Who looks to be the favorite in this year’s Masters Tournament? – BY DERRICK THOMAS

April 6, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The 2020 Masters Tournament was unique for many reasons.One of the most glaring differences from other years was the ridiculously low scores.A number of records were broken, including the all-time scoring mark.

Suffice to say, we won’t see 20 under par this week.In fact, we won’t see anything close.Augusta National is reportedly already firmer than it was at any point in November (and the tournament hasn’t even started). Expect much higher scores in 2021.

That being said, someone will don a Green Jacket (hopefully by) Sunday evening. But who?These are our favorite bets, our least favorite, and some we just can’t touch.

Best Bets:

Justin Thomas (Park Ji-ho/Yonhap via AP)
Justin Thomas (Park Ji-ho/Yonhap via AP)

Justin Thomas (12 to 1; +1200)

Justin Thomas is fresh off a huge win at The Players Championship three weeks ago.Outside the Genesis Invitational in February, Thomas has finished in the top-15 of every (stroke play) event he’s entered since the Tour Championship in September (where he tied for 2nd).Now the #2-ranked player in the world, JT has improved on his results at Augusta through the years, ascending to a fourth place finish in 2020.

Thomas dealt with an embarrassing moment on live TV, the ensuing loss of sponsorships, a scary situation surrounding his good friend Tiger Woods, and the death of his (very influential) grandfather – all in the span of a few months.Perhaps these events have inspired the 27 year-old’s fantastic recent form.

November 2020 felt like Dustin Johnson’s time.April 2021 feels the same for Justin Thomas

Jon Rahm (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Jon Rahm (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Jon Rahm (+1200)

Jon Rahm is the best player in the world without a major title.And it’s not even close.Likewise, the big Spaniard is probably the most underrated golfer on Earth.That will change when (not if) he wins his first major championship, and The Masters looks like his best shot.He finished in the top-10 each of the last three years and has never been cut at Augusta.He’s #3 in the world and already posted top-5 finishes at the US Open and The British, so there’s plenty of major experience for the 26 year-old.

He just hasn’t sealed the deal.Rahm was tied for the 36-hole lead here in November. A 72-71 over the weekend didn’t cut it.Perhaps the birth of his first child this past weekend will provide the “dad strength” Rahmbo needs to close out a major.His chances are as good as any player’s in the field.I’ll take those odds.

Worst Bets:

Bryson DeChambeau (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Bryson DeChambeau (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Bryson DeChambeau (+1100)

In November, DeChambeau said he saw Augusta National as a par-67 course.He recently amended that to par-68 (which still puts him at 14 over par in 2020). Whatever, Bryson. His record at Augusta speaks for itself.

Of the 58 players with at least eight rounds at Augusta in the last three years, DeChambeau ranks LAST in strokes gained-putting per round.He improved his putting in 2020, but he has never cracked the top-20 in the Masters. Worth nothing that Augusta National does not allow green-reading books, something Bryson very much relies on.

Sure, Bryson could win this tournament.We just saw him run away with the US Open in September. However, he should be nowhere near where we find him, the second favorite behind only Dustin Johnson.See above for better options (and better odds)

 

Rory McIlroy (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Rory McIlroy (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Rory McIlroy (+1400)

At age 24, the career Grand Slam seemed like a given for Rory.Now seven years later, we’re all still waiting.

McIlroy has a fine record at Augusta, finishing among the top-10 in six of the last seven Masters. He finished tied for 5th last year.Unfortunately, his recent form leaves something to be desired.He missed the cut at The Players and failed to advance out of group play at the WGC Match Play.

Rory said last year he wasn’t in any rush to win this tournament, as he foresaw “more opportunities in the future.”Now 31 years-old, those opportunities are fleeting for McIlroy.He has won virtually everything a professional golfer can win – except The Masters.It would be a great story, and many (myself included) would love to see Rory pull it off, but I can’t justify these odds for a guy without a major win since 2014.

Phil Mickelson (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Phil Mickelson (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Phil Mickelson (+12500)

No chance.If you’re looking for long odds, throw it down on Matthew Wolff (also +12500), or see below.

Deep Value

Cameron Smith (AP Photo/Matt York)
Cameron Smith (AP Photo/Matt York)

Cameron Smith (+4000)

Who?!Casual golf fans wouldn’t recognize Cameron Smith if he walked up and slapped them in the face. The 27-year old Aussie doesn’t play often on the PGA Tour, so don’t feel so bad.But those paying attention to recent Masters tournaments know the name.

Smith has finished in the top-5 at Augusta two of the last three years.In November, he posted all four rounds in the 60s.No one has ever done that at The Masters.To quote the great Roy McAvoy: “not even Nicklaus.”

This golf course suits Smith’s game, and his mullet fits perfectly into the pristine Augusta landscape.I liked him more at +4500, but he’s worth the long shot.

Sungjae Im (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sungjae Im (+4000)

Once again, don’t feel bad if this name doesn’t ring any bells.The South Korean just turned 23 in March, but already has four professional wins.Im was the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2019 and made his first Masters start in November.He made the most of it.

Sungjae’s tie for second in the 2020 Masters was the highest finish ever for an Asian player. Winning the Masters in his second attempt would establish Im as a god-like figure in Korea.The pressure may be too much for such a young man, but this guy is mentally tough and can’t be counted out.

Matt Kuchar (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Matt Kuchar (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Matt Kuchar (+10000)

At 42, there’s no denying most of Kuchar’s best golf is behind him, but his record at Augusta is undeniable.He was the Low Amateur here in 1998, and boasts four top-10 finishes, missing the cut just twice in 14 career appearances.The former Yellow Jacket has finished in the top-10 of all four majors at least once, but never sealed the deal.

He’s a long shot for good reason, but given his recent form and loads of experience, there’s some value here.

NOT TOUCHING:

Dustin Johnson (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Dustin Johnson (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Dustin Johnson (+900)

DJ is the favorite this week, as well he should be.The defending champion is the best player in the field when he’s putting well. And he has been putting well of late.

Not much has changed since November.But everything will be different.He’s hosting the Champions Dinner.He’s dressing in the Champions Locker Room.He has already won this tournament.

Perhaps there’s a reason only three players have ever won back-to-back Green Jackets (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods).If he can put aside the distractions, there’s no reason to believe he can’t repeat.Regardless, at these odds, I’ll put my money elsewhere.There are too many other options with better price tags.

Jordan Spieth (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jordan Spieth (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Jordan Spieth (+1100)

Of all the storylines heading into Augusta, the saga of Jordan Spieth may be the most compelling.And I just don’t know what to make of it.

A 3-time major champion and former world #1, Spieth won here in 2015 (and should have added another title in 2017).He responded to the epic collapse of 2017 by winning the British Open later that year.But that was it… for a long time…

And then he won last week.He’s been trending in the right direction, so it wasn’t a huge shock, but that was the Valero Texas Open.This is The Masters.

If he drives the ball well, his stellar iron-play and magic-wand-of-a-putter give him as good a chance as any player in the field.Regardless, Spieth has to show more consistency on the biggest stages before we can pick him over the likes of Thomas and Rahm.

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