2018 Masters Futures: Finding Value Outside of the Favorites
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Justin Rose
The 2018 Masters Tournament arguably provides the most tightly-packed field in modern history. There are currently 11 players at odds of 20-1 or lower and 12 players with lower prices than the defending champion Sergio Garcia (30-1).
Topping this crowded field is 2015 champion Jordan Spieth (10-1), who is off his best finish of the season with a third-place performance in Houston last week. Spieth is followed closely by Rory McIlroy (11-1), who looks to be back in form off a win at Bay Hill, and McIlroy is followed by the highest ranked players in the world, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas (12-1), who have both posted wins in the calendar year.
We would expect those players to be booked as top contenders, but the real reason this field is so tight is the reemergence of Tiger Woods (17-1), Bubba Watson (18-1) and Phil Mickelson (19-1). The former Augusta National champions were seen as tertiary contenders about six months ago, but that has changed now that Tiger has appeared on a couple Sunday leaderboards, Bubba has won two events after a winless 2017 and Phil has won for the first time in nearly five years.
You’ll notice that there are several top players I have yet to mention: They are the players I will be backing this week at the 82nd edition of the Masters Tournament.
Justin Rose (16-1)
A two-time bridesmaid here in the last three years, the underrated Englishman looks primed to contend here again after his playoff loss to Sergio Garcia last year. While Rose has yet to win in 2018, he did gather three wins in the last three months of 2017. In spite of a nondescript performance in Houston last week, Rose has posted two top-five finishes (third at Bay Hill, fifth at Valspar) in the last month.
Jason Day (18-1)
If there is a relatively recent major champion under the radar this week, it’s Day. He has already won this calendar year (Torrey Pines) and is back to making putts. In fact, he ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting (1.386). Day has the high ball flight that fits the bill here at Augusta, and his short game is as good as anyone’s in the world.
Paul Casey (22-1)
If you take an aggregate of the last three Masters, no one is more consistent than Casey. His last three finishes are 6-4-6, respectively. Casey has been slowly returning to his form of the late 2000s, when he was as high as No. 3 in the world, and he got a recent win at the Valspar Championship by holding off a late charge from Tiger Woods. That was his first win since September 2014 at the KLM Open. Casey currently ranks second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee to green and seventh in Scrambling. He might be coming in with more confidence this year, and he might have less pressure thanks to the recent win.
Hideki Matsuyama (35-1)
One of the players who has seen his odds drift with the resurgence of Tiger, Phil, and Bubba is Matsuyama. Hideki went off at just 12-1 at the PGA Championship last fall, and now he’s triple the price. Even with his wrist injury earlier in the season, this is a massive overlay for a player of his caliber. His last three finishes here are 11-7-5. Putting has always been the question mark for Matsuyama, but you don’t have to be a good putter to win here. You just have to putt well enough. He is as good tee-to-green as anyone in the world (13th in strokes gained tee to green and third in strokes gained around the green).
Henrik Stenson (40-1)
If you look solely at previous Masters form, then the Swede looks like a bust candidate this week. He has never really contended for a win here, and his best finish at Augusta is a T14 in 2014. However, Garcia never contended here prior to last year either. Stenson looks to be back in world-class form with finishes of sixth (Houston) and fourth (Bay Hill) in his last two starts. He is a good candidate to pull a surprise. He is peaking at the right time and will largely be ignored by bettors.
Matt Kuchar (50-1)
I know, I know. Kooch always gets backed in the market but never seems to close the deal. However, he does possess four top-eight finishes here in his last six visits. This is where the prop future markets come into play. Kuchar is currently around 4/1 to finish in the top 10, and I will also be betting that.
Louis Oosthuizen (66-1)
Louis has a Majors runner-up Grand Slam to his name, finishing second to Justin Thomas at the 2017 PGA Championship. It’s been a slow start for Oosthuizen this year with only three top-25 finishes, but he may have some momentum coming in to Augusta. He defeated Jason Day in the group portion of the Dell Match Play before running into the freight train of Ian Poulter, who had to play his best golf in years just to make the Masters field and is also one of the world’s best match play golfers. You may remember that it was Oosthuizen who lost in the playoff here back in 2012 to Bubba. He has the tee-to-green game required here and is always a perennial darkhorse to contend.
Longer Shots Worth Taking
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat (100/1)
- Kevin Chappell (100/1)
- Ryan Moore (100/1)
- Russell Henley (125/1)
Here are five golfers I like to finish in the top 20:
- Paul Casey (-125)
- Adam Scott (2/1)
- Matt Kuchar (2/1)
- Russell Henley (3/1)
- Kevin Chappell (4/1)
Top Spaniard: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (5/1)
36-hole cut score: UNDER 149 (-110)
Lowest score: UNDER 65.5 (-160)
Pictured above: Justin Rose at the Arnold Palmer Invitational