I know it only seems like six months ago, (it was), that the Augusta National Golf Club gave the Green Jacket to Dustin Johnson and, as a result, he’ll be hosting the annual Defending Champions dinner, an event at which only Green Jacket holders can attend. He gets to choose the menu and I have to say, the one chosen for tonight (and those selected over the last few years) says more about American eating habits than Betty Crocker or The Jolly Green Giant ever could. Pigs in a Blanket and Lobster and Corn Fritters are the Hors d’Oevres, followed by a House or Caesar salad for the first course. Then a surf and turf mains of Fillet of Steak and Sea Bass served with mashed spuds and vegetables; followed by Peach Cobbler and Apple Pie with ice cream for pud. Luckily Tiger Woods won’t have to go through that as he continues, insha’Allah, his car-crash recovery. Tiger’s dinner was Fajitas and Sushi; mark you, it was the fifth time he’d hosted the dinner, so he was probably forced to become almost sensible. Patrick Reed ordered Rib-eye steak and mac and cheese in 2019 and Danny Willett had a Sunday Roast and Jordan Spieth had a Texas BBQ.
Not purely on the grounds of his excellent menu choice for a jolly dinner, where you can have as much or as little as you like, and who doesn’t like a Barbie [?], Jordan is on my short-list for this year’s tourney.
But before I reveal the rest of my “team” please note the variations of places and prices that are on offer. At one end of the scale, Skybet are going 11 places at 1/5 of the odds, while Bet Victor is going 6 places @ 1/5 odds. Of course, the prices are adjusted accordingly, but if you’re backing Jordan Spieth for example, he is 11/1 with bookmakers offering e/w term for 6,7,8 and 9 places. SO BE CAREFUL.
Anyway my shortlist:
JORDAN SPIETH: At the beginning of February, Spieth was a 50/1 shot to grab a second green jacket, but his victory in the Valero Texas Open this weekend, prompted many to believe that he is in a rich vein of form. Globally and across all markets, he is the most-backed golfer in the last 24 hours. Just 27 years old, the Texan’s resurgence in putting form means that he has finally broken the string of defeats and loss of form, having not won a tournament since 2017. This year however he was in contention at the Phoenix Open, where he tied for fourth, after holding a 3rd round lead. He tied for third the following week at Pebble Beach and then tied for fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After his victory, he is now 38th in the world – having been as low as 92nd last year.
CAMERON SMITH: 35/1 Bet365 Tied 2nd last year (November) The Aussie must be sooooo fed-up with being reminded on the one hand of his setting of a new Masters course record in November and the near-simultaneous suggestion that it was only because the course layout was made way too easy. What the Queenslander did, to remind you, was to shoot four rounds in the 60s. OK, his finishing score of 15-under still left him five shy of Dustin Johnson, but he’s been here five times, never missed the cut, he’s been the Aussie PGA champion twice, and he won the Sony Open last year.
SUNG-JAE IM 35/1 Bet 365 Tied 2nd last year and frankly if you fancy Cameron you have to fancy Sung Jae. He has an excellent short game, ideally suited to Augusta and he has been top 25 in nine of his last 18 starts this season. This is a smaller field and he will be challenging on Sunday night.
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER 50/1 – 8 places e/w 1/5 odds Bet365. He was 2nd in the recent WGC Match Play and he was named the 2020 PGA Rookie of the Year. T19th here in November in his Masters’ debut, and he has strong stats around the green and on his excellent short-game – currently ranked 16th on birdie average. He is consistent and intelligent.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN 55/1 Bet365 ranked 7th on Birdie average, I’ve stuck this Augusta debutante in for his strong work on Par 5s (17th) and 44th for his SG/Approach figures. If his putting stays steady he’s got a great chance of a place.
RYAN PALMER 150/1 – 8 places e/w 1/5 odd Bet365 Not the youngest guy in the tournament, but 44yo Palmer seems reinvigorated this season, with three top-10s from 11 tournaments; 4th on Par 5s and 3rd on Birdies, the 26th ranked player in the world is the wrong price.