Masters Week brings out the best in me for a slew of reasons, least of all may be the actual golf.
Not only is it a milestone marking the end of Winter’s miserable reign, but it’s also one of the sporting events everyone feels like they have to watch for the sake of their “fandom” — even if they aren’t particularly fans of golf.
And, most importantly, it’s the best chance all year to make money betting on golf.
While the title of this article couldn’t be farther from the truth for those touring pros and talented amateurs, it’s absolutely the case for those playing fantasy golf or playing the odds. For this, there are a few reasons. Let’s discuss:
First of all, the Masters features one the smallest fields of the year on the PGA Tour, generally with less than 100 players being invited. This year, there are just 94 combatants. The weekly number at your run-of-the-mill Tour event is 144. I like my odds already.
Second, if there’s ever been a place where the phrases, “horses for courses” and “local knowledge” have been used more frequently, I ain’t seen it. There’s a reason that the 50-something’s with bad backs, putting yips and scars from a lifetime in the game (i.e., Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer) can roll down Magnolia Lane and give the Jordan Spieth’s and Jason Day’s of the world a run for their money.
The third reason is the course. It weeds out the pretenders faster than any other on Tour thanks to it’s challenging layout. For a course that isn’t bunkered like crazy and features zero rough, the place certainly has the power to humble even the world’s best players (See: Rory McIlroy’s back nine in 2011).
And finally, the makeup of the field itself. Ninety-Four players will tee off on Thursday afternoon with a shot at donning a green jacket — though, for most of them, that shot is only a theoretical one.
The first players to avoid this week are the amateurs. Sure, there have been a few to make deep runs in the past, but not frequently enough to waste a fantasy start on them or your hard-earned money. There are five this year, meaning your “viable” fantasy options are already less than 90.
The next crop to avoid are those enjoying an “Augusta victory lap” as I like to say. Just because Jack won here at nearly 50 doesn’t mean Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples or Larry Mize will. Avoid them like the plague.
From here, the waters get a bit more murky.
Augusta National Golf Course is a sight to behold on television, but the coverage doesn’t do it justice. On TV, it’s easy to wonder how players are making 7’s on short par-4’s, but once you see the property in person, you know immediately.
Rolling fairways lead to numerous blind shots where only faith and a good caddie will bring success. The greens, so slick when turned up to “tournament speed” (the actually stimp number is one of the more well-guarded secrets of the club) can baffle the world’s greatest putters. The wild undulations and subtle ridges make scrambling difficult and routine pars anything but.
Simply put — to succeed at Augusta, you must know where to hit it and you must execute. If you’re wild, you may as well cancel your hotel reservations for the weekend.
Since success at Augusta National hinges so much on local knowledge, you have to rule out the rookies. Excluding the first event in 1934, only two players have won in their first start — Gene Sarazen in 1935 (the second event ever) and Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. This year, there are 11 professionals teeing it up for the first time and you can bet none of them will don the green jacket Sunday evening.
Now, none of this is to say that a rookie won’t have a great week or that Boom Boom isn’t a great choice in a pool scenario or as a long-shot bet — but numbers don’t lie. If they did, anyone could figure this stuff out.
So — there’s your very long explanation as to why the Masters is your best chance to make some serious cash betting on golf.
And now that you know the “why,” tomorrow I will discuss the “who” — so don’t respond to your buddies email about his Masters pool or finalize your rosters and bet tickets just yet.