The 78th US Masters is almost upon us and the organisers have excelled themselves in conjuring some three-balls that look like the work of mythical makers. Below are previews of three of the best.
Australian Jason Day has developed a profitable knack of saving his best golf for the biggest events, especially here at Augusta. Tied for second place on debut in 2011 the 26-year-old blew a two shot lead with only three holes to play last year before finishing third. However, despite this excellent course record his chances of righting the wrong appear to be slim considering this will be his first event in six weeks because of a thumb injury.
Dustin Johnson has a solid record at Augusta, making the cut in all four of his previous attempts. None of those promising starts have translated into anything better than a 13th placed finish at the weekend but that shouldn’t bother investors in this market.
Henrik Stenson achieved more last season that many do in their entire career by winning the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai, however, like so many players to reach such a high the following campaign has been disappointing so far. The Swede has an unremarkable record at the course and although he always seemed to be on the leaderboard last term the results aren’t coming so easily at present.
Conclusion – Johnson has to be the pick considering the injury doubts of Day, form of Stenson and his bright starts at this event in his previous starts.
Bubba Watson’s 2012 Green Jacket shouldn’t have been a surprise to followers of the game considering he had made the cut on all previous visits and suits the risk-reward nature of the course down to a tee.
The ultra-popular left-hander has won already this season and has been in contention at several events and despite failing to break 70 in any round last year that should not be held against him considering the circus that hampers any defending champion at Augusta.
Luke Donald reached number one with a week-to-week consistency that was unerring and that quality is something that has served backers of the Englishmen well in this market over the years.
The 36-year-old finished third on his debut here in 2005 and backed that up six years later when finishing fourth.
In nine visits to the course he has only failed to make the weekend twice and his performances this season have justified the swing changes he has gradually implemented.
Sergio Garcia is many people’s idea of this week’s winner and everything finally seems to be falling in to place for a man once in danger of falling into sport’s ‘enigma’ category.
The Spaniard has been in excellent form for some time and with 15 Masters starts under his belt he is the most experienced of the three.
A best finish of fourth in 2004 has been threatened in his last two visits where he has finished 12th and eighth and the fact he has made his last five cuts here is encouraging.
Conclusion – In a wide-open three-ball the tentative advice is to go with the favourite Garcia. The good vibes surrounding the 34-year-old are based on hard evidence rather than hype and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him leading the field after day 1.
With three Green Jackets already Phil Mickleson has obvious claims here and for outright success.
Only once has the ultra-popular 43-year-old missed the cut in 21 starts and with a phenomenal 14 top-10 finishes and 10 top-five’s no-one in the field can be relied upon as heavily.
Enthusiasm is dampened by a season documented more for injury than success but he has bounced back before to excel in Georgia and has to be feared.
Four-time Major winner Ernie Els has threatened to add the Masters to his haul many times with five top-six finishes since 2000.
However, despite returning to the highest level in fine style at The Open two years ago the impression was that achievement was a brief flashback to the old Els rather than the beginning of a new dawn of top-level success.
The 44-year-old can never be completely ruled out but three-balls don’t get much more competitive than this and his price fairly reflects his chances of coming out on top here considering his form this year.
Justin Rose has shown time and again that he enjoys the course, finishing no worse than 39th in eight starts.
The composed Englishmen showed what he was made of when joining the elite after following his US Open last year, however, a shoulder injury has set him back since and a certain amount of faith has to be taken that the recovery has been completed in time to be competitive with Mickelson.
Conclusion – There are question marks over all three runners but despite all of the trio boasting impressive records here neither Els nor Rose can compete Phil The Thrill’s and with all things considered the home favourite looks a solid choice.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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