The Masters 2020 betting preview

Dropping Dimes

Heading into 2020, The Masters was coming off a dream year that saw Tiger Woods claim his fifth green jacket, 15th major title, and first major championship since the 2008 US Open. The win marked a comeback story for the ages and set Augusta National up for an incredible encore in April 2020. Unfortunately, the sporting world was turned upside down when the global pandemic hit early in the year. The world-wide crisis saw several sporting events moved or cancelled, with The Masters ultimately choosing to postpone their tournament until November 9th.  

With the PGA now back in full swing as of June 11th—and planning to host an event every week until the new Masters date in early November—the time is right to start looking ahead to the golf futures market and to start making some bold predictions for who might end up on top at the year’s final major.

How to bet on the 2020 Masters

What is a futures bet?

Since we’re still many months away from the start of the tournament, any bet we place on the field will technically be labelled as a futures bet. A futures bet is simply a bet on an event that is set to finish sometime in the non-immediate future. A great example of a common futures bet people often make is betting their favorite team to win the Super Bowl before the season begins. Once Super Bowl week rolls around, betting on the specific teams involved is – of course – no longer considered a future bet, but any bet placed prior to that time would technically be considered one. For golf purposes, betting on a player the week of the actual Masters tournament would no longer be considered a future proposition either, but betting him prior to that week would.

When to place futures bets on golf?

You can make a ton of different bets on a golf tournament – from three-balls to hole-in-one props to make-the-cut bets – but in golf futures the main bets we have access to year-round represent the outright market. Put more simply, we can wager on who we think is going to win a certain golf tournament. Since future markets in golf majors like the Masters often move with performance throughout the season, our objective for any golf future we’re placing should be to identify players whose odds have a good chance of dropping between when we make our bet and when the actual tournament begins. Lines in major championships can move for various reasons but generally it’s a player’s performance that will dictate whether the line goes higher or lower.

A great example of a player garnering big movement in odds due to performance was Tiger Woods back in 2018. He began the 2018 season coming off of back surgery and was available at anywhere from +4000 to +2500 to win The Masters in January of that year. However, after a couple of made cuts and a great week at the Honda Classic, his odds quickly dropped down to the +1600 to +1400 range. Anyone betting Tiger in the futures market prior to the Honda Classic that year got a great value, as most people were getting a much worse price to bet on him the week of the actual event.

Geoff Ulrich previews the 2020 Masters

Indicators of a potential Masters winner

While we’re looking for good bargains in our futures bets, we also want to keep an eye on any potential indicators that have worked well in helping identify past winners. No single stat or piece of info is going to tell us who the winner will be beforehand, but certain trends at an event like the Masters – which is played at Augusta National each and every year – can be worth keeping an eye on to help us pare down selections. Here are a few factors to consider when trying to help decide between players:

Experience matters

  • No player has won at Augusta on their first attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979. Additionally, seven of the last 10 winners at Augusta had played in the event at least three times prior.
  • Nine of the last 10 winners – with the exception of Danny Willet in 2016 – had posted at least a top-30 at The Masters in a season prior to winning the event.

Focus on exceptional ball-striking

  • Five of the last eight Masters winners ranked 9th or better in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in the year of their victory. Note that Willett and Tiger did not play in enough tournaments to be ranked, so this trend could be even stronger than it appears.

Players have shown above average to elite recent form

  • Each of the past five winners had recorded AT LEAST a Top-5 finish on the year already, prior to winning the Masters, while three of the past five had already picked up a win within the same calendar year.

Pedigree factor

  • Each of the last five winners of the Masters had been ranked inside the top-25 of the OWGR at the time of their win.

While trends and stats like the ones above are helpful, I wouldn’t recommend using them to cancel out players who you otherwise think are good bets or values. It’s not a big deal if a player doesn’t meet all the criteria or trends – and there are more than just the ones I listed above – especially if their odds carry perceived value on a sportsbook. That said, the trends can be useful in helping us pare down selections, knowing many of the golfers we’re targeting will likely meet at least some of these criteria anyways.

Apr 14, 2019; Augusta, GA, USA; Tiger Woods celebrates with the green jacket and trophy after winning The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

The Masters betting overview

Augusta National

  • Par: 72, 7,475 yards
  • Greens: Bentgrass
  • Design: Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Robert Tyre Jones, Jr. (1933)
  • Course Record: 63 (Nick Price, Greg Norman)
  • Most wins: Jack Nicklaus; six
  • Defending Champion: Tiger Woods

Augusta National is the only course that hosts a major championship each and every season and, therefore, we have a lot of course data at our disposal. The venue plays as a traditional Par 72 – measuring in at a lengthy 7,475 yards last season – and features some of the fastest Bentgrass greens on Tour, which are made even more difficult by the slope and elevation changes throughout the course.

While it’s been well documented how newcomers have often struggled at this venue, the flip side is that certain veterans have excelled here over their careers as well. Matt Kuchar might be the best example, as the 41-year-old has now played Augusta National 11 times over his career and has only suffered one missed cut, which came in his 2002 debut. Since 2012 he’s recorded four top-10’s at the event and has been a near-annual mainstay in the top-20. South African Louis Oosthuizen has a similar story, as the former Open Champion finished runner-up here in 2012 and parlayed that experience into three more top-20 finishes between 2015-2019. 

While the course has numerous quirks and intricacies that make it difficult for even the best pros to master, the venue can be broken down more simply by grouping as such:

The scoring holes

The Par-5s at Augusta all play relatively easy and present the best scoring chances for players during the week. Last year, the four par 5s played as the four easiest holes on the course, with the Par-5 13th – which plays just 510 yards – as the easiest, yielding a 4.65 scoring average.

The short Par-4 3rd hole, which plays anywhere between 300-350 yards, has a tricky green but played as the fifth easiest hole on the venue in 2019 (and easiest Par 4). 

The short Par-3 16th, which is well known for its dramatic Sunday pin position and often yields at least one hole-in-one a season, played as the sixth easiest hole in 2019 and easiest Par-3 on the course.

Amen corner

This is the well known nickname given to holes 11, 12 and 13 at Augusta, for both their difficulty and the fact exciting things generally happen around these holes. The 13th, as mentioned above, is a pure scoring hole that yields plenty of eagles and birdies, but the 11th and 12th are its polar opposite.

In 2019 the long Par-4 11th played as the single most difficult hole on the course, yielding a scoring average of just 4.37. This long Par-4, which measures in at just over 500 yards, starts off with one of the more difficult tee shots on the course and includes a small dogleg into a semi-island green. Approaches that land short can often bounce into the hazard due to the generous sloping around the greens. 

The 12th, Golden Bell, is a diabolical short, 155-yard Par-3 with a narrow green that Jack Nicklaus called “the hardest tournament hole in golf”. It has recently led to the self-destruction of final round leaders in both 2016 and 2019. 

The Teeth of the Course

Augusta contains five Par-4s that measure in at over 450 yards in length and only one that plays shorter than 440 yards. These are the teeth of the course, along with a couple of tough Par 3s, where players must navigate in order to set up their chances at birdie or better on the scoring holes. 

With so much on the line, it’s also no shock that two of the tougher holes over the years have been the long Par-4 17th and the finishing Par-4 18th, which has an incredibly narrow driving chute. These two played as the 4th and 8th toughest holes on the venue last season.

Does Augusta favour one style of golfer?

From a player perspective, we’ve seen almost every different style of play find success here at one time or another. Bombers like Tiger (in his prime) and Bubba Watson have done well simply by destroying the Par 5s, which are all on the short to very short side by modern standards. 

Comparatively, short game specialists and great bentgrass putters – like Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed – have simply been able to outmaneuver the competition on the greens with their flatsticks. Both Reed and Spieth rank inside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass greens over the last 100 rounds played.

Finally, before we start analyzing the sportsbook odds to make some bold calls and actual bets, it’s worth mentioning that this season will be unique with the event taking place in the Fall. Even if the course conditions vary only slightly this year, that could be enough to tip the scales in favor of the slightly less experienced players. At this point though, we have to assume Augusta will still be Augusta, and most of its nuances will remain intact. Still, the date change is something to keep in mind before you approach the virtual betting window.  

2020 Masters betting discussion and picks

From an odds perspective, here is where the last 5-winner of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:

  • 2019- Tiger Woods +1400
  • 2018- Patrick Reed +4000
  • 2017- Sergio Garcia +4000
  • 2016- Danny Willett +5000
  • 2015- Jordan Spieth +1100

As you can see we have a pretty wide range of players here in terms of style, age and odds. Jordan Spieth was a co-favorite or favorite at most sportsbooks pre-event in 2015 but since then it has been tough sledding for those lower down in the odds. Reed, Willett and Sergio hit a trifecta of mid-to-long range outright wins for bettors while Tiger certainly paid off for people who ate the “Tiger juice” as his odds typically get deflated in outright betting markets due to the number of people betting on him each week. 

Spieth was the youngest of the past five winners to get it done at Augusta National as he was just 21-years-old at the time of his win. Willett likely had the least course history/experience of the group as he had only played at Augusta once before, landing a T38 finish. Reed was 28 at the time of his win which means three of the past winners have been in their 20’s, with the other two being well over the age of 35 (Sergio and Tiger). Augusta may set up well for the big hitters but it really does seem to bring the entire field into play every season as only Sergio ranked inside the top-30 in Driving Distance ast year on Tour. 

2020 weather and course outlook

This will be the first time that Augusta is being contested outside of April and with that comes some changes. Due to a lack of daylight, players will be going off on split tees the first two days, which means groups will start at both hole number one and number 10. Both starting holes are tough par 4’s so perhaps it won’t matter much but it will be a change. As we can see by Ian Poulter’s camera work here, the course itself doesn’t seem like it will look much different:

The big factor this week may be the weather. It looks like highs will be in the mid-70’s all week and that should help the course from playing too tough. But rain could be a factor as there is plenty of it scheduled for early in the week and into Thursday. Things do look like they clear up Friday afternoon, when the sun is scheduled to make an appearance and the weekend looks cloudy but with much less wet stuff. The course will certainly be soggy though and we could get some start and stoppages early in the week which means certain waves could end up in better spots than others. A certain element of luck (from a draw perspective) could be involved with whoever wins the event this year. 

2020 Masters betting favorites

Bryson DeChambeau +850

Bryson is coming into this major as the unquestioned favorite. While his price had jumped up into the +2500 range at the US Open, his dominant win at Winged Foot means that sportsbooks won’t be as quick to up his price this week. The enigmatic big-hitter is starting to develop a trend of matching his outrageous power with more consistent putting and wedge play more consistently and if he does that again this week, he’ll be near impossible to catch. Bryson hasn’t played in over four weeks now, and only played in one event after his US Open win–a T8 finish at the Shriners Open.

Apr 12, 2019; Augusta, GA, USA; Bryson DeChambeau hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

It’s probably best not to look too much into reasons not to bet Bryson here though. His power means he’ll be hitting short irons into all of the Par 5’s and likely have wedges into most of the Par 4’s. The price stinks compared to the +4000 that you could have got on him early in 2020 but his game sets up perfectly to take advantage of the scoring holes at Augusta. 

Dustin Johnson +1025

Maybe this is the year Dustin finally breaks through and grabs a green jacket. He’s now finished T6 or better at the Masters in three of his last four starts at the event, although if we’re being truthful he’s never really gotten himself right into the thick of contention on a Sunday. DJ has always seemed to take himself out of contention before the Sunday back-nine, only to make some birdies coming in and backdoor a big result.

He’s playing at a different level this year though and looked fine off a short Covid-19 break in Houston where he ranked 2nd in SG: Tee to Green play and finished T2, overall. Deciding between him and Bryson isn’t easy if you’re betting a favorite here, but Dustin has the experience edge and perhaps that will help in dealing with early week rains.

Jon Rahm +1075

Rahm was very close to finding the winner’s circle in his last start, for the third time on the PGA in 2020, but lost out to a hot Patrick Cantlay at the Zozo Championship. The Spaniard will be making his fourth appearance at Augusta this week and his last two visits to the course have produced some pretty fruitful returns. He was T9 last year when Tiger won and was more in the thick things on Sunday in 2018, ultimately landing a T4 that season on the strength of a third-round 65. 

Rahm’s statsheet has been heating up over his last couple starts and he gained +10 strokes Tee to Green at the Zozo Championship–an event he probably wins by multiple strokes if he had putted better. At this price it’s hard to take him over Byron and DJ for betting but even a slight drift into the +1200 range would make him an attractive bet.

Rory McIlroy +1250

Rory comes into this year’s Master still looking for the spark that will allow him to compete with the world’s best again. The Northern Irishman hasn’t been terrible, or anything close to it, but he’s also failed to register a top-5 on the PGA since prior to April. It’s possible he finds some kind of magic on the greens, or his wedges finally start firing, but another solid/unspectacular finish seems more likely. Taking slightly shorter prices on DJ and Bryson for outright betting here seems like much better plays. 

Justin Thomas +1225

Thomas is making his fifth straight appearance at Augusta, with his T12 result from last year’s event representing his best effort at the event. The American has been incredibly consistent with his play since the Covid-19 restart, gaining strokes with his irons now in 10-straight starts. The only thing that has held him back from winning more has been a putting stroke that has been hot and cold. That putter has been mostly hot of late though and he comes in having gained +4.7 strokes or more with the flatstick in two of his last three starts. At this price, he likely represents the best pure value in terms of outrights bets among the top-5 players. 

Tiger Woods +3400

Tiger isn’t shaping up to be much of a factor at this year’s Masters. One year removed from his historic comeback win, he’s failed to even crack the top-20 in six starts since June. His last start was also potentially his worst as he lost -4.4 strokes on approach at the Zozo Championship. It’ll be nice to follow him around the course, but this price isn’t anywhere near big enough to consider him for outright betting purposes. 

Patrick Cantlay
Jul 12, 2020; Dublin, Ohio, USA; Patrick Cantlay on the 14th hole during the final round of the Workday Charity Open golf tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Favorite bets

Outrights and each-ways

Patrick Cantlay +2500 (each-way)

Cantlay’s price seems slightly out of whack this week, especially for a player who just finished closing out two top-5 players to grab a win in his last outing. The now three-time Tour winner comes into this year’s Masters having played in 11-events since the Covid-19 restart, with three of those starts coming in October. It’s significant, because while other players may have hit their peak in late summer or early Fall, it’s possible the now 28-year-old Cantlay may just be hitting his stride. 

Cantlay comes into this year’s Masters with top-10 finishes in two of his last three starts, after failing to record anything better than a T12 in August and September. The methodical build up for him has been interesting to watch as his betting price for this week didn’t start dipping until recently when he finally found the winner’s circle again. Having posted a career best T9 finish at Augusta last season, which included a third round 64, Cantlay will now have played Augusta three-times and is in that age-frame where we typically see golfers begin to compete here–Patrick Reed was also 28 when he won in 2018, as was Danny Willett. At near double the odds of contemporaries like Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas, Cantlay seems like a true bargain as he’s proven multiple times now that he’s more than capable of taking down an elite field when his form is at its peak. 

Tony Finau +3500 (each-way)

Finau is still searching for that elusive follow-up win to his 2016 Puerto Rico Open triumph. With that in mind, it may seem foolish to start betting him at majors, when he has trouble closing out a weaker field event like the 3M Open, but the majors are where he seems to get himself into contention most often and it’s also where we find the best betting odds on him. After going off at +2000 last week he’s nearly double that here, and while the field is better, it’s been these types of fields that he’s generally excelled against. Since 2018, Finau has now racked up seven top-10 finishes at the four majors–in just 10 starts–and four top-5’s. The big man’s game is simply built for major championship golf–and major championship venue–as power off the tee, the ability to handle rough and an ever improving short game often leaves him near the top once everyone else has fallen off.

How the rain will affect the course and players involves a lot of speculation but you have to think that with Finau’s power, and his ability to get the ball up out of wet lies in the rough, that he will certainly be hindered less than the field here. Given his performances in the year’s first two majors–T4 (PGA) and T8 (US Open)–I can’t see the downside here to risking him once more at a decent price, especially in an event where crazy weather could play a factor.  

Hideki Matsuyama +3000 (each-way)

Matsuyama last won on Tour back in Augusta of 2017 at the Bridgestone WGC event–now the FedEX St. Jude–so I can understand the skepticism of picking him to win a major. Still, we’ve seen players in similar situations to his before break through for wins at Augusta. Angel Cabrera only had one non-major win in his entire career (and won here) while Sergio Garcia had only won once between 2012 and 2017 on the PGA before grabbing his green jacket in 2017. And while Matsuyama may not be winning at a high rate anymore he’s certainly not playing poorly.

The five-time Tour winner ranks sixth in this field in SG: Tee to Green and Around the Green stats over the last 50-rounds and has only finished outside the top-30 of a PGA event once since August 1. He’s also performed well at the first two majors of the year, posting T22 and T17 finishes at the US Open and PGA Championship–the former of which he gained an incredible +12.6 strokes Tee to Green at. Matsuyama has also had one of the most consistent lead-in’s to this year’s Masters and if the weather gets rough he’ll also have one of the best short games to lean on. Wet greens here could also potentially help a player who recently lost -4.2 strokes putting at the slippery Winged Foot. For double or even triple the price of many of the favorites, he shakes out as a solid investment for me. 

Paul Casey +6000 (each-way)

It would be easy to write off Casey here. The Englishman hasn’t done a whole lot since finishing T17 at the US Open, playing just three times, with a T35 at the Zozo Championship his best result. Casey was also just bumbling around prior to the PGA Championship though, where he came in with two MC’s and a T67 to his credit in three starts prior, before nearly winning the thing–he settled for a T2 finish. Despite the lack of week-to-week consistency, Casey’s showed very well in the majors this year, gaining +8.4 strokes TTG at Winged Foot and +12.2 at the PGA. 

The veteran clearly has his sights set on the big prizes in this shortened season and its possible the rain and wet course in play this week will favour someone of his ilk. Casey grew up playing in England, has challenged at the Open Championship before, and found success on the PGA at places like Pebble Beach and in Florida at the Valspar where rain and wind are almost always part of the event. 

Casey certainly has the required course knowledge to win at Augusta, finishing T6-T4-T6 here between 2015 to 2017 and the poor weather in play this year may be enough to slow down the scoring from the top guns to give a savvy veteran like himself a shot this year. Players over 37 have now won two of the last three versions of this event so while he’s getting up there in age at 43, he’s hard to discount due to recent history. The price feels right to take a shot that he’s left his best 2020 showing for last. 

Check back later for more bets later this week

Top-10/20

Matt Wallace Top-10 +1025 

Wallace has gone through some swing changes over the last year and finally looks like he’s starting to find some form again late in 2020. He landed a top-5 at the tough Memorial event back in July and landed a 2nd place finish just a couple of weeks ago in Europe. Typically a gutsy player when in contention, he’s landed three wins and two runner-ups now over in Europe since the start of 2018. It’s his second trip to Augusta and he brings more confidence this time around. The price here seems to take into account his lack of success at Augusta but doesn’t factor in his recent uptick in form. It’s a solid number on a quality player.

Lee Westwood Top-20 +260

Westwood is another Englishman who has been quietly plying his trade over in Europe for most of the pandemic. The now 47-year old has finished inside the top-20 at Augusta in seven of his last eight appearances there and has numerous top-20 finishes on his record since the restart as well, including a T13 at the US Open in September. These odds look too good not to take a shot at him producing another solid week, and the poor weather also makes him an interesting longshot prospect at +10000 in the outright department

18-hole matchups

Paul Casey -109 over Rickie Fowler 

Targeting the poor form of Rickie Fowler this week seems simple enough to me. The American may have finished inside the top-10 at this event the last two years but his 2020 form has been terrible for most of the season. He’s lost -4 strokes or more on Approach in two of his last three starts and has also looked lost on the greens at times. As mentioned above, Casey has done well peaking for majors this year and I expect him to be able to, at the very least, grind out a solid win here over Rickie.

Tyrrell Hatton -120 over Collin Morikawa 

Long Term, the Hatton side of this bet isn’t where I’d want to be landing often, but the Englishman comes into this week’s event on a pretty serious heater. Hatton has a win and two top-10’s in his last four starts and he’ll also carry an experience edge over Morikawa who is playing the Masters for the first time ever this week. Morikawa has looked like a player ready to call it a year of late as the PGA Championship winner has looked lost on the greens in his last few starts, compiling just a T12, two MC’s and a T50 in his four lead-in events. Talent-wise he loses out long-term, but for this week Hatton feels like the play here.

Dropping Dimes