six top-20s at the Emirates Course.
Bryson DeChambeau's final appearance as an amateur was his only previous appearance in the US Masters, two years ago, and he fared quite well. After a pair of 72s, he sat just four off the lead at halfway before a disappointing 77 in round three saw him slip away. He bounced back on the Sunday with a third 72 of the week and he ended the tournament in a tie for 21st. The very next week he turned professional and finished fourth in The Heritage and he's already won on the PGA Tour, claiming the John Deere Classic last summer. The last time we saw Bryson he was pushing Rory McIlroy all the way to the line at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him contend again here. An industry-wide best of 80/1 with eight places up for grabs looks more than fair to me.
The case has been made for Marc Leishman on Betting.Betfair already so I needn't repeat too much of that. But for 50/1 you get a golfer with a fourth place finish in the tournament (2013), an encouraging record in other majors (three top 10s in The Open) and another trio of top 10 finishes in tournaments this year. Statistically we know that the Australian is a good fit and he has the profile we are looking for if we want to back a solid player outside of the obvious hopefuls.
Because it's the only major that is played at the same venue every year, and because Augusta is such a unique and iconic course, then stats really stand up here. Almost every winner is a player that has shown excellent recent form, almost every winner has previously played well at Augusta, and almost every winner is in the 'world class' bracket. Of course there are some exceptions, but given the other guys in this column have avoided the top of the market then I'll address the balance and put up Bubba Watson. The big prices from a few months ago may have gone, but that's because Bubba has shown that he's right back to his best recently, winning at Riviera on the PGA Tour before winning the WGC Matchplay a fortnight ago. And as we know, Augusta suits Bubba's left-handed shot-making game perfectly, as he proved when winning here in 2012 and 2014.
Age is an issue of mind over matter, and Matt Kuchar certainly doesn't mind. The 39-year-old had an excellent weekend just gone at the Houston Open - finished T8 - to cap off what's been a decent fortnight for the Floridian after breaking the top ten at the WGC. He comes into Augusta ranked in the top 40 for GIR and SG putting, Steve explains in his comprehensive preview just how important the former is to a decent performance at the Masters. Vitally, Kooch is a course horse, he's finished in the top ten on four of his eight appearances here, with three others inside the top 30 - experience is everything. The 40/1 currently on offer makes plenty of appeal about a player who finished inside the top four at two majors - T4 at the Masters and 2nd at the British Open - last year; perhaps 2018 is when he finally gets his head in front.