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Final Masters Thoughts And 2018 RBC Heritage Picks

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Before the tournament, there seemed to be a consensus of about 10 different golfers that most picked to win the 2018 Masters. Most seemed to gravitate towards Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose. Other popular names were Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy. And there were even some popular longshots like Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren who seemed to be everyone’s under the radar darling to slip on the Green Jacket.

I consumed a lot of pre-tournament Masters coverage. And not once did I read or hear the name Patrick Reed – Masters Champion.

His odds before the tournament didn’t scream as an upset pick. By Thursday morning he was at 45/1 to win the tournament, which isn’t outlandish and is in the range of other recent winners like 55/1 Danny Willett or 50/1 Bubba Watson. But what caught everyone off guard was that he broke two traditional stereotypes about both The Masters and Patrick Reed himself:

1.Masters Winners Historically are “Horses for Courses”: Sure, you could draw a straight line that Patrick Reed went to Augusta State, so he must know the course and feels sentimental about the area. However, he probably knows Augusta Country Club way more than private, exclusive Augusta National, and anyone who has done a deep dive of his college golf days know there’s certainly no love lost between him and Augusta State. Besides, in four previous Masters, he had yet to shoot under 70 and missed the cut twice. He had shown zero form there.

2. Patrick Reed can’t (unwilling?) hit the ball left to right: Only those who have total command of their ball flight both from right-left and left-right can win the Masters. No one doubted how good of a ball striker Patrick Reed is on any shot he lined up for a draw. But for a while, to a fault, he would stubbornly over-rely on that shot even if a cut or fade would be desired. Starting at Bay Hill, Patrick Reed added a cut shot to his repertoire. I’m not exactly Butch Harmon, but his over-exaggerated helicopter follow through is not the textbook way of executing that shot. But he made it work! I thought at some point that awkward swing would catch up to him and cost him the tournament, and it did a bit on Sunday with some loose shots and problems with distance control. But he continued to trust that shot on Sunday and it ended up with him in the Green Jacket.

Don’t get me wrong, Patrick Reed is more than a worthy champion. In tough scoring conditions on Friday, he brought the course to its knees. And then on Saturday, in completely opposite weather conditions than the previous day, he showed that fire that made us love him on Ryder Cup squads and wielded a molten hot putter and short game. But instead of celebrating yet another young American golfer reaching the pinnacle of the sport, the general attitude in the aftermath has been…antipathy?

I’ll admit, I’ve fallen more into the lukewarm crowd when looking back at the 2018 Masters. But most seem to be more perturbed about Patrick Reed’s past and character. In their judging eyes, he doesn’t fit the ideal mold of a worthy representative and ambassador for the game of golf.

That’s not the case for me. The feeling I have coming out of The Masters is more of an unsatisfied nature. The final round felt more like a traditional moving day that occurs on Saturday with a tightening leaderboard to set up a dramatic Sunday. Sure, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler’s birdie bonanza’s on Sunday brought plenty of excitement. But as a preference, I want to come out of the Masters with the feeling that the winner firmly grabbed the Jacket on Sunday on the Back Nine. Instead, Patrick Reed scuffled for most of Sunday and caught some huge (lucky?) breaks. His putt on 3 looked like it would go 10 feet past the hole – instead, it was perfectly on line and went in for birdie. His approach on 13 came up woefully short and 9 times out of 10 it would have ended up in the tributary of Rae’s Creek – it stayed up and he saved par. And on the 17th green, Patrick Reed fired a laser beam towards the hole that looked like it’d go 12 feet past – it hit the pin and he finished up a 4-foot par putt. Every Masters winner gets a break at some point, but if those three shots go the opposite way he loses by 5 instead.

But consider this – would our perception of the 2018 Masters and Patrick Reed himself change if we obtained a time-bending artifact to switch Saturday and Sunday? Here’s how the final round would have looked using Sunday scores to begin Round 4, and play out the final round using Saturday’s results:

  • In this timeline, Jordan Spieth comes into the final round as the leader after a spectacular 64 on Saturday. The media is the Dennis Green to Spieth’s crowning. But Spieth gets off to a slow start, firing off a Front Nine 37 and ultimately blows his second 54 hole lead in three years. Now, instead of heralding Spieth’s comerback and wondering how many Green Jacket’s he’ll win, Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless are wondering if it’s now his haunted house and if he’s too broken to ever win there again (You know what? Thank god we were saved from these attrocious barrel fire takes on Monday).
  • Marc Leishman now becomes a factor after he overcomes a slow start on Saturday by birdieing five of his final seven holes. Even though he gets off to another slow start by the 5th hole he’s now only two strokes off the lead as Spieth comes back to the pack. Unfortunately, he never gets it going and limps home with a final round 73 to finish well back.
  • We still get the Rickie Fowler late charge as he cards a Final Round 65, and in this timeline, he now holds a share of the lead heading into the Back Nine. It feels more like he’s a credible threat to take home the Green Jacket than how it actually played out, and set up a dramatic final hole for him in which a birdie would send him to a playoff instead of needing Reed to blow it himself.
  • Most importantly is that Reed’s fiery magic now becomes an iconic Sunday Masters memory for everyone, and with his comeback, I’d imagine he’d have much more positive patron support. With a final round 66, it’s now palatable to accept that he “earned it” rather than survived to win. Also, his eagles on 13 and 15 and subsequent fist pumps now become the centerpiece of every Final Round highlight package that will be played for years to come.

To me, this would have been a more satisfying and memorable end to the 2018 Masters. Patrick Reed is hailed as a hero and the media feasts for a year about yet another Jordan Spieth choke at Augusta. Alas, this fun alternate universe only exists in this space. But true to form, Reed maintains his villain status in the eyes of most golf insiders – and that’s exactly the way he wants it.

RBC Heritage Picks

It’s always tough to be either the tournament before or after a major. But there’s not a more unfortunate tournament on the slate than the RBC Heritage as the tournament immediately following the greatest golf tournament in the world. There isn’t anything egregiously wrong with Harbour Town, and the Pete Dye-designed course is well liked by most PGA Tour professionals. For fans, though, it’s like going from a Ruth’s Chris to an Outback Steakhouse.

Obviously ,Augusta National is unique and in a class by itself, but Harbour Town is on the complete opposite end of the golf course spectrum. Most holes are tight – fairways are very narrow and if you’re offline off the tee you’ll be in the jail – literally. The first 15 holes are heavily guarded by thick, tall trees and even if you hit the fairway you could have your second shot obstructed by tall trees and low hanging branches.

The final three holes are the gems of the course. Hole 16 is a long Par 4 that bends almost 90 degrees to the left and is protected by a large tree in the middle of the fairway that the golfers will have to navigate around. Hole 17 is a Par 3 that plays out towards the bay and it’s bunkering position next to the water make it feel as if you’re playing on the beach. And 18 plays towards the famed Harbour Town lighthouse and requires two shots over water to the green. These play very well on television, however seeing pros navigate tight corridors through the woods for 3.5 hours can make it a tough watch.

The profile of golfer you’ll target for bets and DraftKings this week is a stark difference than the one you would have targeted at Augusta. Here, driving accuracy over distance is paramount to make sure you avoid tree trouble. Most golfers will be opting for iron or three wood off the tee instead of the driver this week. The course also boasts the smallest greens on the PGA Tour, so the ability to control their irons in both direction and distance control will be key to setting up birdie opportunities. And because the greens are so small, the contenders will have to have their A-game in the scrambling department.

(Man, you know who would do really well at a tight course that didn’t require the driver and commanded a great short game – Tiger Woods!)

Here’s who I like for this weekend (all odds courtesy of mybookie.ag):

The Favorites:

  • Dustin Johnson – 8.5/1, $12,000
  • Paul Casey – 14/1, $11,300
  • Matt Kuchar – 20/1, $10,800
  • Marc Leishman – 28/1, $10,300

I’m very interested to see how massive favorite Dustin Johnson plays at Harbour Town. This is an event that he normally skips but now that he’s sponsored by RBC he’s going to tee it up (AKA RBC is writing him a fat appearance fee check). He’s appeared twice in the event, missing the cut both times. Harbour Town handcuffs his overwhelming advantage off the tee due to its tight fairways, and even if he’s just a little off the line he’ll have too much tree trouble to score well. DJ also traditionally has a massive advantage at the Par 5’s, but two of them are easily reachable by almost all golfers, and the third is very difficult to get there in two. On the 588 yard 15th, the dogleg into the green doesn’t begin until 481 yards off the tee. Anyone who tries to cut the corner on their second has to contend not only with huge trees but also a large pond protecting the left side of the green and a narrow greenside bunker. Even the great Dustin Johnson will have trouble setting themselves up for eagle or birdie on this hole.

With the DraftKings values so top heavy and several tempting names between $7,500 and $8,500, I expect novices to have a lot of room in their budget and might opt to go with Dustin Johnson to try and anchor their lineup. But the course just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for him and I can see him mentally checking out and putting it on cruise control most of the weekend. Taking the position to fade the #1 golfer in the world is never an easy pill to swallow, but it’s a decision that might be plenty profitable by the end of the weekend.

Only four golfers are valued greater than $10,000 on DraftKings. Of the top favorites, I like Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar the best. There’s the risk that each will be fatigued after Augusta but both these guys are very precise with their irons and have tremendous short games to scramble for par. With a lot of flexibility in everyone’s budget this week, these two can be comfortably slotted in a lineup. They will be highly owned in DFS lineups, but they should fare quite well this weekend and have value in Tournament Matchup plays. For example, on mybookie.ag you can grab Paul Casey +120 and Matt Kuchar +155 over Dustin Johnson this week. I like the value in both of these plays as they should be better course fits.

Other Contenders

As mentioned previously, the golfers who historically fare well at Harbour Town are those who can hit the correct side of the fairway off the tee, possess precise irons to hit small greens and are adept scramblers. And, frankly, every golfer I’m going to recommend in DraftKings, longshot win bets and matchup plays are, well, pretty bland. There’s a reason why I tend to take a nice siesta during the telecast every year of this event, and it’s because it’s guys like these that tend to populate the top of the leaderboard. I just would write the same thing about each recommendation over, and over, and over. I can’t bore my readers like that, can I?! That’s why I’m going to save everyone the time and list out tiers of golfers based on DraftKings value and odds that caught my eye this week. I’ll also give you their 2018 rank in Strokes Gained Approach, Driving Accuracy and Scrambling Out Of Rough, respectively, to give you the right guys to target for profitable plays this weekend. With a top-heavy field and the overwhelming tournament favorite playing on a course that probably doesn’t fit his eye, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the winner ends up being well above 50/1.

2nd Tier Tournament Win Contenders

  • Webb Simpson – 33/1, $9,400: 27th, 40th, 4th
  • Adam Hadwin – 33/1, $8,100: 22nd, 59th, 48th
  • Emiliano Grillo – 40/1, $8,600: 64th, 14th, 76th
  • Kevin Na – 40/1, $8,200: 76th, 72nd, 1st
  • Zach Johnson – 50/1, $7,900: 10th, 63rd, 6th
  • Ryan Moore – 55/1, $8,500: 97th, 33rd, 10th

Long Shot Winners & Top 10/20 Plays

  • Matthew Fitzpatrick- 70/1, $7,600: No data, but one of the best iron players and short game players on European Tour. The profile fits Harbour Town
  • William McGirt – 75/1, $7,600: 48th, 84th, 116th
  • Chris Kirk – 100/1, $7,100: 21st, 61st, 60th
  • Patton Kizzire – 100/1, $7,300: 52nd, 159th (not having to use driver should help overcome this), 50th
  • Kelly Kraft – 110/1, $6,900: 94th, 69th, 76th
  • Austin Cook – 110/1, $7,200: 128th, 25th, 70th
  • Brian Gay – 140/1, $7,100: 77th, 59th, 24th
  • Ben Martin – 200/1, $7,200: 73rd, 53rd, 87th
  • Ryan Armour – 220/1, $7,200: 41st, 2nd, 107th

RBC Heritage DraftKings Lineup #1:

  • Paul Casey – $11,300
  • Ryan Moore – $8,500
  • Adam Hadwin – $8,100
  • William McGirt – $7,600
  • Patton Kizzire – $7,300
  • Kelly Kraft – $6,900

RBC Heritage DraftKings Lineup #2:

  • Brian Harman – $9,800
  • Kevin Kisner – $8,700
  • Emiliano Grillo – $8,600
  • Kevin Na – $8,200
  • Austin Cook – $7,200
  • Brian Gay – $7,100

RBC Heritage DraftKings Lineup #3:

  • Matt Kuchar – $10,800
  • Webb Simpson – $9,400
  • Zach Johnson – $7,900
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick – $7,600
  • Ben Martin – $7,200
  • Chris Kirk – $7,100

Note – Ryan Armour at $7,200 can easily be subbed into any one of these sample lineups

Golf analyst for SportsGamblingPodcast.com, providing insight on news and betting tips for the PGA Tour, as well as commentary and banter on the World of Sports. Follow him on Twitter @SteveSchirmer

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