The first Masters golf tournament in the new era of sports betting is set to commence. Betting on this tournament (and golf in general) can be quite a tricky affair, especially for new bettors.
This year’s event will occur on April 11-14. ESPN will broadcast the first two days of competition, then the coverage will switch to CBS for the weekend.
Last year’s Masters took more wagers than any golf event in history, according to Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman. This year’s event is set to surpass that figure, however, because of the propagation of sports betting to eight states outside of Nevada.
The driving force behind the feverish action is the presence of Tiger Woods. The mercurial superstar has seemed to be returning to form the past two seasons. Furthermore, his history at Augusta National means that another green jacket is never out of the question.
Masters betting strategy
The ironic thing about betting on golf is that the most obvious bet is one you shouldn’t make as often. Selecting the outright winner of a tournament is a difficult proposition indeed.
In fact, here is a sampling of the moneylines on players to win outright.
Even the favorite, Rory McIlroy, is a 7 to 1 underdog against the field. For the sake of preserving a bankroll, we recommend you use a 10:1 rule for individual matches versus winning outright.
In other words, for every $100 wagered in a head-to-head match, only plan on betting $10 on, say, Dustin Johnson to win the whole tournament. Instead, the best option for wagering is to look for head-to-head matches that contain favorable pairings. These, along with various proposition bets, are the best source for winning wagers in golf betting.
Of course, knowing which types of bets to make is not enough. A smart bettor also knows upon which players to bet. Usually, the best choices come from looking at two factors – current form and course form.
Current form is an objective measure of how a golfer is playing right now. Golf is one of the most fickle sports, and even its top players have times that they can’t find the fairway.
The golfer’s current form is a simple and straightforward measure about how much he’s feeling it at this moment in time. A golfer’s current form is a snapshot of his performance in the last few tournaments.
So, the current form answers the questions about how many tournaments in the last five he played, and then how he performed. Did he make the cut? Did he make the top 30 or top 10? Did he win?
Golf doesn’t occur in a vacuum, however. A golfer playing well might have hit a string of tournaments and courses that fit his style.
How he performs at Augusta National, on the other hand, is what makes up his course form for the venerable course. In other words, it’s a measure of how well he has handled the ball between the azaleas in years past.
So, take a look at each prospect’s performances at previous Masters. Augusta National contains enough quirks to produce a learning curve, even for talented new professionals.
However, it’s important to recognize that course managers at Augusta National have not sat idly over the course of the last 85 years. Unlike some of the other venerable courses which have become obsolete (like St. Andrews), the club has performed major renovations over the years to remain challenging to visiting players.
The last notable alteration occurred in 2011. That year, all 18 holes received some sort of attention. Long story short, look at the player’s course form since 2011 to get the most accurate feel for how they handle the modern Augusta National.
Hand-in-hand with course form is the notion of each course’s character. The smart bettor understands the way that the course itself plays and is typically set up.
Augusta National is, by no means, a short course. The 18 holes stretch for 7,435 yards and play to par 72. So, long hitters aren’t particularly cramped by the course’s fairways.
However, Augusta National is mostly a course that rewards expert play on the player’s second shot. Distance off the tee is all well and good, but it’s the manner in which the player approaches the flag that matter more.
Important statistical measures
So, players that figure to excel at Augusta National tend to be atop the leaderboards for the following statistics:
- Ball striking
- Ball striking is a combination stat that measures a player’s ability to hit fairways and greens. The stat combines the player’s rankings in total driving and greens-in-regulation. Total driving, in turn, is a ranking statistic for how the player compares in driving distance and driving accuracy.
- Scrambling, more or less, is a percentage of how often a player “gets up-and-down” from 50 yards or less. In other words, the expectation is that a player will typically be able to finish a hole in two strokes if he can get within 50 yards of the flag.
- Strokes gained: approach-the-green
- Strokes gained: approach-the-green is the first of two relatively new statistical measures. As a class of stats, strokes gained is an attempt to depict how a player performs in comparison to how a standard pro would perform in the same spot.
- It’s quite helpful to know if a potential bet recipient tends to excel in certain spots. In essence, a player gains or loses points depending on how the average player would do in the same sport.
- Strokes gained: around-the-green
- Strokes gained: around-the-green is the same concept as its approach-the-green sibling. Players are judged according to their performance within 30 yards of the hole versus an average player from the same yardage.
Keys to Success
- Don’t be a hero.
- Pick players in the top 30 of the current rankings.
- Look for players with wins or high finishes in the last 5-10 tournaments.
- Look for players who have had previous success in the Masters.
- Don’t ignore Father Time.
- The last 11 Masters have featured winners under 40.
- Advances in nutrition and training have benefited younger players more profoundly.
- Make sure your picks can putt.
- Augusta National’s greens are notoriously fast and slick.
- Multi-tiered putting surfaces require expert greens reading and break recognition.
Good luck! Aside from the television coverage, you may also stream the tournament live through the Masters app or through Masters.com. @MastersMoments and @TheMasters will also provide periodic updates.