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Augusta National and The Masters is a tournament like no other. The Bentgrass greens at 13 on the stimp are lightening fast. The sheer size of them and the contours make birdie chances only viable from the smallest of target areas. To succeed you must score heavily on the four Par 5s and hold on for dear life around the rest of the course. It’s a truly specialised tournament where we need to select players who are comfortable on fast bent greens and who have experience of getting the job done (i.e. winning) within the past 2/3 seasons, amongst many other factors
Naturally the ultimate Masters specialists are Woods and Mickelson. We’ve received an influx of messages from punters wanting to know the lowdown on Tiger so here's my view…I think he has a better shot of winning this week than he has done since 2007. It’s fact that no reigning World No.1 has won since he himself triumphed in 2002 so forget about Kaymer! Tiger’s swing rebuild is generating real momentum and his putting is improving. Available at only 9/2 last season, 10/1 or better is currently available about Tiger winning his 5th Green Jacket - however perhaps the best bet is to check out Extrabet who will DOUBLE the odds of your first bet up to a stake of £25 - click here for full details.
Lefty finally found his form in Houston over the weekend and his price has been slashed as a result. No player has successfully retained the Green jacket since Woods in 01/02, but if anyone else is liable to match Tiger’s feat it’s Phil around his beloved Augusta. He’s available at a best price of 7/1 with Ladbrokes as of Thursday 8am GMT.
I’m steering clear of the Big 2 in my selections, instead focussing my usual 10 point selections on players who have a history of generating Top 10 results both at Augusta and in recent majors, because the heat in the kitchen gets white hot in Georgia. I’ve gone for a mix of proven Major winners with a young player who has all of the game to win his first major this week and no it’s not Watney, DJ or Bubba. It’s also worth pointing out that a single Each Way pay-out from the 5 selections below and we’re in profit, but I genuinely believe that any one of these guys can triumph this week.
I know what you are thinking. Paddy’s game has been in disarray for a lengthy period of time. That can be seen in Harrington’s last 8 Major Championships which have yielded 35-MC-65-10-MC-22-MC-MC. That quite simply is not good enough for the 3-time Major winner and ex-World Number 4. Things are changing though for Padraig who is most definitely a momentum player. His 8th place finish at Houston last week followed a 10th at Doral in mid March and Harrington’s ability on bent greens and classical courses where winning scores are relatively high is unquestionable. 3 Top 10 finishes in 11 appearances at Augusta National highlight that Harrington can play in Georgia and previous Top 5 finishes at Doral, TPC River Highlands, Firestone, Riviera, Westchester (Win), TPC Sawgrass and TPC Sugarloaf show that Harrington has the right pedigree to win his 4th Major here. Interestingly he’s also in a mental space where there is no expectation on him and he’s fully aware that he’s totally ‘under the radar’ this week – read article here. He’s long enough off the tee to cope with the extended layout and if his improved Greens In Regulation numbers from Houston remain this week his short game will dictate that he goes extremely close. RESULT: M/C
Don’t be fooled, Texas-based Kim has the swashbuckling game to win at Augusta. 2 appearances have yielded 20th in 2009 and 3rd in 2010. There is no doubt in my mind that Kim will win a Major in his career and this week offers a superb opportunity to open his account. When we talk about bent specialists Kim stands-out like a beacon. It’s a prerequisite here that only players who have won previously on bent carpet capture the Green Jacket. Whereas Nick Watney who is as short as 14/1 has never won on bent, Kim thrives on the surface. Indeed his first PGA wins in 2008 were at the classical master-pieces of Quail Hollow and Congressional – which hosts this year’s US Open. Impressive! He followed those 2 up with a 3rd bent victory at Houston last year. Like Harrington a thumb injury means that Kim comes into Augusta under the radar. Indeed prior to Houston his form-line was 60-MC-WD-MC. However a well paced 13th at Houston last week where importantly he was booming his drives +300 yards, in tandem with an early season 6th at Torrey Pines is perfect pre Masters form and shows that Kim is playing well. Where his win at Houston the weekend before the Masters last year cost Anthony the ultimate prize at Augusta, I’m thinking the Oklahoma grad has got the timing of his game peaking to perfection. RESULT: M/C
A truly, truly mad price for a player who won at Copperhead, Hilton Head and the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake in 2010 in the meantime earning a cool $10,000,000. Now that’s pressure! Indeed here’s a guy who has won 15 PGA Tour titles and captured the US Open. Look at his record and he regularly contends on tough classical courses with fast Bentgrass greens. I’m expecting no different this week. Wins at Muirfield (02), Cog Hill (05) Quail Hollow (06) and in Canada (05 & 06) are all incredibly relevant as they were all on classical courses featuring bent carpet. 7 Top 20 including 4 Top 10 finishes at Augusta National in 14 appearances where he finished 9th on the new lengthened format in 2009 after being 4th going into Sunday. After a sluggish start 2010 has yielded 2 Top 10 finishes and 9th at Bay Hill a fortnight ago shows that Furyk is peaking at the right time. A “Major” record of 18 Top 10 finishes and form in all the right places don’t smack of 80/1 to me!!! Get on-board fast, 80/1 won't be around for long………RESULT: T24
I’ve tipped Vijay up a couple of times this season but to no avail. Both times he’s finished 3rd and 2nd the following weeks. QED he owes us a result! The fact that Singh has generated 2 contending performances in 2011 signals the fact that the big Fijian is having his best season since his FedEx Cup triumph back in 2008. Back then he triumphed at Firestone, Ridgwood and Cog Hill on his way to becoming the PGA Tour season champion. All worthy of note as these triumphs were on classical bent course formats. Indeed the Ex World Number 1 has 3 Major and 31 PGA Tour victories to his name including triumphing at Augusta in 2000. You can’t buy experience like that and experience has counted for a lot in recent. In recent Masters editions Couples (2010), Perry (2009), Jimenez (2008) all challenged and if the Fijian gets his long bombing tee to green game in-place this week, expect a few putts to follow. He’ll certainly hang around if he gets close enough, and at 100/1 with Boylesports (paying 6 places), I'm willing to spend a few quid to see if he can. RESULT: M/C
Winning the Open Championship at Turnberry was the culmination of an incredible 18 month period for Georgia’s Stewart Cink that generated a World Matchplay Final appearance, a Master’s podium finish, a Travelers Championship win, a Ryder Cup win and circa $6,000,000 in prize money. Cink was truly world class - the only question was would he build and become a Top 10 player or would he dine out on his Major? Cink unwittingly chose the latter route and his career dived as his hunger for results died. 2010 brought only 2 Top 10 finishes and his Ryder Cup attendance at Celtic Manor was totally reliant on Captain Pavin’s pick. However Cink’s appearance in Wales marked for me the turning point in his slump as he performed admirably and was a driving force for a team who ultimately could have won against the odds. Since October 2010 progress has been steady but noticeable with 6th at Thousand Oaks, 29th at Riviera, 11th at Copperhead and 12th at Bay Hill in his last outing. There is no doubt that Cink’s form is peaking nicely and his game is at it’s best on classical bent tracks where birdies are hard to come by. 5 consecutive finishes in the Top 20 from 2004 – 2008 highlight that Augusta suits local boy Cink and I’m thinking he can at least grab his 10th Major Top 10 this week. RESULT: M/C
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