The 2023 Masters is underway, and it didn’t take long at all for an exciting leaderboard to form at Augusta National. Masters odds show tons of top players and familiar names high on the board to give bettors plenty of options for the live market. With soft conditions and low winds before weather spices up, the first round at Augusta National played about as easy as you’ll ever see. There were as many rounds of 67 or better on Thursday as there were in the entire 2022 tournament.
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Masters First-Round Stats
Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka stormed out of the gates for opening-round 65’s to grab a share of the first-round Masters lead. Hovland and Rahm did their work in the morning, while Koepka teed off in the afternoon to join them for the clubhouse lead. Rahm’s double bogey on the first hole meant he went 9 under on the final 17 holes of his round. It was the best round ever at Augusta after starting with a double bogey or worse. All three players now find themselves high on the Masters odds board.
Keep Your Eyes on Ball Striking at Augusta
With conditions so easy in the first round at the Masters, it was easier to fake your way around the course a bit. But with winds and rain coming in, you’re going to want to remain focused on the best ball strikers to put themselves in favorable positions. Here were the top players on Thursday.
- Scottie Scheffler, -4 (T6): +4.85 SG: Approach, +1.43 SG: Off the Tee
- Jon Rahm, -7 (T1): +2.81 SG: Approach, +2.59 SG: Off the Tee
- Brooks Koepka, -7 (T1): +5.14 SG: Approach, +0.16 SG: Off the Tee
- Patrick Cantlay, -1 (T26): +2.96 SG: Approach, +1.68 SG: Off the Tee
- Gordon Sargent, +5 (T78): +1.55 SG: Approach, +2.60 SG: Off the Tee
Viktor Hovland Tough to Trust
Viktor Hovland is in contention at another major, but I’m not ready to believe in him winning at Augusta because of his first-round 65. Of PGA TOUR regulars coming into the Masters, only four players have been worse than Hovland in SG: Around the Green in his last 36 rounds. He historically struggles badly around the greens on courses that require finesse like Augusta. He gained 4.2 strokes putting and another stroke around the greens for his 65 on Thursday.
While he can be as good as anyone with ball striking, I can’t see Hovland doing enough with his short game when things get tougher over the weekend.
Highlighting Players Who Underperformed on Thursday
Patrick Cantlay, -1 (T26): Cantlay was a popular pick this week and could have shot much better than his 71 on Thursday. He was sixth in the field in ball striking in the first round with strong performances from both his irons and driver. But the usual steady Cantlay had a very poor time both on and around the greens. He lost 2.49 strokes with his putter, which was eighth worst in the entire field. He also dropped another 0.77 strokes around the greens. Cantlay tends to be consistent in all facets of his game, so he’s a threat to charge if he keeps hitting it well.
Hideki Matsuyama, -1 (T26): The 2021 Masters champion appears to be having a good week health-wise, and that already makes him a threat to contend. Matsuyama was seventh in SG: Approach on Thursday and gained another 1.05 strokes off the tee. With his history at Augusta and ability to ball-strike his way around tough courses, I like where he’s at after the first round.
Tom Kim, -2 (T17): The debutant was in line to put together a fantastic opening round before a tough break on the 15th hole led to a double bogey. His bunker shot landed softly and rolled all the way off the green into the water. It gave Kim an eventual double bogey on a hole he was setup to make a potential birdie. Kim was steady all day and comfortably gained in all three other categories besides around-the-green.
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LIV Golf Players at the Masters
Eighteen LIV Golf players teed it up at the Masters this year. This is the first time since the Open Championship in July that LIV players have played in the same tournament as PGA TOUR players in the United States. Here’s where some of them stand after the first round.
Top Three LIV Golf Players After First Round
- Brooks Koepka, -7 (T1)
- Cameron Smith, -2 (T17)
- Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Joaquin Niemann, Dustin Johnson, -1 (T26)
Of the 18 LIV players, six of them broke par on Thursday in Augusta. Four more, equaling 10 in total, are currently inside the cutline of the Top 50 and ties after the second round. Kevin Na withdrew after nine holes, while Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia were notable names to struggle.
Second-Round Masters Bets to Consider
Rory McIlroy +1800 to win, Under 70.5 Round Score
If there’s something you can depend on at Augusta, it’s Rory McIlroy to start slow. As he looks for the career Grand Slam, he once again couldn’t get things going in his opening round.
But he’s done this consistently, and he’s also constantly recovered quickly from it. Nothing looked particularly wrong with Rory on Thursday, so I’m confident that he’ll bounce back and get in contention on Friday.
With conditions expected to get tougher, he’s still firmly in this tournament, and you can now get an outright price on him that’s nearly triple what it was before the tournament. Along with that, he scored about as poorly as he could have on Thursday and shot 72. He shouldn’t have much of an issue to recover and fire something in the 60’s in his second round to clear his score prop.
Other Bets to Consider
With the forecast so uncertain for Friday, I’m mostly staying away from matchups and round props. The number of variables introduced from potential delays and even suspensions into Saturday could make it a tough round to predict.
As mentioned above, two longshot outright bets to consider for the Masters odds board before Friday are Patrick Cantlay at upwards of 55/1 and Hideki Matsuyama at 125/1. Both players are experienced winners who are very much in the tournament after opening-round 71’s. With their strong ball striking in the first round, they could move up the leaderboard quickly on Friday in tougher conditions.
Masters Live In-Tournament Odds
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