The first major of the season is fast-approaching and Tiger Woods is on the hunt for his fifth US Masters title when play gets underway at Augusta on Thursday. Woods has taken the famous green jacket home fourÂ times and it is no surprise that he starts as the 9/2 favourite with Paddy Power, who will refund all losing bets if Woods takes the title again this Sunday.
Woods' last victory in the tournament came back in 2005 and his record at Augusta is formidable - he has finished in the top-ten in 12 of his 17 appearances here and ten of those have seen him finish in the top-five. He was tied for fourth last year as he continued his record of never finishing worse than sixth on each of his last seven appearances here.
WoodsÂ has of course endured some tough times, both on and off the course,Â in recent years but he arrives in decent nick thisÂ year after he quashed any lingering injury worries by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first PGA Tour win since 2009, for the seventh time less than two weeks ago.
The biggest threat to Woods' bid for a fifth Masters appears to be Rory McIlroy, who is 11/2 second favourite in the latest betting. McIlroy has taken the mantle from Woods as the superstar of the golf world and he will be bidding to make up for a quite horrendous final day at August last year. The Northern Irishman produced three scintillating rounds of golf to lead for three days, only to throw away a four-shot advantage with a final round 80. Victory at the US Open a few months later may have helped to ease the pain but McIlroy has unfinished business here.
It was Charl Schwartzel who took full advantage of McIlroy's Masters meltdown in 2011 as the South AfricanÂ went on to claimÂ his first major title. Schwartzel produced a final round 66 to charge to victory by two shots from Australian pair Adam Scott (33/1), who closed with a coupleÂ of 67s,Â and Jason Day (35/1), with paddypower going 35/1 for Schwartzel to retain his title this week.
Phil Mickelson knows all about repeat wins at Augusta as 'Lefty' is a three-time Masters champion. He tied for 27th last year after winning in 2010 and he has a record at Augusta that only Woods, in this week's field,Â can beat. Mickelson has finished in the top-ten on 13 of his 19 Masters appearances and he is 11/1 to take glory this year.
World number one Luke Donald has picked up his form after a sticky start to 2012 and he is 18/1 to claim his first major tournament victory this week. Donald tied for fourth last year but that maiden major title continues to elude him, although he might just sneak under the radar with all the attention on Woods and McIlroy this week.
Hunter Mahan is very much on the radar after his victory at the Houston Open on Sunday, with the American having finished in the top-ten of the Masters for two of the past three years. Mahan is available at 30/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying out on the first six places at Augusta this week.
9/2 Tiger Woods
11/2 Rory McIlroy
11/1 Phil Mickelson
16/1 Luke Donald
20/1 Lee Westwood
30/1 Hunter Mahan
33/1 Keegan Bradley
33/1 Justin Rose
35/1 Charl Schwartzel
35/1 Jason Day
50/1 Bubba Watson
50/1 Dustin Johnson
50/1 Nick Watney
55/1 Steve Stricker
55/1 Sergio Garcia
Odds supplied PaddyPower.com, who will refund losing bets if Tiger Woods win the 2012 US Masters.
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