Hello, friends. Jim Nantz, Amen Corner and pimento cheese sandwiches have returned once again. The 2023 Masters will tee off on Thursday, and for the first time in a while, we’ll have a unique blend of PGA Tour golfers competing with LIV players. WagerTalk golf handicapper Andy Lang shares his thoughts on the first major of the year with betting tips, DFS recommendations and players to avoid.
The Course: Augusta National
It’s the cleanest and best-kept golf course on the planet, and it should be in perfect shape this week as weather has been good coming into this week. As of now, it looks like rain might be making an appearance and making things difficult on some players, so be a bit careful with bets before tee times have been released. You don’t want to be in a position where the guy you bet on plays Thursday and Friday in the worst weather.
The course has been lengthened a bit, but it’s still essential to score on the par 5’s. If you don’t go low on the par 5’s, your chances of competing are next to nothing. There are a few shorter par 4’s and the par 3 16th hole yields birdies, and the players will be happy with playing the rest of the course at par.
Your long game has to get you some birdies, but this isn’t a course you can simply overpower. They famously mow the grass against the direction of the hole so the drives don’t get a lot of roll, but the toughest part of Augusta is the greens. They have incredibly big contours with tons of left-to-right and right-to-left movement that can cause nightmares for players.
Experience here is such an advantage as knowing all the trouble spots and knowing where to leave approach shots can save many shots across four days. Water can be an issue on some holes on the back nine, and of course…we’ve seen nerves and pressure swallow up many players over the years. There’s no other tournament like it that tests every part of your game along with requiring you to go from being patient on one hole and then aggressive on the next. The mental and physical toughness this tournament requires is what makes it the best of the year.
As you look to build your betting portfolio this week and you’re looking back at historical results, keep in mind that the 2020 Masters was played in the fall where course and weather conditions were very different. Don’t put too much stock in that specific year’s results.
2023 Masters Field
The cream rises to the top at The Masters typically. Outside of Danny Willett, the list of recent winners is a who’s who of the best in the world at that time. Of course we’ll be looking at who’s playing well coming into the tournament combined with course history, but it’s important to not get to cute with handicapping this tournament. Inevitably, there will be a couple of big names that fall short and miss the cut, but come Sunday, the big names will be at the top. Trying to pick longshots is next to impossible.
Top 10 in Total Strokes Gained for this year coming into the Masters:
1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Jon Rahm
3. Jason Day
4. Max Homa
5. Patrick Cantlay
6. Rory McIlroy
7. Tony Finau
8. Collin Morikawa
9. Xander Schauffele
10. Cameron Young
Masters Prediction: The LIV Players
I really don’t know what to expect from the LIV Players, but my opinion has been that these guys have lost a bit of their edge and I don’t trust them. I’ll have to see what the books do with them in head-to-head matchups, but I know I will not be putting money on Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka or Cam Smith. I hope we get a great matchup against Bryson Dechambeau as I would love to fade him with all the physical issues he’s dealing with.
Masters Prediction: Tiger Woods
Of course we have to talk Tiger Woods from a betting perspective. He knows the course as well as anyone in this field, and because of that experience, he can still have some limited success. It all depends on how his body holds up as he’s said that he can hit the shots, but it’s the walking around the course that gives him trouble and the hills and elevation changes around Augusta are brutal. I won’t have a bet on him to start the tourney, but I’ll see how he looks in round 1 and If I see he’s struggling, I will look to fade him in round 2. I know everyone will want to bet on him, but I think there are much better wagers in the field. There is an alt line on if he will finish outside the top-20, and I would love to use that as a parlay piece at -280.
2023 Masters Players to Avoid
Jon Rahm – We’ve been fading Jon Rahm recently and it’s been working as he’s not on-point. The last 30 days, he is only +0.60 Total Strokes Gained, and it’s his tee-to-green and driving accuracy that’s the culprit. This is a really bad course to play if you aren’t hitting it accurate off the tee. He withdrew three weeks ago, but was 39th the previous week and did not play well at the match play event. He finished 27th here last year, but he’s the second betting favorite this year behind Scheffler. There’s no chance I’ll be betting on Rahm at this price with how he’s playing.
Cameron Smith – He’s finished 3rd, 10th and 2nd here the last three years, but I can’t buy someone who is playing bad on the LIV Tour to all of sudden be the fourth betting favorite at The Masters. He got his money, and I don’t think he has that same edge that he’s shown on the PGA Tour. He finished 24th at the last LIV event, and is way off the lead this week. Maybe he’s saving himself for this week, but I think a lot of people will be on him this week and I won’t be one of them.
Cameron Young – He looked incredible at the match play event, but that’s a different format and a different tournament. Before that, he had one finish inside the top-20 at regular tournaments, and that was a tenth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer. He’s really inconsistent, and although he has good stats, they are really dependent on his driving distance. His putting is -0.10 this year, and if he putts like that this week, he’ll miss the cut like he did last year. His price this week is based on some recency bias, I don’t see any value in playing him.
2023 Masters DFS Darlings
Cameron Champ ($6,600) – It’s one of the most confusing things in golf. Cameron Champ, who is pretty terrible everywhere on the PGA Tour, just loves playing at The Masters. He’s played this tournament the last three times and he’s finished 19th, 26th, and 10th. His stats coming into the tournament are bad. He’s missed the cut in three straight. He’s 126th on tour in putting. He’s 196th in Strokes Gained approach to greens. And yet, he has a better average finish the last three years than Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau. I don’t get it, but I put him in my lineup last year, and I played him to make the cut as well, and he delivered. I’ll hold my nose and do it again this year
Si Woo Kim ($7,400) – He offers great value at this price as he continues to make cuts. He’s made seven out of eight cuts this season, and he’s made the cut five-straight years at The Masters with all finishes being inside the top-40.
Corey Conners ($7,600) – This one is a bit obvious as he’s coming off a win, but he just loves playing here. Finishes of 10th, 8th and 6th the last three years, and with the win he might be one of the most confident golfers this week.
Sung Jae Im ($8,100) – He’s made the cut in eight-straight tournaments and has three top-10’s out of those eight tourneys. He missed the cut at The Masters that was in the fall, but his other two Masters appearances in the spring he finished 8th and 2nd.
Jason Day ($8,700) – We’ve been making money all year on him as he’s not finished outside of the top-20 in all seven tourneys this year. He hasn’t been good the last two appearances here, but this is a different Jason Day, and I’ll keep riding him.
Scottie Scheffler ($11.100) – I’ll save enough money for Scheffler who is the only big name who’s game I can’t poke any holes in right now. He’s playing like the No. 1 golfer in the world, and he’s the defending champion. I have serious questions about all the other big names so I’ll pay up for the most expensive golfer this week.
2023 Masters Best Bet
Corey Conners Top Canadian -165 (Draftkings)
Conners loves playing here, and has finished top-10 the last three years here (10th, 8th, 6th). He is coming off a win last week, and this is becoming an annual tradition: Taking Corey Conners to be the top Canadian. The competition is not very strong as Mike Weir, Mackenzie Hughes and Adam Svensson make up the rest of the Canadian field. Weir is way up there in age and is playing because he is a former winner, but should offer no threat to Conners. Hughes had a good finish at the match play event a couple weeks ago, but hasn’t finished inside the top-50 at a regular tournament this year and has finished 40th and 50th the last two years at The Masters. He doesn’t offer much upside. Svensson has some decent finishes this season, but the biggest red flag for him is that he’s never played here before and debutants typically struggle. I love the way Conners plays here, and any decent finish should be good enough to be the top Canadian.