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So we've finally made it to Augusta National Golf Club for the 2015 US Masters. For new visitors, Golf Betting System is into its 7th season and we provide free statistics, predictor models and previews across every Major Championship, PGA and European Tour event. We also have a thriving golf betting community with constant golf betting chat and insight from golf punters 7 days a week on our Facebook Group. Welcome and don't hesitate to get involved!
Before we start it's worth highlighting that for the 3rd successive year we're running a cracking Majors Competition in association with bet365 with an increased £225 free bet prize fund. You can enter via our Facebook Group, twitter or via email - full details are here.
As well as my preview here, we also have a dedicated Longshot and Alternative Market Preview by Paul Williams.
Ok let's get into the heart of the matter. The 2015 Masters features 98 players from 25 countries, 20 golfers making their debut, 19 Masters Champions and 7 amateurs. Here's my Masters preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Augusta National is always a true test of every professional golfers mettle. Yes, the course is the most beautiful and manicured piece of golfing property in the world, but Alister Mackenzie's creation has real teeth, especially if weather impacts the tournament. Recent winning totals of -8/280 (2013/2014) and -10 (2012) tell the tale that the length, contours, nuances and speed of the bentgrass greens make shooting low numbers here very difficult. However with moderate breezes, thunderstorms and rain looking a feature this week, the course will play long and tough even if green speeds will be reduced slightly. Birdies here are precious and players have to take advantage of the Par 5s whilst keeping their card as clean as possible.
Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia: Designer: Alister Mackenzie 1933 with Tom Fazio re-design 2001; Course Type: Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,435 yards; Fairways: Ryegrass; Rough: Ryegrass 1.38"; Greens: 6,486 sq.ft average Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: +13.0 ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 73.5 (+1.5), Difficulty Rank 8 of 49 courses. 2013: 73.4 (+1.4), Difficulty Rank 4 of 43 courses. 2014: 73.9 (+1.9), Rank 2 of 48 courses.
Course Overview: The nuances of Augusta National are varied and unique. The whole Masters experience both on and off course is different from any other tournament in professional golf. Indeed a course rookie hasn't won here since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman and Jason Day have gone very close in recent renewals. Course-wise, sure you'll have heard about the infamous bentgrass greens that run at 14+ on the stimp if the organisers get their way with the weather - naturally these are the fastest of any golfing season. Their sheer size and contours make birdie chances only viable from the smallest of target areas. Mown run-off areas mean that errant shots don’t stop and even great approach shots can lead to bogey or worse. Since Augusta was re-modelled for the 2008 renewal, it's been quoted as a 7,435 yard, Par 72 - but don't believe that as all fairways are traditionally mown against the hole direction to minimise driving distance, effectively meaning it plays closer to 7,700 yards. To succeed you must be aggressive on the four Par 5s and minimise bogeys across the rest of the property. Eagles on the Par 5s and Birdies on the Par 4s are worth their weight in gold around here.
Winners: 2014: Bubba Watson (-8); 2013: Adam Scott (-8); 2012: Bubba Watson (-10); 2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14); 2010: Phil Mickelson (-16); 2009: Angel Cabrera; 2008: Trevor Immelman; 2007: Zach Johnson; 2006: Phil Mickelson; 2005: Tiger Woods; 2004: Phil Mickelson.
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Masters predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Jason Day (Predictor number 1), Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson. Ryan Palmer and Charley Hoffman are prominent and offer up value at 90/1 and 250/1 respectively.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to the Phoenix Open / Dubai Desert Classic weekend and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: Watson 28/1; 2013: Scott 28/1; 2012: Watson 55/1; 2011: Schwartzel 90/1; 2010: Mickelson 10/1; 2009: Cabrera 140/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Augusta is here. It's the worst forecast I've seen for Augusta since I started covering the tournament and it really is a mixed bag of thunderstorms, rain and moderate wind. Rain has been falling early this morning (Tuesday) and there are dangers of further rain and thunderstorms throughout the 4 days of play. However strong (for Augusta) breezes will also be a feature across Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Nappy Factor: Here's a list of players in this week's field who've recently become fathers. This is an interesting angle that his historically delivered numerous winners. If you know of further players don't hesitate to email us or add new names to the thread on our facebook group: James Hahn 3.3.15 (Won Northern Trust 22.2.2015), Bill Haas 27.2.15 (Won Humana 25.1.15), Adam Scott 15.2.15, Hunter Mahan 6.2.15, Robert Streb 3.2.15, Dustin Johnson 20.1.15 (Won WGC Cadillac 8.3.15).
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Naturally the Augusta National course always takes centre stage at The Masters, but weather over the course of tournament week could have a major impact on the result this time around. Take 12 months ago where fairly light winds from Friday lunchtime onwards coursed havoc leading to morning starter Bubba Watson taking advantage and establishing a 4-shot lead over the field. Fact is that a fast start at Augusta is imperative and contenders need to be right up with the pace from early on. It's incredibly hard to play catch-up on a course where aggression leads to inevitable bogeys. Patience is key.
So the breeze will be a factor across large portions of the tournament. Add to that a forecast that documents 70% - 80% chances of rain across Thursday, Friday and Saturday and it looks likely to lead to an inevitable softening of the course. Most precipitation looks like it won't affect actual play and we know that Course Superintendent Brad Owen has sub-air systems at his disposal, so don't expect Bay Hill or GC of Houston course conditions, but it's likely that green complexes will become ever so slightly more receptive and that fairway roll will become increasingly inhibited.
Augusta trends are plentiful, but here are the ones I think are key. All winners here going back to 2005 had previously won a main Tour event on Bentgrass greens. Since the course was last significantly changed in 2008, all winners have averaged over 290 yards from the tee in the season they won the Green Jacket. This trend for bombers triumphing has become increasingly more important over time and going back to Phil Mickelson's win in 2010 season averages (in yards) of winners reads 299, 297, 315, 305 and 308. With softer fairways quite possible this week, expect this trend to continue. As already mentioned, course experience is key and there are undoubted form links to Riviera, Doral, GC of Houston and Quail Hollow.
So this week I'm looking for long hitters who can also handle wind-affected conditions and who can hit lots of greens in regulation. We also need players who are both long enough, aggressive enough and subtle enough (scrambling wise) to take advantage of the Par 5s.
Now inevitably this whole scenario plays into the hands of Rory McIlroy who could complete his Major Grand Slam this week. Fact is the Northern Irish World Number 1 is hitting plenty of greens right now, kept Bogeys to a minimum last time out at Bay Hill and we all know that he's long enough and aggressive enough to take advantage of a course set-up where putting is not as vital as it once was. I wouldn't put anybody off Rory and those with the conviction to follow him could take advantage of 888sport's triple odds promotion - click here for full details or our Golf Betting System exclusive with Totesport who are offering 5/1 for a Top 10 finish which includes ties - click here for full details.
My final selections are as follows:
Jason Day is our Predictor Model Number 1 (and one of my favourite players, it has to be said) who has delivered multiple Major place returns for us since 2011. With an impressive 2nd here in 2011 on debut backed up by 3rd in 2013, Day clearly thrives in this corner of Georgia and recent form of 31st at Doral and 17th at Bay Hill bothers me not one jot as the Queenslander rarely putts well on Bermudagrass greens. Instead, in a market quite rightly dominated by McIlroy, Spieth and Watson, I can see this week being the best opportunity yet for the 27 year-old to win his first Major. Jason in 2015 comes into Augusta fit, mentally strong and well prepared - indeed he arrived here last Friday and has been extensively practising chipping and putting around the course. Let's not forget that Day, 24 months on from his last contending performance here, has won the WGC World Matchplay and took a well deserved 2nd PGA Tour stroke play victory at Torrey Pines in February, a course that has seen Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson triumph in the past.
Adam Scott should never be underestimated for a Major Championship and the 2013 Masters Champion has the experience and patience to contend in trying conditions this week on a course where he hasn't finished outside the Top 18 since 2010. Naturally Scott's move to a short putter has been one of the main conversation points in early 2015 and undoubtedly it's going to take time, as it has done for Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson. So it was with interest that his announcement late last week that he will go back to the belly putter for this week was instantly greeted by an 8-point reduction in his odds. That kind of pragmatic approach from Scott suggests that he knows that his tee-to-green game is spot on right now and you can be sure that the Aussie has been spending his time at his Albany Club base in the Bahamas bringing himself back to speed with the old putting routine. The Cadillac Championship at Doral is always an excellent gauge for The Masters and we shouldn't forget that Scott finished 4th on his seasonal debut there with the hindrance of a misfiring short putter.
The development of Jimmy Walker under the tutelage of Butch Harmon has been one of the highlights of the last 18 months. 5 PGA Tour wins in that time, allied to 3 Major Top 10s and a Ryder Cup debut, have catapulted the Texan into the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Yes you can argue that Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed have made bigger impacts, but for this particular week at Augusta National I think that Jimmy's game will be extremely well suited, especially if conditions get tricky. You see, Walker has a 301 yard driving distance Tour average, he hits the ball both ways, has a high ball flight, plays well in windy conditions, loves Going for the Green (key for Augusta) and sits 14th in my rolling Greens in Regulation rankings detailed above. He also sits 3rd in Strokes Gained Putting and 4th in both Par 4 and Par 5 Birdie or Better categories this season. Finished 8th here on debut last season where he finished 4th in Greens Hit and I was pleased to see him pull out of the Shell Houston last week to concentrate on Augusta. A polished performer.
Billy Horschel again is another player who fits the bill perfectly this week. The big hitting Floridian is a Greens in Regulation monster who can mix it with the world's best when the putter starts to fire. That was self evident at the close of 2014 when 2nd on the bentgrass greens of TPC Boston was followed by consecutive wins at Cherry Hills (Bent Poa greens) and East Lake, therefore capturing the 2014 FedEx Cup series. A huge momentum player who, once confident, can contend over a number of tournaments, Billy finally found his scrambling and putting game a fortnight ago in tough conditions at TPC San Antonio where he finished 3rd behind Walker and Spieth. That bodes well at Augusta where in the middle of a slow start to the season 12 months ago he finished 37th on his Augusta debut, powered by a joint 2nd (behind Spieth, tied with McIlroy) Greens in Regulation performance. He also finished 4th at the 2013 U.S. Open at the classical Merion and in a week where there could be weather delays, after his first PGA Tour win at New Orleans again in 2013 he said " Yeah, you know, for some reason whenever there's been a delay, growing up in junior golf or college golf or even pro golf, I've always come back from the delay and played really strong."
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