Seven months later than planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, the US Masters gets underway on Thursday.
The most prestigious tournament in the golfing calendar will see the winner gleefully take home the famous green jacket on Sunday evening as per the competition’s long-standing tradition.
First, however, they will have to successfully navigate four rounds of the 7,475 yards long world-famous Par 72 course in Augusta.
We have been treated to some truly thrilling final days in recent years, with Tiger Woods winning his first major for over a decade in last year’s tournament; Sergio Garcia finally breaking his major duck in 2017; and Englishman Danny Willett stunning the world as a triple-figure winner in 2016
Unfortunately Garcia will miss his first major since 1999 after testing positive for coronavirus, but the roster is still stacked with incredible talent from top to bottom.
Bryson Dechambeau is the bookmakers’ favourite at 8/1 (William Hill) to win a second successive major having won the first of his career at the US Open in September by a comfortable margin of six strokes.
Nicknamed ‘The Scientist’ due to his analytical approach to the game, the 27-year-old gained 40 pounds of weight during lockdown to become the longest driver on the PGA Tour, so is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Dustin Johnson is most fancied to closely challenge him at 9/1 (Sky Bet). Despite being ranked World Number 1 for an incredible 103 consecutive weeks now, the 36-year-old has failed to win a major during that time-frame, with the 2016 US Open still the only major success on his CV.
DJ has unquestionably been getting closer in recent years, though, having tied second place at the Masters last year as well as in the last two PGA Championships. He looked in good nick on the way to finishing second at the Houston Open last week too.
Indeed, he has placed in the top ten at the Masters four years running, so I think he is primed to end his barren run in terms of winning a major.
Jon Rahm (10/1, bet365), Justin Thomas (12/1, William Hill), Rory McIlroy (12/1, bet365), Xander Schauffele (14/1, bet365) and Brooks Kopeka (16/1, bet365) head the next pack of contenders.
The latter in particular looks good value given his awesome record at majors in recent years, winning four of the last 11 he has competed in (as well as finishing in the top six at four of the others), but he has been plagued by hip and knee issues this year so I’m personally going to leave him alone until next year if he has proved he has fully recovered.
Of the outsiders, Hideki Matsuyama at 25/1 (bet365) appeals. I’ve successfully backed him each-way many times in the past as he is a very consistent performer, but I’m not convinced he will ever take the next step by winning a major to be honest.
The 28-year-old tied second at Houston with Johnson, though, looking more like the player who recorded seven top ten major finishes in five years between 2013 and 2017, so it would be no surprise to see him there or thereabouts.
Tony Finau also looks a cracking each-way bet at odds of 28/1 (bet365) having finished in the top ten in the last two Masters and in seven of his last ten majors overall, including the two which have taken place this year.
Of the English contingent, Tyrrell Hatton looks most likely to make a push for the green jacket at odds of 28/1 (bet365). Now inside the world’s top ten, Hatton is in great form having won the BMW PGA Championship last month, but he will need to significantly improve on his previous attempts at Augusta having finished 44th and 56th in the last two years.
Without his injuries I’d have been keen to get Koepka on side at decent odds, but I’m team DJ here. For me he’s the best all-round player in the world, and while he’s been prone to collapsing under pressure in the past, I’m backing him to put that behind him this year.
Sky Bet are offering a £1 free bet for every birdie your outright selection makes in the first round (providing you stake £5 or more), so Johnson at 9/1 is my main play utilising this offer.
He often starts tournaments strongly so it’s far from inconceivable that you could make your £5 back by the end of the first round (he made five in the first round at Augusta last year), with him significantly boosting his chances of winning in the process.
I’m also going to take Finau each-way given his superb record at majors in the last few years, with Sky Bet paying 11 places.
He’s 25/1 to win and a fifth of that (5/1) to place, which looks superb value given he has placed 70% of the time in the last ten majors.
Dustin Johnson to win @ 9/1 (Sky Bet ‘Hotshots’ offer)
Tony Finau each-way @ 25/1 (Sky Bet, 11 places)