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Welcome to our 2014 Masters tips. For new readers, Golf Betting System is into its 6th season of covering both the PGA and European Tours. We provide tips for every Major Championship, PGA and European Tour event, but it's important to note that we provide more than that with tournament stats, weekly competitions and our ever-popular Predictor Models. As always, all of this information is free to access and use. Golf Betting System is also a golf betting community with a thriving Facebook Group where you'll be able to enter our weekly Punters League competition with free Paddy Power bets up for grabs.
The 2014 Masters has had plenty of drama even before the players have arrived at Augusta National. No Tiger Woods, no Eisenhower Tree and recent in-play WDs from a number of tournament favourites Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Before we go onto my selections, here's some key information about the Augusta National course - you can also read my pre-event thoughts here:
Course Guide: Augusta National is 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. Recent winning totals of -8/280 (2013) and -10 (2012) tell the tale that the length, contours, nuances and speed of the bentgrass greens make shooting low numbers here very difficult. Birdies here are a precious commodity 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; Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Perennial Rye; Rough: Perennial Rye 1.38"; Greens: 6,486 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 14ft+; Scoring Avg 2012: 73.5, Difficulty Rank 8 of 49 courses; 2013: 73.4, Difficulty Rank of 4 of 43 courses.
Previous winners: 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.
Overview: Course experience is vital at Augusta and this year's field includes 24 debutants. Their task won't be easy, but a couple of them, namely Harris English and Patrick Reed, do have course experience from their University days. Debutants though will take solace that in recent years both Jason Day and Marc Leishman have contended on their first attempt, but an Augusta rookie hasn't won here since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
It's always easy to go with the form horses in any golf tournament, especially a Major Championship, but Augusta National is a very specialised track that only certain players truly get on with. It took Adam Scott 12 appearances to win here, although that's an extreme as the previous winners Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel won here on their 5th and 2nd appearances respectively. However knowledge is definitely power here and, of recent winners, only Bubba Watson arrived here in white hot form.
So why is winning The Masters such a challenge? Well the bentgrass greens, at 14+ on the stimp, are the fastest on any golfing season. The sheer size of them and the 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 bogeys 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 score heavily 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 well worth their weight in gold around here.
Course conditions are set to be slightly firmer than last year, but the tournament will be played in almost ideal conditions, with a slight wind on Friday afternoon potentially benefiting early starters. All of my selections have a minimum of 2 appearances here, with 5 of them having at least a sub-70 round here. All can drive it a minimum of 290 yards when required and have a good feel for long, classical courses and Bentgrass greens.
My final US Masters tips are as follows:
Commentators and punters alike have a real downer on McIlroy at the moment, but I'm more than happy to support the 2-time Major Champion at 12/1 which is a full 4 points bigger than 12 months ago when Rory was struggling with low confidence and new Nike equipment. My view is that McIlroy is playing far better golf now than he was then: recent strokeplay form of 25(Doral)-2-(PGA National)- 9(Emirates)-2(Abu Dhabi) may not have contained the win that Rory and his band of backers crave, but there's no doubt that both the Northern Irishman's game and mental attitude are back on the upward trend. His closing 65 in the softer Sunday conditions at the Golf Club of Houston gave McIlroy another Top 10 finish, but more importantly momentum going into Augusta. Yes, Rory capitulated here in 2011 and that 15th place is still his best ever finish here in 4 appearances, but nobody will change my view that Augusta National is a perfect match for Rory - indeed he's shot 72 or below in 8 of his last 12 rounds here. Asked about his own form yesterday (Monday) "I am playing nicely, comfortable with my game, being in contention a little bit without quite getting the win. I'm just waiting for that week where everything really clicks." I'm sure that he will be in the mix on Sunday. RESULT: T8
Despite a disappointing display at the Golf Club of Houston last week, I'm still big on Henrik Stenson this week for a number of reasons. Forget the Official World Golf Rankings, this week will be all about Henrik's quest to win his first Major Championship and, in the build-up to Augusta, Stenson has been striking the ball well enough. The Swede knows that his accurate, powerful game is perfect for Augusta and I'm 100% confident that he has a strategy in place to play the course in a regimented way, precisely as he did when winning on the Earth Course back in December. 5th at Bay Hill 3 weeks was a true indication of just where Henrik is right now and it's worth remembering that the Swede has a collection of 5 Top-5 Major finishes since 2008. In a way Stenson is in exactly the same career position as Adam Scott was when he drove down Magnolia Lane 12 months ago and ask yourself this: if Henrik finds himself on Sunday lunchtime in the same 6th position as he was 24 months ago, do you see him shooting the same closing round of 81 or the 69 as he did last season...? RESULT: T14
I don't like defending champions at Augusta but I have no problem with previous Green Jacket holders, especially those who come into the tournament with a reasonable amount of below-the-radar form. In the past 2 renewals former champions Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera and Fred Couples have all been in serious contention. With 2012 Champion Bubba Watson being well supported this year, I'm heading down a similar road with the less conspicuous Charl Schwartzel. I've kept a close eye on the Florida-based (when in the US) South African since he touched down on the PGA Tour back in February which kicked off with 5th at Riviera, followed by a Round 2 exit at Dove Mountain, a Missed Cut at PGA National, 9th at Trump Doral and 19th last week in Houston. In summary, the big hitting Schwartzel has been putting well whilst his tee-to-green game has been scratchy. However after 3 weeks of practice between Trump Doral and Houston it was noticeable that Charl tightened his game considerably last week where he made the top 20 in Greens in Regulation and, as a result, made a big stride in Bogey Avoidance. We all know that Schwartzel comes to the fore on long, tree-lined classical courses featuring bentgrass greens and Charl, who contended at Merion last year, was 13th here after 36 holes last year before falling away. On a definite up-trend, and well worth supporting. RESULT: MC
3 selections and no Americans. Don't despair as my final 3 are all from that States and all of them sit in the World Top 50, starting with Rickie Fowler. We may have missed out on an 80/1 each way payout with Fowler last week as he finished 6th, but my logic was 100% verified. 1) Rickie's game is up-trending and becoming more consistent across all facets. 2) Rickie comes to the fore on long, tough Par 72s. So I'm staying loyal to the Florida-based Californian this week at a course where he shot 70/69 to sit 7th after 36 holes on course debut back in 2011. Fowler's CV is littered with excellent results on long formats including Kapalua, Torrey Pines, Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, Firestone and naturally Quail Hollow where he won in 2012 highlighting his classical course prowess. His results in Major Championships aren't too shabby either as he finished 5th at Sandwich in 2011 and 10th at Merion last term - a season where he also finished 38th (Augusta) and 19th (Oak Hill). 2 sub-70 rounds at Augusta pinpoint a player who knows how to score well here and seriously featuring in a Major could be the next step for Rickie. RESULT: T5
I'll finish my Masters 2014 player portfolio with Gary Woodland and Bill Haas who both present some decent each way value. The big hitting Floridian Woodland has had a strong 2013/14 season to date following on from a decent close to last term. From tee-to-green Woodland currently sits 2nd in Total Driving, 1st in Ball-Striking, 7th in Greens in Regulation as well as 2nd in Going for the Green categories. From a scoring perspective, 27th in Par 4 and 67th in Par 5 Birdie or Better categories are attractive and Woodland also sits 11th in Bogey Avoidance so far this season...plus he averages 301 yards from the tee! So theoretically Augusta should set up well for Gary and Woodland shot 69-73-74-70 on his course debut here back in 2011. The 2-time PGA Tour winner has, in my mind, a decent temperament and strong Top 10s across Torrey Pines, PGA National, Copperhead (1st 2011), Muirfield Village, Montreaux (1st 2013) Liberty National and CordeValle highlight a player who is comfortable on long and, equally importantly, tougher golf courses. Could surprise this week. RESULT: T26
Another who could surprise is Bill Haas who actually ranks in position 5 in my analysis of PGA Tour classical golf courses performers since 2009. Haas, for me, is one of those players who is slowly maturing and working his way up through the levels of world golf in a methodical way. His first win back in 2010 was at PGA West and since then he's won at Sea Island (2010), East Lake (2011), Riviera (2012) and at Congressional (2013). Indeed he won the FedEx Cup with his win at East Lake in 2011, and victories at Riviera and Congressional (home of the 2011 US Open) highlight a quality player who's also twice represented the United States in the Presidents Cup in recent years (2011/2013). So the next step for Haas is to step up to the plate at Major Championships where he has never finished in the Top 10. Interestingly Bill finished 25th at Oak Hill in his last Major appearance and his Augusta results read: 26th (Debut 2010), 42nd (2011), 37th (2012) and 20th last term. Haas can drive the ball 300+ yards, sits 16th in Greens in Regulation and 17th in Bogey Avoidance categories. If he gets a little aggressive and clicks on the Par 5s this week he could well feature, so worth backing with Paddy Power at 6 Places Each Way. RESULT: T20
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