The first major golf championship of the year is staged this week with the US Masters at Augusta (April 11th – 14th). World Number one Tiger Woods has won the tournament on four occasions and Phil Mickelson has three victories to his credit. Not surprisingly the two Americans feature strongly at the top of the betting lists along with Rory McIlroy.
Woods is hot favourite at 7-2 following his recent return to the top of the world rankings. His victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational gave him a third tour win of the season and enabled him to leapfrog McIlroy. Woods has a phenomenal record here and won by a stunning twelve-shot margin in 1997. He has finished in the top six in eleven of the last sixteen Masters and the bookies aren’t taking any risks, pricing him as 7-2 clear favourite. Most bookmakers are offering ¼ odds the first five this week and that offers a fair place payout with Woods such a short-priced favourite.
The European challenge will be led by McIlroy this week. The late Seve Ballesteros became the first European to win the Masters in 1980, starting a golden era for European golfers at Augusta. The Spaniard recorded his second victory in 1983 and was followed by Bernhard Langer 1985, Sandy Lyle (1988), Nick Faldo (1989, 1990 and 1996) and Ian Woosnam (1991). Langer won a second Masters tournament in 1993 with Jose Maria Olazabal winning in 1994 and 1999. That was the last victory for Europe and seems a long time ago now.
McIlroy looked certain to claim victory here in 2011 but the wheels came off in spectacular style with a final round of 80. McIlroy has been under a cloud following his controversial switch of manufacturer but he showed that he is on his way back at the Texas Open and is a top priced 10-1 this week. If McIlroy can recapture his form of last season, he won’t be starting at double-figure prices in too many tournaments this year. I am also preparted to take a chance on Luke Donald gaining a first major victory. The Englishman has almost been forgotten as Woods and McIlroy make the golfing headlines but he has vowed to concentrate on the majors this season. He finished tied for third in 2005 and finished fourth here in 2011 so he has the game to make his presence felt.
The biggest threat to Woods may come from his compatriot Phil Mickelson. The left-hander’s record at Augusta is almost as impressive as that of Woods, having only finished out of the top six four times in fourteen years. He has already gained a tour victory this season and looks a good bet to finish in the money this week.
I am also keen on the chances of South African Louis Oosthuizen. A final round albatross on the second hole ignited his challenge last year and he was only denied in a playoff by Bubba Watson. He also recorded an early tour victory and looks overpriced at 28-1.
Rory McIlroy 10-1 Ladbrokes
Phil Mickelson 11-1 Skybet, William Hill
Louis Oosthuizen 28-1 Bet365, Paddy Power
Luke Donald 33-1 Coral, William Hill
Bet on Henrik Stenson to become the BMW PGA Championship Winner.
Back Australia to take the Ashes home with them.
Back Rafael Nadal to become the Mens French Open Winner.
Back One For Arthur to win the Grand National.
Back Mexico to win the Confederations Cup.