The Masters Round 1 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Can Tony Finau Start Hot?
The Masters Round 1 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Can Tony Finau Start Hot?
It's finally here! For us golf fans, The Masters is the equivalent of the Super Bowl, and we have no shortage of exciting storylines heading into the 2022 rendition. While Tiger Woods will not be featured as a play for me this week, I would be remiss not to mention his presence, which hangs over the entire week in a not-so-subtle fashion. It's fantastic to see Tiger healthy again, and while my expectations this week are tempered, I think it's safe to assume he would not be playing if he didn't believe he had a legitimate chance to compete.
Tiger Woods and his 89 other competitors will be tackling the most recognizable and iconic golf course on the planet, Augusta National. The Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie design plays as a Par 72, measuring 7,510 yards, and can best be described as the most honest and nuanced test golfers will face all season. Before we dig into my Round 1 3-Balls, it is worth mentioning that there have been some changes made to the golf course since the 2021 edition. The Par-4 11th hole was lengthened by 15 yards, the fairway was re-contoured, and several trees were removed on the right side. Essentially, players will have a little more room off the tee but face a longer approach shot in. The Par-5 15th hole has also been lengthened by 20 yards. This famous Par 5 may now be slightly more difficult to reach in two for some of the shorter hitters. The green will be harder to hold if players are now approaching it with longer irons. The 18th hole was also lengthened by 13 yards, modifications have been made to the 3rd, 13th, and 17th greens, and more rough was removed from the property. None of these changes are monumental, but they certainly lay favor to longer players with a high ball flight.
Finally, the weather ought to always be paid attention to at the Masters. This area of Georgia has gotten more rain over the past month than it has since 2014, and even more rain is on the docket for Tuesday afternoon and evening. Yes, the sub-air system under the greens will help dry out the putting surfaces, but the fairways will still play extremely soft, at least on Thursday and Friday. Wind gusts of up to 20 mph out of the west on Thursday and Friday adds an extra element of difficulty to the equation. Add all of this together and I will primarily be looking for elite long-iron players with a deft touch around the greens and a proven track record at Augusta. Let's dig into my Round 1 3-Ball selections.
Round 1 3-Ball: Dustin Johnson (+140) vs. Collin Morikawa (+160) vs. Billy Horschel (+230)
Selection: Dustin Johnson (+140) (Bet $100 to Win $140)
Let's lead with Dustin Johnson, who broke the Masters scoring record last time we saw a soft Augusta. I expect the 2022 Masters to be a far more stern test than the aforementioned 2020 edition, but Johnson still possesses all the tools I am looking for. The two-time major winner is still one of the longest players on Tour, and although the long irons have been slightly less inspiring lately, he is still well above average from 150 yards plus. The 37-year-old appears to be quietly rounding into form with back-to-back strong ball-striking performances at the Valspar and Players, capped by a semi-finals appearance at the Match Play. I expect Johnson to get off to a hot start in his 12th Masters appearance.
As far as his competitors go, I have concerns about Collin Morikawa. He's not very long off the tee, and one of his biggest weapons, the ability to drive the ball accurately, is somewhat mitigated on a course with the 3rd widest fairways on Tour. I worry about the short game as well. He's a below-average bunker player and coming off a performance at the Valspar where he lost six strokes around the green. Billy Horschel presents even more problems. Despite encouraging recent form, the 35-year-old has failed to record a Top-15 in seven appearances at Augusta. Horschel remains an excellent play on the Florida swing, but this is not the time to deploy him. I love his short game, but I'm not sure it's good enough to overcome the fact that he is one of the worst long iron players in the entire field. Johnson should cruise in Round 1.
Round 1 3-Ball: Scottie Scheffler (+110) vs. Adam Scott (+210) vs. Tony Finau (+240)
Selection: Tony Finau (+240) (Bet $100 to Win $240)
I was a little surprised to see this high of a price on Tony Finau, who already possesses three Top-10s in four appearances at the Masters. For all the flack that Finau gets about his lack of wins, he is one of the most consistently strong major championship performers in the game, carrying nearly a 50% Top-10 percentage over 22 major starts. I certainly have my concerns about his recent short game woes, but similar to Johnson, the ball-striking is trending in the right direction. The 32-year-old gained 2.1 strokes off the tee and 3.9 strokes on approach, good for his best ball-striking performance of the season. He fits the criteria of a good long iron player, who can bomb it off the tee, and has a proven track record at Augusta.
As far as his competitors go, I just think we are asking a lot of Scottie Scheffler right now. He has three wins in his last five starts and is the newly minted number one player in the world. He enters his first major championship with a target on his back, and far more media obligations than he is used to. Scheffler is a tough man to fade, but regression feels imminent. I always happen to be a bit lower on Adam Scott than the market. I don't find his recent form to be as exciting as others, and he's gotten to a point in his career where he is more reliant on his flat-stick than ever before. In my opinion, Finau and Scott should be priced equally, so I'll gladly grab the extra couple of points with Tony.
Round 1 3-Ball: Daniel Berger (+125) vs. Tommy Fleetwood (+180) vs. Kevin Kisner (+200)
Selection: Tommy Fleetwood (+200) (Bet $100 to Win $200)
I actually believe there's a lot to like about Tommy Fleetwood this week. The 31-year-old possesses an admirable record in major championships and has finished Top-20 in all three of his last stroke-play events. The Englishman possesses underrated distance off the tee and an immaculate short game. In his last stroke play event, he gained in all four major categories for the first time since the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship. I believe that his game is quietly rounding into form, and he is still available at a very fair price in all major markets.
I certainly understand why Daniel Berger is still the favorite, but since a 10th-place finish as a debutant, he's struggled to muster anything better than a 27th at Augusta in three appearances since. I just don't love the fit. Berger hits a low fade, which is probably the worst shot shape to rely on at Augusta National. I prefer him on shorter Bermuda-grass golf courses, as not only has he failed to garner much momentum at Augusta but he's also struggled immensely at corollary courses such as Muirfield Village and Riviera. Kevin Kisner is an easy cross-off as one of the shortest and worst long-iron players in the field. Do not be fooled by a strong performance at Austin Country Club, a 7,000-yard Bermuda-grass course in a variable format that always brings out the best in him. Fleetwood is the easy choice.
Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.