Well, we’re nearly there…..Augusta and the US Masters are almost upon us! Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, the Green Jacket – it’s all good and every player will be doing their darndest to come away with the First Major of the Year. Going through the leading contenders, here is a run-down of them…..hopefully the winner will come from these!
Phil Mickelson – 7/1 best price with Ladbrokes
Mickelson has hit form at precisely the right time, in particular around the greens. He continues to drive the ball all over the golf course but he has been the best player at Augusta over the past 10 years and I expect Phil to be rounding Amen Corner on Sunday in the lead or at least close to down the stretch.
Tiger Woods – 12/1 best price with Paddy Power
Tiger goes into the US Masters in the unusual position of second favourite. This may indeed fire Woods up but it has yet to be seen whether his work with Sean Foley is bearing fruit, apart from a few decent rounds here and there. I would not expect Tiger to win but it might be the only time you may get him at double figure odds at a Major for a long time to come, great value all the same at a course he usually excels.
Lee Westwood – 16/s best price with Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Stan James, Bet365
Westwood has been there or thereabouts in recent years and could well be forgiven for thinking he is owed something by Augusta. Unfortunately, a lot of other great golfers have been nearly men at Augusta down the years – Els and Norman come to mind among others. Looks like his short game may let him down when push comes to shove on Sunday so I would not latching onto the Englishman to win his First Major – he should feature in the Top 10 though.
Nick Watney – 18/s best price with Paddy Power
Watney ticks all the boxes of a potential winner ar Augusta, hit the balls a long way, a terrific putter and has Butch Harmon as a coach (has coached the vast majority of US Masters winners over the past decade and more). His slide down the leaderboard at the USPGA, however, is worrying and Augusta is not the place to find hiding places in any round. Not one for me but has performed well in recent years, could be a winner in the future but there are more with better claims this time around.
Martin Kaymer – 22/1 best price with Paddy Power
The Snood-Wearing German has the chance to follow in the footsteps of Bernhard Langer this year after his phenomenal last 12 months. His apparent discomfort with hitting a draw, however, could prove his downfall around a course that has generally favoured players who can hit a draw down the years (of course there are times when the ability to hit a fade also comes into play). Kaymer is one of the finest putters and exponents of the short game around but I don’t think he knows the course well at this stage to put up a good enough go to add to his Major tally. Expect him to contest a lot of the Majors this year again but not at Augusta.
Luke Donald – 28/1 best price with Paddy Power
The Englishman has a fantastic chance at Augusta this year, having started the year in such good form including the win at the Accenture Matchplay where he did not see the 18th hole all week. He is one of the most accurate players on tour and a wonderful wedge player to boot, the big thing will be whether he can continue the form with the putter. Big chances, expect Luke to be in the shake up come Sunday night.
Dustin Johnson – 28/1 best price with Stan James
DJ comes to Augusta with indifferent form this year, up one week and down the next. He may think 2011 owes him after his Major trials and tribulations in 2010. His relative inexperience at Augusta and also his propensity to “go for it” rather than playing a bit more sensibly could well be his downfall in his quest for the Green Jacket.
Padraig Harrington – 63/1 with Betfair.
Paddy came into better form last weekend at Houston but I wouldn’t expect him to feature as much as I would like to see it. He has a long way to go to get back to his best and his current tendency to throw in a mid-round disaster does not bode well for Augusta.
Rory McIlroy – 33/1 with Ladbrokes. “Little Mac” goes into Augusta with not much form behind him at this stage, he has the game to win at Augusta and is one of the purest ball strikers in the field when on his game. A top 20 finish would probably be the best he will achieve this time around though.
Graeme McDowell – 53/1 with Betfair.
G Mac looked to be the best hope within the Irish contingent a few months ago but some poor performances, particularly at the Matchplay have affected his preparation. His pedigree as a World Class player is not in question though and should he find his game and motivation at the Masters I would not be surprised to see G Mac putting in a good performance, this time around however there are a lot of players ahead of him in better form.
Pick of the Outsiders
Ian Poulter – 50/1 with Ladbrokes
Poults, sartorial elegance to fit nicely with the Green Jacket intact, has threatened over the past years but some bad finishes down the stretch in early rounds have scuppered his chances. He does have the game though and is a fantastic clutch putter under pressure. Has big places claims and would not be afraid to give it a go on the Back 9 on Sunday.
Stewart Cink – 125/1 with Ladbrokes
The 2010 Open Champ remains one of the games leading players despite not lighting up World Golf of late. A streaky and awesome putters at times he is wonderful value at the price when compared to some other notables in the market.
Well, there it is! To summarise, I expect Phil Mickelson to win yet another US Masters title with Luke Donald, Stewart Cink and Ian Poulter close behind.
**Prices accurate as of 4th April 2011 via http://www.bestbetting.com**