Masters – He’s back!

Odds on Tiger offer no value

Well, he’s back. Whoever wins this week’s Masters at Augusta the eyes of the watching world will be on only one man. Tiger Woods’ return has stolen the narrative in the build up to the event and he aims to steal the show on Sunday night.

It will be compelling to watch him try, to see how this most complete of competitors copes with a world that knows him better, or thinks it knows him better, than it ever did before.

The bookies seem to think he’ll have retained the aura that makes almost invincible when he’s at his best. It seems difficult to believe that he can return with no warm up events and dominate one of golf’s toughest tests.

They might well be proved right but the odds on Woods don’t favour the punter.

The same might be said for Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. Mickelson’s odds are somewhere in the mid teens – although this reflects his special relationship with Augusta rather than a recent run of sustained form.

While Els’ best form in a couple of years has catapulted him back into the exalted company of Woods and Mickelson.

The Europeans

The European challenge is headed by Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Paul Casey. Harrington would be my pick and he certainly seems in the mood to perform well.

Westwood, Casey and Ian Poulter are three Brits who need to prove they can close the deal at Majors.

Might they start well and fade? The Leader After The First Round odds are well worth investigating for the English trio who are capable of moments of inspiration but can falter over 72 holes.

And what of the great hope of European golf? Rory McIlroy’s form might not have been white hot in 2010 but Augusta responds to players who come equipped with the intangible ingredient of a little magic in their bag.

And McIlroy is likely to respond well to the aura of Augusta. A match made in heaven? I’d certainly be tempted by an each way bet at the very least.

A look at the outsiders

What surprises might we see from further down the field? Former champions like Mike Weir and Trevor Immelman are not in the best of form but they do know what it takes to perform at Augusta so their long odds are not unattractive as each way punts.

We’d all like to see a fairytale performance from Matteo Manassero as the Italian amateur becomes the youngest ever player to compete at The Masters. He’s not a contender but might his odds in the To Finish In The Top Ten charts entice?

Or will the veterans have their day again? Fred Couples has a proud record at The Masters and, his competitive instincts newly honed on the Champion’s Tour, it would not surprise if he managed to place on Sunday.

Where else might we find value in one of golf’s most competitive fields?

Robert Allenby might lack some finesse around the greens but his pure ball striking can only be an asset and he’s certainly worth having a look at in the Best Rest of the World stakes.

He tees off with Mickelson and YE Yang in a tantalising 3-Ball over the first two rounds. All pairings and stats here.

Finally take a look at the outright betting on Matt Kuchar who has been in sound form in 2010 and, crucially for Augusta, is putting well.

Or how about Steve Flesch? He’s struggling for form this year but he’s finished sixth and fifth in the last two Masters so his generous odds are hardly taking account of his knowledge of American golf’s most hallowed track.

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