PGA: Hot Picks for the 2021 Masters

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The Valero Texas Open last week resulted in Jordan Spieth finally securing a victory for the first time since the 2017 Open Championship. He looks to vanquish some demons this week at the site of his epic 2016 Masters collapse on the back nine. This week, the azaleas are blooming and Masters week has finally returned to some normalcy in its usual April time slot.

The 2020 Masters was held in November because of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a postponement of the usual April date — and nothing about the event felt normal.

Well, except perhaps the group of players who more or less dominated the field. Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player, posted the lowest four-round score in tournament history, shooting 20-under-par to win his first green jacket by five strokes over Cameron Smith. Other big names helped round out the top five with Justin Thomas recording a fourth-place finish and Rory Mcllroy finishing tied for fifth.

Course Breakdown and Weather
Augusta National is roughly 7,500 yards long and a par-72. After Dustin Johnson shot 20-under on a softer golf course than we typically see at Augusta, it is expected that it will play much firmer and faster this time around. The course is long, meaning that longer hitters tend to benefit here, but as we saw with Bryson DeChambeau in November, distance of the tee does not guarantee low scores. The approach game typically plays the largest factor at The Masters, specifically the long iron play. There are par 5s that can be reached in two, meaning birdie and eagle chances will be out there for the long hitters. Weather should play a factor throughout the week, with isolated thunderstorms expected on late Thursday afternoon and roughly a 30 percent chance of rain on Friday and Saturday. Wind likely very well will be a factor this year as well, with winds steady at 10-15 miles per hour from Thursday’s opening round through Sunday’s final 18.

The Favorites

After winning last week to break his long victory drought, Spieth joins DeChambeau (both +900) to sit at the top of the odds board, with reigning Masters champion and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (+1100) close behind.

Spieth will be a name thrown around a lot this week, but the time to bet him for this event was months ago with him in the +4000-+5000 range. At 9-1, there is little to no value on Spieth to win his second green jacket this week. DeChambeau had difficulty with Augusta in November and that makes him a risky play as a co-favorite, although he’s proven he can never be counted out, especially in one of golf’s four majors. Johnson is a great golfer and is obviously capable of winning any event, but his form has been slightly off of late, making him a risky bet as well.

The first name worth a wager is Jon Rahm (+1200). Rahm warned everyone that he would leave the tournament this week if his wife was about to go into labor, but thankfully for Rahm, his wife gave birth last week. It is only a matter of time before Rahm wins a major, If he can keep his mind off the newborn, this could be the time and place for it. Augusta has been kind to him, with Rahm picking up a fourth-place finish in 2018. He has the ball striking and putting skills to end this tournament with the green jacket on his shoulders.

Rory Mcllroy (+1800) and Patrick Cantlay (+2200) are intriguing at their current prices, but both have too many concerns regarding their recent form to be worth an investment. Brooks Koepka (+2300) rounds out the favorites, and while he is always worth a look in majors, he just had surgery on his right knee and there are no guarantees that he is fully healthy. Rahm clearly is the golfer among the favorites with the best chances for the right value.

The Picks:
Jon Rahm

Best Value Plays

There are plenty of big names in this range, with reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa (+2700) and former Masters champion Patrick Reed (+3300) leading the way in this area of the odds board.

But the first golfer worth a bet is Viktor Hovland (+3300). Hovland has come close to a breakthrough performance in numerous events over the past two years, and is surely going to win a major sooner rather than later. The Norwegian’s golf game fits the course at Augusta National very well, with the only concern possibly being his chipping touch around the greens.

If Hovland can be just average in that department for four days in a row, he is going to find himself near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon.

The next golfer worth a bet in this range is Sungjae Im (+3500). Im finished tied for second in his first ever Masters back in November, showing he is not afraid to attack this historic golf course. The South Korean typically excels with his irons, but has recently used his driver off the tee more often and more efficiently to help move himself up leaderboards. If Im can get similar iron play to what he had here in November, he has a good chance to win the green jacket.

The last middle tier golfer worth a bet is Tyrell Hatton (+5000). Hatton is fantastic with his irons and has shown excellent form as of late. This number is likely to be bet down by the time he tees off on Thursday, so do not hesitate to jump on this right now.

The Picks:
Viktor Hovland
Sungjae Im
Tyrell Hatton

Top-10 Play

Augusta is expected to play incredibly fast and firm this time around, and that plays right into the style of golf Tommy Fleetwood (+6000) plays. Fleetwood has not been very sharp since the PGA Tour returned to action last summer, but a top-10 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational suggests that the Englishman has made the right tweaks to his game to be competitive again. While his best finish at The Masters is a T-17, he tends to play his best golf during majors and this seems like as good a year as any to pick up his first top 10 at Augusta.

Top-10 Finish
Tommy Fleetwood

The Longshots and Other Plays

There aren’t many longshots worth a play when it comes to the majors, but one possibly worth placing a small bet on this week is Justin Rose (+10000). Rose was listed as questionable earlier in the week because he’s been battling some back soreness, but in truth most of his recent struggles appear to be related to an equipment change he made back in 2019 that he since has moved away from to return to his old clubs. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, further throwing his game into disarray.

If he’s healthy enough and can rediscover some of his old form (granted, two big IFs), Rose has the ability to win this tournament. He has finished no worse than tied for 14th in six of his last nine Masters, which includes runner-up finishes in both 2015 and 2017. He’s worth a small play at these high odds.

The matchup play of the week is Will Zalatoris (-135) to finish ahead of former Masters champion Adam Scott. Zalatoris is in his first full season on the PGA Tour after dominating in his short stint on the Korn Ferry tour. Zalatoris has fantastic control of his irons and will be able to attack some of the more difficult hole locations Augusta has to offer.

While Adam Scott is more familiar with Augusta, his recent form is far from how he was playing when he won the green jacket in 2013. Scott is 40 years old and this week the young gun is going to be able to use his youth to his advantage and score significantly better than the veteran but aging Australian.

And not to pile on Scott too much, but a first-round matchup vs. DeChambeau (-1/2 stroke, -135) appears to greatly favor DeChambeau. The Mad Scientist has been gearing up for this Masters and will be coming in more prepared than ever. If he gets out of the gate with a couple birdies early, he will bury Scott in the opening round.

The Picks:
Will Zalatoris over Adam Scott in tournament
Bryson DeChambeau over Scott in first round
Bonus Pick: Justin Rose (+10000) at Bovada.
Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.