Min Woo Lee
Min Woo Lee

Golf betting tips: Ben Coley's 2024 majors antepost preview and best bets

Golf expert Ben Coley looks ahead to the 2024 men's majors, with selections including Min Woo Lee for the US Open and a course specialist at Augusta.

Golf betting tips: Majors 2024

1.5pts e.w. Will Zalatoris to win the Masters at 40/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

0.5pt e.w. Cameron Champ to win the Masters at 300/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1.5pts e.w. Justin Thomas to win the PGA Championship at 33/1 (bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Min Woo Lee to win the US Open at 80/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

0.5pt e.w. Russell Henley to win the US Open at 150/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

The Masters Tournament

  • April 11-14, Augusta National

Anyone with an eye on golf social media around Christmas will know that it's the time of year when Augusta National sends out its batch of Masters invites, and early indications are that the field for the 2024 edition will be even smaller than usual.

At the time of writing there are 77 players likely to take part, plus any who qualify either through winning a PGA Tour event or reaching the top 50 in the world the week prior to the Masters, and the winner of January's Latin America Amateur Championship.

Whatever the final number, it won't affect place terms. They will, as has become standard, be generous – at least on the face of it. You can expect to be getting paid down to 10th or 12th place, making it one of the best events to bet on even if my own record in the first men's major of the year suggests otherwise.

Those place terms also have the effect of squeezing prices to a quite dramatic extent, making the antepost market – paying down to fifth or sixth – quite different. There are almost certainly a number of genuine potential contenders whose odds come the spring will be considerably shorter, although of course the barometer here is their exchange price.

Those with the biggest upside generally come with the greatest risk, and that's certainly true of WILL ZALATORIS.

A debut runner-up in 2021, Zalatoris flew home for sixth place a year later before missing the 2023 renewal due to a serious back injury which kept him out from the Match Play in March all the way through to December.

That means he boasts impeccable course credentials and why wouldn't he. Augusta has long been among the best examples of a second-shot golf course you'll find in the professional game, and in that department Zalatoris at his best is virtually peerless.

Will Zalatoris
Will Zalatoris

The problem is that he's on the comeback trail, one that was delayed a couple of months following the surgery which kept him out of all four majors and delayed his Ryder Cup debut. And it's hard to argue that in finishing tailed off in the Hero Challenge he proved anything except that he remains alive and well.

Serious improvement on that is required, but he'll have had another month to recuperate, and a fully-fit Zalatoris is entitled to go off at less than half the 40/1 which is currently available. He was 25/1 when still a PGA Tour maiden on his second appearance and despite form and fitness concerns was on track to go off shorter still earlier this year, and with good reason.

Betting on someone's health isn't often a good idea but there's one other reason to make an exception for Zalatoris: the fact that the early-season run features two 'signature' events in his home state of California, plus another he was unfortunate not to win at the beginning of 2022.

If he can get fit and get sharp in time for Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Riviera, and indeed Scottsdale which itself is a great fit, then Zalatoris could do enough to force his price to collapse. I really don't think it'd take much given that he hadn't done that much back in the spring.

And if it takes a while longer, that doesn't necessarily mean we'll rock up at Augusta in a poor position. My view is that if Zalatoris plays in the Masters, he will likely do so at shorter odds than those currently available. If he's rediscovered his A-game he'll be on a lot of people's shortlists.

A handful of other elite players make some kind of appeal as does the underrated Ryan Fox after a solid debut spin, but the other name of real note is that of CAMERON CHAMP, who might represent something of a free shot at glory.

Champ is one of a small number of players who have been priced up despite not yet being in the field. Quite why he's quoted by every major firm I have absolutely no idea but there he is, 250/1 generally and 300/1 with Sky Bet and BetVictor.

Here's the important bit: Sky Bet will make bets on non-qualifiers void; BetVictor will settle them as losers. Before placing a bet with any firm, be sure to check their rules, because when backing non-exempt players they're absolutely key. Most bookmakers will refund anyone who doesn't play but some will not and in certain cases rules are vague at best.

Cameron Champ wins the 3M Open
Cameron Champ

If you back Champ with one of those who refund bets, you're odds-on to be receiving your money back in early April, because he probably won't qualify. But if he has qualified, that means either winning on the PGA Tour or climbing more than 200 places in the world rankings and in either scenario, it seems likely his Masters odds would be cut quite considerably.

Champ after all has been 10th, 19th and 26th from just four Masters starts, the other a missed cut when badly out of form. It's a course we know he can perform at, even if approach play can be his weakness. And he's also shown better signs of late, ending the year seemingly fit and with a run of solid rounds to his name.

Put simply, you're either on a 300/1 shot who goes off closer to 100/1, albeit with many more places, or you're getting your money back.

PGA Championship

  • May 16-19, Valhalla Golf Club

The PGA Championship returns to Valhalla in Kentucky, one of two men's majors that go back to where they were 10 years ago in 2024.

Back then, Rory McIlroy completed a hat-trick having landed the Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in the preceding weeks, and it's perhaps a little surprising that he doesn't head this particular market given his scope to do so come May. I would say he's the most likely favourite.

Still, that was McIlroy's last major win which perhaps plays a part and as with the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship, I see no real urge to go speculating at the very top of the market.

This time however I won't stray too far down as it looks worth getting JUSTIN THOMAS on-side at 28/1 and upwards.

Thomas's 2023 doesn't need going over again but suffice to say it was poor, so poor that for some he was a controversial Ryder Cup pick having failed to reach the revised FedEx Cup Playoffs.

But after playing to a decent but unspectacular level in another away defeat for the USA in Rome, Thomas confirmed his return to form with top-fives in the Nedbank and then the Hero Challenge, and as a two-time major champion he has the requisite upside from this sort of price.

Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas

In truth a case can be made for any of the four majors, including the Open for which he can be backed at 40s, but Valhalla is preferred on the strength of it being a genuine home game at a course which should suit. He has a strong record on other Jack Nicklaus designs and should've won at Muirfield Village having already done so at PGA National, and relatively wide fairways certainly help.

"It will be great going to the PGA in Valhalla, the only time I can play in front of my home city, my home crowd," he said back in 2019, and this has very much been earmarked on the calendar since it was announced, given that the 2014 renewal came just a year too soon for him.

The PGA Championship is the major he's won twice and with the home angle in mind, Thomas could go off much shorter if he can use his late-year performances as a springboard. I don't mind taking that chance and he'll have to be struggling badly to go bigger than 40/1, as evidenced by the summer of 2023.

US Open

  • June 13-16, Pinehurst Resort & CC

If there's a major to be most excited about in 2024, it might be the US Open, which returns to Pinehurst a decade on from Martin Kaymer's eight-shot romp.

Granted, some may have found his wide-margin win somewhat soporific and I don't mind saying I hope it's a more tense renewal that awaits, but watching players tackle a restored Pinehurst will be a treat regardless.

Whatever state it's been in, this American classic has always been fearsome. In three US Opens held at the No2 Course, just three players have broken par. Kaymer's nine-under winning total puts him a long way clear of every other golfer to have had a crack at this.

The other point to note from 2014 is how eclectic a leaderboard we were presented with, even if it was too thinly spread for a real Sunday spectacle. Behind Kaymer were several of the game's powerhouses, but there was room too for Erik Compton and for plenty of other short hitters besides him.

Of course, the game has changed since and power usually wins in the US Open, a fact underlined once more at LA Country Club last June. Since Dustin Johnson did what he did in 2015, the event has been won exclusively by the very longest players in golf. It's going to be fascinating to find out whether Pinehurst can change that.

Right now it's hard to say with any real degree of confidence just what we ought to expect and whether a pretty clear link between Pinehurst and Sawgrass will be strengthened or undermined, but that's the one angle I'll tentatively pursue to small stakes.

As well as Kaymer, who had won at Sawgrass the previous month, runner-up Rickie Fowler has since become a PLAYERS champion. Others can be found in fourth (Henrik Stenson, Jason Day), ninth (Adam Scott) and 12th (Matt Kuchar), and most of those who played well have also done so at Pete Dye's iconic creation.

Pinehurst is designed by Donald Ross and they wouldn't be obvious bedfellows but that potential link plus the nature of the course, which could be described as somewhat Australian in the way it looks and feels and its generally rugged nature, leads me to MIN WOO LEE.

Some firms have Lee as short as 25/1 for the Masters, with 66/1 the very best you'll get, and I can't help but feel the US Open is the better fit. This is the major he placed in last year, at a course with little in the way of rough don't forget, and it might just be his best chance of 2024.

Lee had earlier contended at Sawgrass, playing in the final group alongside champion Scottie Scheffler, and he's gone from strength to strength since, ending the year in fabulous form. He's got a full PGA Tour card for the first time and there's so much more to come from a player with real superstar potential.

And while Kaymer found comfort in being able to putt from around these big greens, I do believe Lee's impeccable short-game could be a real asset, along with his length. His approach play, hit and miss at the best of times, is the concern but it would worry me more at Augusta than here.

With a strong record in majors already, I don't think anyone would be surprised if he turned up to this one at considerably shorter odds – and with the confidence to go ahead and better last season's fifth place. Having him on-side at 66s and bigger might look great business in the near future.

Min Woo Lee can make a run at the title in Dubai
Min Woo Lee

Thomas again comes into consideration given his Sawgrass record and I could see Cam Smith enjoying this more than he has most US Opens, but the latter ended the year poorly enough to be scrubbed from the shortlist at this early stage.

That leaves RUSSELL HENLEY as the other name of note and big enough to chance at three-figure prices.

DataGolf currently rank Henley 10th in the world, he boasts a strong enough Sawgrass record, he's a regular contender at Ross's Sedgefield Country Club, and he was 54-hole leader in the US Open at Torrey Pines a couple of summers ago.

Having contended again at Augusta in April on his way to his best-ever major finish, Henley was then 14th at LACC where his arrow-straight but not particularly powerful driving was far from the ideal formula.

If Henley continues to play like a top-20 player (he's officially ranked 24th, too) then 150/1 has to look big at a course that should suit much more than those two out in California, and the fact he's likely to play a couple of events in the run-up also helps. Henley has contended a couple of times in the Memorial, and I'd like to see him play Colonial again after an encouraging top-20 in May.

Few reading this will really believe he's on the cusp of becoming a major champion, but Pinehurst might just be the sort of venue to throw up another slight surprise. These two selections are both playing superbly and could go off considerably shorter.

The Open Championship

  • July 18-21, Royal Troon

Brian Harman's Open rout last July in some ways demonstrates the pitfalls in antepost golf speculation. Harman had been 12th in Scotland a week earlier, sixth in the Open a year earlier, yet was still sent off at three-figure prices with up to a dozen places available.

Those backing him in January gained little bar fact that they can always say they backed Brian Harman to win the Open seven months before it happened, and with the weather and the length of time between now and tee-off in mind, this is always going to be the major that makes the least antepost appeal.

If you're looking for a yankee selection then consider reliable former Open runner-up Xander Schauffele at 33s or the still-improving Max Homa at 40/1 after he bagged his first major top-10 finish at Hoylake. Indeed Schauffele in particular does look a touch overpriced given his average SP in majors over the last few years is closer to the 18/1 mark.

At bigger odds, Sahith Theegala could look a decent bit of business and in general US players tend to be underrated, a comment which could apply to Henley once more.

On the latter, I will say there are echoes of Harman, who was performing to a similar standard at around this time a year ago. But as with Harman, you might well get a similar price and double the places come July.

Posted at 1900 GMT on 30/12/23

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