Do you hear that? The Tiger Woods hype train is rolling into Augusta National. The 14-time major champion is fresh off two top-10 finishes in March and appears ready to contend at a major championship for the first time since 2015. But the excitement from golf fans to have the game’s biggest draw back in the spotlight comes at the expense of having a worthy payout for Woods, who has not played in a major in two years. It would be amazing for the game’s biggest draw to complete his decade-long comeback on the biggest stage, but at +1100 according to Bovada, the odds for Tiger have over-corrected and it is not worth the risk of your hard-earned capital.
If you want to bet Tiger Woods and party like it is 2005 all over again, no one will blame you. Golf is more fun when Tiger is bombing drives in a red polo on Sundays. But, if you are skeptical of this comeback, or want to hedge with some smart money picks; feel free to keep reading.
To identify a worthy suitor for the green jacket in the 87-player field, let’s review five conditions to fit the prototype of a Masters champion.
A Masters champion should…
- Not be a first-time qualifier. Only three players have won the Masters in their first appearance, and two of those came in the first two years of the tournament, Horton Smith in 1934 and Gene Sarazan in 1935. Since then only Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) has accomplished the feat. With 16 amateurs and first-time qualifiers in the field, that leaves 71 potential winners.
- Not be over 45 years old. Golf may be thought of as an old man’s game, but once players hit 45 years old they stop winning majors. Only five players have ever won major championships over the age of 45, and the only time it occurred at the Masters was Jack Nicklaus’s famous 1986 win. While Phil Mickelson will certainly draw support, he has had mixed results at Augusta recently, missing the cut in two of the last four years. After cutting down the 11 players from the over 45 division, 60 potential winners remain.
- Not have missed the cut in last year’s Masters. 20 consecutive Masters winners made the cut in the previous year’s tournament (sorry Tiger). Which cuts 27 from the list leaving just 33 potential winners.
- Be someone with a top 10 finish in a major. Only three players have claimed their first top 10 at a major in the form of a victory at the Masters, Herman Keiser in 1946, Zach Johnson in 2007 and Charl Schwartzel in 2011. This eliminates 5 others, leaving 28 potential winners.
- Be someone inside the top 15 of the World Golf Rankings. It’s not called the Masters for nothing, folks. Recently the best of the best have lived up to the tournament’s name, as the past five champions have each ranked among the top 15 in the world at the time of the tournament. Of the 28, this eliminates 19 leaving a nine-player pool.
Rory McIlroy (+900)
Jordan Spieth (+1000)
Justin Thomas (+1000)
Justin Rose (+1400)
Jason Day (+1600)
Rickie Fowler (+1800)
Paul Casey (+2200)
Sergio Garcia (+2900)
Hideki Matsuyama (+3300)
Best bang for your buck: Paul Casey (+2200)
If you’re looking for someone outside of the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings to make a weekend charge, look no further. With the potential to follow the Sergio Garcia narrative arc, Casey has a career full of almost and not-quite runs at major championships, including nine top ten finishes in majors, the first of which came at the 2004 Masters. Having already won on the PGA Tour this year at the Valspar Championship in March (highlights above), Casey is set to make a run at his fourth straight top 10 at Augusta, hoping this time around he finishes atop the leaderboard.
The winner: Justin Rose (+1400)
Rose is a perennial contender in the Masters. Including last year’s heartbreaking loss to Sergio Garcia in a playoff, Rose has three consecutive top tens and has made the cut in all 12 career appearances at Augusta. Rose closed out the 2017 season with two autumn wins on the European Tour (highlights above) and has built off that with three top ten finishes in the early part of 2018, showing Rose is primed for his second major.