First Round Leader Market
The First Round Leader (FRL) market is fascinating given there are many ways to review the data to hand. How does the weather forecast impact conditions? Will it be softer earlier, firmer later, windier for some, warmer for others? What tee times have the recent FRL winners had? Have the recent FRL winners started well here in the past? Have the recent FRL winners started well in their recent events, have they even been playing well in recent events? Lots of questions and the odd red herring along the way I'm sure, however I think there are a few factors to consider which might help point us in the right direction.
First up, some recent history of FRL winners here:
Going back further still, in 2011 Rory McIlroy (9.24am) and Alvaro Quiros (1.59pm) tied for the lead with rounds of 65; Fred Couples shot a 66 from a 12.58 tee time in 2010 to lead on his own; Chad Campbell's 12.35 tee time produced an opening 65 in 2009; Trevor Immelman and Justin Rose shared the lead in 2008 with rounds of 68 from 11.40am and 10.56 tee times respectively.
Leishman aside, you could make a fair case for most of the players above on recent(ish) form alone, however their tee times are varied to say the least. What does stand out to me though is that if we go back to 2007, the final group of the day has produced a top-5 finisher on 6 of the 11 occasions; extend that to the last 2 groups and 8 of the last 11 renewals have produced a top-5 finisher in the first round leader market. Is there some logic in there? The breeze often does lay down a little towards the end of the day and perhaps the euphoria and pressure begins to dissipate a little as the day progresses. Players will also usually enjoy the best temperatures in the afternoon and on this lengthy layout every extra yard helps, particularly with the scoreable holes on the back 9.
The latest weather forecast for Augusta National is here. At the time of writing Thursday looks to be a largely dry and bright day with temperatures rising after a particularly chilly start. The earliest of starters will have to bear temperatures in the mid-40s Fahrenheit which will undoubtedly make the course play longer than normal, however by mid-afternoon it will be a good twenty degrees warmer which will certainly help with driving distances. The wind won't be a huge factor, however it will peak at 10mph around noon before dropping away in the afternoon.
Given the history discussed above and the potential for more scoreable conditions in the afternoon, I've gone for the following players:
Justin Rose 2pts EW 18/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet*** for new accounts, code YSKA01 and this link. 18+, T&Cs apply.
Louis Oosthuizen 1pt EW 50/1 with £/€20 risk-free bet*** for new accounts, code YSKA01 and this link. 18+, T&Cs apply.
I've gone with 2 players in the First Round Leader marker, both with Paddy Power at marginally shorter odds as they're paying 8 places each way, 1/5 odds for first round leader bets and this is a market that often results in a lot of ties.
Firstly I've followed the FRL stats religiously for my Justin Rose bet and it's very difficult to argue with his credentials in this market. Three times Rose has sat atop the leaderboard here at Augusta National after day 1 (2004, 2007, 2008) and he's also placed 2nd, 4th and 4th after 18 holes on his last 3 starts here. So 6 top-4 finishes after day 1 from 12 starts would seem to be a phenomenal strike rate for a player who's towards the very top of the betting market outright and was a narrow play-off loser to Sergio Garcia last year. Out in the final group of the day at 2pm, the Englishman will enjoy the warmest temperatures and lightest winds of the day as he attempts to get his quest for the Green Jacket off to a flying start. Rose was 6th after day 1 at the WGC HSBC Champions, 2nd after day 1 at the Earth Course where he was seeking to win the Race To Dubai title and led after the first day with a sparkling 62 when going wire-to-wire at the Indonesian Masters before Christmas; more recently opening rounds of 70 and 69 at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational respectively were solid enough starts to set up eventual top-5 finishes. Rose knows the importance of a fast start here if he's going to ultimately fulfil his dream of winning on Sunday.
Playing alongside Alex Noren and Jordan Spieth in the penultimate group of the day, I also fancy Louis Oosthuizen to go well on Thursday. From 9 starts here at Augusta, the South African has sat in 2nd place after 18 holes twice - one of which being in 2012 when he eventually went on to lose out in a play-off to Bubba Watson. Clearly a good fit for the demands of Augusta National, it's also encouraging to see that the 35 year-old has been producing some fasts starts of late including 7th after day 1 in Mauritius on the European Tour, 1st after day 1 at the Singapore Open, 3rd after day 1 at the Honda Classic and most tangibly he led by a stroke at the WGC Mexico Championship after the first day courtesy of a stunning round of 64. Got through to the knockout stages of the WGC Match Play on his last start and is quite capable of hitting the ground running here this week from what would appear to be a favourable draw.
Top German Market
He may be a little long in the tooth nowadays, however 1993 Masters Champion Bernhard Langer is worth backing against Martin Kaymer in a two horse race for the accolade of Top German. Langer has won 6 times on the Champions Tour in the past year and the 60 year-old arrives here fresh from a week off after his latest top-10 finish on the Seniors where a final round 66 elevated him to 9th spot at the Rapiscan Systems Classic. Kaymer on the other hand has struggled with his game of late, recording just 3 top-10 finishes in the whole of 2017 and with no win since 2014 he's in serious danger of dropping outside of the OWGR top 100 players. To compound the issue for Kaymer, he'd been out of action until last week's badly missed cut in Houston (70-77) with a wrist injury and he arrives at Augusta with serious question-marks over the state of his game and fitness. By Martin's own admission, Augusta has never suited his game and he famously attempted to re-work his swing in an attempt to tame this layout to no avail and it's difficult to see any significant improvement on his Masters record here this week. Langer would have won this bet on 4 of the last 5 years and with the bookies making his younger compatriot a strong favourite, I'm happy to take that position on.
To Make The Cut Accumulator
Since 2013 the cut rule at The Masters has been the top 50 and ties, plus any player within 10 strokes of the lead. With a short field of just 87 players this year, 6 of whom are amateurs and 8 of whom are seniors, there's certainly more scope for making the cut than missing it this year. Some bookmakers are offering this market as singles only, however bet365 allow you to roll up your selections in an accumulator which is how I've played this bet.
Of course you could top up your selections with some of the market leaders who tend to rate between 1/8 and 1/12 to make the cut, however I've gone for 5 who offer a little bit of value when added to the same coupon. Jason Dufner has made 5 of 7 cuts at The Masters and 15 of his last 16 cuts globally; Kevin Kisner has made 2 from 2 cuts at The Masters, was 29th in elite company in Mexico and lost in the final of the WGC Match Play on his last start; Russell Henley has made 3 of his last 4 cuts here at Augusta and 17 of his last 19 cuts globally; Daniel Berger is 2 from 2 weekends here at The Masters and has made 12 of his last 13 cuts; and finally Charley Hoffman has made all 4 cuts here at Augusta and has only missed 3 cuts in the 12 months since contending here last year.
Hole In One Market
With 11 aces at The Masters since 2004, this bet is a great bit of fun that can keep you interested right until late on Sunday. The 4th, 6th, 12th and 16th are the par-3 chances for a hole-in-one as always, however it's the 16th where the action really tends to take place - particularly on Sunday when the pin position is traditionally put in its friendliest position at the bottom of the green. Matt Kuchar won this bet for us last year and I'll happily take this market on given the history of this hole and the potential for an ace here each and every year.
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