The tickets are sold out. The players are ready. And the wait is almost over as the US Masters tees off on Thursday. And with golf’s biggest and most recognisable star Tiger Woods now out of the equation due to a back injury, the bookies have found a new, albeit slight, favourite in the shape of Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy. Despite a mixed performance that saw him eventually fade away from contention at the Houston Open a few days ago, McIroy is still in a great position to kick on and win the year’s first Major – it’s likely he was saving himself for the big occasion. Returning a 65 was a real positive on his last day of involvement in that tournament with the bookmakers’ choice playing some of the best golf he’s managed so far this year. And with such a wide-open field this time around, the conditions are perfect for almost anyone to go out and swing their way to a surprise victory. Whether or not that plays into the 24-year-old’s hands remains to be seen, but it certainly won’t do his self-belief any harm. The former world number one will know this is a great opportunity to finally claim the victory he so desperately craves, as well as putting his name to the fore once again, and not just because Woods is out. If he can prove he deserves to win it, he will be good enough on his own merit, and that he did it in a weakened field won’t matter in the slightest.
McIlroy is 11/1 to win the Masters
Not far behind McIlroy as a bettor’s dream choice would have been Jason Day, but a thumb injury has scuppered his plans to a certain extent. With over six weeks having passed since the Australian last played competitively, it’s becoming less and less of a concern about how his injury will effect his game-plan, and more and more about how it has already skewed his preparations. And with very little opportunity to practice on the famous Augusta National course due to harsh weather conditions, Day hasn’t been afforded the time to get his project back on course. Then again, the 26-year-old is no stranger to springing a surprise as his debut at the Masters will attest to; finishing joint-second with Adam Scott back in 2011 behind winner Charl Schwartzel. The added back-story that he’s in contention to snatch the title away from one of his fellow countrymen adds a certain element of anticipation to the four-day tournament, particularly with Day having come so close in recent times. Add to this the fact that there is no complete runaway favourite and the opportunity for somebody like Day to make his own personal history becomes very apparent.
Day is 16/1 to win the Masters
You just can’t ever write off Phil Mickelson. Having withdrawn from the Valero Open in Texas, the legendary golfer looked as though he might become the next big-name casualty to miss the Masters. But he’s battled back from a muscle strain to put himself right back in contention to win his fourth green jacket. Having seemingly overcome his injury, the 43-year-old demonstrated a degree of adversity and focus to pull out when needed so that he’d be in the best possible shape for the big one. And now that he’s in the mix, it’s difficult to see why he won’t push McIlroy and Day all the way. Mickelson knows the course all too well and has a much richer experience of what it’s like to play on the rolling greens and smooth fairways, and it wouldn’t be smart not to factor that into the equation. Of course, time will tell if his strain has healed completely or whether it might come back to haunt him. For now, at least, it would be foolish not to keep your eye on him – the rare chance to equal Tiger Woods’ haul of Masters titles might just spur him on to yet another famous win.
Mickleson is 14/1 to win the Masters
Reigning champion Adam Scott has the chance to place his name alongside some of the greatest golfers to ever play the game this week as he looks to join an incredibly exclusive club of golfers who have won back-to-back Masters titles. If he manages to pluck a win out of the bag, he’ll come into the prestigious company of Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods as the only players to win it consecutively. Granted, he’ll need buckets of concentration and a focus beyond compare if he’s to do it, but since he’s already tasted success at Augusta, he’s already proven he has the technique and the talent to pull through, so all he needs to get in check is his mentality. And while much will be made of the absence of Woods and the fact that he has the opportunity, alongside Day, to snatch the World Number 1 spot depending on his performances, it’s up to Scott to block all of that talk out and focus on being the best he can be. After all, he’s probably grown quite attached to a certain green jacket.
Scott is 12/1 to win the Masters
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