The opening round of The Masters takes place on Thursday with the entire field getting their campaigns underway at Augusta National. Everyone teeing it up will be looking to jostle for a good early position and with conditions set to be perfect scoring should be good.
There will be much to enjoy from a golfing point of view on Thursday but there is plenty to get stuck into from a betting standpoint as well which should make for an exciting day full of interest over the course of the day.
First Round Leader
As with all majors the first market to have a look at is the first round leader one. The entire field have been priced up in this market so the first thing we need to do is try and eliminate some of it by having a quick look at the conditions.
There is no wind to speak of on the forecast but the better temperatures are during the middle of the day as you would expect so those teeing off around lunchtime might have the better of the scoring conditions if there is any kind of bias.
With that in mind I’ll take two men who are no strangers to starting well around here. Russell Henley has carded opening rounds of 68 and 71 in his last two outings around this track and he is no stranger to pinging the lids this season with a pair of 68s and a pair of 69s to open his last four tournaments. At 66/1 he’s worth a go in this market.
I don’t expect Ian Poulter to have enough left to go four rounds here but the adrenalin and excitement from actually being here when he didn’t think he would be could serve him well in this opening round. He was inside the top five after 18 holes the last time he played here and off the back of three amazing rounds to conclude the event in Houston last week there is clearly nothing wrong with his game. He’s another worth a dabble at 55s.
Thursday 3 Balls
The other markets to have been priced up for the opening day are the Thursday 3 balls where each of the 29 groups to go out onto the golf course have been given a market by the layers. There are some fantastic groups on the opening day not least the Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott group which go out at 6.38pm UK time. The 4.04pm group of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson will be a popular one too as of course will the 3.42pm group which includes Tiger Woods, Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Leishman.
They will all be good to enjoy but the beauty of the three balls in this tournament is that there are many of them which contains a veteran or an unheralded player which means we can effectively turn them into two balls to give us a better chance of finding a winner. There are three such groups I like in that regard.
Kevin Chappell/Dylan Frittelli/Jose Maria Olazabal
Group tees off a 14.03 BST
The first group which catches my eye is the one between the American player Kevin Chappell, South African star Dylan Frittelli and the former champion from Spain in Jose Maria Olazabal with all three looking to take advantage of early morning conditions.
Olazabal is a legend of the game but it is fair to say he is not going to have the length to compete with these two around a course like this and while his short game skills might level that out somewhat I’m not convinced it will be enough so I’ll eliminate him. I’m also taking out Kevin Chappell. He recently pulled out of the Match Play halfway round with a back issue and the last thing we need is a potentially unfit golfer around here.
Frittelli looks in good form despite a missed cut last week and the wide open landing areas of this track should be right up his street. If he can get to grips with these greens then he has every chance of taking down this three ball. We know he’s hitting the ball well after he had an ace in the par 3 contest on Wednesday and that can serve him well here.
Justin Thomas/Sergio Garcia/Doc Redman
Group tees off at 15.53 BST
All eyes will be on the defending champion Sergio Garcia on Thursday to see how he begins the defence of his title. He is out with arguably the hottest player in the game right now in Justin Thomas and the amateur Doc Redman.
While amateurs are much more ready to grace this level these days than in the past this is a whole different level given the magnitude of the players Redman is up against so I’ll pass him by and have this between the other two. I’m a little concerned that the whole occasion could get to Garcia a little and while he usually gets off to good starts here the added demands to his time in the lead up to the tournament might go against him.
Usually someone in the form that Thomas has been in for the last 15 months would be swamped with media duties but the fact that Tiger is here this week and the likes of Phil Mickelson being in good form Thomas has almost gone unnoticed. That’s very much to his advantage and I fancy he’ll win this group.
Si Woo Kim/Doug Ghim/Sandy Lyle
Match tees off at 16.37 BST
The final group that I like on the opening day sees the Players champion Si Woo Kim out with the amateur Doug Ghim and the veteran former champion Sandy Lyle in one of the groups which is unlikely to get much attention.
It has got my attention though because although there is a lot of hype around Doug Ghim it will be hard for him at this level and while Sandy Lyle knows this place like the back of his hand his best scoring days are long behind him so this should be something of a penalty kick for the Korean.
Kim showed signs of his best golf coming back at the Match Play a couple of weeks ago and that is good because he has the all-round game to go fairly well around here. He’s had a look at the place having played here last year and I expect him to have more than enough to come through this group.
Back R.Henley First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Coral (1/4 1-5)
Back I.Poulter First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 56.00 with Betfred (1/4 1-5)
Back him here:
Back D.Frittelli to beat K.Chappell & J-M.Olazabal for a 3/10 stake at 2.70 with Betfair
Back him here:
WON – Back J.Thomas to beat S.Garcia & D.Redman for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Ladbrokes
Back S-W.Kim to beat D.Ghim & S.Lyle for a 5/10 stake at 1.83 with Boylesports
Back him here: