The stats suggest that Lee Westwood will struggle to maintain his lead at the US Masters and there is value in looking at some longer priced players on Day Two at Augusta.
Traditionally, the morning of day two has been the ideal time to try and identify the Masters winner. Long-standing trends suggest we can restrict calculations to a vastly reduced number of candidates, yet the odds about most of them are still fairly attractive.
The last six champions, for instance, were no worse than seventh after day one. This century, only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have come from further than four shots behind at this stage. Applying the same criteria this time around would reduce the number of candidates to the 28 players within four shots, (including several rank outsiders), plus Tiger from five back. Mickelson is seven behind already with a huge mountain to climb.
Perversely, however, the stats don't bode well for 5.4 favourite Lee Westwood.
Despite Augusta famously favouring players close to the lead from the outset, only one of the last 26 first round leaders went on to win. In any case, punters who've seen Lee repeatedly come up short in majors and fail to convert numerous chances in recent seasons are unlikely to be queuing up to take such short odds, especially whilst there's no shortage of good players close behind. Despite possessing arguably the best long game in the world, Westwood has tended to struggle converting putts in contention for a few years now, which is usually fatal at Augusta.
Nevertheless, he's bound to be factor over the weekend, while Tiger and Rory McIlroy are also close enough to maintain single figure odds at least for now. The upshot may well be ideal trading conditions for those of us who like to seek out big prices with a view to laying back when they shorten up. That strategy has paid dividends in four of the last five Masters, as Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson all remained very attractively priced at this stage, despite holding prominent positions.
My day two strategy therefore involves creating a three-pronged trading plan, all of whom are available at big prices. Of those very close to the lead, I'm getting onboard Steve Rawlings' bandwagon with Miguel-Angel Jimenez and Ben Crane. Both are ludicrously overpriced at 65.0 and 75.0 respectively given their winning pedigree and strong early position. One of the most under-rated players around, Jimenez has won 18 times on the European Tour and a major title would be a fitting pinnacle to his fine career. With five top-12 finishes at Augusta this century, he knows he has the tools to thrive here.
Equally, I can't see why five-time winner Crane, sitting alongside the Spaniard two shots off the lead, should be so dismissed by the market. Presumably it's because his course record is weak, but it must be remembered that players generally need several visits to learn this layout well enough to compete. As one of the PGA Tour's best putters, there's no reason why Ben shouldn't like Augusta.
Next up is Nick Watney, who is four shots off the pace on -1. He was third favourite for last year's Masters, having gone into many notebooks as a future champion after making the top-20 on his first three cracks at this major. It is only on the basis of a slow start to 2012 that he is available at such big odds, but the market knows Watney's class so he will have plenty of supporters if hanging around over the weekend. Interestingly, Nick came out as one of the picks when we crunched some numbers to find the identikit Masters champion.
Here's the trading plan. Back this trio for a combined stake of eight units, then place an order to lay each for 16 units at 8.0, therefore doubling our money if any of them hit the target whilst leaving some extra profit if they go on to win the tournament.