3 clues the betting markets are telling us about the 2018 Masters
Stan Badz/PGA Tour
Betting exchanges are a relatively new addition to the world of sports, but you’ve probably heard of them by now. To explain them simply, they’re a bit like the stock market for sports. Instead of betting against a bookmaker, the public can either offer bets to other people, or take bets that other people are offering at agreed upon prices.
What’s really great about betting exchanges is how transparent they are. You can see both sides of the bet, which means you can look at the “market” for any given player. And if you can understand the market around players—especially heading into certain events—you can garner clues about the future from a host of avid golf fans. That doesn’t mean they’re always right, of course. The beauty of sports is that their ability to surprise everybody at a moment’s notice. But it does provide general predictions from from a bunch of people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
So what’s the market telling us right now, as we inch closer to the Masters? I consulted Betfair, the world’s largest betting exchange, to answer that question.
1. Tiger’s comeback is for real.
Right from the start last December at the Hero World Challenge, there has been a lot of hype around Tiger Woods’ most recent comeback. But according to Betfair users, it’s not without cause. Tiger’s price to win the 2018 Masters heading into the year was hovering over 70/1, but a series of good finishes— including his T-2 at the Valspar Championship on Sunday—people have been snapping up those bets so quickly that the price has plummeted to around 13/1, among the lowest in the field. Given the way it has leveled off recently, it suggests that Tiger fans don’t need anymore evidence that this comeback is for real. Those who were looking for it have already bought into it, so if you’re a value bettor looking at Tiger’s chances at a fifth green jacket, you’ve probably missed the boat.
2. Dustin Johnson remains the clear favorite.
Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the biggest names to see their early-season prices drop heading into the Masters, but the markets agree Dustin Johnson is still the man to beat. The World No. 1, who missed the Masters last year when he hurt fell and hurt his back on the eve of the tournament, is the favorite at 10/1, a price he’s been sitting at since the start of the season. There’s been a recent uptick of action on both sides of the bet—something to be expected as the tournament gets closer—but barring another freak injury, he’ll almost certainly remain the tournament favorite.
3. No love for the Big Three.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy have combined for 10 top-10s in 20 starts at the Masters, with six top-fives and Spieth claiming the sole victory. Yet the betting markets aren’t convinced any of them will slip on the green jacket in 2018. All three have seen their prices increase heading into the tournament. It’s particularly the case for Day, despite the fact he’s finished T-11, T-11, 1, T-2 in his four starts this season (though, to be fair, there are injury concerns). Spieth’s price increase is the most notable (see chart below). At one point in the season, the 2015 champ had the best odds in the field (7.5/1), but now hovers around 15/1. Some might see value there, but as far as the market’s concerned, they’re not buying into the big three in 2018.