2024 Masters Tournament: Let’s Talk About It

The trip to Augusta

This is the time of the year where everyone has Georgia on their mind. Arguably one of the most iconic events in all of sport, the annual trip to Augusta for the Masters feels like a trip back to simpler times.

Tiger Woods at the Augusta National (Pic – Supplied)

2024 US PGA Tour: Masters Tournament
Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
10 – 13 April

Akshay Bhatia played his way into Augusta in incredibly dramatic fashion last week, withstanding a demented Denny McCarthy charge to win in a play-off at the Valero Texas Open.

It was the perfect little appetiser for what is sure to be one of the biggest weeks of the year: the Masters Tournament.

This is one week of the season where the traditional golfing establishment reigns supreme. I don’t care if LIV manages to host an edition on the moon or in Middle-Earth. The battles for the Green Jacket and Claret Jug will always be the most keenly contested golfing events of the calendar year. Period.

That probably irks perennial Augusta bridesmaid Greg Norman and his band of LIV separatists. But that’s just the way it is.

The Masters

This storied event dates back to the early days of the Depression and it was originally known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Horton Smith won the inaugural staging way back in 1936.

He was actually made to wait while 17 members came together to put up the winning purse. Honestly, how can LIV ever compete with that level of homespun flavour? In any event, this is one of the few tournaments out there where cash isn’t the primary motivating factor.

Everyone really wants to get their hands on perhaps the most famous sartorial item in all of sport: the Green Jacket. The 13-strong LIV contingent will be doubly motivated this week. This event offers them the chance to receive precious world rankings points.

With legal disputes still ongoing, a strong showing here can help ensure future participation at Major Championships.

Another quirk of this event is that it’s the only Major to take place at the same venue every year: Augusta National.

Augusta National

Originally the brainchild of the legendary Bobby Jones, Augusta was founded by Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. It was built on the site of an old nursery and every hole bears a special botanic moniker.

The entrance to the course – lovingly referred to as Magnolia Lane – is flanked by a string of imposing Magnolia trees. The course was designed by Jones and famed golf course architect Alister Mackenzie.

The old Bermuda greens have been completely replaced with Bentgrass. And the course has been lengthened and tightened considerably as the years have passed. Tom Fazio oversaw a massive overhaul in 2002 – where half the holes were lengthened and tightened.

This is a long, intimidating tree-lined test that will test every facet of a player’s game. But recent years seem to suggest that distance has become more important than accuracy around Augusta.

Putting at Augusta is almost a leveller because every single player will have their issues on these lightning-slick Bentgrass greens.

Solid approach play is essential around this course. Players will need to negotiate the massively contoured greens and understand exactly where to land the ball. This will require surgical iron play. Strong approach should also help minimise the impact of these quick putting surfaces.

Scrambling has always proved crucial at Augusta (it is little wonder that Phil Mickelson has been so incredible around here). There are massive runoff areas that put players into precarious greenside positions.

The champion here generally has to have every facet of his game working to some degree. That’s what makes Augusta such a masterpiece.

The Contenders

Scottie Scheffler recently became the first ever back-to-back Players champion and he will be a massive favourite to pick up a second Green Jacket this week.

A tee-to-green dynamo, Scheffler’s recent conversion to a mallet putter has seen him improve immeasurably on the greens. He will take some stopping this week.

Defending champion Jon Rahm has enjoyed a solid start on the LIV Tour and he will be looking to win a third Major this week. Koepka has been quite low profile of late but he will always be a factor when a Major arises.

Can Rory build on his first top-10 finish of the PGA Tour season and finally seal a career Grand Slam? Perhaps not. His approach play has been poor this year and you simply cannot contend here with substandard iron-play.

Past Winners

  • 2023: Jon Rahm (-12)
  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-10)
  • 2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10)
  • 2020: Dustin Johnson (-20)
  • 2019: Tiger Woods (-13)
  • 2018: Patrick Reed (-15)

To Win Outright:

  • Scottie Scheffler 4/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Jon Rahm 12/1
  • Xander Schauffele 16/1
  • Brooks Koepka 16/1

Value Bets: Hideki Matsuyama- To Win 16/1 | To Place 32/10

2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama arrives in fine form and he could be a nice dark horse contender for a second Green Jacket.

He broke a two-year title drought earlier this season at Riviera and he arrives here after a T6 at TPC Sawgrass and a T7 at last week’s Valero Texas Open.

He wasn’t satisfied with his iron play last week but he does rank first on the PGA Tour for SG. The Japanese star has finished inside the top 20 at Augusta in eight of his last nine appearances and he could be a factor again this year.

Value Bets: Will Zalatoris – To Win 30/1 | To Place 6/1

Still just 27 years of age, Will Zalatoris has looked impressive since returning from a back injury that kept him out of action for almost a year. The wiry American finished T2 and T4 in back-to-back events at Rivera and Bay Hill.

Zalatoris has been decent on approach this year but has suffered somewhat on the greens. But this is such a specific putting test that you can almost throw that out the window. Also, Zalatoris has some brilliant Augusta form to bank on. He memorably lost to Matsuyama by a shot here back in 2021 and then he finished T6 in 2022. He missed last year’s event due to injury but I wouldn’t be surprised if he once again contends in a Major Championship.

The Man to Beat: Xander Schauffele – To Win 16/1 | To Place 32/10

This could be the year for Xander Schauffele to finally break his Major duck. The metronomic American loves this test, finishing in the top 10 in three of the last five seasons (including a T2 in 2019 and a T3 in 2021).

His combination of length and brilliant approach play makes him an excellent fit for this layout.

Other Bets

  • Top 10 Finish – Joaquin Niemann 24/10
  • Top Brit – Tommy Fleetwood 9/2
  • Top Continental European – Sergio Garcia 10/1

 

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