US Masters 2020: New date could suit Tiger

American Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods could be in much better shape later in the year

The possibility of an October Masters could help the chances of certain players. Dave Tindall looks at who may be worth backing now...

"One advantage that Woods will have over many others is that he's more used to a lighter schedule. He's still able to win despite a lack of competitive action and showed that in October when landing the ZOZO in his first event after over two months off."

The postponement of The Masters became inevitable as sport gradually came to a halt due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and in the last 24 hours the USPGA Championship has also been postponed.

Usually at this time of year, the pre-Masters giddiness is starting to ramp up as debutants start to daydream about their first drive down Magnolia Lane while the stars of the game relish a return to the familiar, comforting and spectacular surroundings of Augusta National in its full Spring glory.

With the USPGA Championship moving forward in the schedule to May last year, it means punters have had to wait since July for their first taste of major action.

Unfortunately, that wait will have to continue - and for some time yet - although the prospect of a 2020 Masters is still on the cards.

A date in October has been muted and, while the delay will frustrate every golfer in the field, for some a later Masters could prove beneficial to their chances due to poor current form and/or fitness.

So, with the idea that some players may be in better shape for an October Masters than they are for an April one, here are players whose odds may be shorter if a new date can be finalised. In other words, this could be a decent time to back them.

Main Bet: Tiger Woods @ 21.020/1

When Tiger rolled back the years to win the 2019 Masters and claim a fifth Green Jacket, suddenly we looked at him as a 43-year-old with plenty more opportunities to claim glory at Augusta National rather than a player in his twilight years with a failing body.

It came just six starts on from his victory in the Tour Championship. Seven starts later, Tiger would win the inaugural ZOZO Championship in Japan.

Three wins in 14 starts was hugely impressive by anyone's standards and T9 at Torrey Pines on his first start of the new decade could certainly be viewed as a nice way to start his Masters build-up.

But then the worries about his physical health started to re-emerge.

A modest T68 at Riviera was slightly dismissed given that it remains one of the few courses in the game where Tiger's never won while he also had to deal with extra hosting duties.

But then came a series of no-shows:

- WGC-Mexico Championship - he "wasn't going to be ready."
- Honda Classic (his hometown event) - didn't enter
- Bay Hill - agent Mark Steinberg tells that Woods is "still stiff and not quite ready."
- Players Championship - ahead of Sawgrass, Woods tweets: "I have to listen to my body and properly rest when needed. My back is simply just not ready for play next week."

Writing Tiger off, despite the tally of four back surgeries and four knee ops, is a dangerous game so it looks interesting to see him at 21.020/1 on the exchange for the 2020 Masters.

One advantage that Woods will have over many others is that he's more used to a lighter schedule. He's still able to win despite a lack of competitive action and showed that in October when landing the ZOZO in his first event after over two months off.

If Tiger can sort his back out before the possible October reschedule, the current 20/1 could end up attractive.

Next Best: Justin Rose @ 44.043/1

If there's one elite player who looked a mile off his best with an April Masters on the horizon, it had to be Justin Rose.

The Englishman is currently 44.043/1 in the Masters betting, way higher than what we usually see for the former World No. 1.

A reminder of Rose's Masters record:

He's made the top 25 on 11 occasions, finishing runner-up in both 2015 and 2017.

"I think the comfort came pretty early," he said last year. "From that point on, I've just been trying to apply what I've learned year on year, and you know, in recent years, I've given myself a couple good chances being in that final group on Sunday.

"Played well on both occasions and came up against Jordan (Spieth) in 2015 who was making everything and Sergio (Garcia) and I, it was a coin flip who was going to come out on top there.

"Guys talk about a course that fits their eye and I think this is one for me that I like all the shots out there."

A victory at Torrey Pines last year saw him strengthen his position at the top of the OWGR and he entered that year's Masters at No. 2.

But, right now, Rose has slipped to 14th after a miserable start to 2020 which shows three missed cuts and a tied 56thin four starts on the PGA Tour. He'd also started with a 75 at The Players Championship before the Sawgrass event was cancelled after round one.

Something isn't right and it was reported by Golf Digest a couple of weeks ago that Rose, despite having signed a deal with Honma at the start of 2019, turned up at the Honda Classic with a TaylorMade driver.

At Bay Hill, he upped it by playing a TaylorMade ball, driver, fairway wood and irons.

There could be contract issues to deal with and new clubs to bed in but, one way or another, Rose would have gone into this year's Masters looking seriously undercooked.

It's guesswork what happens now on several levels but, making an educated guess, Rose may be in a much different place in six or more months' time.

If so, there's no way he would be so far down the betting so now may be the moment to take a punt.

Final Bet: Brooks Koepka @ 16.5

Brooks Koepka's fantastic record in the majors meant it could have been a case of 'it'll be alright on the night" had the Masters been played in April.

But a more sensible view is that he could be another obvious beneficiary of a Masters played later in the year.

Koepka just hasn't got it going in 2020 as he tries to come back from a knee op.

There were a couple of decent signs on the European Tour when he finished T34 (Abu Dhabi Championship) and T17 (Saudi International) in the Middle East.

But in three PGA Tour starts, he was T43 at Riviera, missed the cut at the Honda Classic and again couldn't get it out of third gear when T47 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Speaking at Sawgrass, Koepka said: "My knee's fine. My knee's exactly where it should be. It's just a matter of execution, taking care of what I need to take care of. It has nothing to do with my knee.

"It's all me not being able to do what Claude (Harmon)'s told me to do, what Pete (Cowen)'s told me to do, Jeff (Pierce) on the putting. That's me, whether it's lack of concentration, focus, decisiveness, whatever it might be, that's all on my shoulders, it has nothing to do with anybody else."

To try and remedy the situation, Koepka flew to Las Vegas to meet with Butch Harmon.

"It's one of those things where I just needed a different set of eyes, maybe something might click, because I was failing," said the four-time major winner

The fix was instant. "He saw it in four swings," revealed Koepka.

After day one at Sawgrass, a 2-under 70 suggested progress had been made. "I feel good," he said later. "First time in a long time."

Koepka has been an absolute animal in the majors over the last few years, his last 10 starts showing four wins, two seconds, a fourth and a sixth. Those are ridiculous numbers.

At Augusta National, he's improved his finish each year, with T33 on debut in 2015, T21 in 2016, T11 in 2017 and, after missing 2018 through injury, runner-up to Tiger last year.

"I feel like once you play it a handful of times, you really know a lot of the knowledge and the little nuances of this place," he said last year.

Koepka's major wins have come on big, bold properties and Augusta National looks an obvious place for his combination of power and short-game nerve to propel him to another victory.

In truth, his odds haven't been too affected by the poor early-season form but if - and okay we have to deal in ifs - Koepka gets the chance to produce a couple of good results ahead of an October Masters, his amazing record in the majors will be brought back into focus and those odds will drop.

Take the 16.5.

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