Masters Top 20 Picks: Can You Count on Corey Conners?
Masters Top 20 Picks: Can You Count on Corey Conners?
With just the top-50 players (and ties) making the cut over the weekend in this major, you have a great chance of landing this bet if your player gets through the weekend unscathed, as we all know a good weekend round can propel you up the leaderboard.
The Masters is a notoriously difficult event to handicap. As bettors, we are tempted to place futures, almost immediately after the previous year's renewal, and there are always reactionary bets whenever someone performs well at a tournament throughout the lead-in. A good example of that would be Cameron Smith, whose pre-tournament odds have continued to drop, as have Scottie Scheffler's due to their form in recent months.
When it comes to the top-20 market though, we wait until nearer the time for this market to be formed, and as a result, we get a true reflection of what a players' chances are of finishing inside the top-20, and it is now down to us to identify that value for you.
You don't need me to tell you the odds-on plays that will crack the top-20 here, so I will instead focus on those that are plus-money in this article, as we look to establish some of the best value in this market.
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Masters to Finish Top-20 Strategy
When it comes to the Masters there is a unique blend of course and current form to consider, and it is not out of the realms of possibility that some of the old guard can make the cut here, and hang about inside this number, thanks to their experience of all the nuances Augusta throws up.
That is not to say that I will not look to some of the younger talents in this market, but I do think that some wily veterans may be overlooked in this market, as bettors tend to focus on the hot new property in golf at this time, and for good reason!
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Masters to Finish Top-20 Picks
Corey Conners (+160) to finish inside the top-20 (Bet $100 to Win $160)
The case for Corey Conners is simple, so I won't drag it out too much.
In the last three years at this golf course, Conners has finished 46th, 10th, and 8th, and when 46th in 2019, he was the last man in, as he Monday Qualified for the Texas Open, won it, and then got the last spot here and had to regroup. He started the week well, sitting 11th after round 1 and 16th after round 2, but fatigue clearly caught up with him, as he dropped outside the top-20 over the weekend.
He has one blemish on this golf course, a missed cut in 2015, but he actually bounced back from an opening-round 80 to shoot 69 in the second round, so it has always been a course he's flashed form at. He was an amateur then, getting into this event due to his runner-up finish at the U.S. Amateur, so what he did then really doesn't need to be held against him.
This year has played in nine events, finishing 11th at the Sony Open, 11th at Bay Hill, T26 at the Players, 3rd at the Match Play two weeks ago, and 35th in Texas last week where he closed with a bogey-free 67.
Conners loves this golf course, he has top-17 finishes in three of the four majors and is in good form. I think taking him in this market allows for a bit of a letdown, and some fatigue kicking in, but you can see why he's popular as an outright bet this week.
Paul Casey (+200) to finish inside the top-20 (Bet $100 to Win $200)
If Paul Casey is fit, which a recent article with the Daily Mail in the UK suggests he is, then I can only see Casey finishing inside this number, at an event he has loved over the years.
For all the reasons I like him in the outright market, I like him for this, and I truly feel this is a safe play for Casey, should be match-fit come Thursday. Now, of course, it is hard to say with any certainty that he's ready to go, but if he is, and there's every reason to think that he is, a top-20 should be the least of his ambitions.
In 15 starts at Augusta, Casey has finished inside the top-10 five times, and inside the top-20 a further three times, making it 8/15 tries that he would have cashed in this market. He's fairly boom or bust here, as when he finishes outside the top-20, he has generally missed the weekend, with that happening four times in his career here, but only once since 2012.
His last two starts here have been among his worst when making the weekend, finishing T38 and T26, but that speaks volumes to the floor performance for Casey at Augusta, and in both 2020 and 2021, he was in and around the top-20 at some point during the week. In 2020 when finishing 38th, Casey was one of the first-round leaders, opening with a cool 65, and he followed that up with a 74 in round 2 to sit 17th, a 71 on Saturday to climb back up into 15th, and then had a disaster Sunday, shooting a 77 to slip down the leaderboard. That was three of the four rounds then in 2020 that Casey sat inside the desired number here. In 2021 it was far less eventful for Casey, with his final finish of 26th the highest he had been all week, but he was just two shots shy of a T18 finish, so he wasn't far away.
So far in 2022, Casey has played in six stroke play events and finished inside the top-20 at four of them. He finished T24 in Saudi, which was two shots shy of T18 and he finished way down the leaderboard at Bay Hill where weekend rounds of 77-83 undid his hard work in the first two days, which saw him sat in 6th place and realistically in contention to win at that point.
If Paul Casey is fit, and that is clearly an if, I am happy to chance that he finishes inside of the top-20 for the 6th time in his last 7 major starts, and for the 9th time in 16 starts at Augusta.
Kevin Na (+500) to finish inside the top-20 (Bet $100 to Win $500)
I wanted to get on board with Kevin Na in some way this week, as I still think his improvement in recent years has been overlooked, as he's now a 4-time winner since 2018. Na has two wins credited to him on the OWGR website in 2021, thanks to tying Jon Rahm for the best 72-hole score at the Tour Championship and he had won the Sony Open at the start of the year. In 2019 he did have two legitimate wins, at the Charles Schwab and the Shriners and that came a year after winning the Greenbrier.
What does that have to do with Augusta? Well frankly, not too much, that is a separate case, but I think it was important to highlight his ability to spike and win over recent years, compared to the early part of his career.
So far in 2022, he has played six events, and only finished inside the top-20 in the first two stroke play events of the year, in Hawaii. The 13th at the Tournament of Champions came in a 38-man field but at the Sony Open, where he finished T20, he opened with a round of 61 to lead going into the second round, and despite taking 10 shots more on Friday, he bounced back with weekend rounds of 67 and 68 to climb into the top-20 again.
Since then he's welcomed a new baby into the world, which may be the reason why he's not played as well, as he's missed the cut at Riviera and Bay Hill, but he looked better at the Match Play last week, and that gives me confidence as he heads to Augusta.
Na advanced from a group at the Match Play that included Joaquin Niemann, Maverick McNealy, and Russell Henley. He beat both Henley and Niemann and tied McNealy who had dispatched of Niemann 8 & 6 the day before, and he went on to beat McNealy in the sudden-death playoff to advance.
He lost out to Will Zalatoris in the round of 16, but it took 22 holes to decide the match, and that was a perfectly good warmup for a course he's shown a liking to over the years.
In ten visits to Augusta, Na has finished 12th three times and 13th once, and although he's missed three cuts, two of those came on his first two starts. 13th and 12th over the past two years coincide with his improvement as a golfer that I touched upon earlier, and if he can replicate the form that has seen him finish inside the top-20 here, without really feeling the pressures of contending, that could work in our favor for this bet.
Stewart Cink (+850) to finish inside the top-20 (Bet $100 to Win $850)
Time to get wild. We have played it safer until now, and now it is time to go to one of those perhaps overlooked veterans I mentioned at the top.
Stewart Cink is in this field courtesy of his 2021 RBC Heritage win and his finish here last year, and while he has been some way short of that form ever since, there have been signs of life in 2022. This is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the Oddschecker grid, as Cink's odds range from +425 to +825 in this market.
In seven starts in 2022, he has only posted one top-20, but that came last time out at the Valspar, where he finished T7, as he hit four sub-70 rounds at a notoriously difficult Copperhead course. When he was T21 at the Tournament of Champions, in a limited field of 38, he actually sat 13th, 8th, and 10th after the first three rounds, before a 71 on Sunday saw him drop 11 places. It was a similar situation the following week at the Sony Open where he finished 36th, but actually sat 6th after 36 holes, courtesy of a 2nd round 63. When 43rd in Phoenix he was 6th after day one, opening with a 67, and then of course his most recent start was the Valspar which I already mentioned.
It's very hit and miss for Cink at the moment, but his effort at the Valspar, where par counted for a little bit more, despite a lower-scoring affair than usual there, gives reason for optimism.
We all know Cink famously upset the world when denying a 59-year-old Tom Watson to win the 2009 Open Championship, but he has also had 3rd place finishes at each of the other three majors as well, with his best effort here coming when T3 in 2008. That is a long time ago now, but more recently, he finished T12 here in 2021, to secure a spot in this event, regardless of whether he got that Heritage win, and although he missed the cut in 2019, his two most recent starts before that were T25 in 2013 and T14 in 2014. That adds to his five-straight top-20's here from 2004-2008 and when making the cut here (12/17 times) he has finished T28 or better 11 of those 13 times, so he's always been on the periphery in this market.
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Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!