Golf bettors backed Hideki Matsuyama for years before essentially giving up on the golfer before the Masters.
Now, heading into Sunday’s final round at Augusta National, Matsuyama is the clear betting favorite to win his first major.
He fired a 7-under 65 on Saturday to take a four-stroke lead and is the -120 favorite in updated odds at the Westgate sportsbook to slip on the green jacket.
Bidding to become the first Japanese golfer to win a major, Matsuyama closed as a 60-1 long shot in pretournament odds at the Westgate but didn’t get many takers there or at William Hill.
“People have been backing him for a long time, but they finally jumped off of him,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said. “There are so many other guys to back and they’re tired of burning money on him.”
Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Marc Leishman and Justin Rose comprise a quartet of players four shots back at 7-under.
Schauffele, playing in the final group with Matsuyama, is the +450 second favorite at updated odds to win his first major after shooting 68 in the third round.
Zalatoris and Rose — who led after the first and second rounds — are 10-1 to pull off a comeback victory. Leishman is 11-1.
Handicapper Wes Reynolds, co-host of VSiN’s “Long Shots” golf betting show, is one of those bettors who backed Matsuyama during his current four-year winless streak but didn’t wager on him this week.
“That’s the frustrating thing for bettors, when the guy burns you and you give up on him,” said Reynolds (@WesReynolds1). “You’ve got to stick with him because when you give up, he’s going to win. The odds are this guy is going to get it done. But do I want to bet him at -120? Not really, at this point.
“He’s always been one of the better iron players, but the risk is his putter can get shaky. That’s what could get you nervous right now.”
Following a weather delay, Matsuyama shot 6-under over his final eight holes to match Rose’s first-round 65 for the low round of the tournament. The prop for lowest round was 64½.
“The thing about his position is it’s so tough to back up a 65 like that. Look at Rose. He came back with a 72,” Westgate vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said. “When you go low, it’s the elasticity effect. You usually come back to the crowd.”
Matsuyama’s fourth-round score at the Westgate is 72½. The over opened as a -120 favorite, but the under was quickly bet to -120.
“We made his high just because players with a cushion have the tendency to play a little more conservatively,” Sherman said. “I think he’s going to get pushed (Sunday). I’m not sold on Rose, but I think Schauffele is going to have some forward momentum.
“It just takes a bit of a slip-up by Matsuyama to bring everybody back into play. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy day for him.”
Of the four golfers four shots back, Reynolds and Bogdanovich also give Schauffele the best chance to win.
“I like Rose the least,” Bogdanovich said. “You’ve got to like X because he’s dangerous and seasoned. But I think Zalatoris and Leishman are live.
“If Matsuyama shoots about even par, someone can go 5- or 6-under, for sure.”
A Westgate bettor made a $2,000 wager to win $20,000 on Matsuyama at 10-1 odds on in-play betting Saturday.
Jordan Spieth, who blew a five-stroke lead on the back nine of the final round of the 2016 Masters, is six strokes back and 16-1 at adjusted odds.
Corey Conners, five strokes off the lead after sinking an ace en route to a 68, is 22-1.
“Every week, we see someone that comes back to win it at those odds,” Sherman said. “There’s still a lot of golf left.”
Masters updated odds
Up to 200-1
Hideki Matsuyama; -120
Xander Schauffele; +450
Justin Rose; 10-1
Will Zalatoris; 10-1
Marc Leishman; 11-1
Jordan Spieth; 16-1
Corey Conners; 22-1
Brian Harman; 100-1
Tony Finau; 100-1
Justin Thomas; 200-1