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Handicapping

2017 Masters Picks

The Masters Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: April 6-9, 2017
Course: Augusta National GCĖ Augusta, GA
TV: CBS/ESPN
by Evergreen, Golf Betting Analyst, Predictem.com

It is Masters Week. Those four simple words are about all you need to say to conjure up the thoughts and memories that so easily come with the first Major Championship of the PGA Tour year. Every golf fan has his or her favorite thing about this week. For some, it is the course itself, including the sights and sounds that are only found down Magnolia Lane. For others, it is the pressure-packed nature of the event and the stunning shots that are hit down the stretch. Maybe it is just the fact that Spring is in full effect but no matter why you love this week, we are all glad it finally here again.

The 2017 edition of the Masters is the 81st†in the storied history of perhaps the most prestigious golf tournament ever played. The invitation-only field is 94 players deep this year and while the Masters doesnít feature the strongest field in championship golf, the auto-invite process assures that the ones that are here have a legitimate claim beyond simply winning a Monday qualifier. Dustin Johnson is the favorite to win this week and rightfully so. In his last 25 starts, DJ has 19 top-10 finishes and an amazing 12 top-3 runs. Heís notched six wins, three of them against WGC elite fields and won one Major. The online betting sites have tabbed Dustin as a 5 to 1 favorite. Jordan Spieth is next on the list at 7 to 1 and he will be looking for a bit of redemption after essentially giving away a green jacket at No. 12 last year. Rory McIlroy (8 to 1) seems to be third and final standout favorite as the odds start grouping much closer after that. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama are all good values in the 20 to 1 range with rookie Jon Rahm also coming in at 20 to 1 or so. Two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson is an intriguing name atop the 30 to 1 group and defending champion Danny Willett will pay 100 to 1 should he successfully defend his Masters title.

Augusta National is viewed as a worldwide golf treasure and she carries herself as such. The former tree nursery turned championship golf venue has seen many changes over the years but the layout remains simply one of the best - and most recognizable Ė courses in all of golf. It is hard to know just how difficult this course is as it has never been rated by USGA standards but we know it a true test of every club in the bag even without those specific metrics. The most treacherous elements of this 7,435 yard, par-72 course are the greens. The once slow rolling turf is long gone and lightning fast greens are now a constant threat to produce three-putts. The Stimpmeter measures the greens at 13+ which is about as fast as that device can measure but the oft-used comparison to linoleum might give a better sense as to just how fast putts can roll here. That speed accentuates the difficulty in the contours of the green complexes and requires players to be precise with approaches or wind up on the wrong side of the pin. Well-struck shots will be improved by the mounds and banks and there will be several shots settling within a couple feet of the pin provided that approach is properly controlled from the fairway. Bombers like Tiger, Phil and Bubba have had their way with Augusta but shorter players have also found a way to win here. Zach Johnson and Mike Weir used their wedge games to great success while guys like Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera gutted out victories by hitting clutch shots no matter where and when they were required. There is no secret recipe to winning at Augusta but it is safe to say that this course will make you swing every club in your bag at some point during the week.

Each week, we take a look at Bovada Sportsbook and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are most commonly offered around the golf betting outlets. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Masters.

Rickie Fowler (18 to 1 odds to win)
It has been hard to go a weekend without seeing Fowler making a bid for a win this season. Rickie did miss a cut at the Farmers but other than that, he has finished no worse than a tie for 16th. He is 5-for-6 in Masters cuts with his only blemish last season after an opening round 80. That interrupted a nice two year run of T5 and T12 finishes and Rickie has commented that he does not feel affected by the blowup last time around. I think the most meaningful stat for Fowler as it pertains to Augusta is his putting. He is currently 9tn in strokes gained on the greens and 11th†in one-putt percentage. His 3rd†best scrambling stat is due in part to making those clutch putts and that is certainly something that will come in handy this week. It appears that Rickie trusts most elements of his game now whereas he was a little less assured in the previous few years when he faced certain types of shots. I think he is the best value play among the favorites and there is no one playing better right now other than Dustin Johnson.

Bubba Watson (45 to 1)
I know that Bubba isnít exactly playing well at this point but this course was absolutely made for him and forgetting about him this week feels foolish. He has never missed a cut in eight Masters appearances and is still just three years removed from winning his second green jacket. Watson is the longest player on Tour when you factor in all drives so he can attack this course even if he is hitting something other than driver off the tee. His ability to work and shape the ball in both directions helps to access the right quadrants of the trickier greens and that has led to easy birdie looks in those victory years. I feel plenty comfortable with him right now in the tee-to-green department but his putting will have to improve from his current rank of 185th†in overall average if he wants to contend this week. He should have familiarity and comfort on these greens and that might just spark an immediate turn around and a win pays big for Bubba.

Jimmy Walker (100 to 1)
Walker should be the type to do well at Augusta but it hasnít really materialized for him yet. He does have three made cuts in three Masters starts but he has yet to break 70 in any round and hasnít made a legitimate run toward the top. That could change this year based on the fact that Walker leads the Tour in overall putting average. He isnít turning that stat into top-notch results but I think the ability to save pars is so important at Augusta that I will ignore some rather average ball striking to get my money behind a premier putter. There isnít a lot of sand this week but what is there is well placed so there are few that will miss it entirely and Walker is a good sand player. He is a longshot for a reason but I think he has the tools in the kit to get it done, it just all needs to come together.

Steve Stricker (250 to 1)
If you want to go really deep, like Cinderella-story deep, take a look at Stricker. The Champions Tour rookie has been 2nd†and 3rd†in his two senior starts and has made two of three cuts on the regular Tour this season. He earned his way into the field after a T4 at the British last year so he is apparently still able to hang in the right circumstances. He did not play here in 2016 but had a nice run from 2009 to 2015 where did not miss a Masters cut, recording a career low round of 66 and career best finish of T6 during that span. He is the favorite to finish as the low senior player so Vegas likes his chances when balanced against the other greybeards. The putter never really leaves you and Steve has been an elite producer on the greens for over two decades now.

Rookie Watch

The Masters is not often friendly to those making a first appearance but two debutants are looking to break that mold. Along with Jon Rahm, Thomas Pieters and Tommy Fleetwood are making a hard charge up the OWGR list and get to go around Augusta for the first time this week. Plenty know Rahm after he has been all over TV the last month or so but Pieters and Fleetwood are a bit lesser known.

Thomas Pieters
Mostly unknown, Pieters has notched his wins in Europe but has plenty of stateside experience from his days playing at the University of Illinois. He is making his rounds as a Major rookie and did pretty well with a T30 in his first British Open appearance last season. He was fourth at the Olympics and ran 2nd†only to Dustin Johnson at Riviera this year. Iím not sure he is ready to win a Major yet but I really like him at 7 to 1 to be the low finisher among the first-timers.

Tommy Fleetwood
Also at 7 to 1 to finish as the low debutant, Fleetwood got 2017 off to a good start by winning in Abu Dhabi. He has made a nice showing in the U.S. with a T10 at the Palmer and was the runner-up at the WGC event in Mexico. This will be his first Masters but he does have six previous Major starts to draw some experience from. He has made his way to the weekend on just one Major occasion so donít look for a big push up the leaderboard just yet but he is playing some of the best golf of his young career and could easily beat the group of rookies.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook (Home of the best odds) for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Brandt Snedeker v. Brooks Koepka (pick to win: Snedeker)
I chose this matchup because the course itself makes you want to take Koepka and his ability to dominate the par-5 scoring. That possibility does exist but the smarter play is Snedeker behind his four top-15 finishes in nine Masters starts. He has the experience edge over Brooks and has the ability to use his accuracy and putting prowess to score at Augusta when many other shorter players simply canít. Entering the championship, Snedeker has significant advantages in fairways and greens along with scrambling and scoring marks. That is just too much for the distance-reliant Koepka to overcome unless he is simply fantastic in the ballstriking department, and he hasnít shown that yet this season.

Phil Mickelson v. Adam Scott (pick to win: Mickelson)
I have made a lot of money over the last five seasons or so betting against Phil. His decline hasnít been as fast as some his age but his big name kept him up against the best in the field and that inevitably led to a lot of head-to-head losses. He gets another big name in 2013 Masters Champ Adam Scott but Augusta is like home to Phil and there is almost no one that you would automatically pick against him. Mickelson will be playing his 25th†Masters and has six top-3 finishes to go along with his three wins. I think he just tailors his efforts to peak during this week and he has the ability to do so behind all that Augusta experience. The big edge he gains over the field comes in his comfort and ability around the greens. There are few easy up-and-down chances here but Phil has seen them all and has the confidence to aggressively attack those chances and use them to score where others would be happy to escape with just a bogey. Scott is a formidable former champ but he isnít even outscoring Phil during non-Major play this year so stick with Lefty at Augusta.

Good luck and good golf!

Free Picks

Evergreen's Free Weekly Golf Picks - Each week, respected golf handicapper Evergreen swings for the green offering a free weekly head to head matchup pick.

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