For all the talk of designated events, world rankings and bumper LIV Golf paydays, a golfer is judged on how many Majors they claim and for most, the Masters, staged once again at Augusta National this week, is the most important of all.
Steeped in history and prestige, the Masters remains the one they all want to win but, if the betting is to be believed, this year’s battle to claim the Green Jacket boils down to the three titans at the top of the rankings who are all 9/1 or shorter in the market.
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US Masters predictions & betting tips
US Masters best bet – Rory McIlroy to win at 7/1
Scottie Scheffler is a remarkable competitor and has found form ahead of the Masters but the only player to repeat at the Masters is Tiger Woods and that puts Scheffler under a huge spotlight.
Jon Rahm is easier to pass up on, with his early-year peak appearing to be over based on recent performances.
That leaves Rory McIlroy, who could finally complete the career Grand Slam at the ninth time of asking this week and whom Steve Palmer tipped in his massive 59,849/1 Majors acca earlier this year!
When last he stepped foot on the hallowed Augusta fairways for a competitive round, McIlroy fired an eight-under-par closing 64 to finish second to Scheffler, securing his best Masters finish in the process.
He was never going to reach the leader after opening up with back-to-back 73s but Sunday’s thrilling finale, which included a hole-out from the greenside bunker on 18, served as a timely reminder that McIlroy has what it takes to win at Augusta, and that his best golf is arguably better than anyone else in the game.
His closest brush with Masters glory came 12 years ago when he led by four shots through 54 holes and infamously blew up in the final round but Masters form since 2014 reads 8-4-10-7-5-21-5-MC-2, figures which illustrate just how well suited McIlroy is to the Cathedral of the Pines.
And he’s been going close with regularity in Majors. Last year he finished second, eighth, fifth and third and while that’s obviously frustrating when considering his long drought, the feeling is that he has been building up to this week all year, finding his form at just the right time when third at the Match Play two weeks ago.
Augusta National, lengthened a touch to 7,545 yards for this year’s Masters, has often played into the hands of longer drivers like McIlroy and it’s likely to do so again with plenty of rain in the build-up to the 87th edition. But just as distance is a huge factor, so too is the need for accurate approach play and excellence around the greens.
McIlroy continues to drive the ball with his customary brilliance but, this time, he arrives ranking in the top ten for strokes-gained approach on the PGA Tour this season, hitting his irons better than he ever has on the eve of this trip to Augusta National.
If he puts it all together again as he did in Austin, the Northern Irishman can finally realise his dream to claim the Green Jacket.
US Masters eachway best bet – Tony Finau eachway at 22/1
Instead, of the next group, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele both look capable of landing the Green Jacket and a first Major championship in the process.
Finau is flying under the radar heading into the Masters but three top-ten finishes in five
Augusta spins, including when fifth behind Tiger Woods in 2019, underline how comfortable he is at the Georgia course and he’s finished no worse than 24th in his last nine strokeplay starts.
Most importantly, his irons have been sparking for a while – he ranks third in SG-approach this season – and he’s shaken off his non-winner status by claiming three titles in quick succession in July and August. The next step is to become a Major champion.
US Masters best outsider punt – Justin Rose eachway at 55/1
Corey Conners and Brooks Koepka have both been slashed in the betting after last week’s triumphs but another Augusta form horse and recent winner catches the eye at much bigger odds with Justin Rose taken to land a second Major title.
Rose claimed the Pebble Beach Pro-Am title in February, then finished sixth in an elite field at the Players the following month and he’s long shown an affinity for Augusta, chalking up six top-ten finishes including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in 2017.
He skipped the Match Play to prepare for this assignment and that could prove a shrewd move come Sunday evening.
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