Just going to be honest with you upfront and say I had barely heard of PGA Tour golfer Jim Herman before he won last week's final tune-up for the Masters, the Houston Open.
But from what I've read about the 38-year-old journeyman who used to work for Donald Trump as a PGA professional and teaching pro, I'm happy for him. Herman, ranked 191st in the world at the start of the week, got his first win in his 106th start on the Tour. He chipped in for birdie on the 16th on Sunday to take the lead for good. He closed with a 4-under 68 and a one-shot victory over Henrik Stenson. And Herman earned the final spot in this week's Masters. Guy had failed to keep his Tour card in each of his first three seasons (2011, 2013, 2014).
"I never thought it was possible," said Herman with tears in his eyes Sunday. He had just five previous Top-10 finishes with a best of T4 at last year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Herman is the eighth first-time winner on Tour this season and the oldest to get his first.
Obviously I didn't pick Herman to win last week. I threw a few bucks on Phil Mickelson. but my main bet was on Patrick Reed. Lefty finished T13, so I also missed him on a Top 10. But I got Stenson at +120 and Reed at +200. Ditto Stenson at -110 over Dustin Johnson (-120), Reed (-110) over Mickelson (-120) and Charl Schwartzel (-105) over Louis Oosthuizen (-125). So not too bad.
This week is the Super Bowl of golf and easily the most-wagered tournament in the United States, the Masters at storied Augusta National, a course I've had the pleasure to visit but unfortunately not play. Sadly, Tiger Woods couldn't make it back from his back surgery to tee it up for the first time this season at his favorite tournament. But his agent said Woods would play on Tour at some point this year. Another former winner, 56-year-old Fred Couples, had to pull out with back problems. Believe it or not, he might have contended here even at that age. Since turning 50, Couples had five Top-20 finishes at Augusta, including sixth place in 2010.
Thus the field is just 89 this week, the lowest number at the Masters since 2002. The two big storylines have to be whether Jordan Spieth can repeat -- and reclaim his world No. 1 ranking -- or if Rory McIlroy can complete the Grand Slam.
Spieth dominated last year in his first major win (followed two months late at the U.S. Open) by finishing at 18-under, four shots ahead of Mickelson and Justin Rose. That tied Tiger's record 18-under score set in 1997. Spieth also set the birdies record with 28 and the 54-hole and 36-hole scoring records in becoming the first wire-to-wire champ since Raymond Floyd in 1976. Spieth will play with Paul Casey and amateur Bryson DeChambeau the first two days. They tee off at 9:48 a.m. Thursday. McIlroy is in the last group Thursday at 2:01 p.m. with Martin Kaymer and Bill Haas.
Golf Odds: Masters Betting Favorites
The Bovada favored role at +650 goes to Aussie Jason Day, who plays for the first time since taking back the No. 1 ranking. Of course he also enters on a two-tournament winning streak, taking the Match Play and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Day has been close here twice: a third in 2013 and T2 in 2011. I always worry about his health, though. Tiger in 2001 is the last to make the Masters his third straight win
McIlroy is +800. Of course he should have won here in 2011 before imploding on the back-nine Sunday. He was fourth last year and eighth in 2014.
Spieth is +900. He was second in 2014 in his only other start at Augusta. Last year he joined Jimmy Demaret (1940), Herman Keiser (1946) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) as the only players to win a Masters in only his second appearance.
Bubba Watson is +1000 and Adam Scott +1100. Augusta obviously suits Watson's game as he won in 2012 & 2014. Scott won here in 2013 and just had two wins on the Florida Swing, although he didn't play quite as well in the two events after those.
Golf Odds: Masters Expert Betting Picks
There are hundreds of prop options this week, so I recommend you go see for yourself. You can also bet on a Top-5 or Top-20 finish, but I'll stick with my Top 10s. And I like McIlroy (-162), Watson (-110) and Mickelson (+125). Head-to-head, go with McIlroy (-110) over Day (-120), and McIlroy (-120) over Spieth (-110). I like Watson (-120) over Scott (-110), and Watson (-130) over Rickie Fowler (even). Go Rose (-125) over Oosthuizen (-105), Mickelson (-120) over Stenson (-110), and Sergio Garcia (-105) over Zach Johnson (-125).
For top senior, I like former champion Bernhard Langer (+225) over Vijay Singh (also +225). Go Schwartzel (+150) as top South African, red-hot Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+450) as top debutant, Danny Willett (+350) as top Englishman, McIlroy (+120) as top Great Britain and Ireland player, Sergio (+300) as top continental European and Watson (+450) as top American. Ditto Watson at +275 as top former winner.
I'm not picking an individual winner, although I think it will be Bubba. I'm going Watson, McIlroy, Spieth and Day at +130 against the field (-170).
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