2008 Masters, April 10-13, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia.
by Matt of Predictem.com
The first Major of the 2008 season is upon us with the Masters less than a week away. Augusta National Golf Club serves as the backdrop for one of the most tradition-filled tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule. While the calendar says we are weeks into spring, the official start of the season coincides with this event according to many golf fans. ESPN has the early round coverage for the first time with CBS taking over the weekend broadcasts.
The Masters boasts one of the most accomplished and eclectic fields of any event, with past champions competing right alongside fresh-faced amateurs. All contenders are battling for one of the most recognizable trophies in all of sport, The Green Jacket, as well as virtual golf immortality.
The course is as much an entity as the players that will negotiate her this week. From Magnolia Lane and Raes Creek to the Nelson, Hogan and Sarazen Bridges, patrons and TV viewers have course knowledge of Augusta National unlike any other venue. The 08 version of Augusta will play at 7,445 yards, par-72. As always, the course will test all facets of the game from length and accuracy to putting and course management. There will be chances for birdies and eagles after well placed shots as well as 40-footers for bogey for those who challenge the course design and fail to execute.
The best golfers in the world are here to take their place in the golf history books. We will take a look at the favorites, the contenders and a few wildcards, giving you a look into why they can win and maybe why they wont, giving you the info you need before going to your favorite golf sports book. All odds to win courtesy of Bovada as of April 5, 2008.
Tiger Woods: 1 to 1 to win
Best Masters finish: 1 (four times) (97,01,02,05)
No surprises here as the Worlds Number One continues his march to pass Jack Nicklaus and his Major wins total. Tiger is in prime shape in 08 with wins at the Buick, Accenture and Palmer as well as unofficial wins at the Target World Challenge and Dubai. Few others have played Augusta with the success Tiger has enjoyed, a t-2 last year; Woods has 8 top-10 finishes in 13 starts, compiling a scoring average of 71.00. A key stat for this week for Tiger could be driving accuracy. Tiger ranks 170th on Tour, hitting only 55.5% of fairways, yet he still tops the list in greens in regulation. If he can play from the short grass, look for Woods to get the ball in the right areas on the tricky Augusta greens and excel this week.
Bet Tiger to win using your credit card at Bovada Sportsbook
Phil Mickelson: 9 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 1 (twice) (04,06)
Phil earns the second spot here with a strong Masters history, ten top-10 finishes in 15 starts, and a 71.24 overall scoring average. Lefty is the Tours 16th ranked player in driving distance at 292.3 yards and that will allow him to take advantage of the shortish par-5s at Augusta. For the year, Phil is cashing in a birdie on just over 48% of the par-5s, 13th best. He is another that needs to find the fairways more often, ranking 172nd at 55.4%. Mickelson averages 4.17 birdies a round and could find himself in position on Sunday if he can avoid becoming over-aggressive and slipping up.
Vijay Singh: 22 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 1 (2000)
Vijay hasnt had quite the success he is accustomed to this year, but the Fiji native is no stranger to the big stage, he will be competing in his 15th Masters with 10 top 25 finishes in those starts. Singh is winless this year with but has a t2 at Pebble to go along with 3 other top-10s in his 9 events. Vijay is a premier shot maker; ranking 5th in GIR at 71.85%, leading to 3.83 birdies a round. Look for Vijay to get off to a good start; he averages a 5th best, 69.7 average before the cut.
Ernie Els: 25 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 2 (twice) (2000,04)
The Big Easy is still the Worlds third ranked golfer, but hasnt had the results on American soil as often as earlier in his career. Els did show he could still get it done with a win at this years Honda Classic, but has struggled lately with a missed cut at the PODS and a 75th at the WGC-CA. Ernie has had a good track record here, with 6 top-10s in 14 starts at Augusta. Unlike Singh, Els has been a slow starter this year, averaging 72.00 strokes prior to the cut, but does own an under-par overall Masters scoring average of 71.92.
Padraig Harrington: 25 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T5 (2000)
Harrington joined the list of Major winners with his playoff victory in last years British Open and now looks make number two at Augusta. A t7 last year, Paddy has made 6 of 8 cuts in previous Masters with a 72.57 overall scoring average, with a respectable 77 his worst single effort. On the PGA this year, Harrington is getting it done on the greens, ranking 2nd at 1.68 putts per hole, leading to number 1 ranks in both birdies per round (4.83) and overall birdie conversion rate (37%).
Retief Goosen: 28 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 2 (twice) (02,07)
In the early 2000s, Goosen looked as much a chief rival to Tiger as any on Tour, but uneven play of late has seen Retief drop to 28th in the World Rank. Dont count out the South African just yet however. Goosen is coming off a t2 at the WGC-CA and likes Augusta, with 6 top-25 finishes in 8 starts. Retief needs to hit more greens to contend this week; his 61.11% thus far wont get it done. When Goosen has gotten it to the weekend, he has finished well, averaging 69.25 and 69.5 on Sat./Sun.
Adam Scott: 28 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T9 (2002)
Scott has played well around the world, quietly becoming the 5th ranked golfer on the World list. He looks to find the key to the Masters this year, as he has never broken 70 in any single round en route to a 73.5 overall average. Scott certainly has the game to do it, averaging 303.4 yards off the tee, 4th best on Tour, leading to a par-5 birdie conversion rate of 57.14% which would rank 1st, as he is just short of qualification in that category. The Aussie has used the putter well, averaging 1.74 putts per hole leading to a 9th ranked, 4 birdies per round.
Jim Furyk: 33 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 4 (twice) (98,03)
Furyk is one of the Tours best drivers in terms of accuracy, ranked 15th while hitting 72.9% of fairways. More of the same this week will give him the opportunity to work the ball into the right spots on the Augusta greens. Furyk has a solid Masters record, missing only one cut in 11 starts with a 72.2 stroke average. In the ten cuts made, he has never finished outside the top-30. Overcoming his 107th ranked, 29.4 putts per round average will be key this week.
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Geoff Ogilvy: 33 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T16 (2006)
Oglivy is part of the Australian invasion on the PGA and comes into the Masters ranked 11th on the Official World list. Geoff struggled to open the season, missing his first three cuts, but has righted the ship since, capturing the WGC-CA along the way. A relative newcomer to Augusta, 08 will be the third start for Ogilvy who averaged 73.5 strokes in his 8 rounds. A T24 last year came despite a third round 81. Geoff is an accurate player, hitting 67.9% of greens, but a 123rd ranked 1.80 putts per hole keeps his birdie average at a pedestrian 2.83 per round.
Justin Rose: 40 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T5 (2007)
Rose is no stranger to the Major stage, making noise in the 98 British as an amateur, as well as leading the 07 Masters going into the final day. The Worlds 6th ranked golfer has scuffled some this year on the PGA with a t14 at the PODS as his best finish to date. He has registered an overall average of 69.7 due to his Sunday average of 68.33 which ranks third. If he can get through the initial rounds, he could be a factor. Playing in his fourth Masters, Rose has a 73.25 average at Augusta, and is 3 for 3 in cuts made.
K.J. Choi: 40 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 3 (2004)
The South Korean is another accomplished multi-tour player with worldwide success. Choi got off to a good start this year with a win at the Sony and has top-25 finishes in 5 of 7 events. K.J. is amongst the best on Tour in hitting greens, ranking 2nd at 72.73%, and ranks 39th in scoring average at 70.37. Choi will be looking to improve on his recent Masters finishes that have included a MC along with ties for 33rd and 27th in his last three starts. Owns the tournament record low front nine score when he carded a 30 in 2004.
Luke Donald: 40 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T3 (2005)
Donald has had good finishes in his young Masters career, with a t10 last year to go along with his t3 in 05 and playing the weekend in his other start. A second at this years Honda shows the Englishman in good form, he also sports a 2nd ranked, 69.01 scoring average. The Tours 7th ranked putter at 1.71 per hole contributes to 3.79 birdies per round and a 17th ranked 31.4% birdie or better conversion %.
Sergio Garcia: 50 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T4 (2004)
Sergio may be saddled with the best not to win a Major title, and has been more miss than hit at the Masters recently with a 46th sandwiched between MCs since 05. Garcia has the length to overpower Augusta, averaging 295 yards off the tee, but is ranked 123rd in putts per hole and putts per round, effectively negating his length. Always the enigma, the Spaniard averages 69.96 strokes per round while not averaging fewer than 70 strokes in any single round. Consistency will be the key to a Garcia charge; he has only been under par in 7 of 30 career rounds at the Masters.
Steve Stricker: 50 to 1 to win
Best Masters: T10 (2001)
Dont feel bad if you didnt know that Steve Stricker is the Worlds 4th ranked golfer. The PGA members probably didnt either; they voted him Comeback Player of the Year two years in a row. Stricker is playing the best golf of his career with nine top-10 finishes in 07 and four more in eight events this year. The Masters has not been Steves favorite event in the past with just three of seven cuts made and a 73.9 overall scoring average. More accurate than long, Stricker hits a 12th best 70.37% of greens and is the 5th All Around ranked golfer in 08. His final round average of 66.40 is by far the best and could certainly come in handy should he find himself within striking distance on Sunday.
Zach Johnson: 50 to 1 to win
Best Masters: 1 (2007)
The defending champion probably deserves a little higher billing on this list, but the odds dont lie and defending any title is difficult not to mention Majors. Johnson has been relatively average this year with no missed cuts in eight PGA events, but only one top-10 finish, a t9 at the WGC-CA. Zach is amongst the Tours best in terms of hitting fairways at 72.22% but fails to crack the top-100 in driving distance, birdie average, and putts per round. Prior to the win last year, Johnson logged a MC and a t36 in two Masters starts.
Matts Picks for the Win:
Short Favorite: Tiger Woods 1 to 1
Middle of the Road: Padraig Harrington 25 to 1
Best Longshot: Steve Stricker 50 to 1
Bet these odds and more at Bodog.
Look for a Masters match up and prop bet breakdown early next week.