Nothing like The Masters
April 03, 2018 3:01 AM
by Dave Valento
There is simply nothing like The Masters.
It’s the first Major of the year and the one all golfers want to win. It is played on a golf course paradise with blooming azalea’s signaling the start of spring. You’ll see legends of the past not only walking the course but actually putting a scare into the new generation.
Fred Couples is 58 and has been in the top 20 six of the last eight years. In 2014, at the age of 57, Bernhard Langer finished 8th. Who can forget the 1986 Masters when Jack Nicklaus won at the age of 46 when he closed with a back nine 30 on Sunday? The unique exemption that allows every Masters Champion a spot in the field is one of the great traditions in all of sport.
The anticipation is at an even higher level due to the resurgence of Tiger Woods. He made the cut in 4 of 5 tournaments he’s played in this year (top 12 three times). He is now favored to win at 9-1 in some books. While he is playing well, and has absolutely dominated this course with 12 of 18 in the top 6, he is not a good bet at 9-1. Here are my selections from three categories (favorites, contenders and longshots):
PICK – DUSTIN JOHNSON: Johnson is the co-second choice. He is the top ranked player in the world and has made the top 10 in 4 of 6 events in 2018 (winning once). He was a big favorite last year off of three wins in a row but injured himself on the eve of the tournament and withdrew. He was 4th in 2016 and 6th in 2015. The course is perfectly suited to his game. ODDS: 11-1
HONORABLE MENTION – JUSTIN ROSE: He’s been in the top ten (and second twice) four times in the last six Masters tournaments. He’s played very well this year having been in the top ten in 4 of 5 tournaments including a win. ODDS: 16-1
PICK – PAUL CASEY: Casey has been 6th, 2nd and 6th in the last three Masters and was one of only three players to shoot sub 70 scores on the weekend in 2017. In addition, he’s shot 68, 67, 68 when it mattered most, on Sunday in each of the last three years. He made the cut in all eight tournaments he’s played in this year, been in the top 10 three times and won the Valspar Championship. ODDS: 25-1
HONORABLE MENTION – HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: The 26-year-old Japanese superstar turned professional five years ago and has 14 international wins. Very few have been as consistent in the Majors. In the last 19 starts he’s had in a major, he’s made the cut 16 times and finished in the top 20 an amazing 12 times. He’s finished in the top 14 in the last five majors (2nd in the US Open). ODDS: 35-1
PICK – RYAN MOORE: This 35-year-old had one of the greatest seasons in the modern era of amateur golf. In 2004, while a senior at UNLV, he won the US Amateur, the Western Amateur, the US Public Links and the NCAA Individual Championship. He has been in the top 12 in all four Majors (9th in the Masters, 10th in the US Open, 12th in the British Open and 9th in the PGA). ODDS: 125-1
HONORABLE MENTION –DANIEL BERGER: Berger has quietly put together a solid start to the 2018 season. While he doesn’t have a top 10 finish, he has been in the top 18 in six of his last eight tournament appearances. He finished 10th in 2016 (Danny Willet’s year) and that was the first time he played in this tournament (27th last year). ODDS: 100-1
Prediction to win: PAUL CASEY
New Derby Favorite
Mendelssohn cost three million dollars at the 2016 Keeneland September sale. The breeding was certainly there as his big sister, Beholder, is one of the best mares to have ever raced. He came into Saturday’s two million dollar UAE Derby already having won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf for top Euro trainer Aidan O’Brien.
He opened many eyes with an obscene 18 length win on Saturday and earned a 106 Beyer, best of any three-year-old this season. He is now the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.