Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's US Masters Tips

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2019 US Masters Pre-Event Pointers

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The mystique and anticipation of the US Masters is like no other golf tournament. 8 months of ‘no Major frustration’ since the PGA Championship comes to an end at Augusta National Golf Club, which just so happens to be the most pristine and manicured golf property on the planet. It’s where nothing’s left to chance, where golfing history is made each year, where a player’s mettle is tested to its maximum.

The 83rd edition of The Masters takes place from Thursday 11th April 2019. Now into our 10th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US Masters tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2019 coverage with outright market tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous statistical Predictor Model. You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast which is also available on iTunes and on our YouTube channel.

The US Masters, as the first Major of the season, always captures the imagination of the golfing world and the betting public alike. Plenty of questions will be answered at what will be the 83rd edition of the Masters. Can a World Number 1 become the first top-ranked player to win The Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002? Talking of Tiger Woods can he capture his 15th Major, 11 years after his last? How will Patrick Reed perform defending the Green Jacket? Can Brooks Koepka win his 4th Major title in less than 2 years? Can Jordan Spieth rebound at his beloved Augusta? Can Rory McIlroy win the Major Grand Slam or can the likes of DeChambeau, Fleetwood, Fowler, Matsuyama, Rahm, or Schauffele win their first Major title?

Draftkings

US Masters Insight and Tips Research

Golf betting at the Major Championships, and especially The Masters, is a complex subject. Mistakes can be costly; however select the right player or player portfolio and the rewards can be excellent. Golf Betting System’s goal is to provide you with informed US Masters tips, free tournament research guides and insight and information that will help you make educated decisions about what players to back at the 2019 Masters Tournament.

Course Information

Augusta National, Augusta, Georgia: Designer: Dr Alister MacKenzie & Bobby Jones 1933 with re-designs 2008; Course Type: Mid-Score, Classical; Par: 72; Length: 7,475 yards; Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Ryegrass; Rough: Ryegrass 1.38″; Greens: 6,486 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 14ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 73.41 (+1.41), Difficulty Rank 4 of 43 PGA Tour courses. 2014: 73.95 (+1.95), Rank 2 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.54 (+0.54), Difficulty Rank 14 of 52 courses. 2016: 74.42 (+2.42), Difficulty Rank 3 of 50 courses. 2017: 73.89 (+1.89), Difficulty Rank 2 of 50. 2018: 72.93 (+0.93), Difficulty Rank of 7 of 51 courses.

US Masters Tips

Augusta’s iconic 12th hole

So what do you need to know about Augusta National? The Augusta National course (you can visit the official Masters website here) has detailed nuances which certain types of player thrive upon, whereas others struggle with factors such as uneven fairway lies, swirling winds and crazily fast and undulating bentgrass greens. Naturally water comes into play much more on the back nine, with 3 key holes around Amen Corner plus the critical par-5 15th and the par-3 16th both offering scoring opportunities.

Since Augusta was re-modelled for the 2008 renewal, the course is always 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. Pure yardage is way more important than creating the right angle into the flag. This length scenario, which clearly puts shorter hitters at a massive disadvantage, it set to be exacerbated in 2019 as the par-4 5th hole, which was previously 455 yards on the card, has had a further 40 yards added to it with a new back tee now in play.

Other challenges include huge and contoured Bentgrass putting surfaces which can bamboozle the inexperienced and poor putters alike. Rating at anything up to 14 on the Stimpmeter if Mother Nature allows, these sub-air fuelled beauties are like little else the world’s best golfer face across the rest of the season. Birdie chances are restricted to the smallest of target areas, many of which are only accessible by using the natural contours of the green. Difficulty is also ratcheted up by Augusta’s infamous run-off areas which surround all green complexes. The lack of rough creates indecision when missing greens with scrambling percentages suffering as a result. Too many options can confuse players, so course experience and a patient outlook pays.

Augusta is definitely a game of two halves. Attack all of the 4 par-5s and a number of shorter par-4s such as the 3rd, 9th, and the 14th. Tiger’s “in your life, have you ever seen anything like that” par-3 16th hole – named Redbud – yields holes-in-one and birdies. But the rest of the course needs to be played with maturity and patience. Chasing scores, tends to result in bogeys rather than birdies on these holes, so par golf across the majority of holes is more than acceptable. To win a Green Jacket a player must be aggressive on the 4 par-5s and minimise bogeys across the rest of the property via a mix of metronomic greens in regulation, top-level scrambling and rock-solid short to medium distance putting.

So what are the key factors to watch out for, what trends need to be taken into account and what statistical skill-sets does a Masters Champion have to have in his locker?

The Masters Tips - Key Points

Augusta Favours Hot Form

Time was that any player with course experience driving down Magnolia Lane had a real chance of capturing the Masters title. Indeed 2007 through 2010 saw Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman, Angel Cabrera and Phil Mickelson capture Green Jackets with a combined two season-to-date top 10 finishes between them. Astonishing but true!

Since 2011 though, in-form players have dominated with Adam Scott in 2013 being the only player to feature with as little as a single top 10 as part of a deliberate pre-Augusta schedule that contained just 3 strokeplay tournaments. He was 3rd though at the WGC at Doral, so was clearly peaking for his target event. Recent winning prices through 2018 of 55/1 (Reed), 45/1 (Garcia), 66/1 Willett, 12/1 (Spieth), 28/1 (Watson), 28/1 (Scott) and 55/1 (Watson) tells its own story. In general it’s players slightly further down the market who triumph here.

  • Patrick Reed 2018 results pre-Masters: 3 Top 10s – 2nd Copperhead, 7th Bay Hill , 9th Dell Matchplay.
  • Sergio Garcia 2017 results pre-Masters: 1 Win – 1st Dubai.
  • Danny Willett 2016 results pre-Masters: 1 Win, 1 Top 10 – 1st Dubai, 3rd Doral.
  • Jordan Spieth 2015 results pre-Masters: 1 Win, 6 Top 10s including 4th Riviera, 1st Copperhead, 2nd TPC San Antonio, 2nd GC of Houston.
  • Bubba Watson 2014 results pre-Masters: 1 Win, 3 Top 10s – 2nd TPC Scottsdale, 1st Riviera, 2nd Doral.
  • Adam Scott 2013 results pre-Masters: 1 Top 10 – 3rd Doral.
  • Bubba Watson 2012 results pre-Masters: 3 Top 10s – 5th TPC Scottsdale, 2nd Doral, 4th Bay Hill.
  • Charl Schwartzel 2011 results pre-Masters: 1 Win, 3 Top 10s -4th Africa Open, 1st Joburg Open, 8th Abu Dhabi.

Recent Winning Prices: 2018: Reed 55/1, 2017: Garcia 45/1, 2016: Willett 66/1, 2015: Spieth 12/1, 2014: Watson 28/1, 2013: Scott 28/1, 2012: Watson 55/1, 2011: Schwartzel 90/1.

Only the Elite of the Game Win Consecutive Green Jackets

Patrick Reed was a well-backed 55/1 chance when he won the 2018 Masters. The 28 year-old Texan, whose Nickname is Captain America, will never win a popularity contest amongst fellow players or golf fans alike, but his victory here last year had plenty of punters singing his praises. Withstanding Sunday charges from Augusta patron favourites Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler took the kind of courage we know Reed possesses in bucketloads. Winning by a single shot from Fowler featured 4 straight pars to finish, where many would have crumbled.  But if Reed is to repeat in 2019 it will be a performance which only the golfing elite have managed previously.

Look through past results and since 1960 only Jack Nicklaus (1965/66), Nick Faldo (1989/90) and of course Tiger Woods (2001/02) have defended their Masters title. A pretty select group I’m sure you’ll agree. Even from an each-way punting perspective, since Tiger defended successfully in 2002 only Woods himself in 2006 and Jordan Spieth in 2017 have finished in the top 5 when defending. For the record, Reed when defending titles to date, has the following record: 24-24-23-2-20.

Defending Champion Summary

YearDefending ChampionFinishing Position
2018Sergio GarciaMC
2017Danny WillettMC
2016Jordan Spieth2nd
2015Bubba Watson38th
2014Adam Scott14th
2013Bubba Watson50th
2012Charl Schwartzel50th
2011Phil Mickelson27th
2010Angel Cabrera18th
2009Trevor Immelman20th
2008Zach Johnson20th
2007Phil Mickelson24th
2006Tiger Woods3rd
2005Phil Mickelson10th
2004Mike MeirMC
2003Tiger Woods15th
2002Tiger Woods1st

 

World Number 1 Augusta Jinx

World Number 1 Dustin Johnson (at the time of writing) goes into the 2019 Masters typically as one of the short-priced favourites. Hardly surprising when the 34 year-old has already got a Major title to his name and has finished inside the top-10 here at Augusta on each of his last 3 starts. But if DJ is to capture the 2019 Masters then he’ll go against the trend which no player since Tiger Woods has yet to overcome: no World Number 1 since 2002 has successfully captured the Green Jacket.

World Ranking Summary

YearMasters WinnerOWGR
2018Patrick Reed24
2017Sergio Garcia11
2016Danny Willett12
2015Jordan Spieth4
2014Bubba Watson12
2013Adam Scott7
2012Bubba Watson16
2011Charl Schwartzel29
2010Phil Mickelson3
2009Angel Cabrera69
2008Trevor Immelman29
2007Zach Johnson56
2006Phil Mickelson4
2005Tiger Woods2
2004Phil Mickelson8
2003Mike Weir10
2002Tiger Woods1

 

Trouble in Texas

We always warn punters who are interested in backing the winner of the tournament immediately prior to a Major Championship, however there are a few notable exceptions.  The mercurial Phil Mickelson always throws the form book out of the window and clinched the Scottish Open / Open Championship double in 2013 and of course Rory McIlroy who won the Bridgestone Invitational / PGA Championship double in 2014.

However at The Masters there’s a definite trend and that’s not to back the winner of the Masters warm-up event which, since 2007, has always been in Texas. Last year Ian Poulter won at the Golf Club of Houston but ultimately joined a list that includes Adam Scott, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Martin Laird, Matt Jones, J.B. Holmes, Jim Herman and Russell Henley, all of whom peaked a week too early and couldn’t go back-to-back and claim the Green Jacket. Only Kim rewarded his backers with an each-way return. The last player to win the week before winning at Augusta was of course Phil Mickelson (who else could it be) who, in 2006, won the Bell South Classic the week before capturing his 2nd Masters title.

Warm-Up Event Summary

YearWarm-Up WinnerAugusta Finish
2018Ian Poulter44th
2017Russell Henley11th
2016Jim HermanMC
2015J.B. HolmesMC
2014Matt JonesMC
2013Martin LairdMC
2012Hunter Mahan12th
2011Phil Mickelson27th
2010Anthony Kim3rd
2009Paul Casey20th
2008Johnson Wagner36th
2007Adam Scott27th

 

Powerful Driving Is Paramount

Every year there’s a debate about whether a short hitter can win around Augusta. Some believe that players of the ilk of Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Matt Kuchar can still triumph despite their obvious lack of big hitting ability. Naturally Zach Johnson won here in 2007 by going for every par-5 in 3 shots, so what is the reality statistically?

Since the course was last re-modelled prior to the 2008 Masters, shorter hitters such as the aforementioned Kuchar and Jonas Blixt have featured, but every winner since 2008 has been in the top 35% in terms of power hitting on Tour – the best measure to use is Distance to Apex (Distance in yards from the Tee to the Apex on measured Par 4 and Par 5 tee shots) in our opinion.

The challenge of Augusta, which effectively plays around 7,700 yards in course length, is like no other. The course is quoted as a 7,475 yard Par 72, but don’t believe that as all fairways are mown against the hole direction to minimise fairway run, effectively meaning it plays far closer to a 7,700 yard Par 72 format. So those who are long and have a high ball flight  have a distinct advantage.

You see, what makes a tangible difference at Augusta is the ability to reach as many of the par-5s as possible in two shots. The 2nd, 13th and 15th holes are reachable for players who are long enough from the tee and have the in-built aggression to go for it with their approach, rather than laying-up. Spieth and Willett may be more tactical with their approaches across a season, but when they needed to go for it at Augusta they both had the firepower off the tee and from the fairway to do so.

In 2018, Patrick Reed sat 24th in the Going for the Green category on the PGA Tour arriving in Georgia. He also ranked 66th for Driving Distance and 53rd for Distance to Apex, giving him enough power and approach height to access the par-5s. He topped par-5 scoring, shooting -13 across his 16 visits to the longest holes.

Power Summary

YearMasters WinnerDistance To ApexGoing For Green
2018Patrick Reed53rd (Pre-Event)24th (Pre-Event)
2017Sergio Garcia4th (Pre-Event)7th (Pre-Event)
2016Danny Willett62nd (Pre-Event)56th (Pre-Event)
2015Jordan Spieth67th66th
2014Bubba Watson1st1st
2013Adam Scott20th6th
2012Bubba Watson1st1st
2011Charl Schwartzel28th41st
2010Phil Mickelson13th12th
2009Angel Cabrera13th6th

 

Par-4 Birdie or Better – The Key to Augusta Success

So in terms of game shape for Augusta National, long, high and aggressive makes very logical sense. However linking that to a physical scoring metric for Augusta winners is an extension which starts to really sift the wheat from the chaff. After spending too much time over the years looking for the key Masters scoring statistic, the best we have found relates to par-4 scoring. Many commentators talk about the set of par-5s at Augusta being the key to winning, but in fact par-4 scoring in the main is the key battle ground when it comes to lifting a Green Jacket.

Going back to 2013, Scoring Rank of champions on the par-4s reads like this: Adam Scott: -5, Rank 1st; Bubba Watson: +1, Rank T4th; Jordan Spieth: -3, Rank T2nd; Danny Willett: -3, Rank 1st; Sergio Garcia: -3, Rank 1st; Patrick Reed -6, 1st. In essence the par-4s at Augusta National eat players alive and to win the tournament they have to be tamed or even conquered.

Critically it was also possible to see pre-event that the last 5 Masters champions all arrived in Georgia having shown real ability on par-4s on the PGA Tour in the build-up to the tournament. Indeed they all ranked in the top 7 on the PGA Tour in par-4 Birdie or Better Conversion prior to teeing off. It’s certainly a statistically significant angle, which is well worth monitoring and highlights that the most comfortable on par-4s entering the event have a bigger chance of thriving on them.

Par 4 Birdie Or Better Summary

YearMasters WinnerPar 4 Birdie Or Better
2018Patrick Reed7th (Pre-Event)
2017Sergio Garcia7th (Pre-Event)
2016Danny Willett2nd (Pre-Event)
2015Jordan Spieth1st (Pre-Event)
2014Bubba Watson5th (Pre Event)

 

 

Conclusion – who do the stats tell us will win?

Let’s boil all this information down then and apply it to this year’s field of 86 players (at the time of writing, before the Valero Texas Open has concluded).

Starting with the current form point, let’s exclude everyone who hasn’t managed to record a single top-10 finish in a full-field event on any Tour in 2019. Tony Finau drops out at this point (notwithstanding that he’s playing in Texas this week), as does defending champion Patrick Reed, former US Open Champion Webb Simpson and the seemingly out-of-form Alex Noren. Jordan Spieth also drops out, however like Finau he’s also playing in Texas this week. In total we lose 35 players at this point, so drop down to a shortlist of 51.

3 more drop out if we consider the fact that every winner since 2002 has been inside the top-69 the world. So that’s Charl Schwartzel, Adam Long and Vijay Singh scrubbed from the list.

We’re down to 33 players if we remove all players who aren’t inside the top-75 for the PGA Tour’s Height To Apex stat, again pre-Valero. Branden Grace drops out at this point, as does Valspar winner Paul Casey and Match Play winner Kevin Kisner. Also facing the chop at this point are the likes of Cameron Smith, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Matt Fitzpatrick, Brand Snedeker, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson who have all recorded top-7 finishes here at Augusta National over the years.

Another 3 go if the same logic is applied to the Going For The Green statistic for the 2019 season-to-date. Tyrrell Hatton, Open Champion Francesco Molinari and the one and only Tiger Woods fall off of our shortlist at this point.

You have to go all the way back to 1979 since we had a debutant win The Masters and if you assume that Keith Mitchell, Lucas Bjerregaard, Matt Wallace, Eddie Pepperell and Justin Harding won’t be matching Fuzzy Zoeller’s feat from 40 years ago, then we’re down to a more manageable list of 25.

Time to get ruthless now and apply the ‘killer stat’ which is par-4 Birdie or Better. Only players who currently reside inside the top-10 of that particular PGA Tour statistic, namely Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Rose, make the final cut to leave us just 6 players.

So from here it’s going to get pretty subjective. We could scrub Justin Rose as he’ll be OWGR number 1 by the time we start on Thursday, which goes against recent trends unless your name is Tiger Woods. Rose is also 38 years of age and seeing that 14 of the past 20 winners have been 34 or younger, that could also be reason to dismiss his chances of winning; the same could also be said of Phil Mickelson who fails the age test.

14 of the last 20 winners had also made the trip up Magnolia Lane 4 times or more in the past and if that’s reason to exclude both Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay then we’re down to just 2 – Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. Of those two there’s no statistical reason to suggest that neither will win, unless of course Fowler wins in San Antonio….we shall be watching that leaderboard with interest!

This is Steve Bamford’s pre-event preview, his final US Masters tips will be published on the Monday before the event.

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