Three-time winner Mickelson is the Masters value against Tiger at 12/1
By Simon Mail
Anticipation for the year’s first major has gone through the roof since Tiger Woods returned to world number one with his third win of the season. The 14-time major champion is a strong favourite at 10/3 to capture his fifth Green Jacket but has not won the Masters since 2005.
Augusta is always the highlight of the golfing calendar and the players will face a demanding test at the lengthy 7,435 yard par 72. Big hitters who average over 290 yards off the tee are the most likely winners while a magical short game is essential to avoid big scores around the lightning quick and undulating greens.
Phil Mickelson has an outstanding record at Augusta National and ‘Lefty’ looks the best value runner to take on Woods this week. The 42-year-old has won the Masters three times, all of which have come since 2004, so his form at the tournament even surpasses Woods in the last decade. Mickelson absolutely loves the creativity required around the stunning layout and his draw is perfectly suited to the course.
The popular American has only finished outside the top five once here since 2008 and has posted 12 top tens in the last 14 years at the Masters. In addition to his brilliant course form, Mickelson has shown plenty of promise this season. He destroyed the field at the Phoenix Open in February where he shot 28-under-par for the title and also contended at the WGC Cadillac Championship when third. Mickelson is second in the birdie average ranking this year and with this ability to go low, he is a confident selection at 12/1 to pick up another Masters victory.
Keegan Bradley has burst into life over the last six weeks and the big hitting American has the game and confidence to challenge for the Green Jacket. The 26-year-old has been rounding into peak form recently with four consecutive top tens including an impressive tie for third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The key to scoring around Augusta is taking advantage of the par fives and Bradley is third this season in performance on these holes.
Bradley has already proved he has the bottle to win under the most intense pressure after his victory at the 2011 USPGA in his first major. He showed this was no fluke last season when joint third in his title defence. The three-time winner made a promising tournament debut last year finishing inside the top 30 and should go better this time. Bradley has the power and touch to conquer Augusta and is a strong contender at 28/1.
Charl Schwartzel landed his first Masters title two years ago on an extraordinary day of drama and there is every reason to think he can challenge again this weekend. The world class South African shot a superb final round 66 to win his first major and a return to Georgia is certain to inspire Schwartzel.
The 28-year-old was at his brilliant best at the end of 2012 with back-to-back victories in Thailand and South Africa by a combined margin of 23 shots. Schwartzel has not quite managed to reproduce this astonishing form this year but has nonetheless been a consistent performer. He has twice finished in the top five on the European Tour and was tied third at the Northern Trust Open in America. Schwartzel leads the standings on the PGA Tour in scoring average and has to be considered a big threat at 25/1 each way.
Brandt Snedeker enjoyed a sensational start to the season as he soared into the top five of the world rankings. The exceptional putter won at Pebble Beach and also managed two other runner-up spots and a third place finish in America. Snedeker was looking unstoppable until a rib injury sidelined him and his two recent appearances resulted in missed cuts. But the 32-year-old has a poor record in Bay Hill and Houston so I would not be too concerned by these efforts.
Snedeker’s stats this year make impressive reading. Last year’s FedEx Cup winner is first in birdie average and par breakers, top of the all-round rankings and first in par four performance. If he can find the form prior to his injury lay0ff Snedeker will take some stopping. He also has played well at Augusta before having finished third in 2008 and been inside the top 20 in the last two years. The time looks right for Snedeker to win a major and he deserves support at 40/1 each way.
If you’re looking for a big priced outsider to contend then you could do a lot worse than throw a few pounds on Angel Cabrera. The big hitter was a shock winner at Augusta in 2009 but his record here deserves plenty of respect. Cabrera has popped up on the leaderboard on a number of occasions and has two other top tens since 2006.
Cabrera also won the US Open six years ago so we know he is capable of upsetting the odds on the big stage. The experienced Argentine has had a respectable season so far with few fireworks but posted his best finish in his last start when he tied for 16th at the Shell Houston Open. The strong driver is always a lively outsider when he comes back to Augusta and is worth backing at a generous 100/1.