The Masters is by far the most popular and closely watched golf tournament of the year. That means that it is also the most popular for betting. Leading up to the Masters every little detail about the competitors is analyzed from every possible angle. One of the more interesting factors to look at is how the players choose to get ready for the tournament. Some guys will play right up to the Masters in an attempt to gain momentum heading in. Some guys will play through March before taking a week or two off before the Masters. The most interesting cases, though, are the ones who choose to head into the tournament after taking a month or more off. That doesn’t seem like a great idea, but each year there are a couple of high level players who take that approach. The challenge for bettors is to determine whether the player is going to benefit from that long break, or whether it will be an issue that will limit the golfer’s ability to play his best. Before making your picks, here are eight factors for PGA handicappers to consider when a golfer announces he’ll be taking a break heading into the Masters:
What has he done in the past? – This one is straightforward and simple for the bettor. If the golfer is preparing for the Masters in the same way that he has in the past then there is no reason to be concerned. If the situation is different from their typical approach, though, then there are probably reasons to be concerned – or at least to explore the situation further.
Do they need a rest? – Sometimes PGA bettors can see from the demeanor and performance of a player that they just need to get away from the course for a while. It’s as if they are burnt out and need a chance to recharge, fix the bad habits that have crept into their play, and get focused again. If a player is in that state then a break isn’t going to hurt them – or at least the negative impact of the rest should be more than made up for by the time away from the course.
How well do they return from rest? – To get a sense of how ready the golfer will be in this case you can look back to other times when they have returned from an extended rest. It could be at the start of a season, or after a month or more off. Did the player have rust that he needed to work off in those cases, or did he return as sharp as he is capable of playing? Beyond just looking at how he finished on the leaderboard it is worth looking at the statistics he posted in these situations as well. Was his driving as strong in his first tournament back? How about his putting? Did the golfer struggle with accuracy relative to his normal performance?
What has their recent form been? – Bettors can get a sense of why a golfer may have needed a rest by looking at their form right before that rest. If they had been playing poorly then they could have needed to recharge. If they had been playing particularly well then they could feel confident in their game so they aren’t worried about what impact the rest could have on their game.
How is their health? – Are they taking a break because they want to or because their body is telling them that they have to? If injuries have sidelined them then that can be a real concern in their return – especially if the injury is a knee, shoulder, or something else especially important to a golf swing. You need to look at how likely they are to return in good health, and how they have handled a return from injuries in the past.
Are they skipping any favored tournaments? – Some golfers have tournaments in which they are particularly comfortable and in which they play particularly well on a consistent basis. Golfers don’t like to skip those tournaments, so when they do it is a sign that something worth looking into is happening. If one of those tournaments falls when the player will be on the sideline then it could be a sign that the player has some good reason to take his break. In most cases that is a good reason to be concerned.
How will the media respond? – There are some golfers that the media is totally fixated on – they report every move and speculate on every decision. There are many other golfers – even successful ones – who operate mostly under the radar. The more coverage a golfer gets the more the public is likely to be aware of the break he took, and the more they are likely to read into it. By understanding how the media is covering the situation bettors can get a sense of how the public will react, and where the value may be as a result.
How have they performed at the Masters in the past? – If a golfer has not had a lot of success in the past at Augusta then he may just be looking to shake things up to change his luck. If the player has had success in the past without taking a break, though, then the decision to take a break could be more concerning for the bettor.