The Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew out the favored Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Gonzaga lost as a popular favorite against Baylor at the end of an underdog-heavy NCAA tournament. Overlooked Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters despite pre-tournament odds of +4000.
It has not been a great year for betting favorites.
Bettors went hard on a group of five favorites at the Masters: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson. Not only did those five individually account for the most bets to win the tournament, when BetMGM posted a prop of the "Big 5" vs. the field, the more popular bet was the group of five favorites at +125. Only Spieth was ever really in the conversation from shortly after the tournament started.
Matsuyama was 40-to-1 to win the tournament before it started. Of all the bets made on who would win the Masters, only 1 percent of tickets and 0.9 percent of all money bet was on Matsuyama.
He faltered a bit near the end, but still won for anyone who took him at -120 before the final round began.
Hideki Matsuyama gets big Masters win
Johnson, who tore through the tournament a year ago when he won it, didn't even make the cut. He putted poorly and fell down the leaderboard quickly. That's how this year's tournament went for some of the biggest names. Rory McIlroy, who had the eighth-most bets on him before the Masters began, also missed the cut. Among the props BetMGM offered was DeChambeau to make the cut, and yes was the popular side at -1000. Those bettors had an unexpected sweat as DeChambeau flirted for a while with missing the cut.
Spieth and Rahm were at least a part of CBS' coverage on Sunday. Rahm had a great final round, shooting a 66. Spieth played solid golf for four days and was in the top five most of Sunday. Will Zalatoris, who was 80-to-1 before the tournament and got just 0.2 percent of the bets, made a run early in the day but that didn't last long. Matsuyama was cruising until he inexplicably hit it in the water on the 15th hole, allowing second-place Xander Schauffele to cut the deficit from four strokes to two. Then Schauffele's tee shot at 16 went in the water and the drama was mostly over.
Before the tournament, 39.6 percent of the bets were on one of the five big names that were favored. None of those bettors ever felt they had a chance this week.
Others played well, overshadowed by Matsuyama
If Matsuyama didn't have a tremendous week, Spieth and Rahm bettors would have been in the hunt. That's the challenge of betting a big golf tournament; all it takes is an otherworldly effort by one golfer to keep you from cashing a ticket. Bettors loved Spieth coming into the tournament, with 10.5 percent of bets on him. Bettors who took him couldn't be disappointed in his score. But it ultimately didn't cash a ticket for those who took him to win.
Spieth was, however, the most popular bet for any golfer to finish in the top five, at +225 odds. Spieth finished third. He was also the most popular bet to be the top American finisher at +750, and that fell apart when Zalatoris and Schauffele got hot on the back nine. Spieth's popularity among bettors was the biggest reason that in the "nationality of winner" prop, the most popular bet was any American at -167. Matsuyama became the the first male Japanese player to ever win a major golf tournament.
Matsuyama's win is the latest surprise in the sporting year. Bettors who like taking the favorite might want to take note.
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