The hype leading up to The Masters is finally over, and we now have one round complete to help us start to form some stronger opinions for Masters betting with in-tournament markets open.
Augusta National is playing much tougher than the softer conditions in November, and the usual spring grind for the green jacket has returned. That includes some big names who have already been humbled.
Here are five Masters betting takeaways to consider for the rest of the tournament before locking in your wagers:
Beware of live wagering longshots to win at The Masters
Several golfers that were near the top of the board before the start of the tournament struggled Thursday. That has coincided with longer odds, but The Masters may not be the tournament to try and pinpoint value for a potential bounce-back win.
Since 1998, only two players, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, have won after finishing the first round outside the top 10.
So if you think you’re getting value betting a pre-tournament favorite to still win, like Rory McIlroy (+4 after Round 1), Brooks Koepka (+2) or Viktor Hovland (+1), keep that in mind. Even the mighty Bryson DeChambeau shot 4-over-par on his front nine.
Predicting a Rory McIlroy bounce back needs more context
ESPN’s Chris ‘The Bear’ Fallica pointed out on Twitter Thursday that McIlroy starting slow to open his Masters is nothing new. McIlroy shot a 4-over 76 in Round 1.
Rory McIlroy has been over par following the 1st round each of the last two @TheMasters . He's followed a poor first round with three straight rounds under par both times.
— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) April 8, 2021
Let’s look at a bigger sample size than just McIlroy’s past two Masters. McIlroy has followed a 72 or worse with a round in the 60s in four of seven opportunities this season, but he’s failed to do it in three straight chances.
That would align with McIlroy admitting publicly he’s having swing trouble. He hired swing coach Pete Cowen in March. McIlroy even admitted trying to keep up with Bryson DeChambeau has set him back.
“And I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing, and I maybe just — to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there, but I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit,” said McIlroy.
Bettors would be wise to increase the sample size and include McIlroy’s recent form and not just focus on what he’s done in past Masters tournaments. The swing was in a different place then. McIlroy was top 20 in SG: Approach last season. Now, he’s 80th.
Brooks Koepka’s knee isn’t getting any healthier
ESPN golf reporter Michael Collins appeared on Daily Wager Wednesday and warned Brooks Koepka was struggling to get through a nine-hole practice round without discomfort in his knee. Collins said Koepka was even dropping to the ground at times and adjusting his knee.
Collins said he couldn’t believe Koepka was playing a month after surgery, one that generally has a recovery of up to six months. Combine that with Augusta National being a difficult walk over four days with the changes in elevation, and it’s easier to understand now why Koepka shot a 2-over-par 74 Thursday.
Koepka struggled most of the day before a couple late birdies. The Masters does not provide data for Strokes Gained statistics, but Koepka finished only about field average in fairways hit, greens in regulation and putting.
Bettors would be wise to not count on the usual major championship assassin for the rest of the week, and perhaps fading the big name in matchups and in-play markets could be profitable, since the knee is not going to get stronger overnight.
Cameron Champ putting regression
It’s difficult to get a full picture of this field without ShotLink data and Strokes Gained (SG) statistics, but we can get a decent picture of players that performed better on the greens than usual.
Putting has more variance than any other area of golf, and Cameron Champ is typically not a good putter. Coming into this week, he ranked 218th in SG: Putting. Thursday, he averaged 1.61 putts per green in regulation, better than the field average. He also did that despite two three-putts, worse than the field average of 0.81 three-putts.
Combine that with only hitting 55% of greens in regulation on approach in Round 1 for a player that ranks 95th in SG: Approach, and it’s perhaps an indication that Champ was fortunate to finish his first round with an even-par 72. Fading Champ the rest of the week in Masters betting may be wise.
Corey Conners is a strong candidate to improve
The Canadian didn’t have an awful start to his Masters, but if he plays more like his usual self, it could get a lot better. Conners opened with a 1-over-par 73.
He hit 66% of greens despite hitting only 57% of fairways. Look for those numbers to improve, as Conners came into this week 10th in SG: Off-The-Tee and 13th in SG: Approach. He also was only about field average in putting. So, it’s not as if the flatstick saved his round.
Conners made a bad mistake on his second shot on the par-5 13th, coming up short of the green and landing in Rae’s Creek. He wound up with a double bogey. If not for that one bad swing, Conners likely shoots even par or better.
Many statistical models like Conners as a longshot in Masters betting coming into this week, and his opening round shouldn’t be a reason for bettors to fully fade him in matchups and other in-tournament markets.