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  • Who Will Win The Masters? Best Bets And Dark Horses At Augusta

Who will win the Masters? - Best bets and dark horses at Augusta

The first golf Major of the year sees the world’s best players converge on Augusta National to compete for the coveted Green Jacket that comes with being crowned the 2024 Masters champion.

With such a high-quality line-up, a valid case could be made for more than half of the 89-player field, so we’ve tried to narrow things down by splitting the players into different categories and picking out a best-value bet or two from each section.

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Champions past and present  

By definition this group is packed with big names boasting a proven Augusta pedigree, and it sees LIV Golf well represented, with no less than seven former champions now plying their trade on the Saudi-backed tour.

The most recent of those winners saw Dustin Johnson strutting his way to an imperious five-stroke win in 2020's Covid-delayed edition, while Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed all finished in the first four last year.

Indeed, Koepka was in control through the first few days before blowing his third-round lead with a 3-over-par final round that opened the door for eventual winner Jon Rahm, who has also since shocked the golf world by switching his allegiances to LIV.

Rahm comes to defend his title in decent form from his first few 54-hole LIV events, but he and the rest of the field will need to have played exceptionally well to end up ahead of Scottie Scheffler, who turns up fresh from six straight top ten finishes on the PGA Tour.

Having landed the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship back-to-back, the 2022 champion came within a missed 10-foot putt of forcing a play-off with Stephan Jaeger at the Houston Open two weeks ago. 

Scheffler’s consistent form over the last couple of years is as close as any golfer has come to reaching the level achieved by Tiger Woods in his heyday, and if he can continue to keep his flatstick warm at Augusta, then he will take all the beating this week.

Best of British (and Irish)  

Rory McIlroy

Besides 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, Britain and Ireland has just half a dozen representatives, but four of them are previous Major winners, so they will all tee off with serious claims.

Matt Fitzpatrick secured a top-ten finish here 12 months ago, and despite looking out of sorts for most of this year, he appeared to get his game back in order in his last round at the Texas Open.

Tommy Fleetwood’s game seems to be in better shape, as is that of Tyrrell Hatton if his fourth place at LIV Miami last week is a reliable yardstick, although it would appear that the days of Justin Rose beating a field of this nature are probably behind him.

Not many golf fans would begrudge Rory McIlroy a permanent place in Augusta’s exclusive champions locker room, and as he looks to complete his career Grand Slam following a decade of failures since his last Major successes in 2014, this might be the time to back him.

The simple fact remains that every tournament that Rory enters is his for the taking, simply because his A-game is better than any of his rivals - when he can produce it.

However, therein lies the rub, because after showing good form in Dubai, the Northern Irishman failed to make the top ten in any of his first five Stateside events this year before enjoying a timely return to form to nab third place at the Texas Open, albeit nine shots adrift of the runaway leaders.

McIlroy’s phenomenal length off the tee will require his short-iron game to be in top shape to hit Augusta’s tricky greens, and although yet to show his full range so far this year, this would be the perfect chance to put it all together and have Rahm presenting him with that elusive first Green Jacket on Sunday night.

Irish hopes will be equally high for 2019 Open winner Shane Lowry, who has always acquitted himself well around Augusta, securing top-25 finishes in each of the last four editions, with a best-placed third two years ago. 

Like McIlroy, he has not quite been firing on all cylinders this season, but he improved enough to finish fourth in the Cognizant Classic and third a week later in the Arnold Palmer, so it would not be a total surprise if he puts himself in contention again this week.


Homegrown hopefuls  

Xander Schauffele

The list of American golfers capable of lifting the Masters trophy is probably the most difficult to dissect, because to narrow it down to a couple of potential winners requires names like Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Brian Harman, Max Homa, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa (to name but a few) to be ruthlessly overlooked.

We’ve also had to discount the chances of LIV hopefuls Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka (despite the latter’s stellar showing last year), all in order to make room for our two main homegrown picks, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris.

Schauffele is renowned for saving his best game for the big stage, having secured top-10 finishes in half of his 20 appearances in America’s three Majors, including coming runner-up in the 2019 Masters, third in 2021 and 10th last year.

Although yet to win this season, the current Olympic champion can boast four top-five finishes among his six top-tens in eight appearances this year, including finishing tied for second just one stroke behind Scheffler at last month’s Players Championship, and Schauffele’s game looks in great shape as he seeks his first Major.


The well-documented back problems suffered by Will Zalatoris make his selection here something of a gamble, but there’s no doubting his pedigree in the American Majors, where he has finished no lower than eighth at the six events in which he has made it to the weekend.

On his Masters debut in 2021, he finished runner-up behind Hideki Matsuyama (narrowly missing a putt at the last to force a play-off), and was sixth in 2022 during a season that also saw him finish runner-up in both the US Open and the PGA Championship.

After an injury-ravaged 2023 campaign, he returned to miss the cut on season debut in Hawaii, but bounced back in some style to enjoy back-to-back top four finishes at both the Genesis (runner-up) and the Arnold Palmer.

Although with plenty more yet to prove, Zalatoris’ game is clearly well suited to the demands of Augusta, while his mental strength for the pressure that comes with Major events should also serve him well.


Best of the rest of the world

Cameron Smith

The remainder of the field offer up a tasty smorgasbord of international potential, with the likes of Sungjae Im, Min Woo Lee, Sepp Straka and recent LIV recruit Adrian Meronk all proven winners who could make an impact here.

The international challenge looks most likely to be spearheaded by 2022 Open champion Cameron Smith, who has landed three LIV wins since his subsequent defection, but is yet to do so this year.

He has not missed the cut in any of his seven Augusta appearances since 2016, and put together impressive finishes of second, tenth and third between 2020 and 2022, before finishing off the pace in 34th spot 12 months ago.

Smith has the skill set, the mentality and the course knowledge to land this event, and assuming he has fully recovered from the illness that caused him to withdraw from LIV’s Miami event at the weekend, then we can expect to see the Aussie’s familiar mullet among the leading groups on Sunday.

He might well be playing alongside Viktor Hovland, assuming the Norwegian star has succeeded with the technical fine-tuning he has been busy addressing with his coach this year.

Hovland has not been seen since finishing down the field at the Players Championship a month ago, and indeed has only appeared at five events this season, making the cut each time, but never bettering his 19th place at the Genesis.

That said, when he is on his game then he is a match for any golfer in this field, and a decent start could put him on course to improve upon last year’s seventh-placed finish here.


Fearless rookies  

Wyndham Clarke

No rookie has won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller did so back in 1979, which illustrates the enormity of the task ahead of 2024’s newcomers, but if ever that 45-year hoodoo were to be broken, then this could be the year for it to happen.

Given the ability and adaptability of the crop of new players, Augusta should hold few fears for the likes of recent Tour winners Austin Eckroat, Jake Knapp and Stephan Jaeger, and what a story it would make if last year’s top rookie Eric Cole chose the Masters to mark his first Tour success.

Those aside, two names stand out as having a serious chance of claiming the Green Jacket at the first attempt, kicking off with 2023 US Open winner Wyndham Clark, who proved that he has the game and the mental strength to land a Major when holding McIlroy and Scheffler at bay at LA Country Club last June.  

Winner at Pebble Beach in February and runner-up to Scheffler at both the Arnold Palmer and The Players, Clark was further off the pace last time out at the Houston Open, but clearly has his game in good shape for this.


Finishing runner-up behind Clark at Pebble Beach was Swedish sensation Ludwig Aberg, who burst onto the Tour last summer and became the first player to be picked for the Ryder Cup without ever having played in a Major.  

With wins on both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour already under his belt, the 24-year-old’s form has been improving steadily through this campaign, and in addition to that runner-up spot, he showed his appetite for the biggest stage when coming a respectable eighth at The Players Championship last month.

Augusta can be a minefield for even the best golfers, but Aberg’s distance off the tee, prodigious talent with both long and short irons, and excellent temperament, should hold him in good stead this week


Dark Horses  

Denny McCarthy

From each of those groups, we’ve also picked out a few dark horses, whose chances might not stand out at first glance, but who could just have the skill set to put themselves in the mix by Sunday afternoon.

  • Hideki Matsuyami (16/1) - The 2021 winner barely qualifies as a dark horse, but could again emerge as a strong contender after coming from nowhere to win the Genesis Invitational and enjoying three straight top-12 finishes since.
  • Tommy Fleetwood (33/1) - Tommy Lad kicked off the year with a DP World Tour win in Dubai, and after showing decent form in the States, will be looking to improve on his Masters best of 14th in 2022.
  • Russell Henley (45/1) - Fourth here last year and top-31 in his last six Master appearances, Henley has landed three top-four finishes this term, including in two of his last three events.
  • Si Woo Kim (55/1) - Without pulling up any trees, SWK has been consistent all season, while equally solid form at Augusta has seen him finish quietly between 12th and 39th at the last six Masters.
  • Akshay Bhatia (66/1) - Missed four cuts this season but never lower than 17th in his six weekend finishes, and he punched his ticket for Augusta at the final hurdle with a courageous win at the recent Texas Open.
  • Denny McCarthy (75/1) - If the Masters was a putting competition, McCarthy would be your man. He birdied the last seven holes at the Texas Open, and if he can reproduce that form, then he will gain shots galore on the field on the greens


The above list of 16 likely (and arguably less likely) contenders has still barely scratched the surface of such a star-studded field, who we know are going to provide four dramatic days of scintillating golf and maybe land us a winning bet or two along the way!


Top Price On The Planet: Best odds for Scheffler, McIlroy and Rahm, and 50% back if your bet leads after any round but then loses


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