The Sleepers to Watch This Masters Weekend

The Sleepers to Watch This Masters Weekend

Jason Day of Australia lines up a putt during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

SourceMike Ehrmann/Getty

Why you should care

Because in recent years the favorites haven’t flown at Augusta.

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Young’uns who could barely swing a club when Tiger Woods first tamed Augusta in 1997 are soaking up the attention this Masters week. And rightly so: 10 PGA tournaments were won last year by players under age 25, and five of the top 10 odds-on favorites entering the tournament have not yet hit 30.

But even the best players can fold under pressure at the Masters. Just ask Rory McIlroy. So who are the best bets? Keep in mind: In the last decade, no favorite has won the Masters, and no player with odds higher than 50:1 has won in the last seven years. The average champion over the past decade entered with 44:1 odds, ranked 14th.

This year, there are some tasty names in that sweet spot, starting with 28-year-old Brit Tommy Fleetwood (20:1 odds entering Thursday’s first round) and last year’s British Open winner, Francesco Molinari (also 20:1). A full 10 players were considered better bets than former world No. 1 Jason Day, while 15 golfers were ahead of Tony Finau.

But if you’re looking for a young gun to break through, check out Xander Schauffele, who went off in the middle of the pack at 40:1 odds. (He shot +1 on Thursday, so he has some work to do.) The 25-year-old ranks 10th on Tour this season, finished second at the British Open last year and already has one win this season. Is he ready to join the next generation of winners? Tune in Sunday.

What to Watch & Pick ’Em

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2 (Friday, 7 pm ET, CNBC)

The Blue Jackets stole Game 1 of this Eastern Conference first-round matchup, outlasting the Stanley Cup favorite Lightning 4-3. Will Tampa’s high-powered offense rebound?

  • Columbus (+200)
  • Tampa Bay (-240)

Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics Game 1 (Sunday, 1 pm ET, TNT)

After an underachieving (to say the least) regular season, Boston gets the scrappy fifth-seeded Pacers, who held opponents to a league-best 104.7 points per game. Who wins the series?

  • Indiana (+290)
  • Boston (-358)

Ones to Watch

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Patrik Laine (No. 29) of the Winnipeg Jets during a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

Source Harry How/Getty

Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets. It’s hard to believe but the 20-year-old Finnish sniper, a towering right winger, is already in his third NHL season. Laine was an All-Star as a rookie in 2017, then tallied 70 points (44 goals and 26 assists) last season. His scoring was down this season (50 points; 30 goals and 20 assists), but a more balanced Winnipeg has been one of the best teams in the Western Conference. In Game 1 of the first round on Wednesday, Laine scored the Jets’ only goal in a 2-1 loss to St. Louis. He’s critical to their chances of making a playoff run.

Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces. Three days after her Notre Dame Irish lost the national championship to Baylor, Young won quite the consolation prize. The Las Vegas Aces selected Young, a 6-foot guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season, with the No. 1 pick in Wednesday night’s WNBA Draft. Young was the first of five Notre Dame women to be selected in the three-round draft, tying Candace Parker’s 2008 Tennessee Lady Vols for the most prolific draft class. Now, Young will join last year’s No. 1 pick, A’ja Wilson, in reviving the Vegas franchise.

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Jackie Young (No. 5) of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates her team’s lead late in the game against the Connecticut Huskies in the semifinals of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Final Four March 30, 2018.

Source Andy Lyons/Getty

NHL Underdogs. Thanks to some favorable first-round matchups and down years from Chicago and Los Angeles, there’s a strong chance that some longtime losers could finally cure their Stanley Cup woes. Nine of the past 11 Stanley Cup Finals have included either Pittsburgh, Chicago or Los Angeles. This year, check out the new kids on the block: San Jose, St. Louis and Columbus have never won the Stanley Cup, while the New York Islanders (1983) and Toronto Maple Leafs (1967) are suffering major droughts. Washington broke through for the first time last year, and it looks like we could be spreading the Cup love around again this summer.

The Magic Show. Have you ever quit without telling your boss? Magic Johnson’s abrupt exit as Lakers GM on Tuesday — revealed to the news media rather than giving a heads-up to owner Jeanie Buss — was a fitting ending to the Hall of Fame player’s bizarre two-year term as co-general manager with Rob Pelinka. A good chunk of the blame for the dumpster fire of LeBron James’ first year in Los Angeles rests at Johnson’s feet, so perhaps his departure is an opportunity for a reset and another run at Anthony Davis this offseason. And now Magic can find some other gig to bail on.

Read This

How One Player Helped Angelenos and the Dodgers Bridge their Divide, by Michele Bruton in OZY

After bursting onto the scene with an 8-0 start in 1981, Fernando Valenzuela became the first player to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season. Most importantly, he gave their Mexican-American neighbors a reason to embrace the Dodgers.

The Harrowing Tale of Augusta National’s Sand Thief, by Steve Politi in The (Newark) Star-Ledger

His reputation was destroyed. His mugshot was plastered all over the country. His bank account was drained of $20,000. Clayton Baker’s crime? He tried to steal some Augusta National sand during the Masters.

Can ‘Relentless’ Freshman Emoni Bates Jump Straight to the NBA?, by John Niyo in The Detroit News

Discussions between the NBA and the players’ association to end the one-and-done era by 2022 are gaining steam. Meet Emoni Bates, a 14-year-old phenom in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with plans to benefit from such a rule change

Dwyane Wade’s Last Dance in Miami Reminded Me Why I Fell in Love With Sports by Thomas Johnson in The Washington Post

In the Heat’s final home game on Tuesday, Wade bid farewell to the city that saw him arrive a surprise top draft prospect who then grew into Shaquille O’Neal’s sidekick, a Finals MVP and three-time champion.

Don’t Miss

The sacrifice fly is as timeless a play as there is in baseball, but on Tuesday, Kansas City center fielder Billy Hamilton decided to up the ante. On a deep shot to center, the 160-pound speedster tagged up and scored … from second base! According to Statcast, his sprint speed was 30.1 feet per second, covering 180 feet in 5.98 seconds. Can this guy catch a football?

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