The most obvious reason for the failure of Europeans to win the Masters of late lies with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson who between them have won seven of the 15 Green Jackets since 1997.
Woods’s triumph in 1997 was a turning point for the sport. He was 40/1 for the season’s opener and played the opening nine holes in 40 strokes before running away with the title in devastating fashion to land the first of his 14 Major titles.
His record at Augusta is stunning: only three times outside of the top 15 in the past 15 Masters and aside from his four titles in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005, he should have had more. His worst finish since his last triumph in 2005 was tied sixth when Angel Cabrera won in 2009.
With Ladbrokes offering 6/1 with place terms at a quarter the odds for the first five, he looks an each-way wager with little downside and punters will not have forgotten his amazing front-nine charge last year which was overshadowed by Rory Mcllroy’s demise.
Woods traded at odds-on after his amazing eagle at the eighth put him just one behind the Ulsterman. He looked sure to go on to win a fifth Green Jacket but paid for his overaggressive approach on the back nine.
Nevertheless, writing off Tiger at Augusta is a quick way to the poor house and it is quite understandable that the layers make him 6/1. On the facts, this is a wonderful price.
Mickelson has also become something of an Augusta specialist having won three Green Jackets, in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and has had six other top-five finishes.
He is 8/1 for a fourth Masters title in 2012 and with the same logic as that used with Woods is also a good each-way bet.
It is important to point out that despite Woods’ and Mickelson’s triumphs, the bookies have had some of their biggest pay-days at Augusta with Ladbrokes celebrating Charl Schwartzel last year despite being top price 125/1 before it started.
The young South African deserves great credit as he produced an amazing final round. It will be hard for him to become the first to win back to back Masters since Woods in 2002, but it would be no surprise to see him win another in the future.
Schwartzel’s victory was nothing compared to the likes of Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir, whose victories were huge results for the bookies.
Luke Donald is a player who only has to win a Major to become one of the game’s greats. It is hard for those outside the sport to understand how you can win both money lists and be world number one yet not win one of the season’s big-four championships.
This could all change in 2012 and Donald is a terrific price each way at 14/1 at Augusta. He finished tied fourth last year and tied third behind Woods in 2005.
Another point to consider when having a bet is course form. The Masters is an event where certain players feature on the leaderboard again and again. Furthermore, the winner is usually in the final group, so a saver on Sunday should give you some action through to the finish.
If you are planning on playing in-running, it pays to know your holes. Numbers 10, 11 and 12, including Amen Corner, often decide matters, and not through good scores but disasters, as McIlroy found to his cost last year.
This promises to be a vintage Masters with Europe hoping to win the season’s first Major for the first time since 1999. Perhaps Woods or Mickelson can win an eighth Green Jacket between them or perhaps another unknown will produce a shock. But I fancy the 2012 edition will be one for the punters.
This article was written by Angus Loughran for Close Up, the world’s best informed sports and betting magazine. Click here to get a FREE version of Close Up for your iPAD.