Is it really true nobody remembers who finished second? The reality is it’s sometimes tough to forget, especially for those who bet on golf and have a twisted affinity for Tony Finau.
A case can be made that Finau is currently the best player on the PGA Tour who’s never won a major. He’s just desperate to win a tournament, any tournament, and his empty-handed betting supporters are becoming a thinning herd.
With the Masters looming in early April, Finau is in exceptional form and must be considered a contender at Augusta National. “Top Ten Tony” often contends but rarely wins. Since his lone PGA Tour win at the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, Finau has been a top-10 finisher 37 times, including 10 runners-up worldwide.
He’s too talented not to win, yet he frustratingly finds ways not to win. Circa Sports is offering Finau at 40-1 odds to win the Masters, and it’s tempting to take the bait.
“Finau makes a lot of sense,” said Brady Kannon, host of VSiN’s “Long Shots” golf betting show. “You have to figure he’s going to be there again.”
Unlike horse racing, golf futures have no win-place-show wagering options. You either win or lose, though you could bet on Finau to finish in the top 10. In 2019, when Tiger Woods won at Augusta, Finau tied for fifth two strokes back. In 2018, he tied for 10th.
In Sunday’s suspenseful final round at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, Finau fired a 64 for the lowest score of the day and forced a playoff with Max Homa. But Finau (30-1) again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, missing a 7-foot putt to clinch, and Homa (70-1) won on the second extra hole.
Still, the depressing result is a positive indicator for Finau as he looks ahead because players who thrive at Riviera Country Club typically fare well at Augusta.
“It’s one of the wildest correlations on tour,” Kannon said. “Both courses make you work your ball in both directions. You have to be able to hit all of your shots, and you have to be very creative around the greens. I don’t think you see more similarities than those two courses. One of the things about Augusta, and it’s similar to Riviera, is you have to play five or six times to get experience. It’s a tough puzzle to figure out.”
Finau has figured out each course, but he must overcome the psychological hurdle of being the bridesmaid instead of the champion.
“I just couldn’t bet Finau,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I don’t think he’s putting well enough to win at Augusta. I would only take a monster price on him, not what’s offered.”
The price is always important when betting golf futures. Kannon said he has played a few Masters futures simply by targeting higher-than-market prices. He has long-shot bets on Matthew Fitzpatrick (100-1), Francesco Molinari (125-1) and Jason Kokrak (170-1). Fitzpatrick and Molinari finished in the top 10 at Riviera, where Kokrak was near the top of the leaderboard Saturday before fading.
Dustin Johnson, who won his first green jacket in November, is the Masters favorite at + 735 at Circa. Jon Rahm is the second choice at 15-1. Rahm and Johnson each recorded top-10 finishes at Riviera, which marked the end of the West Coast swing.
As the PGA Tour leaves California and turns east to Florida, it’s a good time to search for value on the Masters futures board.
It’s too late to buy low on Jordan Spieth, who has an impeccable track record at Augusta. Spieth was priced in the 60-1 range before his recent revival moved the odds to 25-1.
Woods, recovering from his fifth back surgery in December, was posted at 80-1 before a Tuesday morning car crash near Los Angeles put his golf future in jeopardy. Fortunately, he did not suffer life-threatening injuries, and hopefully he will return to competitive play someday, but he will be missed at this Masters.
There are plenty of talented, young players capable of leading the sport that Tiger carried for the past two decades.
Kannon is optimistic about Justin Thomas (17-1) and Patrick Cantlay (30-1). There’s plenty to like about Cantlay, who finished three strokes behind Woods at Augusta two years ago and was in the hunt at Riviera last weekend. Thomas posted his Masters-best fourth-place finish in November.
“You have to try to time the guys who are going to peak at the right time,” Kannon said. “Thomas is on a progressive trend at Augusta, and the timing could be right come April when hopefully he’s peaking.”
Xander Schauffele (22-1) and Jason Day (60-1) are intriguing options. In Woods’ 2019 win, Schauffele tied for second with Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Day has a solid history of success at Augusta, where the Australian tied for fifth two years ago.
Cameron Smith (70-1) is another Australian long shot to watch. Smith, off a fourth-place finish at Riviera, chased Johnson before settling for a tie for second at Augusta in November. He also tied for fifth at the 2018 Masters.
But nobody remembers who finished second or fifth, right? Finau backers beg to differ.