It felt like Christmas morning on Thursday as the ceremonial tee shots were struck by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player after an emotional tribute to Lee Elder. Several players and past champions were there for the moment to kick off the 85th Masters.
Once play began it seemed like a fairly normal start with some holes giving up good scores. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing the conditions that players talked about leading into the tournament, as the brown nature of the firm and dried-out greens started to make trouble. The course showed it’s teeth throughout the day, as just eight players posted rounds under par, and this top-flight field would average more than two-and-a-half shots over par.
Justin Rose seemed to be playing a different course than everyone else, especially as part of the afternoon tee times. He kick-started his round with an eagle at the 8th to bring him back to level par after a couple of opening bogeys. He posted back-to-back birdies at 9 and 10, then added four more down the stretch in a bogey-free back nine. The Englishman will carry a four-shot lead into Round 2, as he set the pace past Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama who had the only other two rounds in the 60s on the day with 3-under 69.
A couple of other big names to post rounds under par on the day were Patrick Reed, and Webb Simpson, while Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele escaped at even par. The difficult scoring conditions weren’t as kind to some other top names including defending champion Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy who were both multiple shots over par. Bryson DeChambeau is another name in this crowd as his “Par 68” comment from the fall becomes a bit more of a punchline.
All of this comes together to really keep just about everyone in play for the weekend, as the current cut hovers around 3-over, with another difficult day ahead on Friday. We won’t have strokes gained data to rely on this week, so we will have to use more traditional stats and the “eye test” to show us the buys going towards the weekend.
Best Bets — Round 2
Webb Simpson +2000 (BetMGM)
The first number that stuck out to me as I was digging into the odds as the first round closed out was Webb Simpson still listed at +2000 on BetMGM. There was a time in the morning as Webb was playing through the back nine that he took a share of the lead at 4-under, before a poor tee shot in the water at the Par 3 16th knocked him back to 2-under. The double was one of just two poor holes on the day for the former major champion.
We have seen Webb start to put better performances together at Augusta National. After not accomplishing a top 20 at the event until 2018, he has back-to-back top 10s, including a fifth-place finish in 2019. It’s a bit perplexing that he has had so many struggles at a place that rewards elite iron play, which is the strength of his game. I liked everything I saw from Simpson today, and it was really surprising to make such a big mistake with the tee shot on 16, but that put aside he played a great round. I’ll definitely buy in at this number on a player I expect to be in contention throughout the weekend.
Tyrrell Hatton +2800 (BetMGM)
There is no doubt that Tyrrell Hatton is one of the best players in the world, but for some reason major championships have consistently gotten the better of him. It appeared he was headed in that same poor direction on Thursday as he four-putted on the 4th hole for double bogey to quickly go to two over par. Despite the visible frustration he showed following that hole, he was able to reign things in and turn it around on the inward nine.
The Englishman had four birdies over a five-hole stretch on the back side to climb all the way back to an under-par round. He certainly showed a lot of poise to hold it together after a rough start and now gets the benefit of a morning tee time on Friday. I’m in on Hatton to carry some positive momentum into his second round and set himself up for a late tee time on Saturday.
Marc Leishman +9000 (DraftKings)
No one started their day hotter than Marc Leishman who was 4-under through six holes on his front nine as he was dropping putts from all over the map. He cooled from there and struggled through a stretch of three straight bogeys as he made the turn. He’d tack a fourth one on at the 14th and close out his day at even par.
It was still a good round for Leishman even though he cooled down the stretch. Now he turns to a morning tee time to try to take advantage of the best of the tough conditions. He was someone I added mid-round at a slightly lower number because I liked what I saw from his ball striking early, and I feel these conditions suit his game. He’s a buy for me at an extended number with a chance to put things together for a low number tomorrow.
Are you looking for a safe, reliable, trustworthy sportsbook? Check out our ratings of the best sportsbooks and their current sign-up offers for new customers.