Unless you've been on another planet, you'll know that Tiger Woods is the overwhelming favourite and most likely winner of this week's Masters. However, he has proved beatable in the last years (2nd and 3rd), which should at least give some hope to the rest of the field. Here’s my player-by-player guide to the main contenders, with the best current prices on offer.
Tiger Woods 11/10 Paddy Power (2.32 Betfair)
What’s left to say about the world No.1? He’s won nine of his last 11 events dating back to last July, and is playing on one his favourite courses, the scene of his first Major win 11 years ago. He’s so far clear of the rest that even 11/10 is value, although do save a bit for in-running as his odds might drift a little.
Phil Mickelson 9/1 William Hill
Lefty has been going along steadily all year, chalking up a win at Riviera but giving the impression that he’s saving his best for Masters week. With two green jackets already, there’s no doubt he has all the skills needed to win a third and he’s the most likely challenger to Tiger this week.
Vijay Singh 22/1 Boylesports
The Fijian has been showing no signs in 2008 that he’s on the decline at the age of 45. He probably has one more Major in him, but the lightning fast greens at Augusta might again find him out this week - won here in 2002 after the course had been soaked and the greens somewhat tamed.
Padraig Harrington 28/1 sportingbet
The Open champion has been playing well in 2008 but has looked some way short of his very best. He’ll no doubt be looking to peak for the first major of the year but his record at Augusta is nothing out of the ordinary - two top-10’s for eight starts, the best of which was a never challenging fifth. Still, capable of better.
Ernie Els 25/1 Stan James
There’s no doubt that Ernie has the ideal all-round game for Augusta as he proved in the first five years of this century - 2nd 2000, T6th 2001, T5th 2002, T6th 2003 and 2nd 2004. He’d love to add a green jacket to his two US Opens and one British Open, but his preparation has been interrupted by a virus (withdrew last week). Still, dangerous to rule out.
Retief Goosen 28/1 bet365
The Goose has had four top-three finishes here in the last years, but has struggled since finishing runner-up in 2007, failing to make the top-10 anywhere in the world. However, his second at the CA Championship recently was a sign that he’s coming back to something like his best. Major (excuse the pun) contender this week.
Adam Scott 33/1 Ladbrokes
The Aussie has been playing some sublime golf this year, including when shooting a final round 61 to win the Qatar Masters. However, his Masters record (best finish 9th in 2002) and his overall record in Majors (top-10 only four times) tempers any enthusiasm for a bet.
Geoff Ogilvy 33/1 VCbet
An unlikely winner of the 2006 US Open, the Aussie has since proved that was no fluke with a string of top-class performances in prestige events. Could not be in better form having the World Golf Championship last time out, and would have finished higher than 24th at Augusta last year but for a couple of untimely visits to water. Well worth each way support.
Justin Rose 40/1 Betdirect
The top-ranked European who has shown a distinct liking for Augusta having held the first-round lead back in 2004, and finishing fifth last year. Overall, his record in the Majors marks him down as a player for the big occasion and well capable of winning a Major in due course. A contender for Top European honours at the very least.
Jim Furyk 40/1 Stan James
Has been a model of consistency over the past decade and is one of the best putters around. However, he is also one of the shortest drivers on Tour which is always going to be a handicap around this course. Unlikely to win unless all the ‘big guns’ misfire and, even then, he would have to hole everything in sight. Top-10 at best.
KJ Choi 40/1 Blue Square
The Korean is the winner of seven PGA Tour titles to date and has gone on record as saying that the Masters is his best chance of winning a Major. Came closest when finishing third to Mickelson in 2004 and is a more accomplished and experienced player now. Can see him posting another top five finish.
Luke Donald 50/1 William Hill
For such a short hitter, Luke has a perfectly respectable Augusta record of 3rd, 42nd and 10th. However, he has thrown away a number of winning opportunities in the past, looking less than comfortable under pressure. Nevertheless, he has been in good form this season and is not one to oppose lightly in place and match betting.
Sergio Garcia 66/1 Paddy Power
Currently 14th in the world rankings, but has not won for over two years and his putting continues to be below the standard of a professional. There’s no doubt he has it in him to win a Major one day, but the lightning fast greens at Augusta make him one to oppose this week.
Steve Stricker 66/1 Stan James
One of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour and up to No.4 in the world rankings. That said, he doesn't win as often as he should and there’s nothing to suggest in his Augusta record that he is up to challenging the likes of Woods this week. Place prospects at best.
Henrik Stenson 66/1 Skybet
Definitely one of the Europeans most likely to challenge for the green jacket. As a very long driver with a classy touch around the greens, he could murder the par-5’s this week, and arrives here after a three week break from competitive golf in order to be fresh for the fight. Not one to buckle under pressure either.
Lee Westwood 70/1 Boylesports
The Worksop Wonder has won many tournaments around the globe, but his overall record in the Majors is poor and the only time he challenged here was nine years ago when Amen Corner took his scalp. On the plus side, he is enjoying a fine run on the European Tour and will surely contend for a Major soon. This week maybe?
Zach Johnson 66/1 Ladbrokes
Bucked a trend last year as he was the first winner since 1990 not to play in Sunday’s final two-ball. That was on the back of two moderate previous Augusta efforts, but there’s no reason to think he can’t be a challenger again this time. He’s clearly at home on these super-fast greens and has hinted at a return to form in recent weeks.
Aaron Baddeley 80/1 Paddy Power
Has really come of age in the past two seasons, winning two Tour titles and being in regular contention. Most recently, he took Tiger Woods to extra holes at the World Matchplay Championship, showing no sign of nerves. However, his record in the Majors is poor, and he’s yet to break par in thee visits to Augusta, so is best watched.
Angel Cabrera 80/1 Skybet
The Argentinean was a surprise winner of the 2007 US Open and his long hitting is always going to make him a factor around here. Out of eight appearances, he has made five cuts and has been placed in the top-10 three times, with a low round of 66. That makes him a solid each way bet in the Top Rest of the World market.
Rory Sabbatini 66/1 Blue Square
The temperamental South African finished second on his fifth crack at Augusta last year and went on to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, eventually finishing a career-best 6th on the Money List. This year, he has been playing well without winning and could represent a value punt this week.
Stewart Cink 80/1 William Hill
Has been in cracking form this year, finishing in the top-three in three of his first five starts, only losing out to Tiger in the final of the World Matchplay. However, his Achilles heel remains his short putting under pressure, which might explain his poor Augusta record - only once inside the top-10. One to oppose this week.
Prices are correct at the time of writing.