The first of this year's majors and arguably the most eagerly anticipated of the four kicks off this week, as the world's best golfers tee it up at Augusta National. By all accounts the course is in immaculate condition as is the norm and all the talk is of the big three in the market. Tiger Woods (5.0), Phil Mickelson (12.0) and Rory McIlroy (10.0) all come into the week in fine form and many are hoping for a shootout down the stretch come Sunday.
There are a handful of players at big prices relative to the top of the market that catch my eye. The most notable of these for me are Luke Donald at 35.0 for the win or 7.0 the place, and Brandt Snedeker at 40.0 to be wearing the green jacket or 8.0 to narrowly miss out. Both players have what for me is the key ingredient for Augusta - putting, especially from inside 20 feet and both prices could come in fast should they start brightly.
The course and key attributes for Augusta
Looking down past leaderboards, it takes a certain type of player to feature prominently at Augusta. Experience is key and the younger players, especially those lacking in course knowledge, are generally not a factor at The Masters. Players from 25 up to 40 years of age are of primary focus and the biggest names are worth particular attention. Of course, Rory and Phil are exceptions to the age rule.
The course itself plays approximately 7,435 yards in length to a par of 72 and players will be wary of the tough Amen Corner around the turn, although this ends with a reachable par-five (13th) - one of two in a three hole stretch - that can make your round. Indeed, par-five scoring is the key to success at Augusta and although a tree-lined track, there is room for error with the big stick.
Greens as ever will be fast and firm, multi-tiered and undulating, with sub air systems helping them roll over 13' on the stimp by tee off on Thursday. A right to left shot shape and a high ball flight are an added advantage at Augusta and premium is on scrambling, especially putting from circa the 10 feet range.
Three from the pack
Justin Rose at 20.0 or 5.0 the place has hit the front in a few recent top quality fields only to falter over the weekend but has form at The Masters only beaten by Phil and Tiger. Rose has three top fifteens places in his last five starts at Augusta and one thing I especially like is his high ball flight into the multi-tiered Augusta National greens. Current form reads T4-T8-2 and Rose is fresh after a confidence boosting Tavistock Cup.
I've already mentioned Brandt Snedeker who boasts some top Augusta form and if he gets the putter going, he will be a factor. Brandt ranked 1st in strokes gained putting in 2012 and sits fourth in GIR% this year. His confidence has taken off and he looks good value at 40.0 for the win or 8.0 the place.
Matt Kuchar at 40.0 or 8.0 to place is one that ticks all the boxes for me at the US Masters and he got rid of some rust at the Valero Texas Open with a top 25 finish. Kuchar ranked 8th in proximity to the hole in Texas and has all the attributes needed to do well at Augusta National. It showed last year as he posted a third place and Matt, confidence high after his win at the WGC Matchplay, can challenge the big three this week.
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