The 2021 Masters is being played less than five months from the previous major held in November. Which golfers are in form? Which players offer the best betting value? Which matchups are best to bet on?
VSiN experts Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans give their best value bets, matchups they like and a breakdown for every player in the field.
Best value bets to win the Masters
Jon Rahm (13-1)
Reynolds: A couple of weeks ago, Rahm encouraged folks not to bet on him for the Masters since he and his wife, Kelley, were expecting their first child. Their son, Kepa, was born early Sunday morning and Rahm is at Augusta trying to win his first major. Five years ago, Danny Willett and his wife had their first child just days before the Masters and he went on to win. A nappy factor omen? Perhaps, but Rahm has been slower than usual out of the gate in 2021 largely due to new sticks (Callaway) in the bag; plus, his putting has not been up to snuff. However, he did make some of his usual difficult putts at the Match Play and was the only top-seeded group player to advance into the weekend tournament before being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Scottie Scheffler.
Rahm is still as good as it gets in the world from Tee-to-Green (second on PGA Tour) and third for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. He consistently hits a lot of greens (sixth in Greens in Regulation) and is 14th for SG: Approach. This will all come down to the flat stick, which has been slow to catch fire in 2021. Three straight Top 10-finishes at Augusta should be enough of an indicator that he will likely be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy (19-1)
Reynolds: McIlroy finds himself out of the Official World Golf Ranking Top 10 for the first time since 2018. His last win was in November 2019 at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He is not playing poorly, but he is not playing like the lad that had four major championship victories by age 25. The only other players to accomplish that feat were Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods — not bad company to be a part of, but that also comes with the highest of expectations. It has been tough to target what the issue is with Rory, but it has been clear that he needs to make some sort of adjustment.
McIlroy has started working with Pete Cowen, who has worked with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson. McIlroy is still one of the world’s best off the tee, but his iron play has become shaky in addition to his usual hit-or-miss putting. No player, at his best, plays a more artistically pleasing game than McIlroy, but the colors have not quite fit together on the canvas of late. McIlroy had won four majors by age 25, but now at 31, he is still searching for that elusive Masters title to complete the career grand slam. It has been said that it is not a matter of if, but when. However, “when” has been six years now.
Last fall, he had 10-1 odds and now he is almost double the price. He has already missed two cuts this season, so he does not come in on great form. Nevertheless, he never quits at Augusta, as proved last year. After shooting an opening-round 75, he shot 14-under over the last 54 holes. You still feel he is going to get that green jacket at some point. Is this the time when we least expect it?
Patrick Cantlay (23-1)
Youmans: His body language is typically negative and his demeanor is usually miserable. Appearances aside, there should be optimism about Cantlay, who finished in the top 20 in his last two Masters starts. He has all the tools to win.
Brooks Koepka (30-1)
Reynolds: Koepka got back to his winning ways for the first time since the summer of 2019 with a victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. He also tied for second three weeks later in the WGC-Workday at the Concession. Then, he had right knee surgery on March 16 to deal with a kneecap dislocation and ligament damage and hasn’t played an event since. Koepka is a little over double the price he was here back in November. He has consecutive top-10 finishes here and has progressively improved his form at Augusta.
Betting him is a risky proposition due to the injury and layoff, but this is an attractive price for a player who has won four major championships over the course of the last four years. Furthermore, there is a sense that he could be playing a little possum here and he is healthier and more fit than most believe. Koepka is also a player who notices everything that is said about him and uses it as motivation. He relishes being doubted and should show up big on the major championship stage.
Tony Finau (39-1)
Reynolds: Many bettors are likely losing patience with Finau considering he is the ultimate “come close” player and has not garnered a win since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. He has seven top-10s or better in his last 11 majors, including a T-4 at the PGA and a T-8 in the U.S. Open in 2020. He does not have a particular weakness in his game, but he can never have all aspects of his game firing at the same time. Either he is great around the greens and the ball striking is not up to snuff, or the tee-to-green game is impeccable and he can’t make a putt to save his life. His price has drifted a bit with two missed cuts in his last three events, but he had a finish stretch of 4-2-2-2 just two months ago, so he is not that far removed from top form. Finau has a top five and a top 10 in just three appearances largely due to his dominance on the Par 5s (33-under in 48 holes).
Cameron Smith (45-1)
Reynolds: The Australian mullet-man has two top-five finishes here in just four appearances. Smith became the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s, and yet still lost by five strokes to Dustin Johnson. Although last fall’s soft conditions proved to be the easiest setup with the lowest scoring in Masters history, Smith showed that his top five in 2019 was not a one-hit wonder. He is not particularly powerful nor accurate off the tee and his ball striking is about average by PGA Tour standards, but his short game can be stellar. Perhaps having these two top fives in four appearances is still under the umbrella of coincidence, but a third one could be a pattern. Smith also posted a T-4 earlier this season at Riviera against one of the better fields of the year, so he is comfortable playing with the big boys.
Sungjae Im (51-1)
Reynolds: Im fielded for second last year here in his debut. The South Korean has already been his usual active self, having played 10 events already in 2021 and making all 10 cuts. Im currently ranks No. 6 on the tour for SG: Off-The-Tee and eighth for Driving Accuracy. His putting is solid, but he does need to improve upon his iron play. A little over a year ago, he was one of the world’s hottest players, having won the Honda Classic and nearly winning in back-to-back weeks before settling for T-3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Then, COVID-19 stopped tour play for three months and halted his momentum. He went 18 events without a Top 5 finish, but what event broke that streak? The Masters. While last fall’s conditions were fairly easy, Im does not have the look of a player who will have one random high finish at Augusta. He has the look of a player who will be a top contender here for many years to come.
Adam Scott (78-1)
Youmans: The Australian excels at Augusta. In his last 11 starts, he has seven top 20s, highlighted by the Masters win in 2013. Scott ranks in the tour’s top 20 in driving distance and should make a run for the money if his putter gets hot. He’s inconsistent yet irresistible at this high price.
Reynolds: The 2013 champion has made 11 straight cuts here at Augusta. Scott has been more deliberate and selective in terms of his playing schedule. Age 40 has perhaps provided the golfing mid-life crisis as he is now more focused on majors and other bigger events, as opportunities to add those to his trophy case become more fleeting. For many years, the Aussie was a great driver of the golf ball and shaky with the flat stick. Now his putting might be the most stable portion of his overall game, although he still misses his fair share of short putts. This year, his driver has been terrible as he is losing almost 0.75 strokes per round off the tee.
He shot three of four rounds in the 60s last time out on a usually difficult PGA National course at the Honda Classic. Scott is consistently solid and oftentimes excellent here, so he could definitely hit the first page of the leaderboard at a big price.
Joaquin Niemann (82-1)
Reynolds: The 22-year-old from Chile has not made an appearance here since he was an amateur in 2018. This is his first appearance at Augusta as a professional. He was supposed to be in the field last year, but withdrew due to a positive COVID-19 test. Niemann is back this year due to reaching last season’s Tour Championship. He began 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in Hawaii but has cooled off a little bit. His game has very few weaknesses as he can bomb it off the tee (ninth in Driving Distance), hit plenty of greens (10th in GIR), and make plenty of birdies (sixth in birdie average). Experience is the only deficit for him here at Augusta.
Kevin Kisner (325-1)
Youmans: Bombs away. Kisner lives 20 miles from Augusta, so this is essentially a home game for him. At these circa odds, a $20 bet would pay $6,500. Why not? It’s a little lottery ticket and a big story to tell if it hits.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.