US Masters Three Ball Betting: A quintet of tips for the opening round

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker is Paul's nap in the first day of Augusta action

Previewing the first round action, Paul Krishnamurty has scoured the three-ball coupon and recommends five bets...

"The 2017 PGA champion loves the extra room off the tee at Augusta, never missing a Masters cut and only one top-30."

Back Jimmy Walker 5u @ 2.021/1 (Starts 14.48)

Day one at Augusta naturally involves a plethora of mouthwatering, marquee groups. Particularly later on. Of the last nine players out, only Phil Mickelson is trading above 50.049/1 for the title.

At 18.38, Dustin Johnson tees off alongside Bryson Dechambeau and Jason Day. Followed by Mickelson, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas at 18.49. Finally at 19.00, Paul Casey tees up against major specialist Brooks Koepka and the man with the best Augusta credentials - Jordan Spieth.

Entertaining as those groups surely will be, they are devilishly tricky betting puzzles to solve. For my money, better value is to be found in less prestigious groups.

Remember, while these players are unlikely to appear often in the main coverage unless well-placed on the leaderboard, there will be coverage of every group playing holes 11-15 on the red button.

Harding fancied to make solid debut

Back Justin Harding 4u @ 2.89/5 (v Wise, Cabrera) (Starts 14.03)

The choice here is between a former Masters and US Open champion, boasting a bank of form around this famous old course, and two promising debutants. More often that not, I would plump for the former attribute but there is no signal whatsoever that Angel Cabrera retains anything like his old level.

Of his opponents, Harding is preferred as he's been in much better form this year. The South African's vast improvement is underpinned by a lack of mistakes. He's sixth for bogey avoidance on the Race to Dubai and leading, well clear, of those who have played more than 12 rounds. That could prove decisive in a group that probably won't take much winning.

Couples remains a top Augusta bet

Back Fred Couples 2u @ 4.67/2 (Starts 14.25)

Cabrera aside, day one is generally the perfect time to back veteran course specialists. Couples is precisely that, having maintained a highly competitive standard here into his late fifties. He's made the top-20 in six of the last eight renewals and shot 73 or better in eight of his last nine opening rounds.

There's no reason to think Fred won't repeat it and, if so, such a score would be competitive. Si Woo Kim is a worthy hot favourite given recent form and a strong weekend 12 months ago. Holmes has been fourth at Augusta before and will like the soft conditions but is extremely unreliable. I'm happy to back the outsider against them.

Brilliant amateur to make immediate impression

Back Viktor Hovland 2u @ 5.59/2 (Starts 15.31)

Likewise, star amateurs regularly pop up on the opening day leaderboard at majors, before the pressure heats. This 21 year-old Norwegian already has a big reputation, having won last year's US Amateur. He was also far from disgraced in professional company in the Australian Open.

Those credentials alone make him a viable betting proposition and I'm pleased to see him up against a pair that I was hoping to take on. Defending champion Reed is way below his best right now as he undergoes swing changes, while Simpson's Augusta record is poor, never bettering 20th place.

Walker sets a decent standard

Back Jimmy Walker 5u @ 2.021/1 (Starts 14.48)

Next, the nap. Champion from 1987, Larry Mize would be an also-ran, unlikely to better 75, in any situation. With the course playing soft and long following plenty of rain, this is going to be an almighty struggle.

Both opponents have respectable Augusta records. However Cink has missed six cuts out of eight this time and is easily opposed conceding a driving distance advantage to Walker in these conditions. The 2017 PGA champion loves the extra room off the tee at Augusta, never missing a Masters cut and only one top-30.

Short-hitting Kisner worth opposing

Back Kiradech Aphibarnrat 4u @ 2.89/5 (Starts 17.54)

Finally with the course playing long, Kevin Kisner may be worth opposing. He is a popular pick after winning the World Matchplay and contending in two of the last five majors. However I'm not convinced Augusta - especially when wet - is a suitable set-up for this short-hitting scrapper. He's yet to better 72 in 12 rounds.

In contrast, as explained in my Find Me a 100 Winner piece, the selection has already shown a liking for Augusta with two eyecatching performances. Imahira is taking a big step up and there's no reason to think he will set a particularly high standard.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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