On a day when there were twice as many rounds in the 80s (eight) as there was in the 60s (four), no one really separated themselves after 18 holes at Augusta National on Thursday.
Sure, some notable names dropped out of realistic contention. Graham DeLaet (80), Jason Dufner (80), Hideki Matsuyama (80), Zach Johnson (78), Angel Cabrera (78), Phil Mickelson (76) and Justin Rose (76) all struggled immensely.
Still, at the top of the leaderboard, there are 19 players within three strokes of each other. The man at the top—Bill Haas—has never led after a major round before this, the last two major winners are just a stroke behind him and popular favorites such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Fred Couples are firmly in the mix.
One day down, and predicting who will don the next green jacket isn't any easier.
With still such an open field, though, there are plenty of intriguing bets heading into Friday. Let's take a look at those, via Oddschecker.com, along with the updated leaderboard.
|2014 Masters Odds after Round 1|
Bill Haas (16-1)
The skepticism surrounding Haas is understandable. It's incredibly difficult to go wire-to-wire, he hasn't won a tournament in nearly a year (June 2013), he doesn't have a top-10 finish at a major and as ESPN's Justin Ray noted, he has never played this well at Augusta before:
But it's probably not a coincidence Haas played the best Masters round of his career just 11 days after teaming up with new caddie Scott Gneiser.
Haas, via PGATour.com's Helen Ross, Mike McAllister and Brian Wacker, talked about what his new partner brings to the table after firing a round-best 68 on Thursday:
I needed to switch it up. My brother has been on the bag a bunch for a few years, and I think I needed a change. (Scott) was available and has a major win. ... He's been under the gun, played a lot of big events. He's seen it. I don't think he can do anything but help me.
Hass has impressive lineage—his great uncle Bob Goalby won the Masters in 1968, and his dad finished third in 1995—but he's no stranger to Augusta, either. He has made the cut four straight years and finished 20th in 2013.
This probably won't be a popular bet, but anytime you can get the 18-hole leader at 16-1, it's worth it.
Jimmy Walker (25-1)
Dealing with the nerves of playing in his first Masters, Jimmy Walker was a bit erratic early on, hitting four bogeys and two birdies on his first 13 holes.
He finally calmed down, though, pouring in four-straight birds to finish with a two-under 70.
Bleacher Report's Will Leivenberg put it simply:
Walker has been transcendent this season, netting three wins, four top-10 finishes and 11 top-25 finishes in 13 events. He has combined a strong driver (13th on the tour in driving distance) with a consistent putter (second in strokes gained), and there aren't many playing better than him right now.
The nerves are out of the way, and it wouldn't be surprising if his momentum from the final five holes of Round 1 carried into Friday.
Combine all that with the fact he's still just two strokes off the lead, and you won't find a better bet in the 25-1 range.
Fred Couples (66-1)
Boom Boom? At 66-1? Yes, please.
Sure, White Men Can't Jump was in theaters the last time Fred Couples won the Masters, but the veteran is a fixture at Augusta.
Not only does he have 11 top-10 finishes, but in the last four years, he has finished sixth, tied for 15th, tied for 12th and tied for 13th.
Age is but a number for the Hall of Famer, and the 54-year-old has shown more consistency at this tournament over the last couple of years than anyone else on tour.
He proved that once again on Thursday, carding a one-under 71 to put him just three strokes back of the lead.
Of course, Justin Ray had to rain on our parade, noting Couples isn't usually as good on Saturday and Sunday:
It's not likely that Couples will win. But there's no question he'll be around during the weekend, so putting down a small bet makes for a nice low-risk, high-potential-reward proposition.
If this is more the cut of your jib, he's 7-2 to finish in the top 10, via Oddschecker.com, which is also quite intriguing considering his history.
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