Taking place in November for the first time in its history, Jack Milner previews the 2020 Masters and shares his best bet, longshot and outsider.
It’s been a long 19 months since Tiger Woods re-wrote the history books at August National, levelling Jack Nicklaus’ haul of five green jackets, and completing arguably the greatest comeback of the golfing archives.
The ‘Big Cat’ crafted his way around the course using guile and experience to plot his way round and avoided crucial mistakes, which ultimately caused his rivals’ downfall. Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari all made double bogey at the 12th – the infamous par 3 that Jordan Spieth still has nightmare about.
There was a sense of inevitability about Tiger on the back-nine last year, having hinted at something of a revival the season prior. Woods won The 2018 Tour Championship at East Lake and, subsequently posted T20 finishes at The Farmers Insurance Open and The Genesis in the spring thereafter. The ‘aura’ that once followed the greatest player to ever pick up a club seems to have gone however, and that now belongs to US Open Champion Bryson Dechambeau.
Bryson has bulked up to ‘break’ the game of golf, becoming the longest hitter in the game in process. His mammoth drives helped to tee-up a five-shot demolition job of his rivals at Winged Foot and he is understandably a single-figure prices to win back-to-back majors.
Bryson is joined at the head of the market by fellow ‘bombers’ Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. Poignantly perhaps, none of been fortunate to adorn the green jacket, and I’m not convinced it’s a coincidence. The last five winners reads as Spieth, Willett-Garcia-Reed-Woods with none notoriously long off the tee however, all boasting wonderful games tee-to-green – and that for me is the key around this golf course.
Last 5 Masters Winners – Average Stats
Driving Accuracy – 25.08
Driving Distance – 19.42
G.I.R – 7.08
Scrambling – 7.8
Putting Average – 9.58
I was extremely keen on the chances on Tommy Fleetwood here last year, only for the Englishman to ruin his chances in the opening round. That trend has continued this season with Fleetwood continually hampering his chances of winning in the re-jigged schedule.
Tommy was +3 thru the first half dozen holes of last month’s Scottish Open well losing in a play-off to Aaron Rai and similarly was behind the eight-ball early when finishing T13 at the PGA Championship at Wentworth. His tee-to-green games makes him an obvious contender around Augusta and think he boasts terrific each-claims providing he is quick out of the blocks.
Both majors have been won by first-timers this year with Bryson Dechambeau following Colin Morikawa into the winners’ enclosure, and I’m banking on that trend continuing at Augusta. There are dozens of promising young talent on the cusp of breaking onto that ‘next level’ – perhaps none more so than the pair of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay – officially the 7th and 9th best players in the world respectively. The latter was superb when carding a final round 65 to win last month’s ZOZO Championship at Sherwood when out-pointing Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in a thrilling final round.
Naturally, the market has both well scouted and it may prove more effective to look at those at fancier prices. As seen by the stats outlined earlier putting is a huge factor at The Masters and two of the best on tour happen to be Matthew Fitzpatrick and Cameron Smith.
The former, continues to flirt with golf’s top table and remains the model of consistency on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The baby-faced Yorkshireman led at the halfway stage of last month’s PGA Championship at Wentworth, blotting his copybook with a third round 76, before ultimately finishing T7. One bad round keeps costing ‘Fitzy’ however he oozes class and boasts all of the necessary tools to be competitive.
The same can be said of Aussie Cameron Smith who shares a similar game, and one of the hottest putters in world golf. The 27-year-old has progressed nicely towards the back end of the campaign, posting efforts of T38-T24-11-T4 his last four starts and seems to be finally maturing after an up-and-down initial debut on tour. He looks massively over-priced at double that of Fitzpatrick and Fleetwood.
Main Fancy – Tommy Fleetwood (+4500)
Longshot – Matthew Fitzpatrick (+6000)
Outsider – Cameron Smith (+10000)
Jack Milner @JJMSports