Defending champion Phil Mickelson goes into the 75th US Golf masters at Augusta as the hot favourite to win his fourth ‘Green Jacket’ with the form book suggesting last year's winner is once again the man to beat in 2011.
Mickelson was the last Masters winner to tee off in the tournament having won the week before; this feat was achieved in 2006 after the left hander had won the Bellsouth Classic before going on to take the Masters seven days later. He will be looking for a repeat of that effort again this year after he won the Houston Open last week, where he played some of his best golf for many years.
Mickelson’s record in the first "Major" golf tournament of the year is quite astonishing; he has finished in the top ten on thirteen occasions in the last sixteen years, including three wins and he has only ever missed the cut once (1997). It is a record that in overall terms, only Tiger Woods can better.
There is little wonder therefore why the Bookmakers have made him the clear 6/1 favourite in the US Masters odds, with his great rival and four time winner Tiger Woods, next best in the betting at around 11/1.
Tiger’s record at Augusta is also amazing, with four wins, seven additional top ten finishes and only one missed cut in the sixteen tournaments he's played. In the other four tournaments he finished as the leading amateur in 1995 and with the exception of the missed cut his worst finish was in a tie for 22nd place in 2004. He has not been out of the top six in his last six visits!
However, as the whole golfing world knows, Tiger is having a very lean time of things lately which has seen him slump to seventh place in the world rankings with little sign that he is turning things around. Augusta usually inspires him but to win this week based on what he has shown so far in 2011 looks a tall order.
Bookmakers are already reporting increased interest on this year's Masters and are expecting record turnover and as they battle for business from the many golf fans looking to place bets they are offering free Masters bets as well as some very attractive odds, in which the Europeans feature more prominently than ever before.
British bookies, Stan James, are even offering to refund all losing bets on the 2011 Masters if either Mickelson or Woods wins!
Many pundits believe that the opening "Major" of the season will see a European winner. Collectively, the European players occupy five out of the top six in the world rankings and had two "Major" winners last year in the German and current world number one, Martin Kaymer and Northern Ireland's, Graeme McDowell, who is ranked at number five.
Kaymer showed brilliant form in 2010, winning four times including his first "Major" the PGA Championship last August. He has already had a win in 2011 in the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and was also runner up to Luke Donald in the WGC World Match-play in a month or so later. It is all very positive for the 26 year old however his record at the Masters is far less inspiring having played three times at Augusta and failing to get to the weekend each time but cannot be ruled out based on his form of the last 12 months and is a 22/1 shot to win.
McDowell has a similar tale to tell over the last 12 months, he had three wins in 2010 including the US Open, when he became the first European since Tony Jacklin in 1971 to win the season’s second ‘Major’. He started this year off in fine form with top ten finishes in his opening four events, but a disappointing effort in the WGC Cadillac Championship last month where he finished tied in 41st position and a missed cut two weeks ago in the Arnold Palmer Invitational suggests that his form is not where he would like it to be. Add to the mix that he has missed the cut twice in the three times he has played the Masters and has a best finish on tied 17th in 2009 and as such is 45/1 to win his first 'Green Jacket'.
If there is to be a European winner then the most likely winner would come from a group including world number two, Lee Westwood, who was runner up behind Mickelson 12 months ago. Luke Donald, world number four and the reigning WGC Match-play champion or Paul Casey who despite missing the cut last year has a consistently good record at Augusta with three top twenty finishes in the three years preceding.
For more information, latest odds and leader board for the 2011 US Masters visit:
Written By: Rod Crowley
Company: Moneta Communication
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