US Masters Tips

The Masters 2012 - Steve Bamford's Tips For The US Masters, Augusta National

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Here are some quick links to our Masters coverage: The Masters Stats | US Masters Longshots | US Masters Preview | US Masters Free Bet

Before I go into the course detail, selection methodology and unveil my Masters 2012 selections, I've just got to highlight a couple of key Masters bookmakers. Firstly Paddy Power have an outstanding Tiger Woods Money Back Special whereby if the former No.1 captures his 5th Green Jacket they will refund all losing outright bets! Better still they have extended their Each Way terms from 5 to 6 Places and any account opened via this link gets an unbeatable £/€200 of Free Bets. Perfect for Paul Williams' US Masters Longshots.

The Masters as a tournament in my opinion has no peers. Augusta National is a golf course like no other. The Bentgrass greens, at 13+ on the stimp, are the fastest on any golfing season. The sheer size of them and the contours make birdie chances only viable from the smallest of target areas. Mown run-off areas mean that errant shots don't stop and even great approach shots can lead to bogeys or worse. Since Augusta was re-modelled for the 2008 renewal, its been quoted as a 7,435 yard Par 72, but don't believe that as all fairways are mown against the hole direction to minimise driving distance effectively meaning it plays closer to 7,800 yards. 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 with blustery conditions forecast right through until Sunday, I'm also looking for those comfortable in gusty conditions.

Our US Masters Preview is a great read and highlights the key rationale behind my tips below. However, to summarise, I've gone for players who can average over 290 from the tee; all of them thrive on long classical Par 72 golf courses featuring bent greens, and they've all won a professional tournament of some description within the last 24 months. To read our ever-popular stats page for The Masters click here: The Masters Stats

Phil Mickelson 2pt EW 12/1 with Ladbrokes

Of the Big 3, I can only back Lefty and in my own mind he is in the perfect place performance-wise to grab his 4th Green Jacket. The way he throttled off at Redstone last week was the perfect indicator of Phil's current psyche. Winning his 41st PGA Tour tournament was of no concern to him whatsoever in Texas last Sunday. He knows he's ready mentally, that his game is 100% and he is determined to give Tiger and Rory all they can handle in his favourite hunting ground that's Georgia. His CV is littered with wins at Torrey Pines, Riviera, Quail Hollow, TPC Four Seasons, Colonial, TPC Boston, Sugarloaf and East Lake and fast Bent is by far his favourite putting surface. Fact is, Mickelson in 2012 is hitting more fairways, far more greens and is ranked No2 on the PGA Tour season to date in Strokes Gained Putting - plus he birdies Par 5s for fun. Let February's performance at Pebble Beach be a warning to you - if Mickelson fires 100% this week he'll take all the beating - plus Ladbrokes are paying 2nd place as the winner if Tiger Woods wins - click here for details! RESULT: T3

Jason Day 1pt EW 40/1 with Ladbrokes

People are muttering that Jason Day is overrated and a one-season wonder. Don't you believe it! The Texas-based Aussie only comes alive on fast Bent greens, so the first 3 months of the golfing calendar will always be hard for the amazingly talented World Number 11. So 2nd at Doha in February behind Paul Lawrie on 'alien' Bermuda greens was a pleasant surprise for this commentator. Since then, the lightly raced Day made his first cut at Riviera, then had career best finishes again on the Bermuda of Doral and Copperhead. His whole early season campaign has been about preparing for Augusta - and remember this guy finished 2nd here 12 months ago on course debut. That's unheard of! Indeed Jason's Bent greened Major CV is worthy of serious note as he's only played in 4 tournaments: 10th Whistling Straits (10) – 2nd Augusta (11) – 2nd Congressional (11) – 30th Sandwich (11). It's also worthy of note that Jason's single PGA Tour victory came on the lightning fast Bent greens at a windswept TPC Four Seasons 22 months ago. Like Trevor Immelman in 2008, he's due his first Major win very soon. RESULT: WD

Charl Schwartzel 1pt EW 45/1 with Paddy Power

I was probably like you at the outset of my Masters research. I discounted Florida-based defending champion Charl Schwartzel out of hand. After all, it's fact that no champion has successfully defended a Green Jacket since Tiger Woods in 2001/02 and South African Schwartzel isn't Tiger Woods in his pomp! However, once you scratch the surface with Charl you recognise that the incredibly talented South African was made for Major Championship golf. Indeed his last 8 major finishes read Masters: 1st & 30th US Open: 9th & 16th Open: 16th & 14th PGA: 12th & 18th. The fact that champions always seem to go well enough the following year when defending the Green Jacket is also interesting as 27th-18th-20th-20th-24th-3rd-10th highlights across the past 7 renewals of this great tournament. But, I hear you say, Charl won't be able to handle the press focus this week. Well that could be true, but Schwartzel does have experience of successfully defending a title i.e. the Joburg Open on the European Tour back in 2010 / 2011. For the record that's played at Royal Joburg which is a tree-lined 7,600 yard Par 71 featuring Bent greens. 5th at PGA National and 4th at Doral last month highlight that Charl can play well in the wind and these performances were on his less-favoured Bermuda greens. The fact that he used both Copperhead and Redstone as competitive practice sessions to keep the rust off highlight a player to me that actually believes he can seriously contend again this week. RESULT: T50

Steve Stricker 1pt EW 50/1 with Paddy Power

I'm incredulous to the 50/1 on Bent green monster and World Number 5 Steve Stricker, but I'll take it. 2011 produced his most consistent major performances ever with 11th at Augusta, 19th at Congressional, 12th at Sandwich and 12th after leading for a large portion at Atlanta Athletic Club. 12 PGA Tour wins, a starring Ryder Cup role at Celtic Manor in 2010 allied to 9 Major Top 10 finishes says to me that Stricker is ready to jump to the next level. Now Stricker knows that his best chance of Major success will be in the USA, so don't be surprised to see him hanging around this weekend. Many will say that Stricker isn't long enough to succeed at Augusta, but that's totally untrue as he out-drove Charl Schwartzel around Augusta last year and can reach 300 yards with the driver when required. Stricker has delivered at a plethora of key Augusta link courses like Kapalua (1st 2012), Riviera (1st 2010), Redstone (3rd 06 & 4th 11), Quail Hollow (2nd 07 behind Woods), Colonial (1st 09), Muirfield (1st 11), Congressional (2nd 07), TPC Boston (Win 09) and East Lake (6th 09). On a course where the Par 5s are absolutely key, Stricker currently sits 2nd on the PGA Tour Par 5 Birdie or Better category and that's no fluke as he was 3rd across the 2011 season. He was also 6th here as recently as 2009. The final straw for me was watching him deliberately throttle off last week at Redstone after being in contention after 36 holes. Do yourself a favour and cover off the Wisconsin man at over 12/1 for a Top 6! RESULT: T47

Rickie Fowler 1pt EW 100/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet NEW OFFER! £200 In free bets, plus 6 places each way - get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

People have seriously underestimated Rickie Fowler for the 2012 Masters and, on face value, I can totally understand that. 63rd at Redstone and 45th at Doral in his last 2 outings is hardly the stuff of legend, but let me build a case for the hyped 23 year-old. I understand that he's never won a PGA Tour tournament but his first professional win at the Kolon Korea Open on the One Asia Tour last October tells me all I need to know about the Californian's temperament. There he comfortably beat Rory McIlroy (US Open Champion 2010 & 63 hole leader here last year) in a weekend head-to-head on the Bent grass greens of Woo Jeong Hills Country Club by 6 strokes. He also beat Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA Champion + 3rd at the US Open 2011) into 4th by a whopping 11 shots. Then you look at his history on tougher classical tracks that link in solidly with Augusta: Torrey Pines - 13th (12), 20th (11), 5th (10) Quail Hollow - 16th (11), 6th (10) Muirfield 2nd (10) Firestone – 2nd (11). His record at the toughest tournament of them all the Open Championship isn't too shabby either as he finished 14th at St Andrews in 2010 (Open debut) and 5th at the windswept Sandwich last June. With wind being a factor this week I'm taking great stock from both of these results which prove he can cut it at wind-affected Majors plus his best finish in 2012 was at PGA National where he shot a -4/66 in the worst of the Sunday conditions a closing round only bettered by Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. 38th here last year on course debut and he hit an incredible 80% of Greens In Regulation last week in Houston, only bettered by Mahan and Oosthuizen. If the putter warms even slightly then he'll be in the thick of the battle come Sunday. RESULT: T27

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