The Masters Tournament: How to Bet, Tips and Betting Markets
Take a look at our in-depth guide to the first major championship of the golfing year – the annual visit to the glorious Augusta National.
How Does The Masters Work?
The Masters Tournament (more commonly known as The Masters) is one of the four tournaments in the golfing year that are known collectively as the major championships.
They are the four-event that define a golfer’s career. Some very fine performers have failed to win a major and it is a gap in their CV that prevents them from being discussed among the elite in history – such is the importance of these tournaments.
The British Open is the oldest major of them all (initiated in the 19th century) and both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship are over 100 years old, but The Masters was first played in 1934.
It is the first major to be played every year, usually in the second week of April (not counting 2020 when Covid forced it into November) and it effectively begins the golfing summer.
It is an invitation-only tournament, governed by the Augusta National Golf Club, but the best players in the world always play.
It is also notable for having the smallest field of all the majors. The other three have 156 players; the Masters usually around half that.
The host course is known throughout the world as a spectacular venue and one with very distinct nature.
The same could be said of the club and tournament.
It might be the youngest major, but it has more traditions than the other three combined.
They add to the fascination of one of sport’s, not just golf’s, greatest events.
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The great amateur golfer Bobby Jones always dreamed of of having his own course and a tournament to host on it.
After he won the Grand Slam in 1930 he purchased land in Augusta, Georgia, created a course with the famed architect Alister MacKenzie, and inaugurated The Masters with the banker Clifford Roberts.
The club opened in 1933 and the first Masters was played a year later, initially known as ‘The Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
It became known as ‘The Masters’ in 1939 before growing in popularity and stature in the post-war years.
It was in this period that the tournament acquired major status (with the PGA Championship) alongside the British and U.S. Opens.
The Great Masters Traditions
Perhaps the best known of these is the awarding of a Green Jacket, rather than a trophy, to the winner. It was first officially awarded in 1949.
Only the reigning champion can take his jacket from the clubhouse – the rest must be stored in the locker room.
The defending champion always helps the new champion into his green jacket, first in a televised ceremony in the Butler Cabin and then again on the 18th green in front of fans.
Throughout the tournament, any golfer completing an eagle (two-under-par for any hole) wins a pair of crystal goblets.
On Tuesday night the previous year’s winner hosts the Champions’ Dinner. All past winners are invited to a meal cooked by the staff from a menu that reflects the host’s tastes and/or heritage.
Wednesday always witnesses a Par-3 Contest on the club’s nine-hole short course. It is a very popular event with players often inviting family, friends, and sometimes celebrities, to caddie for them.
Famously, no one has completed the double of winning both events. In fact, it is now deemed a curse to win the Wednesday pre-amble.
The tournament begins on Thursday morning with an honorary opening tee shot.
In 2022 Tom Watson will join the long-standing participant’s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
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Masters Past Champions
The first winner in 1934 was Horton Smith and he was followed by Gene Sarazen, whose victory charge was fuelled by an albatross (a two on a par-5) christened “the shot heard around the world”.
Smith became the first multiple winner in 1936 and from then on the greats in the games have triumphed more than once at Augusta.
In the 1940s and 50s, Ben Hogan won twice, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demarret three times each.
Arnold Palmer bested them by landing four wins before his mantle as best in the world was overtaken by Jack Nicklaus whose first win came in 1963 and his last, at the age of 46, in 1986 (that is still considered the greatest Masters final day of them all and it was his sixth tournament win).
The final years of the 20th century saw protracted success for international golfers: Gary Player won three times, Severiano Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal twice, Sir Nick Faldo three times.
In 1997, Tiger Woods played his first Masters as a professional and got off to a terrible start but recovered the thrash the field by an astounding 12 strokes. He would go on to win another four Green Jackets, including an emotional one in 2019, his first major for 11 years and almost certainly his last.
Two other Americans joined him as multiple winners in the 21st century. Phil Mickelson’s three wins were expected, Bubba Watson’s two were rather more surprising.
Home of the Masters – Augusta National Golf Club
The golf course is no mere backdrop at The Masters.
Right from the start of the week, when the players make their way up Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse, the stunning scenery has an enormous wow factor.
The layout is famously undulating and the fairways sweep between thick trees towards lightning-fast greens.
The early holes on the back nine are known as Amen Corner, a fearsome stretch, and each hole is named after a tree or shrub. For example, the first is Tea Olive and the famous par-3 12th is Golden Bell.
How Do Players Qualify for the Masters?
In those early years, the invitees were often just friends and associates of Jones.
Now the club has a set of criteria that allows the field to be both elite and world-class.
Winners of the premier professional golf tournaments, the world’s top 50 ranked performers, past champions, and winners of top amateur events are sent a card inviting them to the course in early April.
Are Female Caddies Allowed at The Masters?
Yes. Swede Fanny Suneson even won the Masters on the bag of Sir Nick Faldo.
For years only local caddies were permitted in the tournament, but that changed in 1983.
How to Bet on the Masters?
The obvious starting point is the tournament result: you can back a player to win, to place (top five, top ten, etc.) or each way (half the stake on the win, half on the place).
Beyond that, there are a number of other alternatives.
First Round Leader is a very popular market, as are group options: Top American or Top European, for example.
You can also back one player over another in 72-hole and 18-hole match bets which are mythical contests in the sense that the players don’t know they have been pitted against one another.
In each round, there will also be two or three ball contests relating to the official tee times groupings.
This is a tournament in which research will pay dividends.
Some of the past champions will use their wiles to plot their way around the course while more youthful playing partners find themselves confounded or overwhelmed by the experience.
Down the years Freddie Couples and Bernhard Langer have been perfect examples of veterans getting one over the youngsters in First Round Leader and two or three-ball matches.
Ante-post Betting on The Masters
You will be able to bet on the next Masters within hours of the last one finishing and these ante-post markets will remain open all year.
Real value can be captured this way but also beware that the each-way terms tend to be more restrictive.
In the week of the tournament itself, books are hungry for golfing punters and also wider sports fans.
Big offers will be available, plus great place terms. Hunt around and get the best terms you can find.
Important Trends at The Masters
A number of patterns have emerged down the years which have become vital reading for punters.
Two famous ones are that only three men have ever successfully defended the title (Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods) and Fuzzy Zoeller (in 1979) was the last debutant to win.
Typically, the winner is ranked in the world’s top 30, has played at least three times in the Masters, made the cut in the previous edition, and has landed a top-five finish that season.
Why is Augusta National Itself Important for Betting?
The course is very demanding and knowledge of the test is essential before placing a bet.
Long-hitting is a help from the tee, not least because with every passing year the tee boxes are pushed backward, but finding the fairway is not overly demanding.
The fairways are wide-ish and there is no real rough to speak of.
But the second shots are a true test: The greens are extremely sloping and very, very fast.
Those slopes will often funnel the ball either towards the hole, or a long way from it.
Players with deep experience of the land often have an advantage.
Because of the lack of rough around the greens, and those super-fast speeds, the short game is very difficult. Chipping needs to be delicate and putting full of courage.
It is a course that rewards bravery, but it also quickly destroys the foolhardy.
Tips for the 2023 Masters
Let’s remind ourselves of those trends: not the defending champion (Scottie Scheffler) or a debutant, but in the world’s top 30, played the Masters three times and played all four rounds in the 2022 tournament.
Sungjae Im looks like he is set to hang around the top of the world game and he has now played three Masters Tournaments, finishing tied second in 2020 and tied eighth in 2022 (when leading after 18 holes and tied second at halfway).
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]