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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Rising star Luck should topple unpaid ranks

Curtis Luck is completely at ease among the pros
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The top amateur section seems extremely uncompetitive for this Masters as 20-year-old Australian sensation Curtis Luck looks a cut above his four rivals.

Perth-born Luck became the number one amateur in the world rankings last month, a path on which he has been heading since finishing runner-up in the 2014 Australian Amateur Championship, and 8-11 is a generous price about this rising star defeating less talented members of the unpaid ranks at Augusta.

Luck had played in just five professional events before finishing runner-up in the 2015 Western Australia Open on the PGA Tour of Australasia. He returned to the tournament 12 months later and won by two shots. This confident character appears completely at ease among the pros.

The wizard of Oz has impressed in four other professional tournaments since his WA Open heroics. He was fifth in the 2016 Global Cup – a high-class Japan Tour gathering – then 11th in the Australian Open. This year he was 49th in the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour, then 23rd in the Dubai Desert Classic.

Luck won two of the biggest tournaments on the amateur calendar last year – the US Amateur and the Asia-Pacific Amateur – and clearly has a wonderful future to look forward to when he turns pro after the Open Championship in July.

Former Masters champion Adam Scott was practising with Luck at Augusta on Sunday, offering sage advice to his young compatriot, and all of Australia is excited about the latest player to fall off their production line of talent.

“Curtis is switched on,” said Scott. “He's a shot-maker. He's a thinker. It was fun to watch him play. I offered a couple of golden rules that I've always used here that have worked out well.”

Luck arrived at Augusta in the middle of last week, so has several practice rounds under his belt, and his coach Craig Bishop has been in attendance throughout.

The other amateurs – Scott Gregory, Brad Dalke, Toto Gana and Stewart Hagestad – should be outclassed by cocksure Curtis. Englishman Gregory is second-favourite, but no Brit has ever won the Silver Cup which goes to the leading Augusta amateur.

Dustin Johnson has never approached a tournament with more confidence – the rampant world number one knows if he plays anywhere near his best this week, Danny Willett could easily be slipping him into a Green Jacket on Sunday. The Johnson and Justin Thomas dual forecast is worth a small tickle at 150-1.

Johnson, who has the ability to draw his two-iron around 280 yards, has all the tools to tame Augusta. It would be a huge shock were he out of contention in round four. Thomas, a three-time US Tour winner this season, is also well equipped to tackle this layout and the two attacking powerhouses could go eyeball to eyeball at the weekend.

C Luck top amateur
3pts 8-11 bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes
Johnson/Thomas dual forecast
0.5pt 150-1 Ladbrokes

Wiesberger a tasty wager to make cut

Bernd Wiesberger is one of the Europe's most consistent tee-to-green operators
The winner of the Masters is typically up with the pace all week – Augusta has not traditionally been a catch-up course – and there is a strong possibility this year's champion will walk up the 18th hole on Sunday knowing what he has to do to claim the Green Jacket.

Par is always an excellent score at the difficult 18th hole, a 465-yard uphill par-four, and there is every chance the eventual winner is defending a lead and closes out his tournament with a safe par.

The average Masters score on the 18th is 4.159. The lowest it has ever averaged is 4.014 (2001) and the highest is 4.461 (1954). Betfred are offering 4-6 about the Masters winner closing with a final-round par, which is a solid bet given the champ will be full of form and confidence, and calm weather is forecast. The 18th is tough, but the week's best player can be fancied to deliver a par.

The best specials prices are only for punters who are prepared to invest at odds-on. Making the Masters cut is easy for top-class players – 50 and ties make it from a field of 94 which is full of chaff – and anyone within ten shots of the lead qualifies. Bernd Wiesberger looks a bargain at 4-9 to make the weekend.

Wiesberger is one of the Europe's most consistent tee-to-green operators and he should avoid enough trouble to stay clear of the cut-line.

The Austrian has played 16 events since his last missed cut and played nicely for 23rd spot in Houston last week. He has finished 22nd and 34th in his previous two Masters and has the necessary power to handle the soft current conditions. Something like 1-5 would be a more accurate reflection of his cut hopes.

Another appealing 4-9 chance is Rory McIlroy to open his Masters with a par. McIlroy has never birdied the first hole at Augusta – that is 30 attempts without picking up a shot – and he has parred it 23 times.

Winner to par 72nd hole
3pts 4-6 Betfred
B Wiesberger to make cut
3pts 4-9 Power
R McIlroy to par first hole
3pts 4-9 Sky Bet

Luck won two of the biggest tournaments on the amateur calendar last year and clearly has a wonderful future to look forward to when he turns pro
E.W. Terms
Sky bet