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2018 Masters Odds: Breaking Down a Loaded Field

By Matthew Reese in Sports
| February 26, 2018 12:00 am PDT
The Masters Tournament

The 2018 Masters tournament field may be small, but the names projected to compete in this year’s event are absolutely huge.

That may come as little surprise, considering the tough criteria that golfers need to meet in order to play in the Masters. Augusta National ensures itself a star-studded field by limiting invitations to past Masters champions, winners of the other majors in the past 5 years, PGA Tour winners over the past year, reigning amateur champs in various countries, top finishers in notable tournaments from the previous years and players inside the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings.

But even Augusta might outdo itself this year when it comes to the caliber of players walking through the azaleas in the first weekend of April.

Of the 82 players to have already qualified for this year’s Masters as of late February, nearly a quarter of them were among the top 20 on Week 7 of the World Golf Rankings. In fact, Pat Perez and Rafael Cabrera Bello were the only players in that top 20 who hadn’t already earned their invitation to Augusta this spring, and they’ll get those invites if they maintain their spots inside the top 50.

If that’s not enough, I haven’t even got to the biggest name of them all, Tiger Woods. At the time of writing, Eldrick wasn’t even inside the top 500 of the World Golf Rankings as he works his way back from years away from the sport. However, oddsmakers are already pricing Woods as a serious contender for his fifth career Green Jacket.

2018 Masters Odds (Early Market)

Speaking of the odds, here’s what BetOnline was offering on the early market for the 2018 Masters at the time of writing.

  • Dustin Johnson +700
  • Jordan Spieth +700
  • Rory McIlroy +800
  • Jason Day +1200
  • Justin Thomas +1200
  • Rickie Fowler +1400
  • Jon Rahm +1600
  • Justin Rose +1800
  • Tiger Woods +1800
  • Hideki Matsuyama +2000
  • Phil Mickelson +2500
  • Bubba Watson +2500
  • Sergio Garcia +2800
  • Adam Scott +3300
  • Paul Casey +3300
  • Brooks Koepka +3300
  • Tommy Fleetwood +3300
  • Henrik Stenson +4000
  • Thomas Pieters +4000
  • Matt Kuchar +4000
  • Charl Schwartzel +6600
  • Louis Oosthuizen +6600
  • Marc Leishman +4000
  • Alex Noren +6600
  • Tyrrell Hatton +6600

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 12 p.m eastern on February 22, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

Are The Top Three Favorites Worth The Short Price?

As revered as the Masters’ tournament is, it isn’t usually won by the biggest names in the sport. At least not recently, with Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson among the players to earn Green Jackets over the past 11 years.

Granted, those are all recognizable players, but they were hardly projected as potential champions the year they won the Masters. Garcia was a +3000 darkhorse last year, Willett paid +6000 going into the 2016 tournament, Schwartzel was +5000 in 2011 and Immelman delivered as an +8000 longshot in 2008.

So is it worth backing Johnson, Spieth or McIlroy to win the Masters at +800 return or less?

Of that trio, it’s easiest to make the case for Spieth. He actually won the tournament as the favorite in 2015 (though at much shorter odds that year, paying +225) and has a sparkling track record at Augusta, tying for second in both 2014 and 2016. However, a big concern you may have about Spieth is whether he can put his recent Sunday struggles at Augusta behind him. Two years ago, he blew a 5-shot lead with 9 holes to go, and last year he was 2 shots off the pace on the final day before carding a 75.

The Masters’ history of DJ and Rory is much less impressive. Although Johnson tied for fourth in 2016, he didn’t score below 71 in any of his 4 rounds and finished 4 shots behind Willett, and he had to withdraw from last year’s event after falling down the stairs. And McIlroy has finished outside of the top 10 in 7 of his 9 Masters appearances, with his best finish coming in 2015 when he finished fourth, 6 shots behind Spieth.

Could Tiger Woods Seriously Contend At Augusta?

It takes more than talent and skill to win a major. You also need to be strong between the ears, and that’s probably the only reason to believe Tiger can be a legitimate contender at the Masters this year.

At the height of his greatness, no golfer in history had ever seemed as unflappable and invincible as Woods. In the 45 times in his career that he’s held the outright lead through 3 rounds of PGA Tour event, he’s gone on to win 43 of them. According to The Golf Channel, that 95.6% winning percentage in that situation is more than double the winning percentage by all other golfers combined from 2014-16.

We’ve also seen Tiger’s mental strength in the way he has handled the various public shames he’s suffered, whether it was his infidelity issues being exposed in 2009, his subsequent divorce from Elin Nordegren or, more recently, his addiction to prescription drugs. I’m not commending Woods for any of these issues, but you have to admit the way he’s managed to put them behind him and not allow them to affect his professional career is impressive.

Unfortunately for Woods, mental strength hasn’t been enough to overcome the litany of injuries he’s suffered over the years and the toll that an extended absence from the sport has taken on him. Though we have seen a familiar finesse in Woods’ short game during his current comeback attempt, he still misses far too many fairways off the tee and also admits his iron play is nowhere near what it used to be or needs to be.

People are going to bet on Tiger, regardless of the price. I think oddsmakers are aware of this and are A) taking advantage by offering lower odds than he merits; and B) protecting themselves in the off-chance that Woods actually does contend at Augusta. You truly can never say never with Tiger, but a wager on him to win the Masters feels more like cheering for the fairy tale ending than a wise bet based on probability.

Darkhorses To Consider

As I mentioned earlier, many of the recent Masters’ tournaments have been won by names who weren’t near the top of the futures odds at the start of the tournament.

Instead of shaking our heads in bewilderment at the end of the Masters and wondering how we didn’t see the 2018 winner coming, let’s try to project darkhorses who may end up getting measured for a Green Jacket this spring.

Golf Icon1. Hideki Matsuyama (+2000)

Following Sergio’s win at the Masters last year, Matsuyama may have inherited the unfortunate title of “best golfer not to win a major.” He also bears the weight of trying to become the first-ever Japanese golfer to win a major championship.

But he’s remarkably consistent, posted a pair of Top 10 finishes in his first 5 PGA Tour events this season, putts the ball well enough and has finished 5th, 7th and 11th in his last 3 trips to Augusta. At some point, Matsuyama is going to break through.

Golf Icon2. Paul Casey (+3300)

Driving and putting are always important, but hitting greens in regulation might be the most critical component of being successful at Augusta.

That bodes well for a player like Casey, who finished third in GIR on the PGA Tour last year and is one of the top players in that category once again through 20 rounds this season. He’s been in the running each of the past 3 years (6th, 4th, 6th) and is very familiar with the course, making his 12th Masters appearance.

Golf Icon3. Louis Oosthuizen (+6600)

If longshot odds are more your fancy, consider sprinkling a bit on Oosthuizen this year.

We haven’t seen much from him so far this season after he suffered one of the weirder injuries in golf history, jamming his fingers in an airport trolley, a few months ago. But he returned back to action for the Honda Classic and a couple of months should be enough time for him to shake any rust off his game.

Oosthuizen has struggled at the Masters in the past, missing the cut in 4 of 9 appearances, but he also finished second in 2012. Although I wouldn’t bet him on lower odds props like making the cut or finishing in the Top 25, his upside makes him worth a shot at the outright win at +6600.

Conclusion

We’ve seen many surprise champions at Augusta in recent years, and considering how many talented players are in the field, I’m expecting that we’ll see another one in 2018.

As tempting as Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and even Jason Day or Justin Thomas might be, taking one player against this loaded Masters field at +1200 odds or less doesn’t look like a great value. And while Tiger winning his first major title in a decade would be one heck of a story, his current form and struggles don’t make him a worthwhile wager at the current odds, either.

Instead, I recommend digging through some of the names towards the bottom of the 2018 Masters odds to see what value you can find. Matsuyama, Casey and Oosthuizen are all perfect examples of players who are completely capable of winning at Augusta, yet offer generous enough prices that you can enjoy a huge payday.

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