US Masters ante-post tip preview: Tony Finau has the game to shine at Augusta National

Tipstrr golf pundit Brendan Skilling takes a look ahead to the US Masters in April, when he expects a couple of likely contenders will ensure that the favourites won't have things all their own way.

Golf's Major Championship schedule, the crown jewels of the sport, begins as usual in early April with a "tradition like no other", the US Masters at the iconic Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. 

The Masters is arguably the easiest of the four major tournaments to predict from an ante-post betting standpoint, due to the fact it is hosted at the same venue every year- plus, its invitational status and a smaller field set at roughly 60% of the other 3 major championships.

We can also narrow the field by disregarding a broad swathe of amateurs, veteran previous winners and debutants - no one has won on their first visit to Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

The course itself needs little introduction, as it is arguably the most famous and recognisable course in the world alongside the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Its Bermuda grass fairways and Bentgrass greens will once again be immaculately conditioned, and the colourful azaleas and dogwoods will again be in full bloom.

The skill set required to win the coveted Green Jacket remains the same - there's plenty room off the tee here on a course that looks kindly on left-handers and those who like to draw the ball, whilst the winner will almost certainly be required to have had a good week with his wedges and short game.

The only alteration to the course from last year's tournament comes at the par-5 13th hole, where the tee has been moved back 30 yards, forcing players into a longer approach towards a narrow green surrounded by water and sand. That adds an extra puzzle for those either chasing or defending the lead down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.

It goes without saying that this set-up may play straight into the hands of the world's top two golfers, with Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm both hovering close to 10/1 odds that are unlikely to shorten much, and added to the pressure that will accompany McIlroy as he chases his elusive career Grand Slam, they can probably be left alone at this time in terms of betting value.

Instead, it might be worth taking a chance with two further down the betting, who may very well be shorter by the time April rolls around.

Tony Finau has very much shaken off the 'bridesmaid' tag that plagued him for a couple of years, and he looked particularly impressive while notching up three tournament wins in the later part of last year.

The American also now knows what it takes to challenge for a Major Championship, after recording a top-five finish in all four of them.

With three top-10 finishes in his last five Masters appearances, Finau clearly has an affinity with the Augusta course.

South Korean Sung-Jae Im is another to keep an eye on, after finishing runner-up on his Augusta debut in 2020 and eighth here last time out.

Furthermore, his best work on the PGA Tour has traditionally been in the earlier part of the season in the run up to the Masters, so his odds could tumble if he manages to repeat those showings.

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