Live on Sky Sports 4: Thu 19:00 Angus Loughran previews this week’s US Masters tournament at Augusta National.
Tiger Woods absence has ensured the 2014 Masters at Augusta is the most open in years. Bookies are undecided on who to make the clear favouite between defending champion Adam Scott and Rory Mcllroy, both available at 12/1 in places and that pair are narrowly ahead of Open champion Phil Mickleson (14/1) in the betting.
2014 has been a strange year so far, with Americans and Aussies dominating on the PGA Tour while the Europeans have enjoyed little or no luck and indeed the majority of the season’s tournaments have produced pretty surprising winners.
The Masters often sees the cream come to the top and previous experience is usually essential, hence Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, is the last first time victor. Nevertheless, this year, as there are 24 Masters debutants in the field, we could see another first-timer after a 35-year gap.
I like the chances of Patrick Reed, who won well at Doral and is available at 66/1 with Ladbrokes, although perhaps a better bet is for Reed to be top rookie at 9/1, as four places are available for each-way punters and I would be very suprised if five rookies beat him.
USA will be a popular choice to produce the eventual winner and they’re cracking value at 5/4 (William Hill) to do so; it has been a much better start to the year for their players and they will be hard to beat at Augusta.
As well as the rookies, I believe Dustin Johnson can give punters a run for their money, despite his precautionary withdrawl after the first round in Houston last week. That aside, he has enjoyed a great start to 2014 and has a better chance than his odds of 28/1 suggest.
Former champ Bubba Watson is also fancied to go well again and another American that can’t be discounted is Brandt Snedeker, whose decent Augusta record makes him stand out at 33/1.
McIlroy leads the European challenge but although he has been playing well he hasn’t posted a victory and Sergio Garcia, who arrives in Georgia with some form behind him, would be very popular winner if he could get the job done.
The European that may head to Augusta National under the radar however, is Justin Rose; his odds of 33/1 seemingly a touch high for a US Open champion with a love of the course.
Finally, the pressure of trying to retain his title may get to Adam Scott who blew a great chance to become world number one when letting a seven-shot lead slip in the recent Bay Hill Invitational.