Tiger Woods is the favorite to win at the Masters Tournament yet again in 2013, thanks largely to the incredible putting that has driven him to two consecutive PGA Tour victories.
However, a plethora of other world-class players—and even past champions at Augusta National—have a strong chance to push Woods off course in pursuit of his fifth green jacket. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose all have as good of a shot as anyone to derail Woods' bid for major No. 15.
Here is a breakdown of the odds that each of those superstars has of emerging victorious on Sunday, courtesy of Bovada.
Tiger Woods (7-2)
Woods has been winning with regularity over the past two seasons, but stumbled in the major championships in 2012. This will be the first chance he has to prove he's truly back in that regard.
"Back" is a particularly harsh term in the context of Woods' greatness. Anything less than first place is a downer, and he hasn't had that kind of showing in a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
It's been even longer since Woods has gotten it done at Augusta, with his last win coming in 2005. The perception may be that Woods is in a major slump, but in the context of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18, he's precisely on track.
ESPN's Bob Harig tweeted out this mind-blowing statistic on Wednesday:
Bob Harig @BobHarig
Trotted this out before, but worth repeating: Tiger at age 37: 60 majors as pro, 14 wins. Jack at 37: 60 majors as pro, 14 wins. #Masters4/3/2013, 7:00:38 PM
Any doubt Woods' detractors have had as to whether he'll ultimately break the most sought-after record in golf have to be at least questioned in light of that information.
Woods has never putted better in his career than he is now, and the relatively wide landing areas that Augusta fosters off the tee shouldn't land him in too many spots of bother. So it's easy to see how he's the runaway top choice to win at week's end.
Rory McIlroy (12-1)
Two top 10s in three starts—including a second-place showing at the Valero Texas Open last week—have given McIlroy some desperately needed momentum entering Magnolia Lane.
McIlroy definitely has some demons to dispel at Augusta, though. Every golf fan remembers the anguish he suffered down the stretch of the 2011 Masters, as McIlroy blew a four-shot, 54-hole lead en route to a final-round 80.
The Northern Irish prodigy followed that up with two stellar days to start last year's event before fading to a tie for 40th with rounds of 77 and 76.
Every time McIlroy has faltered in his professional career, though, he has bounced back with some of the best golf in major championship history. Such was the case when he lapped the field at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship.
As Ryan Lavner of Golf Channel reports, McIlroy is completely focused on the year's four biggest events:
I don’t care if I miss 10 cuts in a row if I win a major a year. I don’t care. What it’s all about is winning the big tournaments.
When people look back on a person’s career, you don’t say Jack Nicklaus was so consistent. You could say he finished second 19 times in a major. But what you think about is the 18 majors he won. That’s what people remember. People remember the wins. … It’s only a minority that will remember the low points and will get on you for that.
Given the way McIlroy struck it in San Antonio by hitting 77.6 percent of greens in regulation (h/t ESPN), the 23-year-old should be in the thick of things if he keeps swinging his new Nike sticks like that.
In the young season, McIlroy's stroke average in the final round is 67. If he can keep that up on Sunday, he has a strong chance of winning.
Phil Mickelson (12-1)
Lefty is always a factor at this tournament, and last year was no exception when he played in the final group. Although he didn't get the job done, the extensive success he's experienced will bode well for Mickelson.
Now that his putting mechanics are sound due to a less exaggerated forward press and thickened grip, the stage is set for Mickelson to make yet another run at a green jacket.
The widely discussed Phrankenwood that Mickelson has put in the bag should give him a bit more consistency off the tee, which will allow him to attack with greater effectiveness.
Driving accuracy has been an Achilles heel for Mickelson in 2013, as he ranks just 166th on Tour in that statistic in finding just 52.52 percent of fairways. Augusta doesn't completely devastate players off the tee, but Mickelson can't afford to be out of position too often.
One potential red flag is the fact that Mickelson didn't tee it up in San Antonio last week. He traditionally always plays competitively the week before, and without those reps, Lefty may struggle in the early going.
That said, expect Mickelson to be in the mix coming down the stretch regardless of how he begins.
Justin Rose (20-1)
The Englishman has the most favorable odds to win among the non-major champions. Rose is renowned for his wonderful swing and resultant phenomenal long game, but he's struggling in that regard this season.
What has kept Rose afloat and allowed him to enjoy success in 2013 is his scrambling ability. He's converting over 70 percent of his sand save opportunities—tops on the PGA Tour thus far—and is second in overall scrambling.
Scott Michaux of Masters.com documented the confidence that Rose is feeling entering the year's first major, which he feels is his best chance to win his maiden major title:
I would say year on year, this is as good a chance as I get. I’ve played some good rounds of golf (at Augusta), and when you’ve done that you have some confidence that you can do it again. It’s all about putting it together, and I think a lot of that does come with experience here. You’ve got to learn how to manage your emotions and the golf course, and then do them all at the same time.
A tie for fifth in 2007 and a tie for eighth last year are the best Masters results on Rose's resume, and the pitfall has consistently been his putter.
The struggles on the greens aren't due to a lack of effort from Rose, as he's tirelessly worked to improve the obvious flaw in his game.
On putts from inside five feet, Rose is 72nd on Tour in converting those ticklish ones from short range. A champion at the Masters typically has to hole nearly all of those to keep the momentum going, and Rose must sink the vast majority of them to have a chance.
Rose has the distance and the precision to contend, but it all boils down to how well he's rolling the rock.
Note: All statistics are courtesy of PGATOUR.com.
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