US Masters 2021: Three-ball picks for the opening round at Augusta

Golfer Lee Westwood
Westwood has a good chance of upsetting the odds against DJ

Paul Krishnamurty marks your card for the opening round of the US Masters 2021 by recommending five bets across our three-ball coupon...

"This group is unlikely to take much winning at all. A round of 75 may well be enough and in Cink we're backing a rock-solid, reliable performer."

Back Stewart Cink 6u @ 1.774/5 (v Harman, Woosnam) (Starts 13.24)

Reliable Cink the opening day banker

Generally, I try to avoid backing odds-on chances in three-balls. Too risky over 18 holes. However an exception is legitimate at the Masters for a few reasons. The form bank here is deep, and stands up. Augusta presents well-known challenges demanding specific skills. The field includes numerous no-hopers, from former champs to amateurs.

Take this group. Ian Woosnam hasn't made the cut here in 13 years and only twice this century. He hasn't gone round in par since 2006. It is very hard to make a case for Jim Herman either, whose sole visit in 2016 produced rounds of 75/78, and comes in off five missed cuts from six.

This group is unlikely to take much winning at all. A round of 75 may well be enough and in Cink we're backing a rock-solid, reliable performer. He's made 12 out of 18 Augusta cuts, hitting more than 76 in only three out of 60 rounds here. His recent form is by far the best too.

Westwood good value to turn over DJ

This looks like an effective match-up and while Westwood is obviously the outsider against the tournament favourite and defending champion, he makes plenty of appeal at these odds. He's enjoying a wonderful run, competing in the best of company, and knows this track like the back of his hand.

Eight of Lee's last 11 Masters openers were under-par, with only one over par. Seven of his last eight opening rounds were 70 or better. Three of those came in elite events, where he finished runner-up. Of course Dustin sets a very high standard but he comes in off a few bad results and doesn't have an amazing opening round record here.

Austrian's course record is eye-catching

There is arguably no more difficult track in the world to be a debutant, or that takes longer to learn. With that in mind, the outsider of three very much appeals here. Wiesberger has started well at Augusta, making all five cuts and registering a pair of top-25 finishes.

No miracles are expected from Ortiz, in his opening round on debut. Mackenzie Hughes is making only his second visit, following a disastrous 79/80 four years ago. He's a better player now, and to be fair often starts tournaments well, but I'd rather have the Austrian's form in the book.

Couples to turn back the clock again

For decades, backing Fred Couples in side markets at Augusta was a goldmine. The last two Masters saw him flop and, now aged 61, expectations have been lowered. Nevertheless winning this group is well within his range. Ollie Osborne was runner-up in last year's US Amateur Championship but he's well down that list and is really up against it on debut.

Francesco Molinari threw this title away two years ago but that was his only top-10 finish and his game was in much better shape then. He was hitting it further, thus negating a perennial weakness around this course. This time he comes in off bad missed cuts in big Florida events where had excellent previous form.

Sheffler looks strong

With similar thoughts to Couples in mind, I was hoping Phil Mickelson might be available at big odds in a really strong group. Whether this year or not, I expect he will turn back the clock plenty of times around a course that drew the best out of him, perhaps more than any. This is pretty strong but he makes no appeal at less than 4.03/1.

Fleetwood has brought his A-game to majors before but I'd prefer his chances in a US Open, where there is generally more emphasis on ball-striking than short game. Tommy's four efforts here include two top-20s but he's not somebody I rate as a frontline contender.

Scheffler is stronger for me. Top-20 on debut, long off the tee, in great form after finishing runner-up in the World Matchplay and fifth at the Workday.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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