US Masters 2022 Betting Tips: Justin Thomas leads our Augusta picks
In the opening few months of the year we’ve seen Scottie Scheffler pick up three titles in the space of just 5 starts and ascend to world #1, Cameron Smith winning a dramatic and chaotic PLAYERS Championship, Joaquin Niemann’s scintillating victory at Riviera and an abundance of first-time journeyman winners, most recently with J.J Spaun last week in Texas.
It’s been a thrilling start to 2022 and it’s about to step up a couple of notches as we head to Augusta, Georgia for an intriguing, open Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
The event has its origins all the way back in 1934, with a list of winners a who’s who of the game’s greatest players. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros to name but a few players who’ve donned the famous green jacket after a Sunday drive down Magnolia Lane.
US Masters 2022 Tips
The beauty of this event is in the course, returning to the iconic August National year after year causes every fan to fall in love with the place. Strewn with iconic, memorable holes throughout, such as the par 3 12th, scene of Jordan Spieth’s infamous collapse in 2016 and the par 5 13th, where Phil Mickelson hit THAT incredible approach out of the pine straw in 2010.
Not just a feast for the eyes and a pleasure for all fans to see this course return to our screens every year but from a betting point of view, it also means we’re well accustomed to the course and know exactly what to expect, being able to envisage it more clearly than almost any other event.
The Alister MacKenzie/Bobby Jones design is a par 72, measuring 7510 yards. This is slightly longer than previous editions, as there’s been changes made to the par 4 11th and par 5 15th, with both being lengthened and tee boxes being moved.
The fairways are huge in width and rank amongst the easiest fairways to find on tour, also possessing very little in the way of rough aside them. Though don’t let this fool you into thinking you can drive it wildly around here, through these doglegging, tree-lined corridors. Huge, cavernous, strategically placed bunkers are waiting to collect many an errant tee-shot, and though the fairways are wide, there are still some tight driving lines, causing many players to find tree trouble.
This means that though the fairways are easy to find, it does rank as one of the toughest courses on tour in which to find the bentgrass greens should you miss the short-grass.
Said greens are notoriously tough. Large, undulating and speedy, with many a false front and run-off area, as well as more of those large bunkers. Miss the greens and the challenge that awaits, chipping from these tight, closely-mown lies into quick, undulating greens is one of the toughest around, with an average success rate of 53% over the last 5 renewals in scrambling. Making it only 2nd to the Memorial Tournament and Muirfield Village of the current regular tour events for difficulty.
This course is not only stunning but provides us with one of the toughest, yet fairest all-round tests of golf on tour. You can score around here, with the par 5s all giving up opportunities of eagles, but all are fraught with danger, and you’ll need to play excellent golf to take advantage of those scoring opportunities.
As such an all-round test, general tee-to-green quality is a must, but two areas of the game stand out most, at least when looking at the statistical make-up of the last 11 winners: approach play and short game.
In the last 11 years, stretching back to Charl Schwartzel in 2011, the worst anyone ranked in GIR was 21st from Patrick Reed in 2018, though he compensated for that with a pretty strong all-round performance. Three of those winners led the field in GIR that week, Dustin Johnson in 2020, Tiger Woods in 2019 and Adam Scott in 2013, with everyone else bar Charl Schwartzel in 2011 ranking 7th or better.
Full list below:
2021: Hideki Matsuyama – GIR rank: 7
2020: Dustin Johnson – GIR rank: 1
2019: Tiger Woods – GIR rank: 1
2018: Patrick Reed – GIR rank: 21
2017: Sergio Garcia – GIR rank: 2
2016: Danny Willet – GIR rank: 6
2015: Jordan Spieth – GIR rank: 2
2014: Bubba Watson – GIR rank: 5
2013: Adam Scott – GIR rank: 1
2012: Bubba Watson – GIR rank: 4
2011: Charl Scwartzel – GIR rank: 18
Looking at the winners in this period in scrambling, Tiger Woods in 50th in 2019 is very much an outlier. With the other 10 winners ranking 16th or better in getting it up-and-down when they won.
Danny Willett led the field in this regard when taking advantage of Jordan Spieth’s infamous meltdown in 2016, whilst Hideki Matsuyama last year, Bubba Watson in 2012 and Schwartzel in 2011 all ranked 2nd.
Full list below:
2021: Hideki Matsuyama – Scrambling rank: 2
2020: Dustin Johnson – Scrambling rank: 4
2019: Tiger Woods – Scrambling rank: 50
2018: Patrick Reed – Scrambling rank: 16
2017: Sergio Garcia – Scrambling rank: 6
2016: Danny Willett – Scrambling rank: 1
2015: Jordan Spieth – Scrambling rank: 10
2014: Bubba Watson – Scrambling rank: 5
2013: Adam Scott – Scrambling rank: 3
2012: Bubba Watson – Scrambling rank: 2
2011: Charl Scwartzel – Scrambling rank: 2
Aside from this, power off the tee has often been more important than accuracy and even though putting greens as tough as this well, will be an obvious benefit, we’ve seen plenty of notoriously poor putters taste success at Augusta. Matsuyama last year, Garcia in 2017 and Adam Scott in 2013 to name a few. It’s a place where quality tee-to-green is of the utmost importance.
There is a curveball in the event this week and it’s in the form of Mother Nature. There’s been rain in the area in the weeks building up to the event and this is set to continue this week. With more wet conditions forecast from Tuesday to Thursday. Though it is currently forecast to be dry for the remainder of the week. Still, there is an expectation that the course won’t quite be at its most fiery to begin.
Further to this we have some strong winds/breezes forecast throughout the first three days. With Friday looking particularly difficult if those forecasted 20mph winds arrive.
There’s some really clear correlating courses here. I mentioned in my antepost preview how highly I rate Riviera Country Club, host of the Genesis Invitational. A tough championship course which requires and tests your ability to hit shots with every club in the bag.
Also a course that is typically set up to play firm and fast, much like the intended conditions at Augusta. It’s always been a great guide and I see no reason to doubt that now, even if Augusta may be a little more receptive at the start of the week than we’d like.
Mike Weir, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are all players who have tasted success both there and at Augusta over the last 20 years.
Events like the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (particularly pre 2020). A lengthy course with wide fairways and generally large greens, through tree-lined, doglegging fairways. Tiger Woods an 8-time winner there, with the likes of Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman amongst a batch of players possessing form at both courses.
Muirfield Village, home of the Memorial Tournament matches up just about as well as any other course statistically.
They’re both amongst the widest fairways to hit on tour, whilst possessing a similar level of difficulty in hitting the quick, undulating bentgrass greens. With the two courses ranking as the most difficult regular stops on tour in which to get the ball up and down from around-the-greens.
Indeed Muirfield Village’s designer, Jack Nicklaus has spoken about how Bobby Jones, one of the designers of Augusta, influenced him as a designer, in particular the way he and Alister MacKenzie designed Augusta. Providing plenty of room off the tee and placing extra importance on the second shot, with many of Nicklaus’ designs being that way, as what you’d call second-shot courses.
Tiger is a 5-time winner of the Memorial and Hideki Matsuyama has tasted victory at both events. Whilst the likes of Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Kenny Perry are amongst the players to win at Muirfield Village and finish 2nd at The Masters.
Go back a little further and you find players such as Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Vijay Singh doubling up at the two events.
Though Sheshan Golf Club, home of the WGC-HSBC Champions is much shorter than Augusta, they play in a similar fashion and in the 14 renewals of that event there, 6 have been won by players who’ve also tasted success at Augusta. With Phil Mickelson a two-time winner and Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama also winning out in China. Whilst other winners at Sheshan, such as Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose all possess strong books of Augusta form.
This could just be put down to this event boasting an exclusive, elite field but there are similarities in the way the courses play, most notably into and around-the-greens, with both very closely matched in terms of greens-in regulation and much like Augusta, Sheshan is ranked as one of the toughest courses in which to get the ball up and down.
Finally I do like TPC Sawgrass, home of THE PLAYERS Championship. Both events share similarities in the sense they take place at instantly recognisable, iconic venues every year and require quality around-the-greens. There’s also the recent form angle here as Sawgrass provides us with the strongest, major-level field in the build up to The Masters.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia have all tasted success at both events. Whilst 2011 Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel has finished 2nd there at Sawgrass. With the likes of Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood amongst the other players who’ve either won or finished runner-up at both events.
This is The Masters, so a strong field is a given, with Scottie Scheffler making his first start since ascending to the #1 position in the world rankings. Though there’s still one huge question mark to be answered and that’s if we will be graced with the presence of 5-time winner of the highly coveted green jacket and arguably the greatest golfer of all-time, Tiger Woods.
We haven’t seen Tiger in competitive action since the 2020 November Masters, in which time he had his well-documented car accident, suffering breaks in both of his legs. He said in a tweet on Sunday that he “Will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete.”. Still very much up in the air but it would surely heighten anticipation further for an event already more highly anticipated than any other on the calendar.
I will start off the selections with a small recap of the antepost plays, which were Patrick Cantlay (22/1), Matthew Wolff (100/1) & Max Homa (125/1). Article here:
Cantlay has shortened slightly since then and though he’s not quite looked at his best lately, I still think he could be a huge player this week. Having said that I’m not inclined to get more involved now.
Matthew Wolff hasn’t quite had the start to the year I’d hoped and it’s hard to see him doing a great deal this week unless he can take a huge jump forward.
Max Homa, on the other hand, has been in excellent form this year and with a birdie or two here or there, he’d have picked up another win and his price would’ve surely shortened more. As it is, he’s shortened in most places though is still available at 125/1 with Bet365, now with 8 places on offer, which I certainly wouldn’t talk anyone out of backing, as I do think the course suits his game.
Straight in near the top of the market with this week’s headline selection and I make Justin Thomas the man to beat at Augusta this week.
The only man heading JT at the top of the betting is Jon Rahm, who looked better at the Matchplay and has an effortlessly good record at Augusta, but JT’s improved putting over recent weeks swung it in his favour for me. As it has largely been the only thing stopping him adding to his tally since that victory in THE PLAYERS last year.
Thomas has been in great form this year, having finished no worse than 33rd in any of his six strokeplay starts. Four of them top 10s, with finishes of 3rd at the Valspar and 6th in the Genesis the standout performances.
JT has been one of the best golfers on the planet, tee-to-green for a number of years now. In 2016/17 he finished the season ranked 5th tee-to-green and has followed it with 3rd in 17/18, 2nd in 18/19, 1st in 19/20, 3rd in 20/21 and very much in keeping with this is currently ranked 3rd for the 2021/22 season. He excels in every area, a sublime precision iron player with an excellent touch around-the-greens and though sometimes a little wayward off-the-tee, packs plenty of punch and will benefit from the wider fairways of Augusta.
He’s long been touted as an ideal type for the Masters and all but certain to eventually wear that green jacket. Though his record isn’t to the standard of someone like Rahm, it’s perfectly acceptable. Finishing 39th on debut in 2016, he’s since finished 22nd, 17th, 12th, 4th and 21st. The 4th place finish in the November Masters in 2020 is particularly appealing, as the course played much softer than it would usually be setup to play in April, with the potential for a softened course this week it could pay to look at players who went well in that edition.
Thomas has form at a bunch of the courses mentioned above. He won THE PLAYERS last year and has recorded 2nd place finishes at the Genesis and Memorial amongst multiple other top 10 finishes across both events.
With the improved putting form, Thomas looks a huge danger this week with the quality he possesses in the rest of his game. He can improve on that solid if unspectacular record at Augusta and a generally average record in majors, his 2017 PGA Championship win aside, and with the help of his caddy Jim ‘Bones’ MacKay, who has tasted victory around here before when caddying for Phil Mickelson, he can kickstart his major career.
I want to be on another player from the top of the market here, such is the strength up there and suitability of most to this test that I struggle to see anyone outside that top 10/12 in the betting wearing the green jacket come Sunday evening. Of the others there’s nobody that appealed more than the phenomenal Collin Morikawa, who can move one step closer to that career grand slam this week in Georgia.
There’s no doubt that Morikawa hasn’t quite been at his best so far this year. Though we say this about a player who produced a sensational final round at the Genesis to finish 2nd is a sign of what we’ve come to expect from him. Aside from that 2nd place finish he’s missed just the one cut, in THE PLAYERS Championship and we most recently saw him getting knocked out in the last 16 of the Matchplay, frankly getting hammered by Abraham Ancer 7 & 6, but performed perfectly well in the group stages, winning two and tying the 3rd match.
There is too, the point that Morikawa has shown an incredible ability to bounce back from disappointment, one start to the next. His victory at the WGC – Workday Championship at The Concession last year came the week after he’d produced one of his worst ever putting displays in the final round of the Genesis Invitational. With his win at Royal St Georges later that year in The Open Championship coming the week after he finished 71st in the Scottish Open and essentially admitted that week had left him searching for answers in how to play that brand of golf.
If he can bring the same level of learning from his Masters experiences so far, which has seen him go from 44th on debut in 2020, to a big jump to 18th on his second shot at the course last year, he can improve further on that again this year.
He is, after all, one of the very best iron players in the game, ranking 2nd in approach in his first full season in 2019/20, following that up by being the best iron player on tour last season. And though he’s not quite been at his scintillating best this year, he still ranks 21st, by no means has he been producing poor iron play.
In addition to this he’s a very strong driver, possessing great accuracy and enough length. I’ve made the mistake of letting his inconsistent short-game warn me off him in the past, but I won’t be making that same mistake again here, as he’s a player who has proven very much capable of upping that area of his game, indeed in all of his victories so far he’s managed to find the required quality on and around-the-greens to win. This above all else showing the excellent winners mentality he has.
I think we can find further encouragement as to his potential to perform around Augusta in some incredibly attractive correlating form. Where he’s a victor at Muirfield Village, winning the Workday Charity Open there in 2020, the first of two back-to-back events they held in the covid hit season. He also finished 2nd there in the Memorial Tournament last year and that 2nd at the Genesis earlier this year means he has top 2 finishes at the two events I like most as a comp to Augusta.
I think Morikawa flies in here a little under the radar this week, compared to others at the top of the betting. I don’t think he’ll mind this, as both of his major wins came with people a little doubtful of his chances. This is the only major in which he’s yet to record a top 5, with victories in the PGA Championship and Open Championship, as well as a 4th place finish in the US Open. I fully expect him to put that right this week.
Young Chilean, Joaquin Niemann has enjoyed a superb start to 2022 and with the huge strides he’s made around-the-greens this year, he can make some noise at Augusta and put up his best major finish to date.
Niemann got his year off to a fine start in his opening three events. First finishing 6th in the Farmers Insurance Open on his first start of 2022, he followed it up with an 8th place finish in Saudi and then that superb victory at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational. Where he won with a score of -19, the lowest winning score in the event since Lanny Wadkins shot -20 in 1985, producing an amazing tee-to-green performance, where he was over a shot better a round than anyone else in the field.
Since then he’s missed the cut at the Honda, finished 22nd in THE PLAYERS and was knocked out in the group stages in the Matchplay, though has continued to look in excellent form tee-to-green, ranking 6th for the season.
His ball-striking has always been the standout area of his game since turning pro, though it’s the improvements around-the-greens this year that has stood out the most for Niemann. He’s gone from ranking outside the top 100 in the previous three seasons to ranking 6th this season and has gained strokes in every start this season. A huge boost to his chances of improving his record at Augusta, albeit one still very much in its infancy.
He’s played in The Masters twice, missing the cut on debut in 2018 and improving on that with a 40th place finish last year. Most notable about that performance last year was how well he putted these greens, ranking 17th for the week. He’s yet to break 70 in six rounds but with the improved short-game, I’m sure he’ll make right on that this week.
A performance like he produced in that win at Riviera would see Niemann win on most courses but it’s a huge positive, possessing such a strong correlation to Augusta. 6th place finishes at Muirfield Village and Torrey Pines add further confidence as to his suitability for Augusta.
Niemann was kind of the forgotten player amongst this supremely talented group of youngsters, but he well and truly reminded everybody what he’s capable of at Riviera. With him continuing to play perfectly well since that victory and with the huge gains he’s made around-the-greens this season, I think this youngster is now ready to make his presence felt at the very top of a major leaderboard.
England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick has had an excellent start to 2022 and with a game showing little in the way of weaknesses right now, can make a run at a major breakthrough this week at Augusta.
That start to 2022 has seen Fitzpatrick make six starts, with the only missed cut coming at Sawgrass, an event I’m very much happy to forgive a subpar performance. On his other five starts, he’s finished top 10 in all four of his other strokeplay events: 6th at Pebble Beach, 10th at the Phoenix Open, 9th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 5th at the Valspar Championship. Whilst narrowly failing to get out of his group at the Matchplay on his latest start, winning two of his three group matches, only losing to eventual champion, Scottie Scheffler.
During this time, Fitzpatrick is just excelling across the board. He’s 5th on tour tee-to-green, owed to being 14th around-the-greens, 14th in approach and 31st off-the-tee, complimenting this tee-to-green quality with a typically excellent putter, where he ranks 20th at this point of the season. A game where every part is in good shape will stand you in good steed anywhere, but particularly at such an elite championship course.
He’s played here 7 times, making the cut in each of his last 6 visits after missing it on debut. A best of 7th in 2016 his best effort. Further to this Fitzpatrick has an abundance of correlating course form.
He’s finished runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has a 3rd to his name at Memorial. With additional top 10s at the API, as well as at the HSBC Champions, Genesis Invitational and Players Championship. Highlighting his suitability for championship like tests.
Fitzpatrick is not only playing excellent golf right now by anybody’s standards but also possesses that extra bit of grit that may be needed if indeed the conditions do cause problems this week. He can follow on from a solid year in majors last year, where he made the cut in all by putting up his best performance in one since that 7th in the Masters in 2016.