There are three clear-cut favorites to win the 2017 Masters: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth. In these post-Tiger days, picking the winner of any golf tournament can feel like searching for a tee shot that went OB onto a sheet of ice. The key in this era of the PGA is to avoid players with really short odds; there are just too many quality players on tour right now and no one is that much better than the field. Who’s offering the best value at Augusta National this year? Let’s examine the green jacket hopefuls.
Top Contenders at the 2017 Masters
Dustin Johnson: 11/2
Johnson went from perennial bridesmaid to major champion when he won the U.S. Open last year. Johnson finished among the top ten in three of the four majors for a second straight year in 2016. He’s played well at August the past two years, finishing sixth in 2015 and fourth last April. He leads the Fedex Standings just won three straight tournaments (hence his extremely short odds).
Rory McIlroy: 34/5
A four-time major winner, McIlroy needs only a green jacket to complete the career grand slam. He’s been in the top ten at Augusta in three consecutive tries. Recently, he was seventh at the WGC-Mexico, and fourth at the Arnold Palmer. His last victory came in the Tour Championship in September 2016.
Jordan Spieth: 36/5
Spieth has never finished worse than runner-up at August (second in 2014; first in 2015; second in 2016). That said, he was well on his way to a second straight victory last year before collapsing in the final round. The two-time major champion hasn’t been quite the same since, although he’s still plenty competitive. This season has been up and down: a win at Pebble Beach in early February marked five straight top-ten finishes. However, since then, his best result is a 12th-place performance at the WGC-Mexico, and he brought up the rear last week in Houston.
Phil Mickelson: 25/1
Lefties have a little bit of an advantage at Augusta, and Phil typically plays well here. He’s won three green jackets (2004, 2006, 2010) and has hit the top five on 11 occasions, including (a distant) second in 2015. He’s also missed the cut twice in the last three years, though. He was mostly solid in the Masters build-up, finishing seventh in Mexico, and fifth in the match-play event.
Bubba Watson: 40/1
What a strange career Watson has had. Out of nowhere, he finished fifth at the 2007 U.S. Open. Then he did very little for the better part of three years before a runner-up performance at the 2010 PGA. Prior to 2012, he’d never finished in the top 20 at Augusta; so it was a huge surprise when he won his first green jacket that year. The undulations would continue from there. He barely made the Masters cut in 2013, but won again in 2014. The last two years have seen him finish 38th and 37th, respectively. Incredibly, those are his best major finishes in the past 24 months. The lefty, who was ninth at the match play championship in his Masters prep, has proven he can win out of nowhere at this venue.
Johnson’s win at the 2016 U.S. Open was the only time the chalk got the victory at a major last year. It is not advisable to take a short number. There are too many good players in the field. Johnson is hot, but the modern PGA doesn’t allow players to dominate for long.
Both lefties, Mickelson and Watson, have square prices. A few bucks on one or both of them will make the week fun and perhaps profitable. With fewer than 90 players in the field, Watson at 40/1 is particularly enticing. As mentioned, he doesn’t need to come in hot in order to be at his best.
Photo Credit: By minds-eye (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons