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THE phrase “Anyone can win it” is repeated ahead of every final round at Augusta National, a Masters mantra which any suspicion of is deemed as sacrilege and yet Art Wall Jr. was the last man to slip his arms inside a green jacket from outside the top 10 with 18 holes to play. And when did that happen? In 1959 (yes: nineteen fifty-nine).


Of course, if or when the trend is unbroken, common wisdom will have accidentally downplayed an enormous achievement before it’s even happened. The narrative will be “we always said anything can happen” instead of “bloody hell, that’s an absolutely outrageous effort”. 


Will it happen this year, however? It feels unlikely. The World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler leads on 7-under through the first three rounds and while he has twice gone through stretches of rather wasteful golf, he was also mightily impressive in regaining an advantage late on Saturday. 


He leads Collin Morikawa by one, Max Homa by two, debutant Ludvig Åberg by three, Bryson DeChambeau by four and Xander Schauffele, Cam Davis and Nicolai Hojgaard by five. Ben An, Cameron Smith, Cameron Young and Tommy Fleetwood are a further shot back sharing ninth on 1-under.

Let’s take a deep dive ahead of tonight’s action (the first of those contenders tees off at 18:35).


The stats that matter


If the top 10 is the long list then the current top five should be the shortlist because in the last 30 years only three winners were not tied second or better after 54 holes – and the exceptions were tied fourth and two back, tied fourth and three back, and tied fifth and three back. Only five of those 30 winners didn’t play in the final group. And only two of the last 30 winners went backwards in the third round and both did so by only one spot on the leaderboard.


The stats that don’t matter


According to an email I received last week, the average weight of the Masters champions is 183lbs, the average height 5’10”, 57% of them went to university, the most common US State winner is Texan, 77% wore a polo shirt in the final round, 54% had a baseball cap on their head was white and Pisces has been the most successful horoscope sign.


The final round does funny things to golfers


Although leaders and their closest challengers have an excellent record, there have been many unfortunate Sunday stories. Most famously, of course, Greg Norman led by six in 1997 and shot 78. But the year before Brian Henninger shared the lead and carded 76. In 2003 Jeff Maggert led before scoring 75, a year later Chris Dimarco shared the lead and added 76. Stuart Appleby and Brandt Snedeker both had 75s when leading in 2007 and 2013 respectively. More recently Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka were thinking of glory before slipping with 74 and 75. You’ve got to feel for Justin Rose. In the last 30 years he’s the only Masters 54-hole leader or co-leader to break 70 in the final round and not win (in 2017). 


The leader


Everyone knows that defending champions struggle at Augusta but Scheffler would become the seventh golfer to win for a second time a year after his failed defence. It’s also true that every Masters tournament in a year ending with a “4” has been won by a golfer who was, or would become, a multiple Masters winner.


The rookie


Who doesn’t know that since the 1930s the only winning Masters debutant was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979? It’s less well-known what remarkable circumstances he triumphed in. He cruised through two rounds, was six shots back and tied fourth after 54 holes, and still four back of the lead in a tie for fourth when he left the 16th green. The leader, Ed Sneed, finished bogey-bogey-bogey. Tom Watson couldn’t find a birdie, Jack Nicklaus dropped a shot, and Zoeller birdied 17 to make a play-off he won. It was a brilliant effort but in pouncing very late he had very little time to think and over-think about his task. Åberg will have faced more questions, from others and himself, than Zoeller did. On the other hand, the Swede is one of the most accomplished rookies to tee it up in the Masters.


Who will win it?


Let’s be brutal and use history which means focussing on the top five. Homa is having the best major week of his career and will land a first Masters top 40 in his fifth start. He’s played two Sundays before and carded 78 both times. He will, hopefully, break that number today but he has dropped two spots on the leaderboard and history doesn’t like that. DeChambeau is also out having dropped four spots to fifth and Aberg, although mighty impressive, goes too because of his rookie status. Scheffler is the worthy favourite, Morikawa could buzz around him and history tells us there’s a good chance one of them will struggle. The call here is that the prices are right but many will fancy Morikawa can pinch it.


Final round two-ball treble at 6/1


The curse of defending has hurt Jon Rahm but he has a good Sunday record with six straight sub-par scores, five in the 60s. He’s up against Tony Finau who did thrash a brilliant final round 66 on debut but hasn’t broken par in five Sundays since. 


Will Zalatoris loves the course and has fond memories of finishing second and sixth in his two previous starts. His playing partner is Tyrrell Hatton who openly doesn’t like the course. He did card a final round 68 to finish T18th in 2021, but his last two final round scores have been 80-76 and he dined on a double bogey at 18 last night.


Finish with Cameron Young up against Tommy Fleetwood. The American is solid at landing a major championship top 10 when the opportunity arises, but the key is the Englishman’s final round record at Augusta: this is his seventh and he’s broken 74 just once (with a 73). The treble pays a tiny touch under 6/1 in the round match-ups (tie no bet).


Matt’s Best Bets – Final round best 18 hole score – Patrick Reed each way


The 2018 champion has a good record in the final round, with three of his last five being sub-70. He’s also got four scores in the 60s in his last six US Open starts, has carded a 66 and a 67 on Sunday in the PGA Championship and a 67 at the Open. A couple of starts ago he also thrashed a final round 63 in Macau. It’ll be very different this Sunday but he’s a nice price. Split the stake: 50/1 for the low round and 12/1 for the top four.


Click here to view Final Round markets and back Matt’s 50/1 and 12/1 selections!


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