Tiger Woods may be everyone's pick to win at Augusta, but the odds are heavily stacked against him to win major No. 15.
Nine of the past 11 major champions had never won one of golf's four most significant tournaments. Even though Tiger Woods comes in hot from winning his past two events and is the clear favorite, it is more likely that an underdog emerges victorious at the 2013 Masters.
So many sensational finishes have defined Augusta National over the years, particularly thanks to an ever-changing leaderboard on the back nine of Masters Sunday.
Golf is difficult enough to predict as it is.
Opinions about players contending can be supported by their strengths that suit the venue, prior track record at the event or even recent overall play.
As long as those arguments make sense, debates about the best golfers on the planet in any given event can be endless. In other words, it's truly anyone's guess as to who will come away with the green jacket on Sunday.
Woods has been the odds-on favorite for most of the Masters' recent history, yet he hasn't won since 2005 despite holding four championships in his career at Augusta.
As for Rory McIlroy, he did finish runner-up at the Valero Texas Open, but has had anything but a stable 2013 season. Given that he's never had a top-10 finish here and did blow a four-shot lead in the final round in 2011, it's definitely no guarantee he'll fare well.
Phil Mickelson played in the final group last year and has four top-five finishes in his past five trips down Magnolia Lane. He did win in 2010, but he has had such a tumultuous 2013 campaign that it's impossible to predict how he'll do.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Lefty didn't tee it up in competition the week before Augusta. He is admittedly nervous to see how he fares in the early going, as reported by Golfweek Magazine's Sean Martin:
I love this tournament so much and I’m nervous because I haven’t been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open. It will be 10, 11 days as opposed to three, and that’s what I’m nervous about, just those opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in.
And those are your three odds-on favorites to win the year's first major. There are certainly red flags in betting on that trio, and similar concerns and counterpoints can be raised about many of golf's elite.
Which non-major winner would you be most comfortable picking this week (odds in parentheses)?
As ESPN's Chris Fallica points out, 16 of the past 17 major winners have been different players, with McIlroy being the only one to repeat in that span. One of them was the reigning green jacket holder, Bubba Watson.
Isn't putting supposed to be the most important aspect in the game, especially at the Masters? You know, that whole "drive for show, putt for dough" slogan?
Someone must not have told Watson that in 2012, when he smashed his way to victory in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen thanks to his ridiculous length and deployment of crazy golf tactics.
Thirty-yard cut shots? Check.
Forty-yard hooks to pull off one of the most miraculous shots in golf history? Check.
Watson ranked 158th in strokes gained putting on Tour last year, but rolled it well enough on the right week and continued to strike the ball exceptionally to snag his maiden major title.
If you're looking for a player with comparable power and similar struggles on the greens, check out Belgian bomber Nicolas Colsaerts. It's his Masters debut, but he has a remarkably similar game to Watson's that relies a little more on power and a little less on trying to hit crazy moving shots from the middle of the short grass.
Bovada has Colsaerts as a 100-1 shot to win in spite of this, and Watson's best finish before his triumph was in 2008, where he finished 20th.
Golf is confusing and perpetually obtuse. That's part of what makes the sport—and the Masters, especially—so beautiful.
So rather than rolling the dice, wagering on an individual player and stressing out about it, take solace in the fact that someone you may have never heard of—or someone totally unexpected—will reign supreme in pro golf's first big showcase of the season.
Just sit back, be moved by the storylines of the relative unknowns sure to occupy the leaderboard at least early on and enjoy the wild ride.
Note: Stats are courtesy of PGATOUR.com unless otherwise indicated.