The world's best golfers are gearing up for Augusta, Ga. and the 2014 Masters Tournament from April 10-13 with the green jacket as up for grabs as it has ever been.
Tiger Woods hasn't won a major since 2008 or a Masters in nearly a decade, but his absence from the event undoubtedly opens up the field and allows for more favorites to present themselves leading up to the four-day spectacle.
There is nothing quite like the Masters, with its iconic Magnolia Lane entrance and the signature holes that make Augusta National special. Joining the exclusive fraternity of Masters champions and donning the green jacket, though, is what makes winning the year's first major so tradition rich.
Will the elite fraternity of green jacket winners get a new member, or will a former champion prevail?
Let's break down the biggest favorites below.
|2014 Masters: Odds to Win (as of April 5)|
|Field (Any Other Golfer)||15/1|
|Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider|
Note: betting information courtesy of Vegas Insider (click for complete odds)
Rory McIlroy: 10-1
To no one's surprise, Rory McIlroy tops the list of favorites as he joins Adam Scott with a 10-1 chance of winning what would be his first Masters.
This is a unique opportunity for McIlroy in that his biggest nemesis—Woods—isn't participating this year. But there's really no reason to expect that this year will be any different for McIlroy.
Woods isn't the only golfer who has kept McIlroy from winning majors. In fact, Woods hasn't won a major since McIlroy's second season as a pro in 2008. It's tough to see his absence clearing the way for the Northern Irish star.
That's not to say that McIlroy isn't deserving enough to be a top favorite. He's shown plenty of times that when he's on, he is awfully tough to catch for any golfer.
But until he prevails at the Masters, where his best finish is a tie for 15th place in 2011, it's hard to put stock in him with 10-1 odds.
Adam Scott: 10-1
A little more than a year ago, Australian Adam Scott was starting to build a reputation as an elite golfer who couldn't close out majors despite repeatedly being in position.
Then he won the 2013 Masters, gutting out a playoff victory over Angel Cabrera and becoming the first Australian to ever don the green jacket.
The 33-year-old Scott didn't fall off after winning his first major. He did finish 45th in the U.S. Open but bounced back and nearly won the British Open, where he finished third, and placed fifth in the PGA Championship.
Scott has shown no signs of slowing down. His belly putter won't be banned until 2016. As long as that's the case, and as long as Scott boasts one of the world's best long games, he is likely to contend for every major.
Scott enters the 2014 Masters with a wide-open chance at repeating his 2013 victory and going back-to-back in Augusta. The last to do it was Woods in 2001-02.
Phil Mickelson: 15-1
Just as it looked as if Phil Mickelson's best golf was behind him early in 2013, he bounced back in a huge way by finishing second in the U.S. Open and winning the British Open.
The 43-year-old Mickelson already has three green jackets to his name. Few people during Masters weekend—playing or retired—will know success at Augusta National better than him. Still currently in the top five of the world golf rankings, Mickelson has been able to stay on top of the sport despite age and an arthritic condition.
However, Mickelson will have to overcome a recent pulled muscle that forced him to withdraw from the Texas Open in late March.
If Mickelson can get healthy, channel his earlier Masters success and figure out how to avoid disaster throughout 72 holes—or at least most of them—he should be able to lean on his formidable putting game and stay near the top of the leaderboard.
There's no sure-fire bet to make on any individual in this tournament, but at 15-1 odds, Mickelson would be a big payout to anyone who went out on a limb and predicted him to win his fourth green jacket.
Bubba Watson: 25-1
Bubba Watson has largely been invisible in major golf tournaments ever since winning his first green jacket in 2012. But what better place is there to get back to his winning ways than Augusta?
Watson's historic recovery shot from the woods in 2012 and subsequent green jacket victory will go down as one of the best Masters ever. But Watson will be focused on upping his jacket total to two this week at Augusta. He will have to shake off a poor performance there in 2013, where he finished in 50th place.
Watson's slimmer, 25-1 odds are not surprising: He has been irrelevant in most tournaments since his epic Masters win. But he finally resumed his winning ways with a victory in the Northern Trust Open in February.
It will be a long shot for a golfer who hasn't been very consistent lately, but Watson will be one of few golfers with experience as a Masters winner.
That could go a long way for the 35-year-old should he enter Sunday's final round in contention.
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