On the eve of the 85th edition of the US Masters, Steve's had a good look at the plethora of side markets and he's picked out five bets ranging from 6/4 to 80/1...
"Now 50, Mickelson’s the odds-on favourite to win the Top Senior market but I’m happy to swerve the odds-on there and take 5/2 about a top-30 finish."
Regular readers will know that year after year I've backed a Hole in One in Round 4 and more often than not it's paid off. Prices have been coming down slowly over the years and from a high of around 8/1 several years ago, this year's quote is 6/4 again - as it was in November, but I'm going to reluctantly swerve it.
Up until 2004, there had only ever been 13 hole-in-ones at the US Masters but we've seen 17 since then and 15 of them were at the 16th. And all bar one occurred on the Sunday, when, up until last year, the pin had been placed in a collection area in the back left portion of the green.
Prior to the November edition last year, there had been seven aces in the previous four editions so even at odds as short as 6/4, backing a Hole in One in Round 4 was a wise move but an almighty spanner was thrown into the works five months ago when the flag was placed in a completely new position. Presumably because there were no fans present to cheer in the numerous aces.
If they go back to the traditional pin placement, the 6/4 on offer is a fair price. If they don't, it's a shocking price so having got my fingers burnt in November, I'm going to swerve it this time around at 6/4.
Profit to be made on the wise old-timers
All the evidence going into this year's renewal points to a much tougher edition than experienced in either 2019 or 2020 when Augusta National played soft after rain and I suspect the wily old pros that have been around here plenty of times may come to the fore as the course firms up and two such players I wanted to get onside in some way are Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson.
Having won the Race to Dubai last year on the European Tour, and having finished runner-up at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship, Westwood has a genuine chance to win his first major at the age of 47.
Having backed him at 160.0159/1 to win the Players, I'm in no rush to take almost 100 points shorter in the outright market and the top nationality markets look very competitive too but the 6/4 available on him finishing the week ahead of Tony Finau in a match bet looks very fair indeed.
Poor Finau just can't get over the line for a long overdue second PGA Tour success and since being beaten by Max Homa in extra time in the Genesis Open at Riviera, his form has taken a nosedive.
He started nicely enough a week later, shooting 68-67 in the first two rounds of the WGC Workday in Florida but he fell to 14th over the weekend with a pair of 72s and since than he's failed to get out of the group at the WGC Dell Matchplay and missed the cut at both the Players Championship, and even more worryingly, last week's Valero Texas Open. He presumably only played there last week to get some confidence back so he looks worth taking on here.
Although his recent placings don't scream back to form, three time US Masters champ, Phil Mickelson, has been producing some good numbers of late and he'll relish a return to the scene of some of his finest triumphs.
Now 50, he's the odds-on favourite to win the Top Senior market but I'm happy to swerve the odds-on there and take 5/2 about a top-30 finish. If Phil can make the weekend, I suspect the juices will flow again and even if he starts round three outside the top-30, I'd expect his experience to count for plenty as conditions harden and he could easily just keep climbing the leaderboard.
Another way to play Mickelson could be the Top Lefty market but as I'm quite keen on Brian Harman (he's one of my three Find Me a 100 Winner picks) I'm going to leave that market alone.
Lead after every round bets appeal
The 6/1 available about a wire-to-wire winner looks reasonable given Dustin Johnson achieved the feat in November and that three of the last 13 winners have led from start to finish but if an outsider holds the sole lead on Thursday night, that price won't look so hot so a better way to go looks like the player specific Lead After Every Round & Win market.
Jordan Spieth has finished the first round in front three times at Augusta and he's finished first, second and third. He fell away before rallying to finish third in 2018 but he won wire-to-wire in 2015 and he traded at a low of 1.091/11 12 months later before his catastrophe at the 12th, when he would have again led after every round, had he not collapsed on the back-nine. If you're even remotely interested in backing last week's Valero Texas Open winner in the outright market, the 66/1 about him leading every day and winning looks a great price.
Although he doesn't have the record of fast starts at Augusta that Jordan has, Justin Thomas sat fourth after round one in November and, like Spieth, he has a nice late tee time on Thursday, so I'm happy to play him in the same market at a juicy 75/1.
As highlighted in the preview, a late start on Thursday has been beneficial of late and both appeared to have lucked out. Spieth plays alongside Cam Smith and Collin Morikawa in the final three-ball of the day and Thomas begins his begins his campaign 12 minutes earlier, alongside Finau and Louis Oosthuizen.
In addition to those two optimistic wagers, I'm really aiming at the stars with my final bet. Thomas is the one I like best towards the head of the market but it's impossible to discount Spieth given his Augusta record so I've taken the 80/1 that they finish first and second in either order in the Duel Forecast market.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
Back Lee Westwood to beat Tony Finau @ 6/4 (2.56/4)
Back Phil Mickelson – Top 30 Finish @ 5/2 (3.55/2)
Back Jordan Spieth to lead after every round & win @ 66/1 (67.066/1)
Back Justin Thomas to lead after every round & win @ 75/1 (76.075/1)
Back Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth Duel Forecast @ 80/1 (81.080/1)