The list of favorites to win this year's Masters title takes a minute to get used to. There is no Tiger Woods to be found.
Since Woods stormed to his first major title with a dominant 12-stroke victory at Augusta in 1997, predictions for the Masters have started with an assessment of Woods. Unfortunately, back surgery will keep Tiger from competing in this year's stop at Augusta.
Despite the absence of the sport's dominant figure, there is still plenty to get excited about for the tournament, which begins Thursday, April 10. For starters, it is the Masters. If you're a golf fan, thoughts of azaleas in full bloom, golfers looking isolated while walking over the tiny Hogan Bridge and terribly tacky green jackets should be enough to get your golf juices flowing.
On top of all the prestige and pageantry this tournament brings, we have some top golfers in strong form to add to the excitement. Take a look at golfers with the best odds to win.
Rory McIlroy, 10-1
After a down 2013, Rory McIlroy looks intent on reclaiming his No. 1 ranking. He is also in great shape to win his third major. At the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, McIlroy shot a 65.
McIlroy began the day 14 shots off the lead. His 65 was nowhere near low enough to get him the title, but it certainly will grab him some attention heading into the Masters.
It was also a nice confidence boost for the young Irishman. GolfChannel.com's Ryan Lavner passed along this quote from McIlroy: “I couldn’t ask for much more heading into next week.”
Meanwhile, Golf World knows McIlroy offered glimpses of potential Masters dominance:
McIlroy's status as a favorite is understandable. He's definitely got the game to excel at Augusta. He took a four-shot lead into the final round of the Masters in 2011. Sure, he shot an 80 in that final round, but he proved he has the game to lap the field if he plays well.
The challenge will be playing well for four rounds. In each of the last three years, McIlroy has shot one round of 77 or higher.
In his last four stroke-play PGA events, McIlroy has finished seventh, 25th, second and 11th. He had one round of 74 or higher in each of those events, including two final rounds. At the Honda Classic, it undid his final-round lead.
All of this combined to make him one of the favorites.
Adam Scott, 10-1
Defending champion Adam Scott checks in as the co-leader in the odds race, and the only surprise is that he doesn't have the best odds to himself.
Sure, McIlroy's talent and potential are tantalizing, but Scott makes an even stronger case to be the favorite.
Scott has been in good form. He's finished outside the top 12 in just one of his seven PGA starts this season. His last time out, he came in third at the Shell Houston Open. Like McIlroy did at the Honda Classic, Scott blew a tournament victory with a poor final round.
Scott clearly has the game to win at Augusta. The sweet-swinging Australian made that clear long before he actually won. His ball-striking is phenomenal, but he is a streaky putter. The flat iron will make or break his chances at defending his title.
To this end, he's been solid as of late, as he's turned in three straight PGA tournaments with marks of at least .641 in strokes gained putting.
Phil Mickelson, 15-1
Phil Mickelson having the third-best odds to win the Masters is based solely on the fact that he is Phil Mickelson.
Lefty has not been in good form this year. Less than two weeks ago, he pulled out of the Texas Open with a pulled abdominal muscle.
In his nine PGA events this season, Mickelson has failed to card a top-10 finish. He is also coming off a dreadful showing at last year's Masters—he finished 54th and didn't break 70 in any of his four rounds.
His current form is not void of hope, however. His highest finish of the season came in the just-completed Houston Open. He finished 12th with a consistent and healthy four days.
Now, throw all of that out the window. When it comes to Mickelson, how he plays one day has very little bearing on how he plays the next. He is unpredictable and streaky. That is in no small part due to the fact that he can attempt and pull off shots like the iconic one below:
Still, Mickelson's odds are more about the fact that he is a three-time winner and almost perennial contender at Augusta. Until Mickelson's age makes it impossible for him to compete with the world's best, a bet on Lefty to win at Augusta will never be a waste.