This week we have put together a special edition of our usual “A Bit On The Side” comlimn as we get to delve into the First Round Leader market for this year’s Masters!
Not many events get the juices flowing quite like The Masters, both for fans and for players. Full of tradition, picturesque holes and wonderful storylines, this major is like no other. It is the only one of the forum majors that returns to the same course each year, and that certainly helps make it the special event that it is.
By now you would have ready plenty of previews, so your outright selections will likely be set in stone at this stage, but there are still time to get a bet on a market which can offer some reward at decent odds, without the agonising wait until Sunday.
Steven Gray –
The Bets: Bryson DeChambeau to lead after Round 1 (66/1)
Thomas Pieters to lead after Round 1 (50/1)
Bryson DeChambeau was the first name that jumped out at me looking at the draw. He has an early tee-time and is playing with Bernd Weisberger and Matt Fitzpatrick. That’s a nice low -key group where all three will be capable of shooting a good score with just 4 groups ahead of them. Bryson to me has exactly the sort of profile and story that I can see leading a Masters after Thursday. So call it a hunch pick more than anything but he is also playing very well with a couple of notable 1st round knocks lately. He shot an opening 66 in Phoenix and a 67 last time out at Bay Hill. Further to that opening 67 he went on to rank 1st in ball-striking so his game is in great shape for the Augusta test. He did ok on his debut with 3 rounds of 72 and I can see him starting strongly before possible fading away over the weekend as things heat up.
Thomas Pieters also looks worth siding with in this market just because of his immense talent and how well he played last year to finish 4th on his debut. His form has been poor so it is hard to expect him to string 4 good rounds together but he made a habit of starting fast on the European Tour and 4 of his last 5 opening rounds have been in the 60s. It might just be the best way to play the Belgian powerhouse this week.
Tom Jacobs –
The Bet: Patrick Cantlay to lead after Round 1 (66/1)
Cantlay has been a perennial fast starter on Tour this season and he can continue that trend here at Augusta this week.
The reigning Shriners Hospitals for Children Open champion currently ranks 2nd on Tour in Round 1 Scoring Average, averaging a score of 68.00 over seven Thursday rounds, which suggests he’s enjoying his opening round most weeks.
He played this event as an amateur in 2012, finishing the week as the Low Amateur (T47) and there will certainly be an expectation for him to improve on that this week.
Whilst rounds of 71-78-74-72 on debut here do not scream low scoring, he did break par in his first ever round in this event and now returns a PGA Tour winner and one of the more consistent players in the world of golf, so there’s every chance of him breaking 70 and featuring atop of the leaderboard on Thursday.
Due to back injuries and the tragic death of his former caddie and friend, Cantlay did not play any professional golf in 2015 or 2016, following just five starts on the PGA Tour in 2014, but he had already picked up a win on the Web.com in 2013.
Cantlay however regained his PGA Tour Card in just his second start in 2017, finishing 2nd at the Valspar Championship. He ended last year with a win, a 2nd, a 3rd and two more top-10s in his first full season of golf since 2013 and made the Tour Championship.
Since his return, Cantlay has not missed a cut, and you have to go back to 2014 for the last time he didn’t play weekend golf and that level of consistency now sees him rank 35th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
This season he has already had a share of the lead at the Genesis Open, and was 2nd after Day One at Pebble Beach, so it would be no surprise to see Cantlay leading after Round One here.
A 11:48am tee time with Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter will not do his chances any harm, with the latter expected to start fast after winning last week in Houston to seal his spot this week.
The Bet: Kiradech Aphibarnrat to lead after Round 1 (100/1)
Simply put, it is an early start for ”Alphie” on Thursday, who will have great memories of being 15th on debut when nothing like the player he is now.
Just taking last 15 starts he has recorded the following first rounds (end of first round positions in brackets)
Looking at that, the initial 100/1 quote in a field where only 45 can really count to do anything at anytime, let alone an opening round circa 67)68 that looks very wrong
He looks to have a great chance of cracking the top-20 for the second time here, at the very least and a fast start, which he’s more than capable of, will go a long way to seeing him do so.