The Masters 2012: Who’s up for the Green Jacket?

A year on from Charl Schwartzel’s under the radar capture of his first Green Jacket and Rory’s infamous back nine collapse, we have just one day to wait until the start of this year’s Masters.

Schwartzel Masters

With such a huge field competing and all the unpredictabilities of the Augusta National as a course it is hard to pin down just a few favourites or ‘Ones to Watch’ but Golf’s most glamorous major has people rushing to the bookies and their online betting accounts looking for some nice, tempting long odds to have a punt on.

Below I have made picked some categories and within these bounds have chosen some decent looking options to throw a couple of quid at.

The top two favourites:

Going into the tournament it is perhaps no surprise that Tiger Woods (Betfair 5/1) is the favourite with the bookies given his history at Augusta and his recent win at Bay Hill but last year’s nearly man, Rory McIlroy (Betfair 15/2), is arguably the people’s favourite going in.

Both Woods and McIlroy would relish a fourth round face-off with each other on Sunday

McIlroy’s record since his Augusta meltdown this time last year has been superb. In the twenty+ events that he has contested since he has finished in the top 10 about three quarters of the time, bagging himself four event wins, four second places and four third place finishes. This is a staggering level of form and consistency that Rory has shown over the past twelve months and when compared with Woods’ record in the same time period it is almost comical that Woods is favoured by the bookies.

Woods does of course have the most memorable of histories with the National but even he might admit that Rory’s the one to beat on current form.

Verdict: If you’re backing one of the top two favourites then go for Rory.

The Brits:

Aside from McIlroy there are some other attractive British options including the two players either side of Rory in the world rankings; world number one Luke Donald (Betfair 15/1) and world number three Lee Westwood (Betfair 22/1).

Other options include former US Open champion Graeme McDowell (Betfair 85/1) who has shown some encouraging recent signs that he might be re-finding some of his best golf, Paul Casey (Betfair 260/1) playing his first major since injuring himself snow boarding in Colorado, three-time former major winner Padraig Harrington (Betfair 110/1) who leads the par 3 contest as I write and Ian Poulter (Betfair 110/1) who has decent form at the Masters and is as confident as ever.

Other Brits in the field include Simon Dyson (490/1), Ross Fisher (370/1) 15th at Augusta in 2011 and Martin Laird (170/1) who perhaps wouldn’t be a bad shout for a top ten finish given his usually very consistent showings on the PGA Tour.

Rose golf

Justin Rose appears to be coming of age on the PGA Tour

Perhaps the canniest of all British bets though would be to put a fiver of Justin Rose (Betfair 33/1) who’s brilliant form has seen him win at Doral a few weeks ago as well as charging into the world’s top ten. He is in ship-shape at the moment and he has plenty of experience at Augusta where he has on a couple of occasions come flying out of the traps.

Verdict:

Back Rose at very generous odds, could look at Each Way bets on the likes of Casey, Laird, Poulter or McDowell as each would give a fair return. Or… back ‘Luuuuuuuuukkkkeeee’ Donald for a top 5 finish.

Long Shots:

As previously mentioned Paul Casey is well worth a look at on an Each Way basis and he isn’t the only one offering more than generous odds with Betfair…

Johnson Wagner (Betfair 200/1) may well not be a household name with us Brits but his season on the PGA Tour has been superb. He is currently second in the FedEx cup points list courtesy of some fantastic form which has seen him bag a PGA Tour win, a second place and two further top 10 finishes and at those odds he is a handsome Each Way option.

Wagner

Johnson Wagner is in great form on the PGA Tour

The mercurial Alvaro Quiros (Betfair 200/1) is also worth a real look.

Verdict: All worth a shout with an Each Way bet

Best of the rest:

Day Golf

Jason Day has a great recent record in majors but does have a niggling ankle injury

Other big name players that have been given generous odds by Betfair and several other bookmakers include Jason Day (45/1) who has three top ten finishes and two second placed finishes from the last five majors including last year’s Masters, Nick Watney (65/1) who likes it at the national, the only two-time winner on the PGA this year Hunter Mahan (37/1) and finally Adam Scott (33/1) who tied for second place with Day last year. One other decent option is reigning champion Charl Schwartzel (Betfair 45/1) who’s odds to win the tournament are staggering given how marvellously he played en route to victory last year.

Verdict:

Jason Day at 45/1 is my star bet for the whole tournament, he is also well worth a look at for a top ten or top five finish given his recent record in major tournament golf. He is a slight injury doubt though so beware… If Day doesn’t float your boat then look at Hunter Mahan as an Each Way option.

Opening Weekend Premier League Predictions

Blackburn 1-1 Wolves:

Can’t pick this one either way. Both sides scraped their way through to Premier League survival last year and could both face more of the same this time around.

Talented youngster Mauro Formica could be a creative spark for Rovers this term

Fancy a punt: Kevin Doyle first Goalscorer

Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa:

I fancy both sides to do reasonably well this season. Could be a tough period of adaptation for Villa under new boss Alex McLeish and having lost some of their star players, but I can see them winning this one.

N'Zogbia had a great season for Wigan last year

Fancy a punt: Charles N’Zogbia to score on debut

Liverpool 3-2 Sunderland:

Game of the weekend for me. Two of the Premier League’s most active clubs in the transfer market go head to head at Anfield and I’m predicting a thriller resulting in a narrow Liverpool win.

It should be really interesting to see how many of the new recruits get a game and if they do how they settle into life at their new clubs. One to keep an eye on will be young England prospect Jordan Henderson who is immediately facing up to his former employers after a £20 million pound move.

Henderson will be looking to further his England ambitions this season

Fancy a punt: Jordan Henderson to score against his former club

QPR 2-2 Bolton:

Another good game on paper as QPR make their long awaited return to the top flight of English football. Since Owen Coyle took over at Bolton there has been a greater emphasis on keeping the ball at feet and playing ‘real’ football, a philosophy also suited to the playing staff at QPR.

Adel “mercurial talent” Taarabt is QPR’s super star after a magical year in the Championship and it will be intriguing to see if he can make the step up to the big time after failing to bowl over the Spurs hierarchy in his last spell in the top flight. If his head is in the right place then he could be the key to QPR’s survival this year, I’m backing him to start brightly and contribute to an opening day point.

Can Taarabt switch it on?

Fancy a punt: Taarabt last goalscorer

Wigan 1-2 Norwich:

Tough one to call with new-boys Norwich full of enthusiasm on their return to the promised land. Last year surprise Premier League newcomers Blackpool stunned Wigan on the opening day and this year’s surprise arrival in the Premiere League could follow suit. I don’t think Wigan will quite as abject or shambolic as they were this time last year but I fancy a narrow victory for the Canaries.

I have Paul lambert's Norwich down for an opening victory

Fancy a punt: Norwich to win from behind

Newcastle 1-1 Arsenal:

Both sides have had a bit of a nightmare in the recent transfer windows. In January Newcastle lost their ‘local boy done good’ up top and this summer’s window has seen the departure of their skipper Kevin Nolan and top quality full-back Jose Enrique. Likewise, Arsenal look like they are on the verge of losing their two best players in one fell swoop.

I foresee a morale boosting draw for the hosts, and a morale sapping draw for the Gunners.

How will Arsenal get on while facing up to two major losses

Fancy a punt: Home win for the Toon

Stoke 0-2 Chelsea:

I am backing Chelsea to win after a hard battle on Andre Villas-Boas’ first taste of Premier League action. No win at the Brittannia ever comes easy, and I expect a typically resolute showing from Tony Pulis’ men on opening day. I am not ruling out a shock in this one though as Stoke have dealt pretty well in the transfer market so far this summer and it sounds as if another couple of high quality players could be on their way also, so confidence levels should be pretty high at the club.

Pulis is showing great ambition in the transfer maket

Fancy a punt: 0-0 at half time

West Brom 1-3 Man Utd:

I can see this being a pretty routine win for the Champions. West Brom have decent options up top if everyone is fit to play so I think they might put one past new recruit David De Gea in the United goal, but the confidence taken from an exciting win in last weekend’s Community Shield should be enough to see United to a comfortable victory.

Is Ashley Young the new poster boy at United?

Fancy a punt: Wayne Rooney to score a brace

Swansea 1-3 Man City:

The Premier League’s first Welsh representatives will be very excited about what is in store this campaign but I think they might just get their first reality check this Monday evening. There is a good chance that Swansea’s positive approach could take city by surprise early on, but I think the FA Cup holders will prove a scalp too far for the Swans once they are into their rhythm.

Debut for Aguero?

Fancy a punt: Aguero to score on debut

Place your bets: The Masters

This coming weekend plays host to one of sports greatest events, and one of it’s most competitive betting markets. The Masters is golf’s first Major of the year and is a fond favourite of those with an eye for a punt, and an eye for arguably one of the most vivid and enchanting venues in global sport.

Picture-Perfect

This Thursday begins one of those special sporting events that sparks interest and appreciation from the corners of disenchantment. Golf is a sport loved far and wide, but the lengthy schedules and perceived elitism involved in the sport have always attracted scepticism and mockery. Perhaps it could be argued that such attitudes have detracted from others getting involved in any way with the sport having never given it a real shot.

However, The Masters is just that bit more special than any old golf tournament. The course itself the Augusta National, Georgia, is a work of art. The beauty of the venue is beyond compare in the sporting realm and it provides that little glint of magic that sets it apart from the crowd.

Not only is the course achingly beautiful but it plays like a wicked, teasing, taunting mistress. In part it offers opportunity for low scoring and in others the margins for error are excruciatingly tight. This set-up makes for constant subtle and not so subtle twists and turns, thus there is always an element of unpredictability. Sometimes such unpredictability amongst a large field of competitors lessens the desire for a punt, but betting figures would suggest otherwise. With 99 competitors in the field, The Masters offers some fantastic odds in the outright winners market, the seed of temptation is there for all to see.

After all, how many of the world’s leading sports events could boast best odds of 25-1 on the World Number One triumphing? Not too many I would wager, but those are indeed the available odds with Betfair for the brilliant Martin Kaymer.

World Numbers 1 and 2 have been paired together for the opener at Augusta

Other names of interest to the betting public might include Lee Westwood, World Number Two and last year’s runner-up, who will desperately seek to get the monkey off his back by winning his first major (Best Odds 18/1). Red-hot young Americans with attributes seemingly built for Augusta Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson, can be backed at best odds of 18/1 and 32/1 respectively.

My European tips are big-hitting duo Paul Casey (40/1) and Ross Fisher a long-shot at a lengthy 200/1, and my tips from foreign-shores are Americans Watney (18/1), Johnson (32/1), and Matt Kuchar (34/1), and South African veteran Retief Goosen (90/1) .

Watney focused on 'Major' breakthrough

The majority of this select group have challenged seriously in Majors gone-by, with Goosen already a major winner. I feel the time is right at Augusta for a fresh-face to dazzle the golfing world with a performance of real class and flashes of sheer inspiration, as were finely demonstrated by reigning champion Phil Mickelson in the closing round last year. I think the man for this job could well be Nick Watney, a quirky character off the course whom would prove a very popular champion amongst the American spectators and in the locker room too.

Mickelson seeks to put the jacket on himself this time

The tempting length of odds for players within the world’s top thirty or so makes for some potential big-money wins for low-liability gambles. Thus, an already stunning sporting spectacle has the ability to take on increased importance and value of the monetary kind. Who knows what the outcome will be on Sunday night when the tournament reaches it’s conclusion but my advice would be: Don’t break the bank, but maybe have just a little punt on some generous odds.