The Masters Preview and Picks – 2009

The Masters
Thursday, April 9th Sunday April 12, 2009
The Augusta National Golf Club Augusta, GA

by Matt of

Its that time of year again as the PGA takes the turn down Magnolia Lane for the 2009 Masters. Like Tiger before a Major, my computer took last week off to prepare for this event but is now back with a few tweaks to make this weeks preview just a bit different.

The Masters often marks the start of spring for most golf fans and the years first Major has several story lines that make the 2009 edition one to watch. Can Padraig Harrington continue his winning streak? Will the old guard of Singh, Furyk and Perry rise up and hold off the hard charging youngsters for another year? Can a relative unknown player take down his first Major like Trevor Immelman did last year? Will we see a duel on Sunday with Tiger against the likes of Mickelson, Kim or Garcia? All will be answered along while many more play out on one of the most hallowed grounds in all the game.

Augusta National is one of the most picturesque and historically important courses that the PGA has in its impressive rotation of host sites. Even the casual golf fan has been enamored with the beauty of Augusta and the tradition cultivated at this event over the years. Much has been made of the course changes in the past decade as nearly every hole has undergone a makeover of some sort. There have been subtle additions of a tree or two on some holes and full on Tiger-proofing on others, but Augusta has kept her charm and grace all these years while providing a stiff test to every player.


The Augusta National Golf Club will play at par-72 for the event and measure 7,435 yards, making it the second longest course used in Major Championship history. Augusta uses the classic layout of two par-5 and two par-3 holes on each side with the par-5s providing tremendous risk/reward opportunities as all are reachable by a majority of the field. The 5-pars do give up eagles to well placed shots, but are penalizing to overaggressive lines and poorly struck attempts. The eventual winner of this years Masters will surely have taken advantage of the par-5s to stay ahead of the field.

Greens in regulation, sand saves, proximity to the hole are always important in any event, but the Masters has always been about length off the tee and putting. Shorter hitters have won at Augusta, but the prevailing theme has been to bomb it off the tee and get the shortest club in your hand on approach.

Looking at the PGA rankings in the stat categories associated with length, putting and par-5 performance (driving distance, total driving, putts per round, putts per GIR) these players are all inside the top-20 on multiple lists.

Bubba Watson
Nick Watney
Phil Mickelson
Ernie Els
Robert Allenby
Boo Weekley
Steve Stricker
Mike Weir

Some of these players will be more favored to win (Mickelson 8 to 1) while others will be true longshots this week. (Bubba Watson 150 to 1) If youre looking for a statistical advantage in some head to heads, this is a good list of players to have your money on.

For every PGA event, we take a look around the golf sportsbooks and highlight a few players expected to contend. Well make three picks to win; a short, middle and long odds player that we think has the goods. Well breakdown a few head to head matches and makes picks there as well. Here are some players and picks to watch at this weeks Masters with odds and lines courtesy of the board at Superbook.

Tiger Woods - 11 to 5 for the outright win
There isnt much to be said that hasnt been already when it comes to Tiger
and the Masters. Woods finishes since 97 have gone 1,8,18,5,1,1,22,1,3,2,2,
for an average finish of 5th plus change. Tiger proved he is back from
knee surgery after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has the best
scoring average on Tour to boot. Woods is also first in putts per round
and scrambling, which should come as no surprise, considering the flatstick
and short game got heavy practice during his recovery. We seldom pick Tiger
as the value is rarely there, so he is not our official pick, but he will
most likely be in position on Sunday barring a bad stretch.

Phil Mickelson - 8 to 1
Phil looked ready to pose a real threat to win his second Masters after winning twice in three weeks at the Northern Trust and WGC-CA, but the tune-up in Houston last week resulted in a 77/76 start and a badly missed cut. Maybe the extra two days will do Lefty good, the 06 Masters champ has had a good run of late, posting T24 and T5 finishes the last two years. Mickelson is 22nd in driving distance and 9th in putting average in 09 and both are plus stats at Augusta. Lefty is errant, ranking 179th in fairways, but the roughs arent unplayable here.

Geoff Ogilvy - 10 to1
Geoff has played well this year, winning the Mercedes as well as the Accenture Match play. Both of those events have strong fields, so the Major atmosphere seems to bring out the best in his game. Ogilvy has gone T24 and T39 the last two years and has been bitten by some one round struggles. Keeping mistakes to a minimum could eliminate those big numbers and keep him close. Geoff is long enough to win here; averaging 291 yards off the tee, but a top-40 GIR% and the best putting average on Tour in 09 are a real solid combination. Ogilvy has found a very versatile and reliable swing so far, ranking 12th in the All Around and 7th in par-5 birdie % and is our short odds pick to win this week.

Padraig Harrington - 15 to 1
A tremendous run in 08 saw Harrington take down the British Open and PGA Championship to have him at the doorstep of three Majors in a row. The results havent been there so far in 09 with Padraig unable to crack the top-10 in any of seven starts, but he did finish with three rounds in the 60s at the Shell Houston. Paddys run at Augusta has been very strong the last two years with T7 and T5 finishes. Harringtons current stat sheet isnt much to write home about, but when he is on, he is one of the best putters on Tour as well as a long driver. Three in a row is a tough order, but if Paddy can shake off the pressure, the game to win is lying in wait.

Paul Casey - 25 to 1
Casey is red hot coming off a win at the Shell Houston Open and has a runner up at the Accenture to add to that. Paul has only three U.S. starts in 09 but should need no break in time at Augusta after T11 and T10 finishes the last two years. Casey looks to have the recipe for success this week, averaging 303 yards off the tee and holding a share of the best putting average and putts per hole mark. Casey is 2nd in birdies per round, 14th in par-5 conversion and is our middle odds pick to win.

Our Picks to Win:

Short Favorite: Geoff Ogilvy (10 to 1) two wins on the year and a stat sheet that is perfect for Augusta.

Middle of the Road: Paul Casey (25 to 1) one of the more underrated players on Tour, maybe not after this week.

Longshot: Zach Johnson (35 to 1) - It was a tough pick this week as SuperBook has some great values down the board. Sean OHair and Stewart Cink look really good at 50 and 60 to 1, but Zach Johnson is our pick. The 07 Masters champ has one win already this year and his T20 last year was a bit of a letdown as he carded a 77 on Sunday. Zach is hometown favorite and although he isnt the longest player out there, he is top-20 in fairways and greens hit and ranks 11th in overall ballstriking. Good Luck Zach! Were still counting the money from the Sony in January.

Notables on the Board:

Here are a few notable players and their current posted odds.

Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim 30 to 1

Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh 60 to 1

Greg Norman, Rocco Mediate, Trevor Immelman 100 to 1

Bernhard Langer, Tom Watson, Mark OMeara 250 to 1

Field 20 to 1

Head to Head Matches (our pick) *listed matches are for entire event. Check with your favorite sportsbook after each round for updated daily matches.

Anthony Kim (-115) v. Camilo Villegas (-115) (Villegas)
Both players are young and dealing with high expectations after multiple wins a year ago. Villegas has the best GIR% on Tour in 09 and that should play out over a slightly better putter by Kim.

Stewart Cink (-110) v. Mike Weir (-120) (Weir)
Cink is much better than he has been playing of late and is due to break out, but the 169th ranked putter and 175th ranked birdie average just pale against Weirs top-10 stats in putting average, putts per round and par-5 conversions.

Good Luck All!!