Some traditions are better than others, especially if you’re a golf fan and it’s April.
A cigar with your fellow patrons as you walk those hallowed grounds (even though you don’t smoke a cigar the other 364 days of the year) just feels right among the perfectly timed azaleas blooming. Give special thanks to the top tier grounds crew at Augusta National, hopefully there’s not a weed anywhere because if there is, even the volunteers will get the axe.
Don’t forget about the food. It’s the best $20 you will ever spend (and be full) at a sporting event. The perfectly whipped pimento cheese sandwich (or egg salad depending your preference), maybe grab a BBQ one, too, followed up with a peach ice cream sandwich. Prices seemingly unchanged for the last 20 years (food at least, don’t ask me for a receipt on my pro shop splurge). Thirsty? Water, the sport drink or Augusta brewed beer. It’s certainly not a robust menu but efficient for the more than 100,000 weekly patrons to enjoy.
The Masters is back. So, settle in and get your multiple screens ready for the best golf tournament experience of the year. If you’re a gambling man, let’s discuss your “investments” this weekend.
Coming off a run to the semi-finals at the WGC Dell Match Play event, and his third top-4 finish in a row (with 4 in his last 5 starts, plus 2 wins), it’s feeling real tough to not pick Big Scheff.
But the likelihood of back-to-back is slim. And how would that jacket ceremony even work? We can’t remember; it’s been so long since the Big Cat repeated in 2002.
Many players are due, whether it’s for a first Major or making a bigger mark in history.
Here are some “sure-fire” picks in this week’s Masters Pool. Two players from the Top 10 in the OWGR, two from 11-20, two ranked from 21-30 and then two from remaining field:
Rory McIlroy: +700 to Win
- At his press conference this morning, Rory was dialed in. His game is too. New driver + new putter, this will not be the same old Rory at Augusta. Take it to the bank, this is his year.
Scottie Scheffler: -140 to place Top 10
- You would be foolish to not have Scottie in your Tier 1 field. He has been a machine the last 14 months and shows no sign of letting up. A Top 10 finish is nearly guaranteed this week for the Texan. The only way he doesn’t tee up in one of the final four groups Sunday is if he picks up a “stomach bug” at Chipotle Thurs-Sat.
Tony Finau: +400 to place Top 5
- Everyone fell in love with the Finau fam after watching Full Swing and Tony has been fairly consistent at the Masters over the last few tries. He has the Sunday experience and if he doesn’t dislocate his ankle on Wednesday at the Par 3, his long-awaited Major victory might be here.
Jason Day: +2500 to Win
- His first and only Major seems oh so long ago (2015 PGA Championship). So, why are odds makers so high on Day this week? He was one of the best putters on Tour for many years and his flat stick seems to be back in top form. A respectable payout here.
Hideki Matsuyama: +330 to place Top 10
- Slim pickings at first glance of the Tier 3 crew. But, with no title to defend and no Champions Dinner to plan, Hideki will have a relatively quiet week (other than the Japanese media always in his shadow). Just how he likes it. But is he healthy enough? We hope so.
Billy Horschel: +20000 to Win
- I’ll follow Gary Player’s advice and throw out a Hail Mary here in hopes of cashing in on the Major accolade missing on Billy’s resume. He should at least be a safe play in your pool picks.
Dustin Johnson: +450 to place Top 5
- If there is one player who won’t let the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf narrative bother him this week, it’s Dustin. He’s already a Masters champion, getting richer by the tournament, and his wife is still smokin’ hot. Value pick for the pool and smart money for Top 5.
Tiger Woods: +8000
- Throw all logic out the window and just let yourself root for the most improbable victory in the history of sport. The good news here, even if Big Cat misses the cut, he won’t affect your overall pool score (with your two lowest players not counting). A little less margin for error, but you’ll be kicking yourself if he’s even close to contention come Sunday.
For my winner, I’m predicting Rory McIlroy to finally capture the career Grand Slam; and, don’t get hung up with his meager +700 odds. Even when you factor in any inherit pressure from being the favorite, it just feels right going with Rory.
Thanks to LIV Golf’s fight with the old guard and Tiger’s physical therapy recovery, DJ and Tiger both slipped into the “Rest of Field” tier. Here’s hoping my peers in our pool forget to scroll all the way down and overlook both of those guys.
Here are a few others I’ll be sprinkling bets on (all to win outright):
Justin Thomas (+1800)
Max Homa (+2800)
Sungjae Im (+3800)
Brooke Koepka (+4000)