The state of Georgia has hogged the headlines for the election reasons over the last week but on Thursday it is the sporting landscape which will take over the vicinity when the opening round of The Masters is played out at Augusta National.
This is the day where the 92 man field are expected to get their campaigns underway in the final major of a different 2020 although the weather might yet have the final say in that with the forecast for Georgia very poor to say the least.
First Round Leader
As ever with a major tournament the first market we look at is the First Round Leader offering. The 92 man field is split up differently this year. We have a morning and an afternoon wave off two tees. The weather and winds look pretty consistent all day so there appears to be no bias but purely by the fact the early starters will get the best of the greens before they scuff up a little with the soft conditions and there’s a chance they’ll get round on Thursday I’m picking two out from the morning.
Jordan Spieth has led three times after 18 holes in this tournament and while he’s in no form at all coming in here the conditions might have helped him a little. The softer course means his wayward drives aren’t going to go deep into the trees and things so as long as he keeps his sight lines in play his second shots and his putting can come to the fore. He might not have putted brilliantly recently but he putts these greens very well. He is out at 8.06am local time which is early enough to play a part here.
The other man I have an inkling about is Lee Westwood. I backed Lee Westwood a few times around the end of the UK Swing and into the bigger events and he never went badly but he never went well either. His experience could be key here though and the thing about Westwood is you know he won’t play the wrong shots or anything. He could well plod his way round to a score and at 66/1 I’m happy to pay to see how close to the lead he sits after 18 holes.
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Thursday 3 Balls
The field are out in three balls on Thursday with the first and the tenth tee being used to try and get everyone around. The pick of the morning groups is the 07.33 local time group of Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen and Jon Rahm while in the afternoon the attention will undoubtedly be on Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy who tee off the first at 12 noon. There are a number of other groups which will get coverage on the various quirky ways they do their coverage in this tournament. After looking through the groups there are three bets for me.
Rafa Cabrera Bello/Matt Wallace/Mike Weir
Match tees off at 13.17 GMT
The first of the groups that have caught my eye tee off in the morning over in Georgia and it involves the former champion Mike Weir who goes out alongside the Spanish ace Rafa Cabrera Bello and the English star Matt Wallace.
You should always be careful of taking on former champions here but I’m happy to do that with Weir here. He isn’t long enough for a soft layout like this and his record here recently is ordinary. Cabrera Bello has seen his form fall off a cliff since lockdown. He doesn’t have a top 20 since the restart so he doesn’t appeal either which should mean this group won’t take a lot of winning for Wallace who has had a taste of the tournament now and should be looking to make more of an impression here. He looked in decent enough order in Scotland recently and should have the beating of these two.
John Augenstein/Rickie Fowler/Danny Willett
Match tees off at 16.16 GMT
One of the earlier groups out in the later start time also has my attention and it is another which has a former winner in it. That comes in the form of Danny Willett as he goes up against nearly man Rickie Fowler and amateur John Augenstein.
I can’t be having the amateurs around here. I never can but particularly this year when it is so soft and smacking the life out of the golf ball is going to be rewarded. I can’t be trusting Willett either. He pulled out midway through last week having snagged his wrist against a tree root and you’ve got to think if this wasn’t The Masters he’d be at home resting. That leaves Fowler, who like Wallace might not need to pull up trees to win this group. Fowler has a pretty decent record around here and that isn’t a surprise. His short game and iron play in the main suits the contours of the property. He is experienced as they come and in among the mess this season he had actually played some solid rounds of golf. One of them is likely to be enough here.
Byeong-Hun An/Sebastian Munoz/Chez Reavie
Match tees off at 16.16 GMT
The other group I like the look of also comes along pretty early in the afternoon wave of players when the Korean player Byeong-Hun An goes out alongside the talented Colombian player Sebastian Munoz and the gritty Chez Reavie.
I’m not convinced this group is going to take a whole lot of winning either in truth. I say that because there is no way Chez Reavie is long enough to get round a soft course which is going to get battered by rain while Ben An’s record in this tournament is pathetic. He’s a fader of the ball and a strong one at that and they don’t get it done around here. Munoz seems to like Georgia. His last two tournaments in this neck of the woods have yielded top 10 finishes and he has the game to go better here. Most importantly he’s in decent form after good showings at the CJ Cup and the Zozo and with his playing partners having serious weaknesses around here, the debutant looks a shade of value to take care of both of them.
Back J.Spieth First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back L.Westwood First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
WON – Back M.Wallace to beat R.Cabrera Bello & M.Weir for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with 888sport
WON – Back S.Munoz to beat B-H.An & C.Reavie for a 3/10 stake at 2.50 with 888sport
Back them here:
Back R.Fowler to beat D.Willett & J.Augenstein for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with BetVictor
Back him here: