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2018 Masters Championship: Betting Odds and Sleeper Pick

Spain(3 winners) @ United States(36 winners)

  • Where: Augusta National Golf Course. Augusta, GA
  • When: April 5, 2018 7:00 am EST
  • Moneyline: Rory McIlroy +900 Dustin Johnson +900 Tiger Woods +900 Justin Thomas +1000 Jordan Spieth +1400 Justin Rose +1400 Bubba Watson +1400 Jason Day+1800 Phil Mickelson +1800 Jon Rahm +2000 Rickie Fowler +2000 Paul Casey +2200 Sergio Garcia +2500 Hideki Matsuyama +3300 Tommy Fleetwood +3300 Henrik Stenson +3500 Patrick Reed +4000 Alexander Noren +4000 Matt Kuchar +4500

What has been the most surprising sports story of 2018?

16th seed UMBC’s shocking upset of Virginia in March Madness? That was a crazy one. Ronda Rousey giving up shoot-fighting altogether in exchange for several (promised) years of pro wrestling is definitely up there. On the world stage, Germany coming within seconds of Olympic gold in ice hockey was almost the miracle of the decade.

Perhaps none of the above can match the earthquake major championship golf has produced in ’18, however…and that’s before a single shot has been played.

Wait for it – Tiger Woods is an odds-on favorite to win the 2018 Masters Championship.

The golfer who has been mired in divorce, drug addiction and one catastrophic injury after another – the man whom pundits thought might never play another solid 72-hole tournament – is now contending at courses like Bay Hill and PGA National. In fact, Tiger hasn’t finished lower than T-12 since missing the cut at the Genesis Open 6 weeks ago.

That’s absolutely crazy. But not as crazy as the betting line, which seems to be inflated by overzealous fans and speculative gambling. Woods deserves all the credit in the world for coming back and getting into playing shape. But he can’t drive, hit iron shots or endure wild, aggressive swings from the rough like he used to. His odds of (+900) are too short.

Which means there must be value somewhere else on the futures board, maybe on a golfer who is less world-famous but equally primed for the tournament at Augusta. Where’s Waldo?

Let’s take a look at where several contenders stand as they prepare to enter Magnolia Lane. Read to the bottom for MSB’s recommended picks.

Rory McIlroy (+900 at Bovada Sportsbook)

Tiger may have played well, but it was 28-year-old Rory McIlroy who won Arnold Palmer’s signature event with an -18 total. Arnie’s course is similar to Augusta in the sense that it demands smart iron shots and precise putting. However, the greens are nowhere near as challenging as those Rory will face on the Bobby Jones course.

Rory is seeking the career Grand Slam, and his driving and putting have rarely been in better shape. But he has been missing greens. The Irishman is hitting just over 60% of greens in regulation in the 2018 season, for a ranking of 186th in the category. That’s based on a small sample size, but it’s not the kind of iron play that it will take to win The Masters.

Dustin Johnson (+900)

Life is fickle. D.J. went into last season riding high after a U.S. Open title in 2016. Less than 48 hours before the 2017 Masters, he fell down a flight of stairs at his rental house. The injury forced Johnson to withdraw from the tournament, and he never got it going after that. His best finish in a major championship was T-13 at the PGA.

The Cheetah is still ranked World #1. But it feels hollow. Johnson hit an almost 500-yard drive – surely some type of record – at the WGC Match Play earlier in ’18. He’s just not putting well enough to win the Masters unless things turn around in a hurry.

Justin Thomas (+1000) and Jordan Spieth (+1400)

A pair of talented, cocky 24-year-olds are next on the betting board (after Tiger Woods) at 10/1 and 14/1 odds. Thomas is rising in the World Rankings, and his wayward driving (ranked 120th on the PGA Tour) doesn’t always seem to matter thanks to his brilliance with the irons.

In fact, it’s strange that Thomas is being given longer odds than Woods to win the Masters. But bettors are gun-shy to wager on the 2017 PGA player of the year, probably because he is still finding his way at Augusta. He’s an aggregate +12 in 8 rounds there. If the course was still the gigantic wide-open swath of short grass that it was in the 1990s, Thomas would likely dominate. The course has grown rougher since then, and punishes over-aggressive players.

Spieth is in a similar position, a frequent major-championship contender who is suffering from a few pronounced flaws in an otherwise sparkling game. The so-called “Golden Child” was under par for 4 rounds at The Masters in 2017 and would go on to win the British Open. But his putting seems too mechanical in 2018. Once he’s got the feel of a set of greens, he’s OK on the weekend. Spieth has used 213 putts in just 7 Thursday rounds so far this season. The 1st round struggle with the flatstick is leaving him too far behind too often.

The Pick: Jason Day (+1800)

Place a bet on Jason Day or Matt Kuchar to win the 2018 Masters Championship and receive a 50% sign-up bonus from Bovada Sportsbook.

It’s easy to forget about Jason Day, thanks to his struggle with vertigo and inability to close the deal at majors such as the PGA Championship in ’17, where he contended before finishing 9th. However, no golfer is having a better season on tour in 2018. Day was ranked 1st in the world for 47 weeks in 2016 and won this season’s Farmers Insurance Open before finishing 2nd at Pebble Beach. If you can play well at Monterrey, you should play well in The Masters, because the courses demand similar skill sets in calm conditions.

What’s more, the lack of press coverage has helped keep his odds longer. Day is a more powerful golfer than Tiger Woods in present day (excuse the pun) and has a healthier body. So why are Day’s odds (+1800) instead of (+900) like Tiger’s? Branding.

Winning bets has nothing to do with brand names, and the way the Aussie is playing this season, his major championship record in 2018 may have little in common with the disappointment of last year.

The Sleeper: Matt Kuchar (+4500)

In short, the 45/1 odds on Matt Kuchar are mind-boggling. Here’s a guy who finished under par in all 4 majors in 2017, finishing 4th at The Masters and 2nd at the British Open. His performance in match play events recently prompted Golf Digest to label him as one of the 3 best mano-a-mano linksmen in the world.

So why the crazy-long odds on “Kooch” to finally break through? Maybe because he hasn’t been able to get into the winner’s circle lately despite being among the leaders at big-time tournaments. Or maybe because his stats are lackluster in 2018.

We’re not advising bettors to throw away those analyses. Perhaps Kuchar is getting too old, too inaccurate off the tee, too unreliable with the putter. Maybe he shares the mental bugaboo of others who couldn’t win the big ones. But how many golfers can say they shot a combined -20 in 16 rounds at the majors last year?

Kuchar could find the “Delta Airlines Ticket Counter,” the age-old nickname for the dense woods at Augusta, with dozens of bad drives. He could miss greens, make tactical errors or putt off the green into Rae’s Creek. He could choke on Sunday or miss the cut entirely.

He could also win. All it would take is a good timing-week off the tee to put Kuchar in contention, and his fierce competitive streak will come in handy if there’s a head-to-head situation in the final group.

Does Kuchar have Jason Day’s chances to wear the green jacket this April? Nope. Is the 39-year-old still a fantastic futures wager at (+4500)? You betcha.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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