The ultimate prize in golf on arguably the most picturesque course on tour, brings the inevitable, annual circus along with it. With so much at stake and so much attention from the media and fans alike, you can’t help but have an opinion on who the likely contenders will be. The most common misconception is that, because the greens are so slick, the best putter usually stands the best chance.

The second most common betting strategy is to pick the longest hitters since the rough is not as penalising as other courses and therefore you can sacrifice a bit of driving accuracy for a bit of extra length.

This prioritised skill set, usually spits out a number of go-to names – Dustin Johnson, Rory Mcilroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods.

This is not to say that any of these household names will be contenders this year … rather the nuances of the Augusta layout require a deeper dive into what makes a winner on this course.

Let’s start by taking a look at the past 3 winners of the green jacket – Danny Willet, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed. The first thing you will notice is that while none of them are considered plodders, none of them would be described as bombers off the tee either. Neither would any of those names immediately roll off the tongue in a conversation about the best putters in the game.

What you would be able to note though is that they all had some FORM coming into the Masters in their winning years. Willet had 2, top 5s in 4 events prior to the 2016 Masters, Garcia had 3, top-15 finishes in the 5 events leading up to the 2017 version and in 2018, Reed had 3, top-10s in the 3 tournaments before taking down the Masters. Nine of the past 11 winners had at least a top-30 finish heading into the event.

So who’s hot right now?

McIlroy certainly is. He won the Players and looked great at the Match Play until a couple of wayward holes derailed his challenge vs Tiger. But at 8-1 he doesn’t offer much value. Might be a better pick with longer odds if he is 4-5 shots off the pace at the half-way mark.

Gary Woodland, one of the longest drivers on tour, has no less than 6, top-ten finishes this season. Second only to Rahm and McIlroy … at 66-1 he is certainly worth a look.

Another key stat to be a winner at the Masters – you need to take advantage of the par-5s. The course is so tricky that there are not a lot of standout scoring opportunities … apart from the par-5s that is. The par-5s rank 14,16,17,18 in terms of scoring average difficulty. In other words, they represent 4 of the 5 historically easiest holes on the course.

Some names that stand out here?

Justin Thomas ranks first on the PGA tour this year in Par-5 scoring birdie-or-better stats. That man Woodland is well in the mix at no.3, while other notables include Paul Casey at 7 and Xander Schauffele (35-1) at 11th. And you all thought it would be DJ!

Which brings us back to value … Casey at 25-1 looks juicy. He is long, bang in form (4 top 3s and a win this year) and looking very confident. A strong top-5 contender at the very least.

Tee to green statistics
. Because of the tight lies around the greens and the lightning fast putting surfaces, it’s imperative to land the ball on the right sections of the green. In fact, six of the last seven winners have been ranked in the top 10 strokes gained tee-to-green. So lets take a look at the tour averages …

Boom! Rory takes top spot. But also in the mix, Casey again (14th), Schauffele (16), Woodland (8th) … also lurking … Tiger at 9th and JT 4th.

Golf is the toughest sport to pick a winner … but offers the best value if you nail it. These days there are so many contenders, a far cry from Tiger’s heyday when he was offered at 2-1 to win ahead of each major … essentially pitting him against the entire field!

Bottom line – if you are looking for value, take Casey and Woodland for the win … or if you are feeling a bit more conservative, Woodland at 14-1 for a top five and Casey 5-1 top-5 finish are solid bets.

*Stat have been taken from the PGA tour and have purposely not included the European tour as most of the contenders are currently plying their trade on the PGA tour.