AUGUSTA – Masters week is here, and one of the many intriguing elements is the small field at Augusta National. Only 87 players qualified for this year’s event, making it even more likely that one of the world’s best players will earn a green jacket come Sunday.
Defending champion Patrick Reed offers good odds at 60-1 by Sportsbook.ag, but he hasn’t shown the form of late that instills confidence that he can threaten a repeat. The same would be true for the likes of former champs Jordan Spieth (18-1 despite zero top-10s since last year’s Open Championship) and Phil Mickelson (45-1, two missed cuts in past three events and eliminated in group stage of Match Play).
Five to watch at the 2019 Masters.
5. Tiger Woods, United States (14-1): Never count Tiger out at Augusta National. It’s the tournament he covets the most and builds his entire schedule around. But he’s also 43 years old and the most recent of his 14 major titles came 11 years ago. He hasn’t donned the green jacket since 2005. Woods has only five events under his belt in 2019 and hasn’t shown the form of late to make him one of the true favorites this week. But, hey, he also has four green jackets to his name and few players understand the nuances of Augusta National better than Tiger.
4. Francesco Molinari, Italy (18-1): Those are pretty favorable odds for one of the world’s most consistent players. Since tying for 20th at last year’s Masters, Molinari has posted four worldwide wins, including last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. His ball-striking is typically impeccable and he has the steely nerves to handle the pressure of the back nine on Sunday.
3. Eddie Pepperell, England (150-1): If you’re looking for a longshot, Pepperell is worth a strong look at 150-1. He’s ranked 40th in the world and has shown the ability to compete on golf’s biggest stages. Pepperell posted a 67 on Sunday of last year’s Open Championship – the lowest score in the final round – to tie for sixth. He also made a Sunday charge with a 66 at The Players last month before ultimately tying for third. Pepperell primarily plays on the European Tour and this will be the 28-year-old’s first time in the Masters. Only three Masters rookies have won since the tournament began in 1934, hence the long odds. Pepperell is one of 10 professionals making their Masters debuts this week.
2. Dustin Johnson, United States (10-1): Justin Rose snuck past him for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings entering this week, but Johnson’s numbers across the board in 2019 are as well-rounded as any player in the field. He has the length to tame Augusta National and his short iron play has improved markedly. The lone question is the putter, as some painful misses in the 5- to 10-foot range have crept into Johnson’s game the past few events.
1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland (8-1): The betting favorite, McIlroy is unquestionably the hottest player on the planet. He has seven consecutive top-10s to begin 2019, highlighted by his win at The Players, and all facets of his game have come together. If he can get the putter even reasonably hot this week, McIlroy has perhaps his best opportunity yet to complete the career grand slam come Sunday.
–Derek Harper, Field Level Media