US Masters 2019: Outright and three-ball tips for round two

Golfer Justin Harding
Justin Harding hit a cracking debut round 69

After yielding 15 units profit from four winning bets on the opening round three-balls, Paul Krishnamurty surveys Friday's coupon and outright market...

"Harding has become very consistent and adept at bogey avoidance. That is hugely important in a group of this standard."

Back Justin Harding 4u @ 2.26/5 (vs Wise, Cabrera) (Starts 16.48)

The wheat is already being sorted from the chaff at Augusta National, as two of the most progressive, and prolific, players on Earth assumed a share of the first round lead.

Leading group set formidable standard

Brooks Koepka carried on where he left off when winning the USPGA - his third major in six. Bryson Dechambeau - four times a winner since last August - further advertised the connection between the Masters and Dubai Desert Classic. He's bidding to be the third champion of the latter in four years to follow up at Augusta.

The chasing pack is of a similarly elite standard - Phil Mickelson is a shot back, one ahead of world number one Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter. In total, 29 players beat par and history strongly suggests we can write off the rest.

In fact, historic trends suggest we can winnow this field down further. As Steve Rawlings explained in his comprehensive preview, only Tiger Woods and Mickelson won from outside the top-ten after round one over the past two decades. Moreover when performing those heroics, they were considerably superior to the players subsequently overhauled.

Rahm rates pick of the market at this stage

Therefore, while recognising that those further back might yet offer trading potential, I must restrict calculations to the 10 players on -3 or better. That group includes Justin Harding - a debutant available at 1000.0 pre-tournament - and one of my trio of outsider picks in Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whose odds are into 130.0129/1 from 460.0459/1.

To be honest, I could make a case for any of the 10 besides Harding, (who is nonetheless advised for his three-ball for the second day running), and am inclined to keep powder dry for the weekend.

At this stage, only one outright bet is recommended. Jon Rahm felt as likely to contend as anyone pre-event and is nicely placed on -3. His game is absolutely tailor-made for Augusta and I'm confident we'll get a good run over the weekend at odds of 14.013/1.

A quintet of three-ball picks for Friday

Back Devon Bling 2u @ 4.47/2 (vs Kaymer, Immelman) (Starts 13.41)

It cannot be said often enough - never write off amateurs in the opening rounds at majors. Their standard has never been higher and they are invariably overpriced. Devon Bling was runner-up at last year's US Amateur, has already scored an ace in the Par-3 contest and opened his Augusta career respectably enough with 74.

That score may be nothing to get excited about but it was only one shot off the winning score in this very weak group. Kaymer's Augusta record is famously awful, only once making the top-20. Immelman hasn't made the top-50 since 2011. Back the youngster against two whose careers have gone backwards.

Back Jimmy Walker 5u @ 1.9210/11 (vs Cink, Mize) (Starts 13.52)

Backing the same 18-hole result two days running is a dubious strategy - not least because the odds generally move in response to the first result. However I make no apology for persisting with three of yesterday's four winning bets. The odds simply feel wrong.

Jimmy Walker won this by four strokes from Cink and five from Mize. The latter - a 60 year-old long past competing at this level - is unlikely to set any standard and the former is badly out of form.

Back Kevin O'Connell 2u @ 4.47/2 (vs Lowry, Weir) (Starts 16.37)

Next another amateur without much to beat. Kevin O'Connell started poorly with 74 but his wider results are decent enough to think he might fare better second time around.

If so, this is winnable. Lowry is set to miss the weekend after shooting 78 - six of his nine Augusta rounds were 75 plus. Weir's 72 was the first time he'd beaten 76 here since 2014, and almost certainly not reflective of what is to come.

Back Justin Harding 4u @ 2.26/5 (vs Wise, Cabrera) (Starts 16.48)

An opening 82 from Cabrera confirmed the suspicion that this group would effectively develop into a match - which Justin Harding duly won by six strokes. As argued before, the South African has become very consistent and adept at bogey avoidance. That is hugely important in a group of this standard and a repeat is confidently predicted.

Back Viktor Hovland 2u @ 4.77/2 (vs Reed, Simpson) (Starts 18.16)

A bogey on the final hole denied us a full payout on Viktor Hovland yesterday but the kid certainly served notice of his potential with an even par to open what will surely be a long Augusta career.

Again, I see no good reason why the dynamics of this group would be any different. Simpson has no sort of record at Augusta while Reed is way below his best. They're both crying out to be opposed.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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