Paul Day’s 2015 Masters Update
May 1st, 2015 | Marten Julian's Guest Contributor News
The most significant news is that Tiger Woods has announced he will play. He returns after a self-imposed, two-month break after withdrawing half way through his first round at Torrey Pines. He was suffering back pain, and later declared that the standard of his play was “unacceptable” and that he would not return until he felt his game was in better shape.
I believe it would be nothing short of miraculous if Tiger can be competitive with the world’s best this week. He currently trades on Betfair at 50/55 in the Win Market and 14/15.5 in the Top 5 Market. Both are serious lay opportunities in my view. Making the cut would be an achievement, and he trades slight odds against to accomplish this. It is slightly easier now to make the cut with the top 50 and ties, plus anyone within 10 shots of the leader qualifying to play the final two rounds. The Masters field is always restricted in number – this year there are 98 players which compares with c.156 that will compete in the other three Majors, and within the 98 there are several older past champions and a number of amateurs. This means that there are, realistically, only around 84 players that can win. Of course, all the very best players will be there.
Adam Scott, one of the favourites and the winner in 2012, has announced he will revert to his long putter for the tournament. I opposed him initially on the basis that he did not look comfortable with the shorter putter, and I still think it is correct to oppose him because it must be difficult to change at such short notice and cope with the tricky greens of Augusta.
Before reviewing the two tournaments, it is worth stating that some of the top players preferred to rest and practice to hone their games rather than compete, so the fields were slightly weakened. Rory McIlroy and two of my three selections, Bubba Watson and Jason Day, chose this option.
The Valero Texas Open was won in great style by Jimmy Walker. He is long, very solid and he dominated the tournament. He was paired with Jordan Speith in the final round, but showed no signs of feeling the pressure, and produced an excellent display. To date, he has never been close to the lead at Augusta and, therefore, I could not recommend him. Yet, he currently trades at 29/30 which I think is a reasonable reflection of his chance.
The Shell Houston Open was won by J.B.Holmes, after shooting a final round of 64 and then defeating Johnson Wagner and Jordan Speith in a play-off. J.B has always been one of the longest hitters, and if he can putt well on the Augusta greens he could be competitive. He now trades at 55/60, and I feel this is quite short.
Phil Mickleson showed good form for the first two rounds in Houston and, significantly, putted with a standard grip. He looked so much more comfortable, and advertised he could still be competitive this week. His price has correctly shortened to 28/29.
Paul Casey continued his good run of form; he has played well at Augusta previously, and he will be hoping he can be a contender. It is a big ask in my opinion.
Jordan Speith finished second in both tournaments which confirms his excellent form. However, I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by the way he played in the final round in Houston where he carried a one-shot lead. He looked tentative at the start of the round, and although he played well during the closing five holes, I felt he let the tournament slip away.
After I had written the Preview, a good friend of mine who is a good judge, questioned my view regarding Speith. He did not think Speith drove the ball far enough, felt that his iron play was not good enough and that his price was too short. Speith is 51st in the PGA Tour stats in Driving Distance, about 15 yards shorter than the top 20, and maybe 25 yards shorter than his three main rivals in the betting—Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson.
Quite surprisingly, the stats show a low rating, outside the top 100, for his iron approach shots. He is, however, the number one rated putter on Tour. He is excellent from all ranges and has extremely low three putt percentage. This could be a significant advantage at Augusta because three putting is more common on their super-fast greens.
Speith has shortened to 11/1 from 13.5/1 when the Preview was written, and this reflects the consistency he has shown in the two tournaments. It is a short price now – maybe too short to back – but I will not be closing my position. I believe, and hope, he will be in contention on the back nine on Sunday when the real action starts. Bubba Watson, who remains at 12.5/1, and Jason Day, who has drifted slightly from 15/1 to 16.5/1, are next best.