96 golfers line up this week for the first major of the season, the 2012 US Masters from Augusta National in Georgia. Favourite to win his fifth Green Jacket is a rejuvenated Tiger Woods who is best price 5/1 following his win last time out at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a few weeks ago. Woods played very well that week but I can't get excited about the price given that his last win at Augusta was 2005 and he's had plenty of cracks at winning a fifth even before his on and off course troubles. Woods putted well at Bay Hill but that has been his biggest achilles heel over the last 12 months (along with his actual achilles heel) and there's no test on the greens as hard as there is at Augusta.
Second favourite this week is Rory McIlroy and he's another player I thought looked too short at around 11/2 in the build up to the event. However, William Hill have gone 9/1 on Wednesday morning, a price that looks a little too good to turn down. McIlroy's back nine capitulation twelve months ago has been much talked about, even by Rory himself in the build up to this week. The 22 year old could have easily been forgiven in taking backward steps following last year's 80 in the final round when going into Sunday leading the tournament, but seemingly the opposite has happened.
This week McIlroy has explained how the likes of Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus called to give him encouragment and he put that advice to good use when absolutely hacking up in the 2011 US Open at Congressional, setting several records in the process. McIlroy's current form is also good having posted top five finishes in twelve of his last thirteen starts worldwide and went to world number one when winning the Honda Classic last month. The Northern Irishman has since taken some time off in preparation for this week and has been usurped at the top of the rankings by Luke Donald, but with all well off the course and a determination to exorcise the demons from twelve months ago, the 9/1 looks a really good price.
Further down the betting Keegan Bradley catches the eye at 35/1 with Bet365. The 26 year old shot to prominence in last year's PGA Championship, winning in his first major event. Augusta rookies haven't faired well in the Masters but Bradley has already turned over the stats in his short career and is such a competitior that I can see him going close this week. Bradley has played nine times on the PGA Tour so far this season, including the two World Golf Championships, and has finished in the top 25 in all of them. He's had three top ten finishes and a second place finish at the Northern Trust Open has been the year high to date. He's a long hitter whose game should suit Augusta and, at 35/1, he should give you a run for your money each-way five places with Bet365.
If you're looking for a bigger price this week then the consistent K.J. Choi looks good value for an each-way bet at 70/1 with Betfred. The South Korean has good course form having finished third here in 2004 and has since followed that up with a tied fourth in 2010 and was tied eighth twelve months ago when partnering eventual winner Charl Schwartzel in the final round. Winner of The Players Championship last year and eight PGA Tour wins to his name, he knows how to get over the winning line and although his season stats are solid rather than spectacular an each-way bet on Choi should see you get a decent run for your money.
There's a couple of runners at bigger prices who catch the eye. American Bo Van Pelt has been in warm order this season with four top ten finishes from his seven starts and tied for 8th last year on his first ever visit to the Masters. Unfortunately I'm not alone in tipping up the 37 year old from Indiana and the 100/1 available earlier in the week is now long gone. With a weight of support behind him in the betting he's now 80/1 with Ladbrokes which still looks a decent each-way bet.
Our final tip comes the way of former winner Angel Cabrera who is available to back at 100/1 with Paddy Power. The winner here in 2009, the Argentinian nicknamed 'El Pato' (the Duck) is a player who often skirts under the radar at major tournaments. A bomber with good touch around the greens it's no real surprise that Augusta suits his game and he's finished in the top twenty seven times in his last eleven visits to the course. Seventh last season when partnering Rory McIlroy in the final group, that was the 42 year old's fifth top ten finish here. His 2012 form is none to shabby either and showed a bit of form finishing 21st in Houston last week. You can back Cabrera each-way six places with Paddy Power at 100/1, with the added insurance that if Tiger Woods were to win your losing stake would be returned.
Tip #1: Rory McIlroy 1pt win @ odds of 9/1 with William Hill.
Tip #2: Keegan Bradley 0.5pts each-way 5 places @ odds of 35/1 with Bet365.
Tip #3: K.J. Choi 0.25pts each-way 5 places @ odds of 70/1 with Betfred.
Tip #4: Bo Van Pelt 0.25pts each-way 5 places @ odds of 80/1 with Ladbrokes.
Tip #5: Angel Cabrera 0.25pts each-way 6 places @ odds of 100/1 with Paddy Power.
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