2018 Masters Preview and Picks

  • The Master’s odds have been shifting.
  • Tiger Woods is a favorite to win, thanks to his performances at Bay Hill and Valspar.
  • Is the one-time great the best betting value, or at least not the worst?

The 2018 Masters Odds have been available for a while now, and the lines have shifted dramatically as Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods had promising performances.

Rory McIlroy: +900

Rory’s an obvious pick, because of the handful of supernatural golfers on tour right now. He’s got the most recent win (at Bay Hill) and appears to be on form. Rory is and always has been an up-and-down player, his streaks of dominant play giving way to long winless runs, but it appears he’s snapped his latest dry spell at Bay Hill. There are few things in the golf world scarier than Rory McIlroy when he’s on top of his game, and these odds reflect that.

These odds are also somewhat artificially short, as Rory McIlroy is one of the most popular players in the game and a lot of casual fans will bet on him more or less blindly. It’s also an emotional story, after McIlroy’s spectacular collapse in 2011. All that adds up to slightly short odds for Rory, so maybe its best to look elsewhere.

Betting Tip: The outright favorite is almost always too short, and that’s probably the case here.

Tiger Woods: +900

(sighs deeply)

Tiger is not good value at +900. He’s a great golfer, absolutely, and I’m not here to argue that point. Just ask yourself: is this line maybe affected by something other than the underlying probability that Tiger Woods wins? Is the betting public maybe being a little emotional in their evaluation of Tiger? Are the masses plonking down $20 to make the Masters weekend a little more exciting?

Of course they are. The “Tiger Back?” narrative has dominated golf more or less since he left, and in terms of search volume he’s still the #1 golfer in the world. Sportsbooks are happy to vacuum up emotional money, but they have to list shorter and shorter odds to keep their financials in line.

Betting Tip: People making the feel-good bet for nostalgic reasons have thrown the lien way off, so if you do make this bet don’t do it thinking you’re getting great value.

Justin Thomas: +1000

If Justin Thomas isn’t careful, he’s going to be the #1 golfer in the world. In just his third full season on the PGA Tour, Thomas has recorded his eighth win (at the Honda Classic) and experienced his first heartbreaking Phil Mickelson playoff.

We don’t have a lot of data on Thomas at the Masters, but it’s certainly not unheard of for a youngster to win there. He finished T22 in 2017 and T39 in 2016, so if you do really bad back-of-the-napkin math you have to figure he’ll win his first green jacket in mid-October 2018. You’re really taking the player over the course here, as you are with Johnson, and Thomas is certainly one of the most talented players on tour.

Betting Tip: Favorite odds for a player that hasn’t exactly lit up Augusta in the past. Pass.

Dustin Johnson: +1000

Dustin Johnson is going to be listed at roughly +1000 for every golf event, regardless of which course it’s taking place at, or whether he’s attending, or which hospital he’s currently in. The world #1 hasn’t had incredible success at the Masters, recording just two top-ten finishes in seven outings, and skipping the event altogether in 2017 with a bizarre staircase related back injury.

It appears that the Faustian bargain DJ made with Golfistopheles excludes majors, as he’s widely hailed as the best golfer on tour yet has just one win after ten years on tour. The course at Augusta doesn’t agree with Johnson, a lot of the alterations made to Tiger-proof the course had a similar effect on all other long-bombing right handers.

Betting Tip: Good odds for DJ anywhere else, just not at Augusta.

Jordan Spieth: +1200

Betting on Jordan Spieth at Augusta will always get you some extra value because the betting public remember his collapse on 12 in 2016. That 12th hole is a tough one for right-handers.

Spieth hasn’t had a great start to 2018, and he’s missed the cut as often as he’s been in contention. He was pretty down on his self at the Dell Technologies Matchplay, which is concerning, but critically his putting was woeful. Not promising for a guy who wins by being the best putter on the golf course.

Betting Tip: It’s hard to think of Spieth as a favorite, given the way he’s playing right now. There’s better value with similar odds elsewhere.

Bubba Watson Presidents Cup
Bubba Watson is a fan favorite, if not the betting favorite. (Photo credit: Hone Morihana CC License)

Bubba Watson: +1600

If you wanted to design a golf course for long-off-the-tee left-handed players, particularly ones with a devil-may-care attitude about working the ball right to left, you’d end up with something that looks a lot like Augusta. It’s a lot easier to play a slice at 10 and 12 off the tee than to work a big draw, and if you’ve got the length that’s a very consistent shot. The 12th also favors lefties, because a miss right goes long for them and the shape of the green (and the placement of the water) agrees with that. On Sunday, when they love to put the pin on the right of that green, the effect is magnified.

So Bubba Watson is a natural pick, and he’s won before in spectacular fashion. He’s also in great form currently, having won the Genesis Open and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match play. As a result of those wins, and his two at Augusta in the past, his odds have plummeted from +5000 to +1600. Not only do bettors love the odds of him winning, the also love the idea of him winning: Bubba’s a very sympathetic character and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a golf fan who doesn’t like him.

Predicting Bubba’s performance is a loser’s game. The last time he won the Masters he was coming off a first-round 83 at Bay Hill. In 2016 he entered the tournament coming off a win and a T-2 in his last two stroke play events and finished the tournament nine over par.

Betting Tip: A streaky player, and a bit of a wonky bet to make at these odds. There’s no way to know how Bubba will perform in any given year.

Phil Mickelson: +1800

Speaking of lefties: Lefty!

The three-time Masters champion is on good form heading into this April, with a win in Mexico. It’s difficult to overstate the advantages Mickelson has at Augusta, if all PGA tour events were played there Phil would have upwards of 100 wins. It’s also difficult to summarise Mickelson’s achievements at Augusta, from his three straight top-three finishes leading into his 2004 win, the The Shot he made in 2010. So if you’re looking for an ageing superstar trying to make it work one last time Phil Mickelson is a much better price than Tiger. Obviously there’s some emotion here in this bet as well, but there’s just as many fans scarred by his early disappointments (and 2006 US Open collapse) as there are convinced a victory is inevitable.

Betting Tip: Better pick than Tiger at +900, certainly, and you get broadly the same experience.

Geoff Johnson

MTS co-founder Geoff Johnson is a lifelong Mets fan, something he can't do anything about. He has a great track record when it comes to wagering on baseball – largely because he's more than willing to bet against the Mets. His career profits are impressive, but not quite as good as his handsome friend Frank Lorenzo. He wishes he hadn't let Frank write his profile.