For the first time since 1997, the safest betting tip for the Masters is "don't bet on Tiger Woods." The legend, who won his first of 14 majors by 12 strokes at Augusta in 1997, is not ready to return to the course following back surgery.
Fortunately for golf fans, there are plenty of other top golfers eyeing the green jacket, and this tournament should be outstanding. Of course, none of this makes picking a winner any easier.
Have a look at the odds for every player Vegas Insider has under 100-1 odds, and then I'll single out the three best bets.
|Odds to Win 2014 Masters|
|Field (Any Other Golfer)||15-1|
Take Scott over McIlroy
If you're looking at a favorite, there is only one way to go, and that is with the defending champ. Adam Scott has been in solid form and his game fits this course well.
Rory McIlroy's game also fits Augusta well. Before a disastrous 80 in the final round, McIlroy was atop the 2011 Masters leaderboard by four shots. The Northern Irishman has also been solid this season.
In fact, he is fresh off of a 65 in the final round of the Shell Houston Open.
GolfChannel.com's Ryan Lavner passed along this quote from McIlroy following his seventh-place finish in Houston: “I couldn’t ask for much more heading into next week.”
Still, after a lackluster 2013 for McIlroy, he hasn't shown the consistency needed to bet on him to win a tournament.
In each of the last three Masters, McIlroy has posted a round of 77 or higher. He's also had a round of 74 or higher in each of his last four PGA stroke-play events. McIlroy is not going to suddenly put four straight quality rounds together in the pressure of a major and at a course where he can't manage to avoid tournament-destroying rounds.
That leaves us with Scott. Now, I typically like to avoid favorites in golf. The sport is too unpredictable to make it worth it. I'm leaning toward avoiding Scott in this one, but at 10-1, he is not an unreasonable bet.
With just one finish outside of the top 12 in his seven PGA starts this season, Scott is in good form. That stretch includes posting a mark of at least .641 in strokes gained-putting in each of his last three PGA events.
Watson is Worth the Risk
Bubba Watson has only won five PGA events in his career, and he's typically bad at majors. Watson won the Masters in 2012, but he hasn't been a factor in any of his other attempts at Augusta. In the four Masters he's played in not counting his win, his average finish is 40th.
Despite this, at 25-1, Watson is an interesting play. He's been a different golfer this year.
Watson has played in five PGA events in 2014. He's finished in the top 10 in four of those events, and that includes two seconds and a win.
Of course, his lone tournament outside of the top 10 came in his last event. Watson withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a first-round score of 83. Watson said allergies were to blame:
Obviously, this is not the kind of performance one wants to take into the Masters, but Watson has shown enough to earn a little faith from onlookers that he will rebound. At the heart of the difference for Watson this season is his putter.
In his three stroke-play PGA events leading into the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Watson finished with a mark of at least .841 in strokes gained-putting.
With Watson's distance and shot-making ability, if he putts well, he has a wonderful shot of claiming a second green jacket.
Anyone who can hit a shot like the iconic stroke in the below video, has a chance to win any tournament:
Locking in a Longshot
Although the unpredictability of golf can make wagering on the sport a little frustrating, it also presents fun opportunities for hitting on a longshot.
This year, my favorite longshot prediction comes with Ryan Moore.
Moore has been up and down this year, which isn't all that surprising. All his seasons seem to go like that. He did pick up his third career PGA victory earlier this season at the CIMB Classic.
Although he is looking for his first major, Moore has shown he can play well at Augusta.
He fired a 68 in the final round last year, and he did the exact same thing in 2010 when he finished in 14th. He also won low amateur in 2005 by finishing 13th.
Moore has played in five Masters, he's made the cut each time and his lowest finish came as an amateur in 2003.
To win the green jacket, Moore will have to prove he can withstand the pressure of a major and his own problems with consistency, but he has the game to pull it off.