The Masters Preview and Picks to Win
When: April 8-11, 2010
Where: Augusta National Golf Club Augusta, GA
by Evergreen of Predictem.com
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Welcome friends. Its that time of year again. Spring has sprung and the PGA takes its annual turn down Magnolia Lane for The Masters. While its impossible to ignore the impact that Tiger Woods will have on this weeks action, The Masters and Augusta National actually have very little need for the best golfer in the world. This event is just that special. Still, its good to see Mr. Woods back on the range and thats about all it took for Vegas to install him as the favorite this week and thats what we are here to talk about anyway, so here we go.
If you follow this piece from week to week, you know we talk a little about the course and then give you three picks to win. Along with a short, middle and longs odds winner, we also look at some head to head matches that are typically found at any online golf sportsbook. This weeks preview will be the player profiles of our Front Nine. Weve selected nine golfers that we think have the best chance to win.
From 2000 to 2006, the PGA chalk enjoyed a stranglehold on the Masters with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh winning six green jackets. The last three years, however, have belonged to the underdog with Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera taking medalist honors. Weve also chosen to be equitable with our picks and feature a mix of big names and journeyman in our profiles.
Golf fans know Augusta National. As with most years in the recent past, the course has been tweaked in the offseason with the movement of tees and the addition of several Georgia pines that will be a factor in how some holes play but the spirit of the Jones design always remains. The course will play at 7,445 yards this week which is very similar to the course length of the last few years. One quirk at Augusta that is uncommon to Major Championship golf is the difficulty of the finishing stretch. At most courses, the hardest holes are reserved for the end, but Augustas 13th through 17th include five of the easiest nine holes overall. This aspect, more than any other, can often determine the eventual winner and leaves the door open to more players on Sunday as the afternoon progresses.
As a small accounting note, our picks to win so far in 2010 have hit in four of thirteen events for a .307 win percentage. The four include Steve Stricker (Northern Trust 14 to 1) Dustin Johnson (Pebble Beach 20 to 1) Camilo Villegas (Honda 25 to 1) and most recently Anthony Kim at the Shell Houston for a 25 to 1 hit. That group has the pick set at +51 units when you add back the two refunds due to pre-event withdrawals. Golf betting can be a bit of a roller coaster, especially when picking winners, but were definitely riding high in 2010.
The Front Nine
1. Ernie Els (12 to 1 odds to win)
It has been quite the renaissance for the Big Easy in 2010 with four top-10 finishes in eight starts including wins at the Palmer and the CA Championship. Ernie has missed the cut at the last three Masters, but it finally appears that he is fully healthy and its showing on his stat sheet. Els is solid from tee to green, ranking in the top-60 in both fairways and greens in regulation and currently owns the best scoring average on Tour. Ernie is 10th in birdies on the strength of the best birdie or better percentage on par-5s. The par-5s at Augusta can give up eagles, so thats a nice one to have in the bag this week. Ernie is also 6th in par-4 performance on the year at 12-under overall. A high rank is a theme with our picks this week as Majors typically feature ridiculously hard par-4s and the Masters in no exception.
2. Steve Stricker (20 to 1 odds to win)
Stricker is another of the grizzled-vet set that are tearing up the Tour in 2010. Steve hasnt missed a cut in seven events and has notched four top-10s with a win at the Northern Trust. Coming off a T6 finish at the 2009 Masters, Strickers game looks Major-ready with top-20 ranks in putting, birdie and scoring average as well as scrambling. Steve has no weakness in the game right now, ranking 31st or better in overall performance on all holes including a 9th rank in par-4 performance at 8-under total.
3. Matt Kuchar (66 to 1 odds to win)
It has been 12 years since Kuch stormed Augusta as an amateur and finished T21, but 2010 has been his best year on Tour with four top-10 finishes in nine starts. His last two weeks have seen him 3rd and 8th in preparation for this week and his high accuracy playing style makes him a good deep look. Matt is all over it with top-20 ranks in total driving, GIR%, putting average and overall scoring average. Kuchar also ranks first in birdies per 18 and overall par-4 performance at 27-under. The only thing holding Kuchar back might be his first round pairing. Matt is going to be right in the middle of the Tiger Woods circus and although he seems pretty unflappable, the amount of people following the pairing has to be distracting. If Kuchar makes it through to the weekend, bet him freely in single round head to heads.
4. Tiger Woods (7 to 2 odds to win)
You didnt think we would leave him off the list, did you? Tiger loves Augusta and Augusta was made for Tiger so all the non-golf related stuff may not matter one little bit for this week. Since turning professional, Tiger has finished no worse than T24 in twelve Masters starts and has been in the top-5 on seven occasions including his four wins. We dont officially pick Tiger to win as hes a horrible value, plus if youre going to lay your money down on him, you dont need our endorsement. Were predicting a T12 finish with Tiger on the second page of the leaderboard for the majority of the weekend.
5. Phil Mickelson (11 to 1 odds to win)
Phil is in the middle of a very quiet 2010 season, yet the lefty hasnt missed a cut in seven events and his decision to attempt a right handed shot on Friday at the Shell Houston eventually led to a 76 and ruined an otherwise solid event. Aside from Woods, Mickelson has the best Masters record in the field with four top-5 finishes since 2004 including wins in 04 and 06. Lefty has the length to tame Augusta and his 2nd best birdie or better stat on the par-5s will keep him in contention even if he tries something silly again. Phils nemesis has been the third round where his scoring average dips to 133rd but a trip to the weekend is almost a sure thing and his top-25 rank in approach proximity categories shows he can knock it stiff with the best of them.
6. Brian Gay (100 to 1 odds to win)
Gay is a Masters rookie but lands on the list as he is fits the mold of an Immelman or Zach Johnson. Gay has five top-25s in nine starts and has missed only one cut on the year. Brian isnt going to overwhelm you with his long game, but he does hit the third most fairways and finishes as good as anyone with the 7th best putting average and 4th best putts per round mark. His par-4 performance is also list-worthy as he ranks 15th in that category and can save par on any hole with a 6th best scrambling percentage.
7. Robert Allenby (50 to 1 odds to win)
Allenby has been under the radar this year but has posted a very solid start with seven of eight cuts made and three top-10 finishes. The key to consistency has been his improved putting, a category where he has always struggled. Past the improved flatstick, Allenby is 15th in total driving and 28th in greens hit to highlight the stat sheet for the number one all around stat owner. Roberts is currently 5th in scoring and his 9-under total on the par-4s is good for 8th overall.
8. Hunter Mahan (40 to 1 odds to win)
Hunter is one of those players that just go about their business with little fanfare but produces solid results. Mahan has made six of eight cuts so far and while most of his finishes were second and third pages news, he did come through with a win in Phoenix. You have to like his 9th best total driving rank this week and 40th in greens is good enough for the 15th best ballstriking mark. Hunter doesnt fit the list as he ranks 107th in par-4 performance, but he proved he can succeed here with a T10 finish just last year.
9. Kenny Perry (80 to 1 odds to win)
Do you remember the heartbreaking playoff loss from the 2009 Masters? Kenny Perry does. Im sure hes more than a bit motivated to erase that thought so he likely comes in with the biggest chip on his shoulder compared to the field. Perrys best 2010 finish came back in January at the SBS in Hawaii but look for a step forward this week out of the veteran. Kenny is currently second in total driving and ranks 15th in fairways hit. That combo of length and accuracy is needed at the Masters to take advantage of the birdie holes and Perry has been knocking them in when he sees them with the 22nd best birdie average in 2010 play. Kenny is even on the year on the par-4s, good for 39th in par-4 performance, but will have to overcome the bogeys that have kept him out of contention so far.
Using our standard method of picks, wed use Els, Stricker and Allenby in our short, middle and long slots, and would have put Kuchar in there if not for the Woods pairing.