The Masters Betting Preview


This week, golf returns to the familiar grounds of Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters. One of the beautiful things about The Masters, other than the manicured lawn, is that it’s the only major played at the same course every year, allowing us to make better judgements on how best to attack it. That being said, Augusta National requires all of the major skill sets, and being a one-dimensional golfer will make it tough to don the green jacket on Sunday. But this doesn’t mean certain skills are more advantageous year to year. 


The course winds through a hilly pine forest, with sloping fairways and undulating greens (take a drink!). The length (7,500 yards) and lack of rough leads to a distance advantage off the tee, but a golfer will be hard-pressed to push up the leaderboard without a solid approach game (unless you’re Patrick Reed).  Missing greens in the wrong spot can be detrimental and leave long lag putts over the rolling greens or tedious chips from tight lies; which can be overcome by a stellar short game, one that Reed displayed when winning his green jacket in 2018.  

Breaking down the course on a more granular level is difficult for me because I am not privy to the shot-by-shot data for Augusta National, which is kept under lock and key unless you have special media access or are a proficient data scraper. That said, DataGolf has made public some strokes gained data from the 2021 Masters that we can look at. 

A one tournament sample can be dangerous in golf, especially when you consider how weather can play a huge factor in scoring outcomes. Last year that was about a 1.5-hour rain delay during Round 3, and it favored those who were able to play a majority of their Round 3 after play continued, avoiding dealing with the rain and coming back to softer fairways and greens. Hideki Matsuyama took full advantage, and his Round 3 score was a massive push toward his eventual win. Overall, the 2021 stats showed an emphasis on distance and around the green, compared to a normal week, paired with strong iron play.  The field will also face longer approach shots and less wedges than usual, which may influence results but can be harder to quantify and project, since you would have to be approximating driving distances on each hole for every golfer.  

The last thing I will touch on is experience. And while I’m not a course-history truther or denier, there is something to be said for experience on difficult courses, where missing to the wrong spots will result in potentially large numbers. Couple that with the fact much of this field is made up of golfers who have played this exclusive tournament multiple times, and it does put a slight disadvantage to newcomers. It can be said that no debutant has won The Masters since 1979, but that doesn’t mean success can’t be had. But it does appear there is more to overcome for those playing in their first Masters. 

Course comparison 

Comparing courses is not an exact science, especially when trying to find similarities to the uniqueness of Augusta National. I’m a “by the numbers” type of person, but there is room for qualitative and quantitative analysis when speculating some course fit and course comparisons. The two courses that stand out the most every year when doing this analysis are Riviera CC and Torrey Pines South. Both courses favor distance over accuracy. Although more accuracy is preferred at Torrey Pines, it’s still better to be long. Boiling it all down, Riviera and Torrey Pines, like Augusta National, are difficult tests that require skill in all facets of the game to excel. 

Outright selections

The top of the market varies slightly, but the consensus is Jon Rahm at the top followed by some order of Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas and Cam Smith. It’s not hard to imagine why, and I’m in agreement for the most part. But instead, I made an adventurous choice to start with Rory McIlroy 20/1.  In some combination of logic and narrative, I arrived on McIlroy completing the career grand slam and removing the weight of the world off his shoulders; I then woke up, realized it wasn’t 2016, and bet him anyway.  

My number was slightly higher. However, I dipped into what can be dangerous waters of manual adjustments, and I like the bet enough to make it. It’s the only one of my wagers that I didn’t make a better number, but basically the same as the market. Golf has changed, and McIlroy has changed. But in truth, he’s playing quite well, and what’s in his head is probably the largest hurdle to overcome. Around the green can be highly variable, like putting, but McIlroy has shown sustained gains in 2022. Even if he begins to regress, he’s good enough in that department for Augusta National. Until last week, his iron play was improving and his OTT game is still among the best in the world. I’m not overly concerned about last week’s missed cut – he doesn’t miss many. And over the past few years when he has, it doesn’t seem to carry over into the next week, with bounce-back finishes such as winning the RBC Canadian Open, T4 at FedEx St. Jude, win at Wells Fargo, and 46th at The Open. I feel comfortable with his form, overall talent and experience to accept the 20/1 and hope for the best. 

The next section of the market is full of names I could make strong arguments for as well, with far more recent major success than McIlroy, such as Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa. Both have a consensus number of 20/1, although I feel Morikawa is far more deserving of the number. Viktor Hovland and Jordan Spieth are in the vicinity, but I decided to skip down to back Sam Burns 50/1 in his Masters debut. 

But wait – nobody has won their Masters debut since 1979! Although true, I’m not sure how many golfers make their Master debut when they’re ranked 11th in the world and already had three PGA Tour victories. None of this is a reason to back or not back Burns, and while I do believe experience is a benefit, talent rules all, and I think the number is generous. Everything seems to line up for him; distance, great irons, solid around the green and a strong putter. Dating back to the start of the 2022 season, he has two wins and four other top 10’s, with a small downturn in February, which he seems to have shaken off. My biggest concern is his lack of success on the comp courses; However, he wasn’t playing at the level he is currently at, and among the missed cuts and poor finishes is a lone second-place finish at the 2021 Genesis Invitational. That aside, his recent accuracy woes shouldn’t hurt him much if he stays out of the woods. And from the approach to the green, he’s been one of the best in the world this year.


Staying in this area of the market, I also backed Daniel Berger 55/1, despite his recent lack of success at Augusta National. His best finish, T10, actually came at his first trip to Augusta, and it’s only gotten worse. Perhaps his preferred cut shot is an underlying factor I’m not accounting for, but it seems on paper Augusta National would be a solid fit for his skill set. The caveat is I’m not compensating enough for what I mentioned about his style of play, but I find it difficult to put a value on draw vs. cut. To be honest, even if I knock him, I still like the 55. He’s been consistently good and statistically would look better if you dilute when he tried to play through a bit of an injury at the Farmers Insurance Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open. It was his short game that plagued him at the 2021 Masters, which isn’t a usual outcome, but it does beg the question if he is hindered by the lack of green-reading books. The Masters hasn’t allowed them, and this year the PGA Tour made sweeping changes to what was allowed. But he has putted well overall during the 2022 season. Despite some of the qualitative factors I struggle to put into a number, I like the number quite a bit with his form and skill set. 

Just down the board is Joaquin Niemann 65/1, which I couldn’t pass up as I continue to be bullish on his overall game. When I bet him at Genesis, I mentioned that it may depend on if his game around the green had truly improved or if it was just a mirage – he went on to gain 1.32 strokes ARG that week and has been positive in that category now every event in 2022 (that had SG data). That’s not why I’m betting on him, but it’s part of the reason he’s leapt up my ratings since his short game and putting had been quite a setback for him. He’s been an outstanding ball-striker since joining the tour in 2018, and I think people forget he’s only 23 years old. He’s growing as an adult and in his game, and perhaps that is what we’re seeing now, as he continues to have one of his better career years on Tour. Quite frankly, DraftKings is off market where the consensus is 50/1, and it’s shorter at other books. Perhaps we can catch them asleep at the wheel for another Niemann victory this year. 

To round out my card, I passed up a lot of experience and history and instead had to bet Tyrrell Hatton 75/1. I did not understand this number when I saw it posted by FanDuel, but perhaps I myself and the market are the ones off the mark. I don’t feel that way, though, based on how Hatton has been playing; although his work around the greens could be improved. His worst finish in 2022 is a T28 in Saudi Arabia, and although he hasn’t won, he has four T10’s and has gained strokes, ball striking and putting in every event with the data. His history here is murky, but his best finish was last year (T18), and even with that in mind I can’t comprehend such a large number being offered. You could string up all sorts of negative narratives, and I think even if I could quantify them to a deduction, I’d still have to bet the 75/1! I feel he’s been one of the best golfers in the world no matter the time frame you check. And even at a market consensus of 50/1, I’d still be looking to back (albeit a smaller edge).  

For all of my bets for THE MASTERS, check out the Bet Tracker and be sure to join us in the discord! If you’re not a member, use code AXIS to sign up for a 20% discount, and I hope to chat with you soon! 

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