The Plugged Ball
US Open, Tips, Picks

Well, it’s here.  It’s not the Super Bowl of golf handicapping (The Accenture Match Play) or even the BCS National Title Game (The Volvo Match Play Championship).  However, in terms of pure entertainment I don’t know if there is an event that has more.  Rock hard greens, 2 inch deep rough, and a set up that is unique to its purpose; truly is the toughest test in golf.  Or at least it was, last year Rory McIlroy torched the field and the course.  It will be interesting to see if the USGA go back to having even par be the preferred score, or if they do as they did last year and make the setup only slightly more difficult than any other major.

Enough with the level set, you’re here for the numbers, let’s dive right in:

*Numbers from Bovada, 11am EST

Tiger Woods, 7/1: The perennial favorite whenever he seems to be playing well.  Hard not to suggest that folks take insurance here at 7/1, as this number will come down to at least 5/1 before Thursday.  This is a great price to take Tiger at, if he wins here you’ll not get 7/1 for the rest of the season.

Lee Westwood, 12/1: Even though I’ll be rooting for Lee, he’s one of my favorites; I’d not take him at this number.  Prior to last weekend, you’d of not taken Lee at anything less than 15/1.  Consider this, has traveled halfway across the world, all new clubs in the bag, and has only been slightly above average in putting this season.  It’s a wager filled with red flags in my view.

Luke Donald, 14/1: Does just about everything that you like to see out of a player in the US Open.  Isn’t going to make a tremendous amount of mistakes, will keep the ball in play and on the fairway.  Only knock is that his putting hasn’t been tremendous recently.  He was my pick at the beginning of the season, I’ve not seen anything yet to make me change my mind.

Rory McIlroy, 14/1: Played better last week, but has had a disastrous month.  Girlfriend is halfway across the world, which for Rory recently has been a terrible sign.  Good price, but I don’t see him as a great repeat champion in this event.  Doesn’t have nearly the motivation that he had last time to do well here.

Phil Mickelson, 18/1: The tank is empty as far as I’m concerned.  At a minimum, there’s not enough fuel in the tank to win this event.  Honestly I’d be surprised if he made the cut.

Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, 28/1: A group at 28/1 that combines great price with good opportunity.  Apart from Dustin Johnson (whom I’m shocked won this early after coming back from injury, nothing against him just felt it was too soon) I like everyone in this group.  Dufner, Rose, and Kuchar aren’t going to make mistakes, and at one point in the season were the best at the tournament.

Other notables:

Rickie Fowler, 30/1

Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson 33/1

Adam Scott, Hunter Mahan, Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker, 40/1

 Bo Van Pelt, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer 50/1

Ernie Els, Ian Poulter, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney, Peter Hanson, Webb Simpson 66/1

So if I had a ticket in what would it look like (not that I will, or advocate that people do unless you live in a place where sports gambling is legal)?

Tiger Woods, +700, 10 units

Luke Donald, +1400, 20 units

Jason Dufner, +2800, 20 units

Zach Johnson, +3300, 20 units

Ian James Poulter, +6600, 10 units

With the remaining 20 units I’d try to find a good 1 v 1 matchup.  If you can find it, I’d take TW v Jason Dufner, so long as you could get Dufner at +150.

Gun to head, had to pick a winner, I’d go with Luke Donald.  6 out of the last 10 have been won by internationals.  Of the 4 that have been won by players from the US, TW has 2 of them.  If a player from the US does prevail, I like the chances of Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

Quick Shots, BMW Championship

It’s a big week on the European Tour with the BMW Championships taking place at Wentworth.  Last year we had a huge showdown between Lee Westwood and Luke Donald that went into extra holes.  You’ll also remember that this is where Luke Donald pipped the World #1 Ranking off of Westwood.  Very similar scenario this week with McIlroy, Westwood, and Donald all in position to take #1 depending on how it all goes.

I’ll take these in order of the odds

Luke Donald, 8/1, had a great back 9 at TPC Sawgrass; touch and go other than that over the past few weeks.  Just not scoring the way that Luke Donald had last season.  I suppose it’s down to short game and putting.  Will be there or thereabouts this weekend, if you can find a T10 prop at a good price I’d get in on it.

Lee Westwood, 10/1, I’ll bottom line it for you, until Lee starts having the putter warm up he’s going to be tough to back.  All other parts of his game look good, but you need to make the odd 10 foot putt to score.  I hope it heats up this weekend, I’ll be watching closely.

Rory McIlroy, 11/1, has a chance to win every time he puts a peg in the ground (as long as it’s not Sawgrass).  11/1 isn’t a bad price, hard not to consider.

Justin Rose, 20/1, has cooled off slightly from the start of the season, I’d be looking for a T10 prop here.  Will be boosted by being back in Blimey this week, boosted by new apparel sponsor.  20/1 for Justin Rose with his play so far this season looks like one hell of a good price.

Martin Kaymer, 28/1, if you read my blog you know what I’m going to say already.  Not to pile on, but he had an awful Volvo Championship.  You’re more likely to win by getting a scratch off ticket at your local gas station.

Picks for Value

Ben Curtis, 33/1, HOTTEST hand on the PGA Tour right now with the exception of Jason Dufner.  Slightly worried about having to play away from home but Ben started the season out on the Euro Tour and played well.  I like the price at 33/1, and would go HEAVY if you can find a T10 prop somewhere.  He keeps playing like this and he’ll have to make plans later on this season to travel to Medinah.

Graeme McDowell, 33/1, played his way into the final of the Volvo and looked good doing so.  Good but not great price for Graeme.

Ian Poulter, 33/1, I wish that I could provide actual metrics here, but this for me feels like the week going into the Australian Masters for Ian.  I had a feeling then that he was going to threaten a win, and feel the same way this week.  He’s playing well, and I get the feeling that he is absolutely desperate to win this tournament this week.  Ian excels at taking positive rounds and stringing them together, forgetting easily about the average rounds in between.  Boosted hugely by the first round at TPC Sawgrass among other recent rounds.  I look for another flying start, if you can get him as a first round leader it’d be worth a look.

Martin Laird and Paul Lawrie, 50/1, both are playing extremely well at the moment, and a tremendous pick for value in terms of price at 50/1.

Branden Grace, 66/1, not a great Volvo, but not bad either.  Most in form player at the moment on the Euro Tour.  Great price for someone who is playing so well.

Volvo World Match Play, Day 2

What a first day from the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

I’m pleased to say #humblebrag, that I went 6-1-1 in my first day picks.  The only blemish coming in the Quiros v Garcia match.

Pool Stage – Morning

Senden v. Lewis: interesting match for plucky Tom Lewis, if he has any hope of moving on he needs to win this match.  Sadly, I don’t believe he will; it’ll be close however.  Pick: Senden

Bjorn v Grace:  Who has the hottest hand on the European Tour?  Branden Grace.  Pick: Grace

Lawrie v Villegas: There’s a lot I like about Paul Lawrie’s game right now; it’s a shame he’ll not be coming over for the US Open.  Pick: Lawrie

Quiros v Hiratsuka: Alvaro needs to win this match to stay in.  Pick: Quiros

Karlsson v Kruger: If Branden Grace has the hot hand on tour, JBE Kruger isn’t too far behind.  I like Kruger here, and it’s likely you’ll get him at a good price in the +115-+125 range.  If you can get him at +125 jump in with both feet.  Pick: Kruger

Colsaerts v Goosen: I’ll make a bold prediction here, this match won’t even be close.  Pick: Colsaerts

Rock v Clarke: Robert Rock got dusted this morning by Justin Rose who is an in form player from the PGA Tour.  Clarke doesn’t have near the momentum that Rose has, but is skilled at match play.  It’ll be close, but Robert Rock is a quality player and needs to win.  Pick: Rock

Cabrera-Bello v Finch: Will be close, but Rafa has to be flying after a dominant win over Kaymer.  Pick: Cabrera-Bello

Pool Stage – Afternoon

Poulter v Lewis: Lewis gets an education from a masterclass match play player.  Pick: Poulter

Snedeker v Grace: Grace will have already played in the morning, so advantage Snedeker.  Brandt Snedeker is a good match play player.  Pick: Snedeker

Hanson v Villegas: Pick: Hanson

Garcia v Hirtsuka: Pick: Garcia

McDowell v Kruger: Should be an awesome match that fans should have tipped as one of the more exciting matches of the day.  McDowell figures out a way to win.  Pick: McDowell

Schwartzel v Goosen: Pick: Schwartzel

Rose v Clarke: I know that Clarke has been playing closer attention to fitness this season, but Rose is looking a freight train of momentum at the moment.  Don’t forget, Rose essentially feels he needs to win this to put himself into the top tier of selections for the Ryder Cup.  Pick: Rose

Kaymer v Finch: I know what you’re thinking.  I won’t do it.  Pick: Kaymer

Volvo World Match Play

If you are familiar with the World Cup, or the Champions League then you understand how this weekend’s Volvo World Match Play Tournament works.  Because of the format, I can’t do a beginning to end list of picks, but will have a daily list of picks so that you can make decisions effectively if you’ll be playing the matches this weekend.  It’s not the Accenture Match Play; which has 64 competitors, but it’s fun to watch no less.

Thursday Match 1, Ian Poulter v John Senden: Bad draw, I believe, for Poulter; but he’s familiar with Senden most recently from the Australian Masters event that Poulter played in this weekend.  Will be closer than it should be, but Poulter will ultimately prevail.

Thursday Match 2, Brandt Snedeker v Thomas Bjorn: I typically stay away from picking Americans in European Tour events, however it is widely believed that Thomas Bjorn has a back injury.  With that in mind, I’ll take Snedeker.

Thursday Match 3, Peter Hanson v Paul Lawrie: Lawrie has a good short game and has looked good this year in the events that I have watched.  I’ll take Lawrie.

Thursday Match 4, Sergio Garcia v Alvaro Quiros: Total toss up in this match, I’d not be holding any tickets this Thursday tied to either of these guys.  At gunpoint if I had to make a selection, I’d take Quiros.

Thursday Match 5, Graeme McDowell v Robert Karlsson: Dangerous match for GMac, but I’ll still take him here. If I can get Karlsson at +125 or better, I’d think hard about getting a good price.

Thursday Match 6, Charl Schwartzel v Nicolas Colsaerts: If you have followed this blog you know that I believe that Nicolas Colsaerts is going to be a big, big star.  The only way that you get to that position is if you start collecting some scalps; Schwartzel would be a big one.  Nicolas made the semifinal last year, and I don’t think this year will be any different.  If you pick one match on Thursday to either watch or DVR, this is absolutely the one that I would pick.  Will be a great and tough matchup, but I’m taking Colsaerts.

Thursday Match 7, Justin Rose v Robert Rock: Another great showdown, both players have been tremendous so far this season.  Similar to Colsaerts, I believe that Robert Rock is going to be a HUGE star for years to come.  Rock did beat Adam Scott in the Accenture, but it was an ugly match.  I’d love to see Rock make a run and fortify his case to be on the Ryder Cup, but Rose is going to be tough.  Let’s not forget Justin Rose has a similar objective in getting back into the Ryder Cup fold.  I’m taking Justin Rose.

Thursday Match 8, Martin Kaymer v Rafael Cabrera-Bello: Total coin toss, which is saying a lot considering that Kaymer is ranked #9 in the world against Carbrera-Bello’s 61.  On paper this is a mismatch, correct?  Incorrect.  Cabrera-Bello should have gone farther at the Accenture, and will make up for it here.  Plucky victory for Rafael is my pick.

Quick Shots, The Players

Quick Hits

I’m helping all parties involved here.  1) Kuchar, T2) Laird, Z Johnson, Fowler, Curtis, 6) Donald, T7) BVP, Vegas, Na, T10) Toms, Petterson.  Why did I just document the top 10 from the Players?  Because as of today, if I were handicapping the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island all of the tickets that I’d have in my hand would have the names above.  If EA Sports have done a good job of replicating Kiawah on TW13, then the translation from Sawgrass is very, very similar.

On a similar note, what a month Ben Curtis is having.  Every night before I go to bed, I pray that he will be at least a +4000 price by the time that the Memorial rolls around.  Ben is a hometown boy that will almost certainly be there or thereabouts on current form at the Memorial.  Ben grew up playing Mill Creek, which is a very short distance away from Muirfield Village, and is an excellent course.  If you’ve not had the pleasure of playing Mill Creek and are from Central Ohio, I am a very big advocate of getting out there soon.  Ben is up to 17 in the Fed Ex Cup, and if his current form holds up he figures to be close in getting selected for the Ryder Cup.  Not bad, not bad at all for a season that started on the European Tour.

I haven’t hit the Golf WRX message board in a couple of weeks but I assume that it was in full meltdown mode yesterday.  There is a large contingent of ‘Keyboard Commandos’ that despise Rickie Fowler; there’s an equally large contingent that believe he truly will be America’s answer to Rory McIlroy.  The fact is, Rickie struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, but looks to now have turned it around.  As I watched yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how golf fans love a guy that throws caution to the wind and just goes for it every shot (see Phil Mickleson).  Whether Rickie wants it or not, the PGA Tour and the media will at some point start making the comparison.  As he continues to either win, or be in contention, I’ll be eager to see just how much the needle moves compared to those televised tournaments where he’s not in contention.

What can I say about Kevin Na that hasn’t already been said?  I’m shocked given his pre-shot routine that he’s able to play as well as he does.  Fairplay to him that he’s as open an honest as he is about what he’s going through.  I think as the weekend went on, he went from being a villain to a very sympathetic figure given the level of honesty.  For me it was refreshing that he spoke so openly about what he’s going through before he hits the ball.

Quick Shots

This is a quick hits post that will cover a few topics that I think are worth noting.

First there are two big pink gorillas trying to hide out in the corner of the room.

1)      You knew that Fowler was going to win at some point; to win in this fashion underscores the quality of player that he is.  I think that it is a fantastic confidence booster to win at a course like Quail Hollow, and will be additionally nice having won against a player the stature of Rory McIlroy in a playoff.  Finally, I think it speaks to the quality of Rickie Fowler off the course that a number of players on the PGA Tour blew up Twitter last night with messages of support.  This would not have happened with a number of other players who are less liked.

2)      Speaking of McIlroy, as a handicapper how can you not at least use him as your insurance to cover?  Whenever Rory plays, he’s going to be there or thereabouts with very few exceptions.  Don’t get caught out by not having at least a portion of your units on him to win.  The price will not be great but you can get further coverage by taking him with a top 5 or top 10 prop where available.  At this point he’s likely to be the odds on favorite for the US Open, The Open, and PGA Championships.  As the days move on, I feel good about him getting at least one of the three.

Early odds are out on The Players.  Rory is in at +1000.  See above.  Wear ski mask when you put the ticket in.  Getting Rory at +1000 could have you convicted of robbery; what a great price for the penultimate favorite.

Speaking of Early lines, Westwood +1400, Donald +1400, Phil +2000, Tiger +2000, Mahan +3300, Dufner +3300, Adam Scott +4000, Justin Rose +4000, Oosthuizen +4000, Fowler +4000, Kaymer +5000, Francesco Molinari +6600, Ben Curtis +8000

Not quite as mouthwatering but worth noting McIlroy Top 5 +165, Donald +250, Westwood +250, Phil +350, Woods +350, Mahan +550, Dufner +600, Adam Scott +700

For a laugh, McIlroy to win 2 majors this year +1800, 3 majors +6600

I like all of those odds except the ones that I put in there for comedic properties.  Any guess who has me laughing the most?  Tiger.  You might as well take your money, put it in a garbage can and set it on fire.  Very little about what you and I do out on the golf course translates well to the PGA Tour.  The one and only thing that might is thinking too much when you swing.  In any book that you read they something to the effect that you think on the range, you play on the course.  It’s clear to me Tiger is thinking out on the course.  Very honestly, on current form I’d be shocked if he won again this year.

Dufner at the moment is probably another soft opportunity.  Dufner just got married this weekend.  For those of you that have gotten married you know that it’s exhausting.  Add to that, you know he’s not practicing right now.  Even with the most understanding of spouses, he’s going to need a couple of weeks.  A couple weeks from now Jason Dufner will go straight back to finishing most tournaments in the top 10-20; he’s having a great season.

Masters, Things to Watch on Day One

Things to look out for:

Augusta National has been rain soaked, and word is out on the street that this is going to favor very heavily the long hitters.  Robert Garrigus is one of those hitters.  He tees off on Thursday at 8:01am.  Garrigus is 125/1 to be the leader after day one.  That seems like it’d be worth a dollar to me.

The course is still going to be soft for Adam Scott, Bo Van Pelt, and Martin Kaymer who tee off shortly thereafter at 8.45am.  They are followed by Steve Stricker, Paddy Harrington, and Stewart Cink.  Who are then followed by a group that includes Aaron Baddeley.  Why do I mention these names?  Scott, Van Pelt, and Stricker are three players that have a pretty good chance to win.  Baddeley who can put the lights out if he’s on has a good chance as well.  If these guys can post low numbers on day one, confidence should go up exponentially.

A bad draw for Justin Rose on days 1 and 2, he has Immelman and Fowler in his group.  Immelman has been touch and go while fighting to recover from injuries, and Fowler is as cold as ice.  JR has a hot hand right now, but it will be hard to stay in rhythm while Fowler is shooting the ball all over the course.  I like Rickie, but he’s had a terrible first two months to the season.

Johnson Wagner tees off at 9.40am with Tom Watson.  Wagner has been good for the beginning part of the season, does he benefit from having Watson show him around the course?  One would hope.

It won’t get a lot of publicity, but Matt Kuchar, Geoff Ogilvy, and Y.E. Yang are playing together the first two days.  These three have just as good a shot as any in the tournament.  I’d definitely have a screen set up to watch this group, it’s interesting.

Remember what I said about bombers?  Gary Woodland and Alvaro Quiros are out next.  Top of the leader board on day one for both are 66/1 and 80/1 respectively.  Again, might be worth a couple of dollars to have a look at these two on the day one leader board.

A couple of groups later Luke Donald, Francisco Molinari, and Nick Watney are off.  In Donald and Molinari you have two of the best ball strikers in the world.  Much like the Kuchar, Ogilvy, Yang group this one fascinates me.

Moving to the afternoon, the Singh, Westwood, Furyk group has some potential.

Second to last are Angel Cabrera, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson.  Interesting dynamic, seems that Cabrera only plays well here and at other Majors, and Bubba just can’t seem to get it going at Augusta.  In amongst that dichotomy is Rory.  Part of me feels like this is a bad draw for Rory.  Watson could really play the role of cooler here.

In the final group are Phil Mickleson and Hunter Mahan.  Mahan and Mickleson should draft off of one another and put themselves near the top of the day one leader board.  It’s a fantastic draw for Mahan who has had his struggles here.  Being paired with a perennial favorite should help him get into a good spot.

Masters, Who are These Guys?

There have been moments recently when watching The Masters where you’re forced to say, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’  Over the past 10 years, if you take TW and Phil out of it you’re looking at winners like Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, and Mike Weir.  Certainly, after winning you know who they are, but did you beforehand?  Mainstream fans definitely didn’t.  Here’s our guide for those that don’t watch the PGA and European Tour week in and week out on some names to look out for:

Steve Stricker (50/1): I know, we all know Strick but does your wife?  Does your mom?  One could make a pretty convincing argument that Steve Stricker has been the best American player for at least a year if not two.

Nick Watney (50/1), Webb Simpson (60/1), Bill Haas (90/1): Will be the backbone of American golf over the next 10 to 15 years.  All three of these players have legitimate Ryder Cup aspirations, and will be contenders in Majors for years to come.

Matt Kuchar (66/1), Brandt Snedeker (66/1): Americans who have been on tour for a while, and have fantastic skill.  A win of this magnitude would validate what they have been doing on a fairly consistent basis.

Martin Kaymer (50/1): The golfing equivalent of Veruca Salt.  Had a huge hit, and some OK albums, and then fell totally off of the map.  Kaymer won the PGA Championship, became the number 1 golfer in the world, and then hasn’t done much since.  Clearly you don’t get to number 1 in the world unless you’re doing something right, but where have the hits been since?  He’s still young, so he could still have a tremendous career, but it just feels like he’s got one hit wonder written all over him.

Martin Laird (150/1): Why not?

Johnson Wagner (125/1): Has won already this year, and been relatively close in most starts he’s made this year.

Francesco Molinari (175/1): Looks good in the last few starts he’s had this season.  Is battle tested on the European Tour, and has the quality to win.

Masters, A Look at the Favorites

In the continuing effort to get our readers prepared for The Masters here is a look at some favorites this week, as well as other contenders:

Tiger (4/1): Essentially a home game for Tiger, he’s a favorite here for all the same reasons he was a favorite at Bayhill.  Since 2002, Tiger has gone 1, 15, 22, 1, 3, 2, 2, 6, 4, 4; he’s essentially a lock to finish in the top 5.  Even in the years where he played every other tournament like crap; he played well at Augusta National.  Clever boys and girls will take whatever they are putting on everyone else, and use Tiger to cover it all; that’s how certain a wager on Tiger Woods at The Masters is.

Rory (11/2): I’ve told anyone that will listen that Thursday and Friday will be bad by Rory’s standards.  He’s going to come out pushing, and leave himself on the backfoot headed into Saturday and Sunday.  Bear in mind though, that being on the backfoot for Rory is only a couple of shots worse than everyone else.  Early in the season (with the exception of his win), he’s not had his best; yet he’s been competitive in every start he’s had.  CBS executives have been dreaming of a Tiger v Rory pairing on Sunday, not sure there’s enough hand lotion in Augusta, Georgia to accommodate them in the event it happens.  Every time I have picked Rory not to win this season he has been there or thereabouts.  Hard to imagine this being any different, will he have enough Saturday and Sunday to make up for pushing too hard on Thursday and Friday?

Phil (11/1): Hard to imagine Phil as a pick for value, but at 11/1 it’s hard not to put him in that category.  Phil is in good form, which means he’s a lock to finish top five.  To compare apples to apples with TW, since 2002 he’s gone 3, 3, 1, 10, 1, T24, T5, 5, 1, T27.  I’d categorize him in with TW as well on having the home field advantage.  Hard for me to pick a player that I have zero interest in supporting, but it all looks too good for Phil.  By the way, his shot on 13 two years ago was the best shot I’ve seen in golf.  I expect more of that this weekend.

Luke Donald (16/1): This guy gets no love.  The number 1 player in the world is hardly being tipped by anyone to win.  I just don’t get it.  Luke Donald shows the patience and mental capability to win The Masters.  Since 2007 he’s posted T10, Cut, T38, Cut, T4 not an outstanding record.  The two cuts definitely worry me here.

Lee Westwood (20/1): What can I say that hasn’t already been said on this blog.  Lee is a great golfer, and has the right attitude to win here.  As I mention, the prospect of facing down Tiger, Phil, or Rory in the final pair on Sunday is terrifying.  Also not seen the midrange putting that I like to see out of someone to win The Masters.  Since 2007 has gone T30, T11, 43, 2, T11.  I’ll only be rooting for Ian Poulter more than Lee Westwood this weekend.

Hunter Mahan (22/1): Interesting case here, great run of form recently and I don’t as a habit pick people to win back to back.  Since 2007 he’s gone DNP, Cut, T10, T8, Cut.  He’s probably got the hottest putter on tour right now, and that’s hard not to respect.  Just a bad record at Augusta, and won last week.  Makes me feel uneasy about picking him.

Justin Rose (28/1): Much like Hunter Mahan he’s in a good run of form.  Since 2007 he’s gone T5, T36, T20, DNP, T11.  Definitely has a hot hand right now.

Adam Scott (28/1): I’ll be completely honest here, if not for Steve Williams on the bag I’d give him no chance.  Since I’m being honest, I put him down as my odds on favorite the second that he hired Steve Williams.  There are just moments in life where everything converges and it just happens, I think this might be one of those moments.  Since 2007 he’s posted T27, T25, Cut, T18, T2.  By the way, an Aussie has never won The Masters; Think Adam Scott is thinking about that?

The Masters, Head and the Heart

The head and the heart, it’s a funny thing.  As a rule, I very rarely pick players or teams to win that I have any emotional connection to whatsoever.  Picking a winner based on emotion is a surefire way to lose money and or bragging rights.  This week I will very fervently be rooting for one of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, or Bubba Watson to win The Masters.  Here’s a quick rundown on those players.

Bubba (40/1): How could anyone root against Bubba?  I find it to be quite impossible.  A true sportsman, on and off the course we could learn many lessons from Watson.  Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to learn from in Bubba’s previous record at Augusta.  DNP from 2004-2007, T20 and 42 in 2008 and 2009, DNP in 2010, and T38 in 2011.  However, he’s gone 2, T2 and T4 in the last three events that he has played in.  Bubba also just had a new addition to the family recently, could either inspire or distract from victory.  Traditionally I stay away from picking golfers who have very recently had children, or other major life event happen off the course.  I’ll be wishing Bubba well, but it just doesn’t seem like this will be the year he wins The Masters.

Sergio (50/1): I’ve said it several times before, I’ll say it again:  Sergio Garcia is a fantastic and inspiring story of redemption and battling hard to be successful.  Things had gotten so bad for Sergio that he had different putting grips from week to week, and even day to day.  It had all just gotten in his head.  There are many golfers who have gone through similar bouts, and are nowhere near the top 100 in golf, let alone top 25.  The record in The Masters is not so great cut in 2005, 2007, 2008, and no lower than T35 in the last three years.  Prior to the start of the season Sergio was atop everyone’s hot list to make significant progress this year, up to this point we’ve not seen it.  A weird mix of really low rounds followed by shockingly high rounds.  I think Sergio would take a top 20 here and be relatively happy about it.

Westwood (20/1): I like a T11 in 2008 and a 2 and T11 in 2010, 2011.  It just feels like putting will be the biggest obstacle for Lee in this year’s competition.  Flat iron let him down in Dubai, a tournament he should’ve won, and has yet to catch fire on the PGA Tour.  He’s getting to green well enough to score, but hasn’t had any luck with mid-range putts.  It has to be said, if he’s staring down Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickleson in the final round on Sunday to win, is there enough there?  That’s a tough question, one that a player the quality of Westwood needs to answer to.  Lord knows if that’s the way it works out, I’ll be rooting for him to annihilate any one of the three.

Poulter (100/1): My favorite player by miles ever since he’s come on tour.  If Ian Poulter is in contention, no matter what the competition, I can’t be bothered to do anything else.  I very happily stayed up through the night to watch him win the Australian Masters.  Was glued to the TV for the victory in the Volvo Matchplay.  Nearly had to take Monday off after he won the Accenture World Match Play.  Have vivid mental pictures of Ian trimmed in gold and black a couple years back as he was in contention at The Masters.  From 2007 he’s gone T13, T25, T20, T10, and T27.  What’s been missing?  Not much.  Workman-like Thursday and Friday to get on the front page of the leader board, and then it never comes to fruition.  Out of the folks I’ll be rooting for, I like his chances the best.  Come Saturday, if Thursday and Friday have gone relatively well, I tip Ian to play very well this time on Saturday.  If Ian can put himself in the final three groups on Sunday, I think he’s got the bottle to do it.  Ian has steely nerves, and top tier determination; all qualities needed to win The Masters.  I was wrong in picking him to win the Accenture World Matchplay.  I don’t believe I’m wrong this time in picking him to finish extremely well at Augusta.  At 100/1, that is a tremendous pick for value.