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  • 2019 Masters: Value bets, DFS options and long shots at Augusta ⛳

    2019 Masters: Value bets, DFS options and long shots at Augusta

    ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)



    Last year, MLB handicapper Joe Peta put away the baseball spreadsheets and began immersing himself in the world of golf betting. His latest book, "A 2019 Masters Preview," was published last month and contains never-before-revealed analytics and insights on the Masters. As part of his look at the most popular betting event on the PGA Tour, Joe is previewing the 2019 Masters Tournament for ESPN.

    There aren't many things that would take me away from baseball betting, but handicapping the Masters was one of them. Unlike the other majors, which rotate, the Masters is played at Augusta National every year, making the sample sizes so much more significant.

    In this betting guide, we'll take a look at everything you need to know to bet the Masters. We'll cover important handicapping metrics (including highest career strokes gained in excess of expectations), futures bets, DFS value plays and ways to win your Masters pool.

    Betting odds courtesy of SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas and DFS salaries from DraftKings.
    Best value bets

    Jon Rahm (16-1): Rahm could have won two majors last year, as he contended in both the Masters and the PGA Championship. How I feel about Rahm mimics how I felt about Brooks Koepka entering 2017: He'd been contending, and everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he won that first major. Rahm's final three-round score of 202 last year was 2 shots better than anyone else in the field. Unfortunately for him, it came on the heels of an opening-round 75. But the way he played the final three rounds, giving himself a chance to win, coupled with how well he should score on the par-5s, make him my top pick to win the green jacket in his third trip to Augusta. Recent Trends on Masters Champions

    Seven of the past eight (and nine of the past 12) Masters champions were first-time major winners. And 10 of the past 13 major winners were first-time major winners. Factor in that 24 of the last 25 major winners were ranked in the top 30, and whom does that leave as possible winners who fit that mold? Here are players who haven't won a major championship and are ranked in the top 30.
    Bryson DeChambeau 6th T-21st
    Rickie Fowler 8th 2nd
    Jon Rahm 9th 4th
    Xander Schauffele 10th T-50th
    Paul Casey 11th T-4th
    Tommy Fleetwood 13th T-17th
    Tony Finau 15th T-10th
    Matt Kuchar 16th T-3rd
    Marc Leishman 19th 9th
    Patrick Cantlay 21st T-47th
    Gary Woodland 23rd T-24th
    Kevin Kisner 25th T-37th
    Hideki Matsuyama 26th 5th
    Cameron Smith 28th T-5th
    Alex Noren 30th Cut
    Patrick Cantlay (60-1): Cantlay hasn't truly contended in a major, but he's also a better, more experienced player now. One of the better iron players on tour, he should have a chance this week, as he typically hits a ton of greens in regulation. Fifteen of the last 19 Masters winners were in the top-six that week in greens in regulation (GIR). And for those into numerology, since Tiger Woods last won the Masters in 2005, the winner profile is as follows: 31 years old, 21st in the world ranking and more than likely had not yet won a major. This week's No. 21 is Cantlay, 27, who is seeking his first major.

    Cameron Smith (80-1): He's probably not at the top of many people's lists, and many forget his Sunday 66 and top-5 finish last year because of what Jordan Spieth did. Three of the past four Masters champs were top-5 in putting for the week, so prowess on the greens is a plus -- just ask Patrick Reed about all of his one-putts in his victory last year. Like Rahm, Smith's third trip to the Masters could be his best yet.

    Paul Casey (30-1): Casey isn't known as the best closer on tour, and the only time he's really contended in a major, he didn't have the best of weekends. But Casey has four straight top-15 finishes at the Masters, and since 2014, only Spieth, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy have a better combined score at Augusta National. While I don't know if I'd be heavily invested on the win, Casey should be a solid top-10 or top-20 price.

    -- Chris Fallica
    DFS value plays

    Matt Kuchar (45-1 odds to win, $7,900 salary on DraftKings): Kuchar is the best value pick of the week for both DraftKings and in building a card for outright bets at 45-1. This price is just too low for a guy who continues to perform well every week. Even this past weekend in San Antonio, Kuchar grinded out another top-10 finish despite a slow start. He's 10-for-10 making the cut this season and has four top-10 finishes and two wins. He ranks sixth in driving accuracy, first in greens in regulation percentage (75.97), sixth in strokes gained approaching the green, fifth in par-5 scoring and 16th in birdie-or-better percentage. He hasn't missed a cut in his past nine starts here, and four of those have resulted in a top-10 finish. Kuchar is playing perhaps the best golf of his career right now and is one of the last of the elites yet to win a major.

    Charles Howell III (125-1, $7,000): Howell quietly is having the best season of his career. He won the RSM Classic in the fall and is back at Augusta (where he was born) to play for only the second time over the past decade and first time since 2012 (when he finished 19th). His short game and accuracy off the tee have improved tremendously over the last couple of years and his rolling numbers over the last 24 rounds are particularly impressive. I think he has a real shot to contend from a fantasy perspective and is certainly worth a small bet for an outright win as well.



    Marc Leishman (50-1, $7,800): Leishman has been a boom-or-bust play at Augusta over the years, but at his price that is acceptable this week. He had a fantastic start to the season, making nine of 10 cuts with five top-10 finishes, including a win at the CIMB Classic. He gets good distance off the tee, but where he really shines is with his iron play. He ranks second from 175-200 yards out and fifth from more than 200 yards, which fits Augusta well. His putting has been good this season and his game overall is very well-rounded. He may not draw the attention that Sergio and Kuchar get in that same price range, but his potential is just as high. Recent performances at comparable courses -- Riviera (fourth) and Bay Hill (23rd) -- lead me to believe that he is ready for Augusta.

    Sergio Garcia (50-1, $7,700): Like him or not, Garcia looks to be underpriced this week. He burned us last year when he came undone at the 15th hole in the first round, but something was seriously wrong with him all season, as he did not make a cut from then until the Wyndham Championship in August over four months later. Whatever the issue, it seems to be behind him so far this season. We've largely seen the Sergio of old who is strong off the tee and solid with his iron play. Prior to his blowup last year, he had made the cut in eight of nine starts at Augusta, and he won in 2017.

    Adam Scott (40-1, $8,400): Scott has been either very good or very bad, oscillating between missed cuts and top-15 finishes so far in 2019. The putter that has usually been blamed for his issues in recent years has been a strength for him this year, as he ranks 14th in strokes gained putting over the first few months of the season. Scott is elite from tee to green, and his irons have always been a strength. The 2013 champion has made nine straight cuts at Augusta, with six finishes of 18th or better to go along with his win. Given his performances at longer, more challenging layouts this season (second at Torrey Pines, seventh at Riviera) it looks like his game is ready.

    -- Zach Turcotte


  • Golfers who have fared well at Augusta

    Let's go a bit deeper and reveal 10 golfers in this year's field who have played better over their careers in stints at Augusta National Golf Club than they did the rest of those same years on the PGA Tour.

    Here are the entrants in this year's field, minimum 10 rounds played, with the highest career strokes gained figures in excess of expectations at the Masters.

    Jordan Spieth (16-1): 5 events, 20 rounds played, 65.59 strokes gained (SG:T), 3.26 strokes gained per round (SG:Rd), 1.59 strokes gained per round over expectations (SG:Exp)

    As I mentioned in a previous piece, to my eye, Spieth is by far the most interesting player to watch in this year's field. With remarkable consistency (17 out of 20 career rounds have featured positive strokes gained for an 85 percent success rate), Spieth has played even better at Augusta than he has on tour. Even expecting that, seeing a 1.59 improvement over his historic form is eye-opening. The problem is, of course, he comes into this event with the lowest baseline performance of his career, something approximating an average touring pro. As such, even improving 1.5 strokes per round from that level, Spieth would amass only six total strokes gained, nowhere near enough to be a contender.

    Phil Mickelson (40-1): 23 events (since 1996), 86 rounds played, 195.90 SG:T, 2.28 SG:Rd, 0.84 SG:Exp



    Mickelson, who has never been the No. 1 golfer in the world, will forever find himself in the shadow of Woods when it comes to the final assessment of his career. However, when it comes to his career performance at the Masters, he takes a backseat to no one, including Tiger. The figures above are only since 1996 -- the year Tiger turned pro -- but including the three events he played before 1996 doesn't change the story. He's behind only Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus in career strokes gained at the Masters.

    Danny Willett (150-1): 4 events, 12 rounds played, 10.89 SG:T, 0.91 SG:Rd, 0.81 SG:Exp

    Winning the event once in four attempts as a fairly unknown pro goes a long way toward getting you on a list of golfers who have raised their game at the Masters. A year ago, Willett's game was in such bad shape that his missed cut in 2018 came as no surprise, and normally that would mean dismissing him as a fluke and moving on. However, this past November, Willett won his first event since the 2016 Masters, the prestigious final European Tour event on the Race to Dubai -- that Tour's equivalent of the Tour Championship at East Lake.

    Charley Hoffman (100-1): 5 events, 20 rounds played, 26.15 SG:T, 1.31 SG:Rd, 0.77 SG:Exp

    Hoffman's overall success at the Masters (five out of five made cuts) may look consistent, but it's really the product of a Jekyll and Hyde existence. On Thursday, Hoffman averages an incredible 4.60 strokes gained per round, which means by the end of the first round, he's often Charles in Charge. But come Sunday, he morphs into Charles Barkley and averages a way-below-average mark of minus-1.47 strokes gained per round.

    Hideki Matsuyama (30-1): 7 events, 26 rounds played, 30.31 SG:T, 1.17 SG:Rd, 0.50 SG:Exp

    It's hard to label anyone undervalued when it comes to futures betting on the Masters because the books include a huge and, to some, unconscionable amount of juice across the board. Still, if there's a candidate for the "value" distinction this year, Matsuyama might top the list. While he's never been among the elite golfers who play 2 strokes better than the average golfer per round, Matsuyama is consistently -- and currently -- in the 1.5 group that features very good golfers, most of whom have shorter odds to win this event. Take note from this list, however: Matsuyama has a better history of consistently raising his game at the Masters those not mentioned here.

    Justin Rose (12-1): 13 events, 52 rounds played, 92.46 SG:T, 1.78 SG:Rd, 0.48 SG:Exp

    Often, projection pieces generate misguided pushback from readers who attack any prediction that doesn't feature the betting favorite. Instead of evaluating the call on its merits or as an evaluation of the existence of possible value, their misguided retort is almost always, "Gee, I wonder who's right, you or Vegas?" So, for a change, I intend to provide those readers with ammunition in the following sentence. Given the importance of course history at the Masters, as well as current form, I firmly believe Justin Rose -- not Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson -- should be the betting favorite at this year's Masters. I will express that view in any head-to-head matchup I can get on Rose as an underdog versus McIlroy or Johnson.

    Paul Casey (30-1): 12 events, 42 rounds played, 49.82 SG:T, 1.19 SG:Rd, 0.42 SG:Exp

    Along with Matsuyama, Casey is another candidate for most undervalued; he has played especially well at the Masters the past four years. Once in each of the past four years, however, Casey has had a single round of negative strokes gained that has torpedoed an otherwise inspired effort. It takes roughly 14 strokes gained over the course of the event to win it, and in his career, Casey has posted 11 different rounds in excess of 3.50 strokes gained -- the pace needed to win. That's a 26 percent rate and is a truly remarkable piece of evidence that Casey has the ability to win. It's a rate bettered by only five in the field: Spieth, Mickelson, Rose, McIlroy and Woods.

    Jimmy Walker (200-1): 5 events, 20 rounds played, 19.19 SG:T, 0.96 SG:Rd, 0.31 SG:Exp

    If Hoffman's appearance on this list didn't surprise you, Walker's has to. The 2016 PGA champion has never missed a cut at the Masters, but despite positive strokes gained in nine out of 10 rounds on Thursday and Friday, he's never really been in contention. His appearance on this list of overachievement is truthfully more the result of low baseline expectations than excellence at Augusta. However, for those of you in deep drafts or pools that require value picks, his track record here gives you something to consider.

    Tiger Woods (14-1): 20 events, 78 rounds played, 205.17 SG:T, 2.63 SG:Rd, 0.30 SG:Exp

    (Like Mickelson's figures, Woods' stats start with 1996, his second appearance as an amateur at the Masters.) If Walker's appearance on this list is the result of outperforming low expectations, can you imagine how hard it is for Woods to perform better than his baseline over 20 Masters appearances, where the field is significantly tougher than at normal tour events? Yet Woods raises his performance by nearly one-third of a stroke per round. There are dozens of ways to astound you with Tiger's excellence at Augusta, but this is my favorite: After the field has been cut, removing many former winners currently far beneath the level of the average tour pro, Woods averages an unbelievable 3.24 strokes gained in the third round. As a comparison, that's the total number of strokes gained that Justin Thomas averages over the entire tournament.

    Rickie Fowler (16-1): 8 events, 30 rounds played, 40.95 SG:T, 1.36 SG:Rd, 0.20 SG:Exp

    Fowler played well enough last year that his performance could've won the majority of the Masters he'd previously entered. An awful opening round in 2016 accounts for Fowler's only missed cut in eight efforts. He has a success rate of 70 percent in posting positive strokes gained in the 30 rounds he's played, and the missed cut was the only tournament he finished with negative strokes gained. Still, he's higher on the futures board than a lot of names I'd take before him in a Masters draft. With such a large field of elite golfers, it can be awfully hard to eliminate certain names and back others. If you use course history as one of the factors to help with that task, hopefully this list gives you some ideas.

    -- Joe Peta

    Comment


    • Best bets for your Masters pool

      Masters pools seem to gain popularity every year, and many follow a group format in hich you have to pick a golfer from an assortment of players with roughly equal odds. Using that logic -- and the current futures odds (via Westgate) -- here are five golfers who I believe have value compared to their similarly priced peers. Betting favorites

      Rory McIlroy (+700), Dustin Johnson (+1,000) and Justin Rose (+1,200)

      Before making strength-of-field adjustments, these are the only three golfers who average more than 2.0 strokes gained per round on the PGA Tour in the 2018-19 season. Topping that list is McIlroy, who almost certainly is in the best form of his career entering a Masters week. In the case of Johnson, not only is his current form superb -- as it's been for a couple of years -- but Augusta National would appear to be custom-made for his game. For my money, however, it's Rose who I make the favorite to perform best of this trio. You have to go back generations to find a golfer with as strong a history at the Masters who hasn't won the event.

      Pick to win this group: Rose The 20-1 or shorter club

      Tiger Woods (+1,400), Jon Rahm (+1,600), Justin Thomas (+1,600), Rickie Fowler (+1,600), Brooks Koepka (+2,000), Jordan Spieth (+2,000), Bryson DeChambeau (+2,000), Tommy Fleetwood (+2,000) and Francesco Molinari(+2,000)

      This list is peppered with major winners or young golfers whom many expect to join that club someday, so it won't really be a surprise if any of them wins the Masters this year. However, for these purposes, owing to the extra importance of course history for this event, I eliminate all golfers who haven't shown that ability to break through in previous efforts at Augusta. That leaves Woods, Rahm, Fowler, Spieth and, perhaps surprisingly, Koepka, who quietly got better in each of his Masters tours from 2015 to '17. He was an unknown then but now has three major championships under his belt. Stellar course history aside, Spieth's current form is too erratic to consider, and Fowler's overall game isn't at the level of the major winners. So, is it Koepka? Or perhaps Rahm, who had an outstanding showing last year? No and no. Lord let this be my head and not my heart saying this, but the man in this group with the best combination of form over the past year and history at the Masters is Eldrick Woods.

      Pick to win this group: Woods Value guys

      Jason Day (+2,500), Bubba Watson (+2,500), Paul Casey (+3,000), Hideki Matsuyama (+3,000) and Tony Finau (+3,000)

      With the exception of Watson, I can make a case for any one of the other four in this group as the most undervalued golfer in the field from a futures perspective. In fact, I hope I'm able to express that opinion in 18-hole and 72-hole head-to-head matchup offerings. Day has, by far, the best 2018-19 form of the group. It's Day who is next in line with a strokes gained per round in 2018-19 of 1.98. Casey and Matsuyama have very strong histories at the Masters. However, if you've read my book, you know I have no choice in this selection.

      Pick to win this group: Finau Last guys with a chance group

      Phil Mickelson (+4,000), Adam Scott (+4,000), Matt Kuchar (+4,000), Xander Schauffele (+4,000), Louis Oosthuizen (+4,000), Marc Leishman (+5,000) Patrick Reed (+5,000) and Sergio Garcia (+5,000)

      Schauffele has the best current form in the group, if you're looking at just the 2018-19 season, and Kuchar isn't far behind. Leishman has had a couple of decent showings here, and Scott, Reed and Garcia are previous champions. To my eye, however, you'd be nuts to take anyone in this group over the only living golfer other than Jack Nicklaus to accrue more strokes gained at the Masters than Tiger Woods.

      Pick to win this group: Mickelson

      -- Joe Peta

      Comment


      • It is any of the three of these guys...Spieth, Koepka, or Rory

        Comment

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