It feels a little bit weird being back at Augusta so soon after the last time, but we have a job to do and that means passing on our expert picks for the 2021 Masters.
We are so used to the intense build-up for golf’s most fabled event down Magnolia Lane, that it’s a little surreal that we are heading along that famous driveway just five months after Dustin Johnson’s masterful triumph last November.
But here we are, and Johnson is installed as the clear favourite at best odds of +950 (FanDuel) to retain his title, but we know that winning back-to-back here is something that only legendary figures are capable of; Tiger Woods did it in 2001/2002, while Nick Faldo did the same in 1989 and 1990. Throw in Jack Nicklaus in ‘65 and ‘66 and that’s your full list – that’s the weight of history opposing DJ.
The leading contenders
Johnson was spectacular in the three majors last year, finishing T2 in the USPGA and T6 in the US Open. But he’s made a much slower start to 2021, his best finish T8 at the Genesis Invitational. He does love it around Augusta and his pummelling driver on the forgiving back-nine fairways will always allow him to score – but there’s enough to put you off betting him on precedent/current form.
There’s nothing more to be said meanwhile about Bryson DeChambeau (generally available at +1100). This unique character clearly has the game, but equally has the ability to implode, as witnessed in the final round of the Players’ Championship last month. He also had his fair share of problems here last year, eventually finishing T34 after failing to drive the ball well at all. It’s a reach betting on which Bryson turns up, so for that reason – at the odds – we’re out.
Behind him, Jon Rahm must be opposed until he can definitively prove he can put four rounds together in a major; all too often the final 18 holes has been a massive disappointment. Until he breaks this run he’s not a bet at +1200. And Rory McIlroy at +1900 (FanDuel)? Not for us either. He is transitioning his swing with a new coach and Augusta is not the place to be working on your game. Way too short in the betting given his situation.
So that’s who might not win. But how about who could win? Justin Thomas is an obvious contender given his sensational final round at the Players. His driving has been impeccable this year and if he hits it as straight as he did at Sawgrass, he will score and score well. +1200 (DraftKings and bet365) is short and he hasn’t always performed well at Augusta, but there is a clear progression in his five previous appearances, from T39 in his first outing to finishing fourth last year. He’s learned the course with each visit and in our opinion, he is the man to beat.
And, of course, there’s Jordan Spieth. It’s been quite the comeback for a player who has been struggling for the better part of two years, and the response this year is notable. But are we looking at recency bias? He won at the Valero Open just last week, his first PGA Tour win since 2017. But is there still fragility in his game that could be exposed by some of Augusta’s brutal holes? At +1200 (PointsBet), the price isn’t worth finding out but then again, Spieth’s best moments (and some of his worst) have been here. It wouldn’t be that much of a reach to imagine him putting on another Green Jacket come Sunday evening.
Patrick Cantlay (+2200 with FanDuel) and Xander Schauffele (+2500 with DraftKings and FanDuel) are two immensely talented players who are due a big win, having been close before. The 29-year-old Cantlay led with five holes remaining in 2019 only to be overtaken by Tiger, but his major performances last year don’t give us much confidence for this one, particularly given his missed cut at the Players. Schauffele has gone off the boil slightly in the last month after starting the year with a T5 and two T2’s, but hasn’t been outside the top 25 on his three Augusta visits and was T2 in 2019. He will be in the mix again.
Masters long shots
Lee Westwood (+6000 with PointsBet) has had a sensational start to the season but he hasn’t got it done in a major yet and it’s unlikely to happen for him around here. Brooks Koepka (+3000, also with PointsBet) is still carrying injuries and that is the reason his odds are so big. He did win the Waste Management Open in Phoenix in February so much will depend on how healthy he is.
Beyond that, look for live outsiders who are proven to enjoy Augusta and have regularly put together good rounds. Paul Casey (+4000) should be considered, if not to win, then given his three T6’s and T4 previously, coupled with the fact he’s playing well this year, is a consideration for place money.
Add Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose (all available at +10000) as players whose form means they have little chance of winning, but do enjoy this course and might perform well without the burden of expectation. All are worthy of a small wager to finish in the Top 5 come Sunday evening in Georgia.
OddsCritic Masters Picks
Justin Thomas to win at +1200 (DraftKings, bet365)
- If you’re betting on the Masters for the first time and want to know how the odds work, read our simple guide.