Masters Odds 2012: Handicapping the Field at Augusta

Noah Poinar@@noah_poinarCorrespondent IApril 2, 2012

Masters Odds 2012: Handicapping the Field at Augusta

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    With Tiger Woods storming back onto the scene of golf relevancy and Rory McIlroy having a stronghold on the world's No. 1 ranking, this year's Masters field appears to be less open than usual.  

    Here is a brief Monday preview of the field, with some Vegas odds sprinkled in. 

    (All of the odds are courtesy of Bovada Sports book.)

The Unlikely Pick: Charl Schwartzel 33-1

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    Surprisingly, Schwartzel is a popular pick this week.  He’s played in five events this season, finishing in the top 10 twice with a fourth- and fifth-place finish at Doral and the Honda Classic, respectively. 

    I didn’t know who Charl Schwartzel was when he won last year, and that’s why I’m not giving him a chance to repeat.  The odds are fundamentally against him.

The Value Pick: Dustin Johnson 40-1

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    If I were a betting man, I’d actually put my money on Johnson.  In the past two seasons he’s found himself in Sunday contention of every major except the Masters. 

    He could complete the “D.J. Slam” with another meltdown this Sunday, or he could surprise all of us.  I really don’t know.  I just know that his length off the tee gives him an advantage over every other player in the field not named Bubba Watson.  

    He has also played quietly well with three top-10 finishes in seven events played this season. 

    I like the fact that Johnson has taken a lot of time off from tournament play.  His swing had problems in that he was hitting the ball all over the place.  Perhaps he’s fixed those problems since we last saw him. 

The Value Pick II: Matt Kuchar 66-1

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    Kuchar is a little bit like D. Johnson in that he’s always been in the mix but has never been able to put it all together and win his first major. 

    He passes what I call “the eye test,” which means that of all the golf I’ve watched, I remember seeing Kuchar in the Sunday hunt more than any other golfer on tour.  That’s something that top-10 finishes and “cuts made” doesn’t properly depict.

The Feel-Good Flashy Picks: Bubba Watson 40-1, Rickie Fowler 80-1

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    When push comes to shove, go with the guy who hits the ball eight miles, has a weird swing plane and wears weird pants. 

    Or you could go with the guy who looks like he is 18, has uncharacteristically long hair and wears blinding clothes. 

    Either way, you’re getting a guy who stands a very realistic chance at winning this week.  Personally, I would give Watson the advantage just because he’s been so close before (2010 Whistling Straights) and has a tour victory under his belt this season.

The English Pick: Justin Rose 30-1

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    I’m taking a stand against Lee Westwood (14-1) and Luke Donald (14-1).  Just because the two have spent substantial time as the No. 1 world-ranked golfer doesn’t mean someone like myself has to make them my pick in every single major.  

    So that’s why I’m going with Rose, partially because he’s played surprisingly well the last eight months, and mainly because he’s not Luke Donald or Lee Westwood.

The ‘Going to the Bank’ Pick: Bernhard Langer 400-1

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    Every major there seems to be a PGA-eligible senior who surprises.  In three of the past five years we’ve seen guys like Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Tom Watson compete for a major championship, and it’s possible we see one again this week. 

    I don’t know anything about Bernhard Langer other than he’s not yet past that age cusp where he’s playing majors purely to make cuts and that he’s been dominant on the Senior Tour.

The Bread and Butter Pick: Phil Mickelson 12-1

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    Mickelson is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Shell Houston Open this past week and is having an all-around great year.  He won at Pebble Beach earlier in the year and followed that up the next week with a second-place finish at Riviera. 

    At gun point, Phil would be my pick to win this week just because there isn’t much buzz around him.  That’s what happens when Tiger Woods looks like the Tiger Woods of old again.

The Trendy Pick: Rory McIlroy 5-1

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    After a disastrous Sunday collapse last year at Augusta, McIlroy is one of the heavy favorites to put on the green jacket this week. He has played in three PGA Tour events this season and has finished first, second and third in each. 

    I think it is a near lock that he’ll finish in the top 10 this week (he really is the best golfer in the world), but I’m not sure he’ll win it.  My guess is that he hits for cycle and finishes fourth.

The Favorite: Tiger Woods 4-1

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    Tiger has always been the Vegas favorite, but for the first time in a long time he is both the Vegas favorite and the actual favorite.  After winning at Bay Hill two weeks ago, he has to be.  That victory had to have lifted a huge mental burden off his back.

    If there were ever a time to believe in Tiger Woods, this would be that time.  From 2010-2011 we saw “the old Tiger” exactly two times; both of those were at Augusta. 

    Now that Tiger appears to be back, there is a very good chance we see history on Sunday.  Yes, history.  Tiger Woods winning Sunday would be the second most memorable Tiger Woods moment of his career.  It would be right ahead of his “Tiger Slam” and right behind his first green jacket in 1997.  

    That’s how much golf has missed him.  Hell, that’s how much the sports world has missed him.

The Champion: Adam Scott 33-1

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    There are three reasons I’m picking Scott.  One, he came close to winning it last year (because of Tiger and Rory no one remembers this).  Two, a lot of people believe Tiger Woods is back.  And three, Adam Scott’s caddy is Steve Williams. 

    That sounds like a recipe for a final Sunday pairing, doesn’t it?  If only. 

    Scott is still without a major in his career and I feel like he (because of the Stevie Williams complex) will feed off of the Tiger buzz this week the way he did last season at Firestone when he won with Woods’ former, and recently divorced, caddy.

    Despite all of that, you can sure bet I’m going to be pulling for Tiger this week.  Simply put, I love the game of golf and I just want the sport to be popular again.  A Tiger victory this week is the only way that happens.