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Spieth, McIlroy show early speed in Round 1 of Masters

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

April 5, 2018 10:18 PM

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Jordan Spieth is greeted at the 18th green after a 6-under 66, good for a first-round lead.
© USA Today Sports Images

Jordan Spieth continues his mastery of Augusta with a 6-under-par 66 in the first round. Only nine other golfers are within three strokes of the lead, though one of those is pre-tourney co-favorite Rory McIlroy. Updated odds, early stats, plus news from the NBA and MLB as we finish out the week in VSiN City.

Masters Golf: Is it already just a two-horse race?! Betting markets say Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are well clear of the field after one round
Though three-fourths of the 2018 Masters is left to be played, betting markets are already suggesting that Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy would win the event HALF the time given Thursday’s results. 

Spieth has already dropped down to odds around 2/1 overseas and in Las Vegas. McIlroy is around 5/1 depending on where you shop.

Let’s start with Betfair exchange prices from Thursday evening. This very liquid site allows gamblers to also bet “No,” that a player WON’T win the event. This helps pin down odds in a way that best approximate “true” odds. Here are the top six. Note that nobody besides Spieth or McIlroy is better than 18.5/1 to win. (Click here to see live “Bet All/Lay All” odds at the time you’re reading.)

Spieth: Risk 1 to win 2.15, risk 2.2 to win 1 that he’ll lose
McIlroy: Risk 1 to win 5.6, risk 5.8 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Stenson: Risk 1 to win 18.5, risk 19 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Kuchar: Risk 1 to win 18.5, risk 19 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Mickelson: Risk 1 to win 19, risk 20 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Fowler: Risk 1 to win 23, risk 24 to win 1 that he’ll lose

The market is assuming that most of the names near the leaderboard right now will slide back through the week. Tony Finau might be two strokes back at the moment. He’s still a longshot to wear the green jacket. Same for Charley Hoffman, who played his college golf at UNLV. Here’s a look just below the top six. 

Rose: Risk 1 to win 33, risk 41 to win 1 that he’ll lose
D. Johnson: Risk 1 to win 39, risk 49 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Finau: Risk 1 to win 39, risk 45 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Woods: Risk 1 to win 49, risk 54 to win 1 that he’ll lose
J. Thomas: Risk 1 to win 54, risk 64 to win 1 that he’ll lose
Hoffman: Risk 1 to win 59, risk 69 to win 1 that he’ll lose

In Las Vegas, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted out odds from that site early Thursday evening. 

Westgate’s Odds to Win 2018 Masters
Spieth: 2/1 (33% win equivalent)
McIlroy: 5/1 (17%)
Kuchar and Mickelson: 14/1 (7% apiece)
Stenson and Fowler: 16/1 (6% apiece)
Reed: 20/1 (5%)
Rose: 25/1 (4%)
D. Johnson, Woods, Finau, Leishman: 30/1 (3%)

You see that the first two are 50% to win. And, those odds are so close to the overseas exchanges that they give a true read. There’s still a house edge built into the mix, with the dozen golfers listed there adding up to 97% all by themselves. Sports books create a universe greater than 100% in their futures prices.

How did Spieth dominate the course? We grabbed his performance metrics from the ESPN stat page, along with a few other golfers. Let’s take a look…

Jordan Spieth (rankings out of 87 golfers)
Yards-per-Drive: #48
Driving Accuracy: #10
Greens in Regulation: #40
Putts-Per-Greens in Regulation: #8

Spieth isn’t a big bomber off the tee. You can get away with that on this course if you excel in other areas. Note that driving accuracy was a highlight, though it didn’t lead to a great ranking in greens in regulation. Putting was also a highlight. So…accuracy from the tee and with the putter overcame less than stellar distance and approaches. We were going to run Rory second. But, Matt Kuchar had such similar stat rankings to Spieth, and has a similar relationship with this course…we decided to go with him first. 

Matt Kuchar
Yards-per-Drive: #56
Driving Accuracy: #10
Greens in Regulation: #6
Putts-Per-Greens in Regulation: #1

Same story with relatively short drives (by field standards), but excellent accuracy and putting. Kuchar had the best day on the greens because he was there in regulation so often...then drained his putts. Kuchar is tied for second at 4-under. He knows this course extremely well, and is fully capable of sustaining high quality play for 72 holes. Henrick Stenson fits the same mold, and is one of the golfers three strokes back at 3-under.

Henrik Stenson
Yards-per-Drive: #57
Driving Accuracy: #22
Greens in Regulation: #19
Putts-Per-Greens in Regulation: #15

Just inches behind Kuchar in driving distance, but with an acceptable balance of getting the ball where it needed to be. Possibly a hidden indicator for a big weekend in that Stenson didn’t “overachieve” dramatically in any category. Kuchar may have trouble staying #1 in PPG-IR or #6 in greens in regulation. Stenson is in the hunt with a level of performance he can more easily maintain.

Rory McIlroy
Yards-per-Drive: #13
Driving Accuracy: #3
Greens in Regulation: #40 (tied with Spieth, others)
Putts-Per-Greens in Regulation: #22

Which of these things is not like the others? Rory was well above the other three in driving distance…then COMBINED that with the third best accuracy in the field. Wow! That’s a great day’s work on this course. This is what’s so tantalizing about his possibilities in the Masters. He can tame the beast from the tee. But, if those shots start to go wayward, the beast eats him pretty quickly. 

Plenty of time for other golfers to create some drama. But, if it does come down to Spieth and McIlroy as the market’s suggesting, these stats should add some context for you on the way to the green jacket ceremony. (ESPN’s stats through the weekend can be followed by clicking here for the leaderboard, then clicking on “Player Stats.” You can click on any category header to sort). 

NBA: Kyrie Irving out for season due to infection in injured knee
The Boston Celtics had hoped that Kyrie Irving would be able to return for the playoffs. But, doctors discovered an infection at the site of screws that were implanted after his patellar fracture back in 2015. Additional surgery is required. Irving won’t be able to return to action until next season. 

Soon after the news broke, Jeff Sherman of the Westgate tweeted out adjusted odds to win the East and the NBA. 

Odds to Win the East (Westgate)
Cleveland: even money (50% equivalent, up from 8/1 before announcement)
Toronto: 5/4 (44%, up from 7/5)
Philadelphia: 7/1 (13%, up from 8/1)
Boston: 20/1 (5%, down from 9/2)

You already know that sports books create a universe larger than 100% to represent a house edge. Basically a coin flip slightly weighted toward the Cavs to win the East.

Odds to Win the NBA for Eastern Contenders
Cleveland: 7/1 (up from 8/1)
Toronto: 12/1 (up from 15/1)
Philadelphia: 25/1 (up from 30/1)
Boston: 80/1 (down from 20/1)

Boston fell off the map, because few bettors believe the Celtics could run the table without Irving. We mentioned the team’s excellent defense yesterday in our Holy Trinity discussion. Irving’s awful on defense, so THAT won’t be an issue! But there aren’t enough scoring threats to run a gauntlet through the East brackets AND the Western champ. Minor tweaks for Boston’s potential playoff opponents. 

We talked about stat profiles of the Eastern powers Thursday. Let’s take a look at the top four in the West tonight. 

NBA: Studying key stat categories for the Western brackets
Heading into Thursday night action, the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers were the only three teams that had clinched playoff spots with four games to go. Utah eased its path with a win over the LA Clippers, and controls its own destiny for the #4 seed. 

Yesterday we ran Holy Trinity and three-point stats for the top four teams in the East. Let’s look at current seeds 1-4 (subject to change if Utah slumps) in the West today.

Holy Trinity (rankings out of 30 NBA teams)
Houston: #8 defense, #6 rebounding, #10 TO avoidance
Golden State: #5 defense, #9 rebounding, #28 TO avoidance
Portland: #9 defense, #4 rebounding, #5 TO avoidance 
Utah: #2 defense, #7 rebounding, #24 TO avoidance

They all play defense…they all rebound…but only Houston and Portland run clean offenses. Golden State will perform better than that in the playoffs, but does have a history of getting sloppy when trying to play to the crowd. Houston has the eye of the tiger now, and won’t be losing that any time soon. Utah is going to be a tough out at the very least because it has the best defense of that group on a per-possession basis…and is going to grab the missed shots it forces. Amazing how much “defense and rebounding wins championships” still looms over the playoff landscape at a time when everyone’s talking about fast pace and three pointers. 

Time for us to talk about three pointers. 

Holy Trey-nity: Three-Point Stats
Houston: 15.4 makes per game, 36.3% percentage, #1 emphasis
Golden State: 11.3 makes per game, 39.2% percentage, #15 emphasis
Portland: 10.4 makes per game, 36.8% percentage, #18 emphasis
Utah: 10.8 makes per game, 36.6% percentage, #10 emphasis

While Houston has the lowest raw percentage of the group (ranking #13 in the league), the Rockets are super-dangerous from behind the arc because of volume. They basically start every game with a 9-0 or 12-0 lead even against these other powers! Golden State will likely increase its emphasis and volume in the second round on as long as Steph Curry can come back at full strength. 

You may not have realized how well Utah performs from long range. The Jazz get a lot of media run for their defense. They’re in the upper third of the league in emphasis and success. Would be fascinating to see how the Jazz would perform in the Eastern brackets. 

There’s a lot to like about Portland. But there may not be enough there to truly scare the Warriors or Rockets if the Blazers make it out of the first round. So many teams KNOW how to win in the West!

The NBA postseason begins on Saturday, April 14.

Major League Baseball: Sluggish Thursday was almost a disaster for backers of the Magnificent 7
Well, it was actually just the Magnificent 4 on the field Thursday because the Dodgers, Indians and Astros all had the day off. Just a 2-2 performance as pricey favorites for the rest of the group, and it took a late rally for a huge favorite to avert disaster.

Let’s take ‘em in Nevada Rotation order…

NY Mets (plus 140) 8, Washington 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: New York 22, Washington 12
Starting Pitchers: DeGrom 6 IP, 1 ER, Strasburg 6 IP, 4 ER
Bullpens: NY Mets 3 IP, 0 ER, Washington 3 IP, 4 ER

Washington is still expected to win the NL East. But, the currently healthy New York Mets are off to a 5-1 start, with this result dropping the Nats to 4-3. Clear edges across the board for NYM. Bullpen wasn’t under much pressure with a big lead. Strasburg has a disappointing WHIP of 1.30 through two starts for Washington, with three home runs allowed. DeGrom’s been solid (ERA of 1.54) but hasn’t made it past the sixth inning yet. 

Chicago Cubs (-110) 8, Milwaukee 0
Total Bases Plus Walks: Chicago 24, Milwaukee 6
Starting Pitchers: Lester 6 IP, 0 ER, Suter 5 IP, 4 ER
Bullpens: Chicago 3 IP, 0 ER, Milwaukee 4 IP, 3 ER

Nice bounce back for Lester off the poor outing in Miami. Not much drama here, in the one game involving a power where the market expected there to be drama. A true blowout, with the host only managing six offensive bases on the evening. Cubs back to the .500 mark at 3-3. Brewers still lead them in the NL Central with a 4-3 first-week record. 

Boston (-230) 3, Tampa Bay 2 (in 12 innnings)
Total Bases Plus Walks: Tampa Bay 16, Boston 20
Starting Pitchers: Chirinos 5 IP, 0 ER, Price 7 IP, 0 ER
Bullpens: Tampa Bay 6.1 IP, 3 ER, Boston 5 IP, 2 ER

A pitchers’ duel was scoreless into the top of the eighth inning. Tampa Bay scored first on a 2-run homer by Matt Duffy. Rays carried that 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. A Red Sox rally extended the affair, with Boston plating the game winner three innings later to break the hearts of dog bettors. Tough one to lose at plus two dollars.  

Baltimore (plus 240) 5, NY Yankees 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: Baltimore 15, NY Yankees 15
Starting Pitchers: Cashner 6 IP, 1 ER, Tanaka 6.1 IP, 3 ER
Bullpens: Baltimore 3 IP, 1 ER, NY Yankees 2.2 IP, 2 ER

You can see that Baltimore did more with its offensive bases. Should have been a nailbiter, but wasn’t because of how offense clustered. Tanaka of the Yanks has an awesome WHIP of 0.73 in two starts, but 44% of his baserunners have scored. 

For the day, the magnificent were fortunate to go 2-2, with a loss of -2.2 units. Had Boston failed to rally, the popular favorites would have gone 1-3 with a loss of -5.7 units. Updating the Magnificent Seven for the season…

Magnificent Seven Records/Money
Houston: 6-1…plus around 4.5 units
Boston: 6-1…plus around 4.5 units
NY Yankees: 4-3…minus around half a unit
Washington: 4-3…minus around 1 unit
Chicago Cubs: 3-3…minus around 2.5 units
Cleveland: 2-4…minus around 3.5 units
LA Dodgers: 2-5…minus around 6.5 units

Currently only two teams in the black after the losses by the Yankees and Nats. A composite loss of about five units for the group, and a combined record of 27-20 that spiked a lot of parlays. Because Boston’s come-from-behind win was just by one run, that’s a 1-3 record Thursday against the -1.5 run line. The Magnificent Seven are now 21-26 laying -1.5 runs. 

Hope your weekend is in the black…and your Masters golf bets bring you green. Color commentary from VSiN City returns Monday.

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