One in a series of previews for the April 6-9 Masters
By Gary Van Sickle
Last year, a man I called The Anonymous Gambler said one of his sleeper picks to win the Masters “was the best player in the world whose name rhymes with skillet.”
Since he nailed it and Danny Willett did, indeed, win the Masters, I asked him to return for an encore wagering preview. He agreed on the condition of anonymity and the promise to swear in court, if it comes up, that he died in a fiery 2012 car crash in New Mexico.
Van Sickle: So, whom do you like to win this Masters?
Anonymous gambler: You realize this is proprietary intel that I’m giving away for free, right? OK, I’ll tell you mainly because I’ve got to go with chalk this year, Jordan Spieth, the early 6-1 favorite. Those odds are too low, but I learned a long time ago that you’ve gotta bet the horse, not the odds. Spieth’s swing looks improved, he’s driving it better and he’s the best putter in the world. He couldn’t hit himself in the ass with a drive last year, and he still should’ve won. Spieth should be going for three Masters in a row – hell, four in a row if he could’ve gotten out of his own way in that 2014 final pairing with Bubba Watson. It’s pretty simple: Nobody can stay with Spieth around these greens.
GVS: Are you saying Spieth is a lock?
AG: No-oooo! There’s no such thing in golf, especially at the Masters. You can’t forget about Jason Day. In 2015, when we had the Big Three, the nickname you writers now pretend you never created, I thought Day could take Jordan or Rory McIlroy. Day was so upset about his mom, who’s battling a serious cancer diagnosis, that he pulled out of the Match Play. I think he’s got Spieth’s number, but even at 15-1, I don’t know if he can prepare to play his best with such an important family issue distracting him. I’m staying away.
GVS: How about U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson?
AG: So, his putting is improved and he’s mopping up on the PGA Tour? Augusta National’s greens and Tour greens are the difference between a high school pop quiz and a doctoral thesis. I don’t believe D.J. has the touch to handle those greens, and I’m not convinced McIlroy does, either. At 7-1 on D.J. and 8-1 on Rory, I am not interested.
GVS: What about Tiger Woods?
AG: He’s irrelevant. I’ve got hardwood floors in my kitchen because of him. I won big on him at the Torrey Pines Open. All I know about him is that he’s had three back procedures and another setback after a 15-month layoff. He’s off-limits until further notice, I’m afraid, and it might be forever.
GVS: Can Phil Mickelson still win a Masters?
AG: He can but… Look, the first thing great players lose is that ability to score for four rounds, whether it’s the swing, the putting touch or physically feeling the same for four days. Phil could scare the winner, which is great for a guy who turns 47 in June, or maybe even steal one more Masters, but can he realistically keep his card clean enough for 72 holes? I’d bet him to finish top 5, not to win.
GVS: Is there anybody else you like?
AG: I wish Bubba good luck holding Augusta’s greens with that pink or yellow Rock-Flite he’s playing. I hope the endorsement money was worth it because I’m writing off his whole year… Hideki Matsuyama is interesting at 15-1 because he’s got the game. Does he have the guts to win on a stage this big? I don’t know… I’d include Rickie Fowler on any trifecta plays, but his shaky win at Honda bothered me. I’m feeling shaky about his chances to win a major… Ditto, Justin Thomas… Winning the gold medal in Rio might have been the refresher course that Justin Rose needs for the Masters, where he’s shot some low rounds. I like him every year, but I’m still waiting for the payoff.
GVS: Got another winning sleeper pick?
AG: You’re draining my Masters intel like a swamp, man. Well, I like the kid from Spain, Jon Rahm. I can’t believe his odds are already down to 25-1, but he’s no ordinary Masters rookie, believe me… Thomas Pieters is a stud. He and Rahm are the pillars of the next Euro Ryder Cup squad... My top sleeper pick is a guy offered at 80-1 odds, which I can’t believe because he’s the world’s best player whose name rhymes with skillet and he’s also the defending champ. Sorry, but I will not divulge his name.
GVS: Gee, I guess we’ll never know. Thanks.
Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle