Masters 2018: Breaking down the popular – and unconventional – bets at Augusta

Welcome to Masters Week, and to what is easily one of the most wide-open golf betting fields for the major in some time, according to Covers.com.

With eight golfers listed between +900 and +1,800 in the Masters betting odds, there’s no shortage of solid candidates heading into the 82nd edition of golf’s most famous tournament. And yes, that list includes the one and only Tiger Woods, who is installed at +1,600 after posting four Top-25 finishes over his first five events in what is shaping up to be a triumphant comeback.

Here are the 18 Masters notes PGA bettors absolutely need to know heading into Thursday’s opening round at venerable Augusta National:

1. Nothing gets the crowd fired up quite like a hole-in-one and Augusta National has seen 28 aces in tournament history. Fans will remember fondly as three players – Shane Lowry, Davis Love III and Louis Oosthuizen – aced the 16th hole in 2016, and Matt Kuchar repeated the feat last year.

In fact, half of those 28 holes-in-one have come since 2003. Oddsmakers believe that trend will continue in 2018, offering -150 odds on someone converting an ace. Think it won’t happen? Take the goose-egg at +110.

2. Two of the top candidates for this year’s tournament are southpaws, and in oddsmakers’ eyes, there isn’t much separating Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson heading into the week. Watson has a pair of green jackets in his closet, while the legend Mickelson has won three Masters Championships and has finished inside the top three six other times and finished second as recently as 2015. How close is this one? Mickelson is listed at +115 to finish as the top lefty of the week, while Watson is at +120. That’s close.

3. Nobody wins the Masters by one shot in regulation. At least, not lately. Augusta National has seen the green jacket decided in a playoff five times since 2005 and in the other eight competitions, the winning golfer prevailed by multiple shots.

Sergio Garcia’s emotional playoff win in 2017 halted a streak of three straight Masters that were decided by three or more shots. You’ll get +250 for taking a chance on a one-shot win, +350 for a two-shot victory, and +550 for a three-shot triumph.

4. Four-round betting is one of the more popular Masters props available and few matchups are more intriguing than the one between Jordan Spieth (-110) and Rory McIlroy (-110). Spieth comes in at No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings, with McIlroy close behind at No. 7. Past history suggests Spieth has the edge here, having racked up a win, two runner-up finishes and an 11th-place result in four Masters appearances. McIlroy’s best showing in nine tries was a fourth-place finish in 2015.

5. American golf fans haven’t experienced a true Masters title drought in quite some time. It has been nearly three decades since the United States has gone more than two years without a victory at Augusta, when Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo (x2) and Ian Woosnam helped the United Kingdom claim four consecutive titles. The U.S. hasn’t won the Masters since 2015, but remains the favorite region to do so this year at -138. Europe is a distant second at +175, with the rest of the world listed at +550.

6. Augusta’s famous Par-3 tournament is a nice sideshow ahead of the actual tournament, but bettors shouldn’t pay much attention to it, as no player has ever gone on to win the Par-3 event and the Masters in the same year.

You should, however, be aware that Paul Casey (+2,200 to win) and Austin Cook (+25,00) lead the PGA Tour in Par-3 scoring, both sitting at 7-under. With Augusta’s greens among the most ruthless in the world, scoring on the Par-3s could go a long way toward deciding the major tournament.

7. Pinning down the winning score has proven difficult this decade. Since 2010, three Masters champions have finished with a total 72-hole score of 274 or lower (2010, Phil Mickelson, 272; 2011, Charl Schwartzel, 274; 2015, Jordan Spieth, 270).

The other five have all posted winning totals of 278 or higher, including Garcia’s 279 last year. Bettors will get +200 odds on the winning score being 275 or lower, +200 on the winner posting a score of 276-278, and +137 on the winning score being 279 or higher.

8. A quick start doesn’t always mean Masters success, but it couldn’t hurt to come out of the gate strong. Jon Rahm is the PGA Tour leader in first-round scoring average at 67.71, incrementally ahead of Patrick Cantlay (68.00) and Rickie Fowler (68.00).

It’s no surprise, then, that two of the three are among the favorites for first-round Masters leader: Rahm and Fowler are both installed at +2,500, not far behind favorite Rory McIlroy (+1,600). Cantlay is in the next tier of contenders at +6,000.

9. With so many up-and-comers on tour, you might expect youth to be served at Augusta, but recent history suggests otherwise. Of the past nine Masters champions, six have been 32 years or older at the time of their victory, including Garcia, who won his first career major as a 37-year-old last year.

Mickelson is the oldest champion of the past 20 years, winning as a 39 year old in 2010. If he can convert his +1,800 outright winner odds this year at 47, he’ll be the oldest winner in the history of the tournament.

10. Speaking of the older fellas, there’s no shortage of star power among the senior set. Of course, none of them are among the favorites or even expected to contend. That won’t stop casual fans for throwing a few bucks at a Fred Couples (+30,000) or a Vijay Singh (+35,000) to shock the world. And while this probably won’t be the year a senior tames Augusta, you can still bet on which 50-plus duffer scores lowest: Couples is the fave at +150, followed by Singh (+225) and Bernard Langer (+240).

11. This year’s edition of the Masters features the return of a familiar face in Tiger Woods, who will make his first appearance at Augusta since 2015. At stake: the longest active cut streak at the first major of the year, with Woods having reached the weekend at 17 straight Masters tournaments dating back to his only missed cut in 1996. And while he might still be working off the rust, he’s listed at -900 to extend his cuts made streak to 18, coming back at +500 to see that run come to an unceremonious end in 2018.

12. The list of former champions in this year’s field is lengthy but it has been three years since a one-time champ won the event, with Bubba Watson following up his 2012 triumph with a three-shot victory in 2014. In fact, it has only happened twice since 2006, with Phil Mickelson securing his third-career Masters win in 2010. Jordan Spieth is the slight fave to score the lowest of any former champion at +275, with Woods (+300), Mickelson (+400), Watson (+400) and Garcia (+500) also in the mix.

13. Remember that earlier reference to margin of victory? The Masters has seen more than its share of playoffs, and not just in recent years. Augusta National has been home to 17 playoffs over the course of its 82-year history, including six so far in the 2000s.

The longest gap between playoffs: 12 tournaments, between Nick Faldo’s second straight triumph in 1990 and Canadian Mike Weir’s unlikely victory in 2003. Bettors are getting +275 odds of a playoff in 2018, or -400 for no playoff this year.

14. From a weather standpoint, there’s good news and bad news. The good: the first two days of the tournament look terrific, with partly cloudy skies expected and temperatures in the 80s. The bad: A cold front is expected to move in Saturday, bringing with it rain showers, strong winds and a chance of a thunderstorm. Consider those winds when making your prop bet on how many players will finish under par. You’ll get +175 on 11 or fewer, +150 on 12-16 and +200 on 17 or more.

15. Going low at Augusta is predictably difficult, as evidenced by the fact that only two golfers have ever shot 63 there. Nick Price established the course record in 1986 with a sizzling 63 in his third round – he went on to finish fifth that year – while Greg Norman was on fire in 1996 (at least in the early going) as he opened with a score of 63. Bettors are getting +200 for the best round of this year’s tournament coming in at 64 or lower, compared to +150 for 65 and +175 for 66 or higher.

16. Jordan Spieth is certainly expected to be a threat but to contend on the weekend, he’ll need to be a whole lot better Thursday. The 24-year-old Texan is one of the slowest starters on tour this season, coming into the Masters ranked 170th among qualified golfers with an average first-round score of 71.63. And yet, oddsmakers have installed him at +105 to open with a 70 or lower – better than Dustin Johnson (+120) and Justin Thomas (+125) and behind only Rory McIlroy (+100).

17. And what about Tiger? Well, he’s modestly better in opening rounds this year – ranking 75th overall with a 70.40 scoring average – but the odds of him opening with a score of 70 or lower are presently +137. And with good reason.

While he’s won four Masters titles in his incredible career, those victories were largely due to sensational work over the final three rounds. Woods has shot 70 or lower in the opening round just four times in 20 visits to Augusta, with his low score a 68 back in 2010.

18. It seems fitting to finish with putting, as this tournament – like most majors – will come down to which golfers excel most with the flat stick. Augusta’s greens are notoriously brutal, and have been known to ruin a golfer’s chances in a matter of minutes (paging Ernie Els …).

Avoiding the old three-putt is critical, so consider golfers whose three-putt avoidance is elite. And two players in the Masters field boast a three-putt percentage below 1.5: Dustin Johnson (+1,100 to win) and Zach Johnson (+12,500).

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on Covers.com, a site also owned by Tribune.