The 2012 US Masters reaches its conclusion today, with Peter Hanson and Phil Mickelson the main two contenders in the battle to win the year’s first Major.
Golf's most famous in-running trend states that the Masters winner will come from the final group and if that golden rule delivers for the 20th time in 22 renewals, Hanson or Mickelson will never forget their magnificent third round performances that set up the chance. On a quite extraordinary day that also saw many stars including Rory McIlroy humbled by this famous old course, Hanson and Mickelson tore up Augusta's back-nine with rounds of 65 and 66 respectively.
Everything looks perfectly set up for Mickelson to land his fourth Masters title in nine years. One can only marvel at this ultimate course specialist's performance over the past two days to recover from a dire first round position. While he knows the Augusta final day drill inside out, Hanson has never experienced anything like this. Without taking anything away from his achievements so far, victory for the hardly prolific Swede would represent a huge shock.
Mickelson's chance, however, is reflected by odds of just 2.72 (Betfair
) so value-hunters will be looking towards the chasing pack. Former Open champ Louis Oosthuizen also played well again yesterday and is close enough from two off the pace, while recent dual winner Hunter Mahan is bound to be a popular pick, especially given his good record from off the pace.
Rather than any of those solid candidates though, I'm going for a man who's been there or thereabouts all week without ever really catching fire. Bubba Watson strikes me as being the heir to Mickelson in many respects and it's easy to imagine him donning the Green Jacket one day. He has the same mix of power, waywardness and spectacular talent that makes Augusta the ideal venue.
Critics will point to Watson's flop when taking the final day lead into the WGC event at Doral last month, but from three shots back, the pressure is off this time. Moreover at 10.0, there is plenty of trading value. My plan is to back at 10.0, then lay if he shortens to 3.0.
5u Bubba Watson @ 10.0
Place order to lay 10u @ 3.0
6u Tiger Woods @ 1.69 (vs Singh) (Starts 16.30 BST)
Backing Tiger and opposing Vijay paid off yesterday and I see no reason to abandon the strategy. Besides the fact these two old rivals are leagues apart nowadays, Tiger has saved face from bad positions time and again over the years, whilst Singh is totally unsuited to a drying Augusta.
4u Webb Simpson @ 2.16 (vs Garcia) (Starts 17.40)
Prone to moodswings and losing confidence, Sergio Garcia has never been one to back when struggling off the pace on Sunday and yesterday's struggle is unlikely to have improved his mood. In contrast, his opponent is making a good fist of his Augusta debut. The consistent and reliable Webb Simpson will be pleased to be placed in the top-20 after just three rounds on a course that penalises debutants and it would be no surprise to see him move further forward today.
6u Phil Mickelson @ 1.61 (vs Hanson) (Starts 19.40)
The arguments for Mickelson and against Hanson are laid out above and given my doubts about the latter, it makes more sense to take 1.61 about Phil just to win their two-ball, compared to 2.72 from one behind Hanson in the outright market, not to mention all the other chasers.