Xander Schauffele is one of Mike Kern's picks to win The Masters, 2021.
Xander Schauffele is one of Mike Kern's picks to win The Masters, 2021.Associated Press photo / John Amis

Bet The Masters: Mike Kern Likes Xander Schauffele, Cam Smith, Lee Westwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick

The Masters starts Thursday morning from Augusta National.

It’s a tradition unlike any other. And this year, it’s actually being played in April once again.

The Masters is usually the major that golf fans look forward to the most. A, because it’s the first one of the season. And B, because it’s held at the same revered cathedral in Augusta every time.

Bryson DeChambeau is the favorite, at 9-1. He of course won the U.S. Open at Winged Foot last year but then finished 34th at the November Masters. He will try to overpower the course. And maybe he can.

Dustin Johnson, who shot a record 20-under here six months ago, is also 9-1. But he’s been 40-some and 50-some in his last two stroke-play events. And he didn’t play well in the match play. What that means who knows. Only three players have ever won this back-to-back. The last was Tiger, nearly two decades ago.

Justin Thomas is 10-1. He’s gotten better in each of his four Masters appearances, and was fourth in November. But nobody has won the Players Championship and a green jacket in the same year. Just putting it out there.

Jon Rahm, whose wife just delivered their first baby, is 11-1, along with Jorden Spieth. Rahm has yet to win a major, and would obviously be a great storyline. Spieth did win last week. Only two guys have done that and then won the Masters the next week. But he did win it in 2015, and nearly won it three other times. And he’s been playing well for the last month or so, after a prolonged slump.

Rory McIlory is 16-1. He hasn’t been playing well. He blew a lead here in 2011, and has been trying to complete his career grand slam by winning here since 2014.

Patrick Cantlay is 20-1. He’s finished no worse than 15th in his four stroke-play starts this year.

Xander Schauffele is 22-1. He’s been second eight times since his last win at the start of 2019. He was second here in 2019, and has contended in a lot of majors recently, most notably at the U.S. Open.

Brooks Koepka is 25-1. He’s coming off a knee surgery, so who knows? He was second here in 2019 too, one behind Woods.

Daniel Berger is 33-1. He missed out qualifying for the November Masters, even though he was playing more than well enough at the time. So that would be a good storyline also.

There are five others at 33-1, including Collin Morikawa, who is the only player other than Tiger to have won a major and a world golf championship event. And Cameron Smith, who tied for second in November and fifth in 2018. The Aussie has a fourth this year and was top 20 at the Players.

Matthew Fitzpatrick is 40-1. He has six wins in Europe. His best finish here was a tie for seventh. He’s made every cut since 2016. And he’s had four top 11 finishes recently.

Lee Westwood is 45-1. He did almost win the Arnold Palmer and the Players. He’s never won a major, but he’s been close in a few. Players his age usually don’t win them.

There are others. Bubba Watson is 80-1. He’s a two-time champ. Louis Oosthuizen, who lost in a playoff the first time Bubba won, is 70-1. Ditto Adam Scott, who won it in 2013. Jason Day, who almost won it a couple of times, is 50-1. Justin Rose, a two-time runner up, is 90-1. Three-time champ Phil Mickelson is 150-1. And they’re all that for a reason.

OK, here goes. Last week I not only had the winner, Spieth, at 11-1. I also had Charley Hoffman at 30-1, and he came in second. He also paid 7-1 for his top five, which I told you to play. Matt Kuchar, at 50-1, just missed a top 10, which would have gotten you even more. Every week should be that productive.

The Picks

You can make a case for most of the faves. I have Dustin Johnson in my yearlong pool, so that usually isn’t good. I’m never sure what to make of Bryson DeChambeau, good or otherwise. I can’t play Rory McIlroy, off recent form. I could go with Jordan Spieth, and wouldn’t fault anyone who does. Same with Justin Thomas, who I think is due to add his second major. Jon Rahm I’m just not sure about. He could play great, or maybe everything that’s happened in his life will just be a little too much.

That being said, I’m going to go with Xander Schauffele, at 22-1. I just think he’s going to give you a real good effort, and you’re getting some more value. Never a bad thing. Except of course if he misses the cut or something. He’s also 5-1 for a top five, which is worth an insurance back-up. If I was going to tell you to go with any of the others near the top I would say Justin or Jordan.

What I will do is throw out a few from the next tier, as I always do. I’m looking at Cameron Smith at 33-1 and Matthew Fitzpatrick at 40-1. Both will also get you something decent back for a top five or a top 10. So you might want to throw something on that as well.

Again, with the Masters I’m more into just sitting back and enjoying. But having a horse in the race is a bonus. I might also go with Lee Westwood. A few bucks to win, just in case, but more on a top five at 8-1 and half that for a 10.

And remember, instead of trying to pick the winner you could just take two or three of the top guys and bet them to get a top 10 at short odds. It’s not my style, but with some guys it’s hard not to see them having a good tournament, and you might even hit on more than one. Just a thought. If you’re willing to take that chance you could just pick one to get a top 10 and be satisfied with getting back even money if you’re right. Me, I’d rather be rooting for someone at bigger odds to come through. It’s harder, but more fun. And things don’t really start until the back nine on Sunday, right?

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