By Alex Miceli
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – With the West Coast Swing in the rearview mirror for another year, the PGA Tour has made its way this week to sunny Florida but with an eye toward the annual pilgrimage to Augusta.
Six weeks before the Masters, the oddsmakers at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook have compiled a list of favorites to win the Masters green jacket April 9 at Augusta National Golf Club. Jordan Spieth remains the top choice, at 13-2, despite Dustin Johnson’s runaway victory last week in the Genesis Open. Johnson improves to 8-1 odds to win, giving the Americans solid 1-2 choices.
Spieth will be seeking redemption at Augusta after his uncharacteristic stumble in last year’s final round, when he made a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole after having led by five strokes. Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, has returned to face his demons at Rae’s Creek, where he rinsed two shots, and feels ready to take on the Bobby Jones-Alister MacKenzie layout again.
In his eighth start at the Masters, Johnson likely will bring more confidence than ever. The new World No. 1 seems as sharp as when he won his first major championship, the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June. He will arrive at Augusta after a T-4 in last year’s Masters and a T-6 in 2015. In 26 career rounds at Augusta National, Johnson has broken par only 10 times and owns a 72.08 scoring average.
Rory McIlroy, who needs only the green jacket to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as winners of the professional career Grand Slam, is a 12-1 pick. Hideki Matsuyama, who has won five of his past 10 starts worldwide, and Jason Day also are listed at 12-1.
McIlroy hasn’t competed since incurring a hairline rib fracture on his left side, prompting him to withdraw from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in mid-January and putting his game on the shelf.
Excluding a round with President Donald Trump over the weekend, McIlroy likely will make his comeback at the WGC-Mexico Championship next week in Mexico City, providing him plenty of time to get ready for the season’s first of four majors.
Day was World No. 1 until last week but has posted only one top-10 result in four starts this year. He last won at the 2016 Players in May and has fought various injuries. Oddsmakers downgraded the Australian from an 8-1 co-favorite with Spieth at the beginning of the year.
Just in case this all seems superfluous, it very well might be. Since 2008, the odds entering Masters week have not been a great predictor of victory at Augusta. The eventual winners and their odds: 2008, Trevor Immelman (150-1); 2009, Angel Cabrera (125-1); 2010, Phil Mickelson (10-1); 2011, Charl Schwartzel (100-1); 2012, Bubba Watson (30-1); 2013, Adam Scott (25-1); 2014, Watson (20-1); 2015, Spieth (10-1); 2016, Danny Willett (50-1).
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli