It’s time for possibly the most popular golf tournament of the year—the Masters— and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With Tiger Woods getting his first win in years and starting to really play well again and Rory McIlroy looking to avenge last year’s collapse, we could be in for the best Masters in years.
Everybody loves when a dark horse comes into the picture but when it comes to Sunday at the Masters, who wouldn't love to see a Tiger and Phil or Tiger and Rory final pairing. Watching the best players competing when it matters the most is what fans love, and these guys have the ability to make Sunday a day to remember.
Having said that, I'm going to give you my odds of winning for the top four golfers this weekend.
I feel that Tiger Woods' odds of winning should be 6-to-1 for a couple of reasons.
Tiger is the leading odds-on favorite to win this year’s Masters. Tiger is, without question, playing the best he has since Thanksgiving in 2009. The biggest difference in his game from then to now is that his ball striking and driving are as good as they have been in a long time.
Tiger is currently leading the PGA in total driving and is second to Lee Westwood in ball striking off the tee. Also, Tiger is leading the tour in all-round ranking, which is combination of several different major statistics.
Having control of the tee is important at Augusta but it’s not vital because it’s a rather forgiving course. If Tiger does get into trouble he is currently fourth in scrambling. The thing that is going to separate Tiger from the rest of the field is his knowledge of the greens. Those who watched Tiger’s win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational saw some glimpses of old Tiger putting. If Tiger makes the five-foot putts and makes a couple lag putts he will be in contention come Sunday.
Rory McIlroy has won one major and collapsed completely in this tournament last year, so I’m going to give him 12-to-1 odds to win.
Rory could be the most complete golfer we have right now. The problem with Rory is he is going to have to deal with the shadows of last year’s epic collapse and a new energy from Tiger Woods. In order for McIlroy to shake those shadows, he'll have to throw out a mid-to-high 60's score and position himself around the top of the leaderboard.
A reason why Rory’s odds are higher for me is that when you look at his statistics, he has been below average off the tee box this year. His driving accuracy and total driving are among some of the worst on tour. And his greens in regulation are nothing to brag about.
Saying that about Rory, he is ranked number one on front nine and back nine scoring. What that tells me is that he stays consistent and doesn’t wear down. Any of us can drop a great score on the front nine, but keeping that up on the back nine can be harder than some might think. McIlroy has had some success on this course and if he comes out hot and puts the pressure on Tiger and Phil, then I think he could have a real shot.
Phil Mickelson has had pretty good success at Augusta—winning three of his four majors there—and experience matters in this tournament, so I’m giving him 10-to-1 odds to win.
In 2004 Phil Mickelson won his first major at Augusta, and since then he has won three more majors; two of them at Augusta. Having said that, Phil knows the ins and outs of Augusta just like Tiger Woods does and I think that this course definitely favors people who know every little bump on the course.
Phil has been his usual self so far this year. He is ranking second in putts gained and sixth in scrambling. The scrambling is important for Mickelson as his driving has been somewhat erratic this year. However, Augusta allows for erratic play as long as you can find a way to save yourself and that is one of Mickelson’s strongest suits. If Phil establishes himself in the tournament early I think he could make a real push for his fifth major.
Lee Westwood is my dark horse of the “top” golfers in the Masters, so I’m going to
give him 18-to-1 odds to put on the green jacket.
Lee Westwood is a guy with impressive statistics, and I am surprised he hasn’t broken through with a major win yet. So far this year, Westwood ranks number one in ball striking off the tee and ranks second in Greens in Regulation, total driving and all round ranking. The problem Westwood tends to run into is his putter sometimes gets in his way. His scrambling percentage is also way down, and if he is not on with his driver, he doesn’t have the ability to save a hole like Tiger or Phil.
In recent years he has had some success at Augusta. In 2010 he finished second to Phil Mickelson and in 2011 he finished tied for eleventh. In order for Lee to have a shot this weekend he has to make putts.
People tend to think that Tiger being the odds-on favorite for the Masters is a little crazy. But when you go inside the numbers you will see that he has had a really good year so far. Tiger and Phil should be the odds-on favorites for a lot of reasons, but one thing that Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood don’t have is the winning history at Augusta that Tiger and Phil both share.
So much of golf is between the ears, and when it comes down to Sunday, we know that Tiger and Phil have what it takes, but I need to see Westwood and McIlroy prove themselves before I make them the odds on favorites.