Masters Week, and I got the fever bad. Three top 20’s at even or better, and my favorite prop. Click the link, now.
So kick it off with just a few strategy thoughts… Picking a winner on the PGA Tour for any week is incredibly difficult. Almost nobody saw Corey Conners, the Monday qualifier into Valero, winning last week. And at last year’s Masters, Patrick Reed was 50/1 to win and the 24th ranked golfer in the world. Picking winners will never be the emphasis of my card. Historically I’ve done well with round by round matchups, and I look forward to proving that this summer. Stay tuned to the twitters @BurntGreens and @_jpolar for the picks immediately after they have been made.
Where I do think we can find some value are in the Top 20 bets this week. A player’s success or failure at Augusta National year-to-year is strongly correlated, in comparison to other tournament venues. There are a number of past champions that I believe are undervalued by the market and a couple young studs that I believe could show well. Now the picks.
Bubba has won the Masters twice and was a top ten golfer in the world three consecutive years before disaster struck in 2017. Bubba departed Titleist and partnered with an upstart golf ball company, which resulted in a fall from the #10 golfer in the world to #89. After joining back with Titleist in 2018, he finished fifth here last year and won another three PGA tournaments. Bubba absolutely mashes the golf ball, and as a lefty, his natural right-to-left ball movement gets him to spots on the course that no one else can reach. Bubba led the field in strokes gained off-the-tee last year, and by a wide margin. With his game back in form and the prior success at this event, I am comfortable with selecting him for a top 20 finish at even money.
I have searched all over the internet, and am absolutely shocked by the lack of respect that Adam Scott is receiving for this event. My conclusion is that because Scott had used an anchored putter, which are now banned, when he won in 2013, the golfing community has largely written him off. The man has finished top 20 at the masters six of the nine last years. It is true that putting has been his Achilles heel, but pulling from PgaTour.com, the Australian is having his best putting season since 2004, gaining .68 shots per round on the field. I’ll remind you that he won here in 2013, even while losing strokes to the field putting, and became the #1 golfer in the world. He is currently ranked fifth in the world in Par 5 scoring, essential to success at Augusta. He is gaining strokes on the field Off of the Tee, Approaching the Green, and Putting! Adam Scott has proven success here and has revamped his tour schedule (electing to forgo all of the WGC events in 2019) with one thing in mind, Augusta National. I’ll happily take Scott for his 7th top 20 in 10 years at +130.
Tony Finau has not won the masters like the two golfers above. What Tony Finau does is make birdies and finish in the top 10. In 2018, Tony Finau was second on the PGA Tour with 405 birdies in 98 rounds. He was 9th in scoring average, and 7th in total strokes gained. He finished with 12 top tens in 28 events and climbed from 40th in the official world golf rankings to 9th. At last year’s masters, after dislocating his ankle on Wednesday, Finau finished 10th at his first trip to Augusta. While his success is largely the result of tee-to-green dominance, it was his putting that made the largest impact here last year, gaining almost six shots on the field with the flat stick. On his second trip to Augusta, I expect to see the same Tony Finau that showed up all of 2018. Lock me in for a T20 at even money.
Now for a little fun… Every year I find myself locking into one of the amateur golfers, I can’t help it. Last Year it was Matt Parziale, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Am Champion, and Brockton Massachusetts Firefighter. These guys, wither they’re a 30-year-old firefighter or a 19-year-old phenom make for such compelling storylines. Bobby Jones, the co-founder of Augusta National, is the most famous amateur golfer in history. With 13 major championships, the 1930 grand slam, and two ticker-tape parades, its no surprise why.
This year’s Target – Viktor Hovland for Top Am:
The 2018 U.S. Amateur Champion and current Junior at Oklahoma State will be turning pro after the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He absolutely dominated the U.S. Amateur en route to a victory in the fewest holes ever played at the match play event. If it wasn’t for his teammate Matthew Wolf, the man would be the most famous amateur golfer in the world. Luckily Wolf is not competing at Augusta, which makes Hovland the pick this week. Having already made the cut at two professional events, most recently the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and with five top tens in his last five collegiate events (including two wins), Hovland is far and away the best amateur in this field. At +175 this was a no-brainer for me. It is still golf, and anything can happen. But after taking the crown at the most significant amateur event of 2018, I believe that this kid is the real deal.
Huge hat tip to Joe Peta’s new book A 2019 Masters Preview. His work was incredibly helpful in preparing for the event. Even if you can’t get your hand on one by the weekend, pick one up in anticipation of next year. From hole by hole breakdowns to the first look at historical Strokes Gained data from Augusta, Joe Peta crushed it. An easy read, trust me.
Thanks for reading everyone, excuse my awful grammar and stay tuned to Twitter for any round-by-round plays. Enjoy the best golf event of the year, I cannot wait for Thursday.
Long and Straight – JP