It’s the Masters this week and quite frankly, I can’t wait. 2012 has been the best start to a season that I can remember, and most, if not all of the big names come into this week at the height of their powers.
Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan and Tiger Woods, will all tee off on Thursday evening having each won the last tournament that they played in. That’s four of the top seven players in the world all coming off the back of a victory. Out of the remaining top ten in the world, I can’t name one that is playing badly.
Even when we go a little further down the rankings, we find last year’s joint runners up in the shape of Jason Day and Adam Scott (at 11 and 13 respectively), and then right after them in the rankings is none other than three time winner Phil Mickelson at 14. I could go further down the list, but you can probably guess where I am going with this. Picking the winner this week shall not be easy.
Competition between the bookmakers is always fierce in the run up to a major and most of the big firms will pay 6 places as standard. Some, however, will go the extra mile in the search for your money and offer money back specials or guaranteed best odds all golfers (VC Bet), which is more good news for us discerning punters.
One firm’s offer this week is to refund all losing bets should Tiger Woods win. Woods is favourite with most firms and can be backed anywhere between 9/2 and 6/1 depending on where you look. The three time former champion is getting to grips with his new swing and victory last time out shows that he is back near his best. At his best Woods was usually around a 9/4 shot for this tournament, but this was also before a certain Rory McIlroy came on the scene.
Woods clearly likes this trip – his record speaks for itself and his fourth place finish here last year (he was leading at one stage) when his game was in a much worse place is further testament to this. While I don’t think he will win, I simply can’t ignore him, which is why I shall be availing of Paddy Powers offer of money back should he win (for my main bet). While this might mean taking slightly worse odds on my selection, I think it’s worth it for the extra safety, especially as it will be a win-only selection.
Looking back to last year’s tournament for some inspiration, the story that everyone remembers is that of Rory McIlroy’s demise. Going into the final round 4 shots clear, McIlroy would eventually shoot an 80 and ultimately end up finishing in a tie for 15th place. The story that sticks out for me, however, is that of Charl Schwartzel’s victory. Schwartzel finished with 4 straight birdies and ended up 2 shots clear of the field. It was probably the best finish in Masters history, if not in major-golf history, and the South African comes into this week a 45/1 shot to repeat his victory. He also comes into this week in good form, and was it not for the immense pressure that he will find himself under, I would have had no qualms about having a sneaky each-way bet on him at that price. He may very well get his hands on the green jacket this week, but chances are that it will only be as he hands it to over to the eventual winner (see below).
I have been previously lambasted for tipping up McIlroy so frequently but his results and our profit margin speak for themselves. Granted he may have never finished better than tied 15th around here, but he will be out to prove a point this week and who are we to argue? He is available at 13/2 with VC Bet, but I’m going to show Woods a bit of respect and take the 11/2 going for him with Paddy Power (they give money back If Woods wins).
Next up is Phil. Quite simply, Mickelson is built for Augusta. Wayward drives are not as harshly punished as they are on other courses and Mickelson has the short game to get him out of any trouble that he might find himself in. A three times former winner, with nerves of steel, playing well and available at 12/1? I’ll have a bit of that.
Lastly, I shall have a go at Lee Westwood at 22/1. It’s hard to believe that Westwood is coming here for the 13th time, and with 3 top 15 finishes in his last 4 attempts, including a second in 2010, he represents great each-way value. He already has a couple of top 5 finishes to his name this year and along with Donald he is out to prove that he has what it takes to add a major to his already impressive CV.
Aside from great viewing, one thing that the majors are great for is extra markets. The good thing about these markets is that they can still give us that little incentive come Sunday evening even if our guy is not in the hunt for the main prize. Believe me, there is nothing quite like watching a player sink a forty-footer to creep into a top twenty place for a nice pay day. It may not be quite the same feeling as holing the putt yourself, but a win in this game is a win. Luckily, we come into this week with a bit of profit for the year, so we can allow ourselves to have a few extra bets this week.
One market that I really like is Skybets ‘without the big 5’ (Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson, Westwood and Donald). Paying 5 places, it still offers decent each-way value and gives me the chance to have a bet on a player who almost edged out Westwood for one of my outright picks, Bubba Watson. Much like Mickelson, Watson’s main downfall is his ‘occasional’ wayward tee-shot, but with his length and the forgiving rough; it should not be such an issue this week. Watson is 18/1 in this market and would be half this price was it not for his collapse a few weeks ago. Snap it up.
At 52 years of age the 1992 champion, Fred Couples, might not still have what it takes to win round here, but he can still go well. Couples is available at 3/1 for a top 20 finish and seeing as how he has managed this for the past two years, I think it’s a good value bet.
Another more senior player coming good of late is Thomas Bjorn. With only 6 Scandinavian players taking part this week and none in blistering form, Bjorn definitely has what it takes to be the best in this 6 horse race. A three time winner on tour last year, Bjorn would easily be my favourite in this market, and priced a lot less than the 4/1 that is currently available.
We have some thunder storms forecast for Thursday and Friday, but with wind to a minimum, it should not have too much impact on play. Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be good weather-wise, so it is all shaping up to be a memorable weekend.
Running total for 2012: +39 pts
Bets this week:
5pts win Rory McIlroy @ 11/2 win (money back if Woods wins)
2pt e/w Phil Mickelson @ 12/1
1pt e/w Lee Westwood @22/1
1pt e/w Bubba Watson (w/o big 5) @ 18/1
2 pts win Fred Couples to finish in top 20 @ 3/1
1 pt win Thomas Bjorn to be top Scandinavian player @ 4/1