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Masters roundtable: Betting strategies, picks, what to watch

Jay Busbee
·8-min read

The Masters is here! Time for another golf roundtable, featuring Yahoo Sports senior golf writer Jay Busbee and Yahoo Sports fantasy impresario Scott Pianowski. Topics today: a November Masters, Bryson’s chances, and ways to make some coin. Now on the tee ...

BUSBEE: The Masters returns ... in November? A tradition unlike any other is now teeing off at a time unlike any other. I know this tournament sends all us sportswriters into fits of rhetorical fantasy, so my friend, I'll turn the mic over to you to kick us off. What does the Masters mean to you?

PIANOWSKI: My Masters feels are not much different than most. It's about springtime, renewal, hope. After a long cold winter, we get rewarded — NCAA hoops, the baseball return, then the gentle sounds and visions of Augusta. It's chicken soup for your sporting soul.

Of course, in 2020, the calendar never makes sense. NFL game on Tuesday? Sure. NBA draft around Thanksgiving? If you say so. The tradition like any other is now glory's last shot. Man, does that roll strangely off the tongue.

BUSBEE: It's yet another strange disconnect in this strange year ... normally when the Masters rolls around, you're on the cusp of spring (man, every time I write about golf, my language gets three times more flowery) and now? Now we're standing on the edge of a cold and possibly dark winter. This is the curtain going down, not up.

It's Masters season. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
It's Masters season. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

PIANOWSKI: I've never been more prepared for the Masters. I've rewatched a bunch of old videos — one night when I was sick, I watched the entire 1995 Masters on my phone. I re-read a bunch of Rick Reilly and Dan Jenkins gamers in Sports Illustrated. I listened to the dedicated CBS hole announcers coach me through the second nine. I know when to attack, and when to lay back. I did not approve any landscaping of any kind. (I'm so jealous that you've played this course and I haven't. Tell them about your glory shots, if you want a victory lap. I'll never get tired of that story.)

BUSBEE: Nah, I’ve done enough gloating on that one. I will say this: If the pros want any kind of advice about what it’s like to play Augusta with no cheers, I’m your dude.

From what I've seen, the course looks gorgeous in fall. Augusta National has smoothly inserted itself into the college football conversation, hosting GameDay on Saturday and ending early for what should have been a marquee football game later that afternoon ... which is only appropriate because everyone not wearing school colors at an SEC game is wearing a Masters logo shirt.

So let's dig into the storylines. There's none bigger, literally or figuratively, than Bryson DeChambeau. Your thoughts on Golf Hulk, sir?

PIANOWSKI: I'm going to be crusty on this. I love his mind, his determination to get better. But he's a dreadfully slow player, and he's a little quick to bite off a cameraman's head, and did I mention he's a slow player? The last thing anyone needs is five or more hours at our courses because everyone thinks he's the next Mad Scientist of Golf. “Bomb and gouge” is not aesthetically appealing to me, and heck, at this place, you might not need to gouge, anyway.

I don't know how well ANGC can defend Bryson's power. But this is a tournament that depends on experience, local knowledge and putting. Has DeChambeau been around this track enough time to have it solved? Does he have the nerve to win what Johnny Miller famously called the Annual Spring Putting Championship?

OK, it's the November Putting Championship, then. I'm going to pick someone else — probably another power guy, but someone with more resumé here, more resumé on the greens. When I come up with that name, you'll be the first to know.

BUSBEE: I will be interested to see just how far the sport of golf, and Augusta National, will let Bryson go. Already there's suspicion that AGNC has planted trees — not sprouts, actual full-grown trees — in certain spots around the course, like No. 13, to make it trickier for DeChambeau to just overpower the course. I'm interested to watch him try, and I'm interested to see how the course fights back.

Beyond him? I want to see what a newly focused Jon Rahm can do. I want to see if DJ can pull his usual trick of rolling out of bed and leaping into contention at a major. I want to see if Justin Thomas can level up.

Question for you: Given the Masters' history of not just breaking hearts but stomping them into fine powder, how do you think one of the second nine's recent victims — Rory McIlroy — will fare this weekend?

PIANOWSKI: Curiously, Rory looked like a Terminator during his 2014 smash (ironically, holding off what might be the best season of Rickie Fowler's life). Since then, he's won a lot less, but opened up a lot more. I like everything about that guy, on and off the course. My heart is invested here. But I can't open my piggy bank for him.

I see DJ as a slight favorite to DeChambeau because he's had more success here. Johnson finished second in 2019 (I forget who won, some guy from Stanford; no, not Tom Watson), and got almost zero air time. I'm old enough to remember when Johnson couldn't putt. That's a distant memory now. And of course, his ball striking with the longer clubs is astounding.

I've softened up to Rahm. I love that abbreviated backswing (to the point that I tried to replicate it with 500 range swings; maybe it only works in Spanish). Maybe an emotional player is at a disadvantage at this type of track, but I see Rahm as a player with the fortitude to win on these types of stages. I'll be surprised if he's not a Sunday story.

So often in golf, you have to choose between Team Terminator vs. Team Empath. DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Tiger, they're the first group (though Tiger today has a speck of the second group). Rory, Xander Schauffele, they're Team Empath.

The timing could be right for Schauffele to get that first major. He’s posted a ton of yellow in the last four major cycles — T2, T2, T3, 5, T5, T6, T10. He’s missed just one cut over that period. His last Augusta stop was the T2 that Johnson shared. His 2020 stat profile is almost flawless — and the mediocre 98th in driving accuracy isn’t that big of a deal here. You can have the rest of the alphabet. I’m stopping at X.

BUSBEE: So let’s put some cash behind those words. We’re each taking $100 — in virtual money, for those of us who don’t live in gambling-legal states — to lay down at BetMGM on a range of possible betting opportunities.

I’m going to do the throw-a-dart routine and drop $10 on DeChambeau (+750) and $10 on Rory (+1200) to win.

I’ll put $20 behind Tiger and Phil both making the cut at +110. I’ll take advantage of BetMGM’s Tiger albatross bet at +1400 and throw $10 that direction. I appreciate your X pick, so I’ll go with him to finish in the top 10 at +140, and I’ll do the same with Tyrrell Hatton, who’s getting close, at +225. Because I have a soft spot for the 2000s, I’ll take Lee Westwood at -125 over Ian Poulter head-to-head.

And finally, because I like a little drama coming into Amen Corner on Sunday, I’ll take the Big Five (DeChambeau, Koepka, DJ, JT, Rory) against the field at +125 for $20. Your bet, sir.

PIANOWSKI: Tournament winner: put $10 on DJ, Xander, Cantlay. They’re 9-1, 14-1, and 25-1, respectively.

Give me $20 on Freddie Couples (knows this course like the back of his hand) to make the cut. That’s +120.

I’ll punch X to beat DeChambeau (no greens book this week, son). Twenty bucks on that, +105. If they had more creative ways to fade Bryson, I’d be exploring them. Place another $20 on Patrick Reed (-134) to beat Bubba Watson (-106).

I’ve got ten bucks left? Scottie Scheffler to finish Top 10, at 4-1. He's too young to know how hard golf really is; no scar tissue yet. Enjoy it while you can. Get the most out of it.

Get me to Butler Cabin.

Explore the top-5 shots in Masters history in augmented reality

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

More Masters coverage from Yahoo Sports