Few weekends in the sporting calendar can match up to this second one in April. With the Grand National a racing priority, there is also the small matter of the Masters, the first golf major of the year. We’ve picked out a combination for a 259/1 double across the two events.
Will Zalatoris – 25/1 for The Masters (E/W 11 places with SkyBet)
For years, any list of competitors for a major golf tournament was bookended by T. Woods. Very few dared enter with a name as alphabetically original.
However, last year, Will Zalatoris not only took Tiger’s place in that respect, but he also came within a shot of being the first Masters rookie to win the event since 1979. His combination of remarkable distance for someone half the size of Bryson DeChambeau, and laser sharp accuracy on approach saw him make Augusta, Georgia a temporary springtime home.
It was no fluke how close he came last April. He made 17 birdies or better during the week, four more than the winner Hideki Matsuyama, and was second for the week in terms of greens in regulation. For someone with zero previous Masters experience, those statistics show fantastic course management.
That said, away from Augusta, it is his iron play from all angles which marks him as a genuine top 30 golfer. He is only 194th for driving accuracy this season on the PGA Tour, yet is 1st for Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green. Effectively, he can end up anywhere off the tee, but still put his ball into the optimum position.
His season started relatively slowly, but three top tens in six events since the start of the calendar year suggests he is now arriving bang in form. He reached the quarter finals of the World Match Play on his most recent start, while in another of those top tens, he was runner-up in the Farmers Insurance Open, in which he lost in a playoff having had a ten-footer to win it.
And there, we strike upon this otherwise killer youngster’s weakness. For those who do not watch the PGA Tour on a regular basis, seeing Zalatoris putt from short range is akin to a stand-up comedian crumbling on stage. Watch any clip of him doing so and I dare you not to cringe up in horrible, unavoidable goosebumps.
Nevertheless, for all you would not want him to be standing over a five-foot putt to win the Masters, his putting stats are not terrible on the whole. He is towards the bottom of the PGA Tour’s rankings in that respect, but he is still above the likes of Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth for the season in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Spieth is a name worth bringing up too. He too was second on his debut here in 2014 before winning a season later. Zalatoris’ game is ideal for Augusta’s layout, with his distance and accuracy sure to put him in better spots than the majority of the field. Even an average putting week would surely be enough to see him go very close to success and the big occasion does not faze him.
He may be without a tour victory, but three top tens in his first three majors show he can cope at the highest level under pressure.
Any Second Now – 9/1 for the Grand National
For the purposes of this column, it would be sensational were Agusta Gold to be successful for Willie Mullins.
However, for all that mare could appreciate this test having run well over trips of 3m2f and further, it is worth looking to the colours of one of Ireland’s great golfing supporters.
J P McManus has run his own Pro-Am event since 1990 and will doubtless have some of his attention on Augusta this weekend. However, his primary focus will be on winning a second successive Grand National and Any Second Now looks his best chance this time around.
He won with Minella Times a year ago, but though that horse returns with Rachael Blackmore still aboard, it is last year’s third who appeals more. There is an 8lb swing at the weights between them with the defending champ up 15lb and Any Second Now up 7lb. However, the latter was badly impeded just before the halfway stage a year ago, but still clawed back the majority of that deficit.
Had he enjoyed a smoother passage, it would have been extremely close and Any Second Now took to the rest of his experience rather well, aside from one blunder at the 10th fence. His run in the Bobbyjo Chase last time out was superb, grinding down Escaria Ten late on and his combination of course experience, form and staying power all give him a magnificent chance.