The first major of the golf season gets underway on Thursday at Augusta National, Georgia, when The Masters reclaims its traditional April slot.
The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to held tournament in November last year, meaning the world’s best golfers will be back on Augusta’s pristine greens less than six months since Dustin Johnson claimed the Green Jacket.
The world No. 1, Johnson arrives at The Masters as the bookmakers’ favorite as he aims to become only the fourth player in history to win at Augusta in consecutive years.
Here’s a breakdown of the betting favorites and of the outsiders to keep an eye on this week.
The world No. 1 and defending champion is the bookmakers’ favorite at 9-1 with William Hill and DraftKings, but the omens aren’t particularly good for him. Only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have won The Masters in consecutive years and nobody has managed to don the Green Jacket back-to-back since Woods won at Augusta in 2001 and 2002. Additionally, Johnson has finished in the top-10 just once in five starts since winning The Masters in November, a worrying trend as six of the last 10 winners arrived at Augusta after winning at least one tournament earlier in the year.
If current form is somewhat of a concern for Johnson, Spieth stands at the opposite end of the spectrum after ending a four-year wait for a win on the PGA Tour with victory at the Texas Open on Sunday. After a troublesome spell, Spieth looks to be back on song and the win at the Texas Open came after a run of four top-10 finishes in his previous six starts. The Texan, who who won The Masters in 2015, has finished in the top three four times in his seven starts at Augusta and it would be surprising not to see him contend this week.
Spieth starts at 11-1 with FanDuel and DraftKings
Like Spieth, the world No. 2 begins the tournament at 11-1 and, like Spieth, arrives at Augusta in excellent form after winning The Players Championship last month. Thomas has improved in each of his five starts at The Masters, finishing 39th and 22nd in his first two appearances, before breaking into the top-20 with a 17th and 12th place finishes in the next two years and a fourth-place finish in November, when he was tied for the lead after 36 holes.
Thomas ranks third in the field in strokes gained on approach over his last 24 rounds and should be one of the main contenders this week.
Morikawa finished 44th in his only start at Augusta in November, but begins the tournament at 30-1 with DraftKings and William Hill. The 24-year-old broke knows what it takes to win on the big stage after breaking his major duck at the US PGA Championship last year and arrives at The Masters after winning the World Golf Championships at The Concession earlier this year on top of two top-10 finishes in his last five starts. Morikawa ranks second in strokes gained tee to green over his past 24 rounds.
The 2018 Masters champion arrives at Augusta as 33-1 outsider with DraftKings and William Hill and could prove to be a smart pick. Reed won the Farmers Insurance Open in January and has finished in the top-30 in four of his other six starts since The Masters in November. He also ranks second on the PGA Tour in birdie average and first in strokes gained in putting, a stat that bodes well for him as he topped the Putting Average stats when he won at Augusta in 2018.
Fitzpatrick is a 46-1 outsider with DraftKings but there’s plenty to like about his game going into The Masters. He has a strong game on fast greens and has finished 11th at the WGC-Workday, 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and ninth at The Players Championship in his last four starts, a significant run of form considering eight of the last 10 winners at Augusta had finished in the top-15 on the so-called Florida Swing earlier that season.