Was the Masters a sign of the future? Gamblers take note

Max Homa

Max Homa at the 2024 Masters.

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Did you throw optimism to the side and trust the numbers? Did you take Scottie Scheffler to win the Masters, despite the shortest odds we’ve seen from a favorite since the days of Tiger Woods? Did you reap those rewards or are you kicking yourself this week? 

It’s always a bit difficult for golf gamblers to bet on the favorite, particularly when the financial return gets as paltry as it has gotten with Scottie Scheffler. The 27-year-old just won for the third time this year after starting the week in the 4-to-1 betting range. Immediately, bookmakers marked him as a 5-to-1 favorite for next year’s Masters, and a 4.5-to-1 favorite for next month’s PGA Championship. If Scheffler beats the other 143 players in the field at Valhalla in Louisville, backers will only receive 4.5 times the value of their bet, or about half the typical payout for a favorite most weeks. 

Even though it seems hard to imagine anyone beating Scheffler right now, recent history tells us a few things. 1. That winning two majors in a season is damn hard. Only Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy have done it in the last 15 years. 2. Perhaps more importantly, recent Masters contenders have gone on to win major championships later that year. Don’t take our word for it. Check out the proof yourself:

2019 Masters: Brooks Koepka misses out on playoff (with Tiger Woods, no less) when his birdie putt on 18 wiggles away from the hole. He wins the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black a month later. 

2020 Masters: played in November, so the next major was … 

2021 Masters: Jon Rahm finishes T5 at Augusta National. He continues a torrid streak of form by finishing T8 at the PGA Championship, and then wins the U.S. Open two months later at Torrey Pines. 

2022 Masters: Cameron Smith pushes Scottie Scheffler all week long, and rinses his dreams of a green jacket in Rae’s Creek on Sunday. He finishes the 2022 Masters tied for sixth, but was the only player pushing Scheffler. He leans on his putter all week long, which becomes a sign of things to come as he shoots 64 on Sunday in St. Andrews to win the Open Championship in July.

2023 Masters: Brooks Koepka leads throughout the week, making headlines for his play and also his actions on the course. When he finishes tied for second and runner-up to Rahm, he swears to never think the way he did that week again. A month later, Koepka outlasts the field at Oak Hill and wins the PGA Championship by two. 

(Also receiving votes: Viktor Hovland, who was right there with Koepka and Rahm at the Masters, and pushed Koepka to the brink at the PGA Championship. Hovland’s ultimate prize was winning the FedEx Cup in August.) 

With that trend of prophetic performances in mind, what did the 2024 Masters tell us? It starts with the leaderboard. Those who were in contention last week: 

Ludvig Aberg. He’s playing great — has he ever not been playing great? — and pushed himself into contention on one of the stiffest tests we’ve ever seen at a Masters tournament. It felt like a U.S. Open at times. Even an Open Championship in the wind. Perhaps a sign of this coming summer. 

Max Homa. Homa had the crowd behind him at Augusta National, but he was still a newbie to the major championship spotlight. He has now experienced the gauntlet of emotions that is major-championship contention. Add it to the first top 10 in a major he experienced last summer at Hoylake and his path feels extremely linear. The next stop may be a trophy ceremony at Valhalla.

Collin Morikawa. Morikawa didn’t really jump onto anyone’s Masters radar until he birdied the first three holes on Saturday afternoon, pushing him into contention. Suddenly, we were all curious about this secret swing thought he had figured out with his caddie early in the week. Because he didn’t win, the swing thought is still considered a secret, but if it’s still carrying his game in a month, he’s probably worth a serious look. 

Bryson DeChambeau. Given his high success rate with his new caddie, Greg Bodine, and DeChambeau’s return to form these last eight months (he’s ranked 13th in the world, according to DataGolf) no one would be surprised if BDC takes another major championship sometime this year.

And for good measure, don’t forget Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman may not have a PGA Tour victory to his name, but he does have a very solid major championship record. He wasn’t exactly in contention this weekend, but he did slowly push himself into a tie for 3rd by the end of the week. If it is going to happen for him, this could be the year. 

So, how do you take those names and manage turning a profit from this Masters prophecy? Bet on all of them. They’ll all hold plenty of value, likely in the range of 16-to-1 to 30-to-1, at the year’s remaining majors. You’ll feel good about your chances every week they tee it up. If they all go major-less this year, that’s oh-fer-15. Chalk it up to bad luck and get started at next year’s Masters. If one of them claims the Wanamaker in a month, you’ll know who to thank.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.