Despite not having won a major since 2008, Tiger Woods' withdrawal from the Masters due to injury seems to leave the field wide open. The usual big names in Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are the odds-on favorites, followed closely by the left-handed hitting of Phil Mickelson.
However, with a wide-open field and a very familiar course, a handful of sleepers stand an excellent chance of claiming hardware.
The conditions at Augusta National Golf Club are famously friendly and favor the shot-makers on the tour. Tiger's 18-under at the 1997 Masters remains a testament to the course's forgiving nature. It's like a hot-stone massage compared to the long rough and narrow fairways at the U.S. Open. With no Woods to compete against, here are five sleepers with long odds and track records to suggest they can sneak in and seize the green jacket.
When: April 10-13
Where: Augusta National Golf Club (Augusta, Ga.)
Course Info: Masters.com
TV Info and Stream Link: CBSSports.com
|Top 20 and Notable Players' Odds of Winning the Masters|
|Odds Shark, PGATour.com|
Odds via Odds Shark on April 8.
Charl Schwartzel (35-1)
South Africa's Charl Schwartzel is a veteran of the European Tour, but he shocked the PGA by finishing first at the 2011 Masters Tournament. It remains his only victory in a major and his only win on the PGA Tour. Not only that, but he overcame a four-shot deficit on the final day to nip McIlroy for the title.
Though he placed 25th at Augusta last year, he still managed a respectable five top-10 finishes. He could rekindle the magic that delivered him the 2011 title at the Masters if he can find some consistency over the four days.
Schwartzel finished ninth at the Cadillac Championship in early March and began the next tournament, the Shell Houston Open on April 3, by shooting a 67. Then he sunk himself with a second-day 75. There is no room at the top of the Masters leaderboard for a clunker of a day like that, but Schwartzel is capable of pristine shooting.
Jason Dufner (40-1)
In March of 2013, a picture of Dufner looking bored during a visit to a youth center launched his very own meme: "Dufnering." That brought Dufner to the masses, but he's no flash in the pan by any means.
Dufner captured the 2013 PGA Championship on the heels of a fourth-place finish at the 2013 U.S. Open. He closed that season with a pair of ninth-place finishes. He already has three top-10 finishes to start this season, and the first major of the year will be a chance for the most recent major winner to serve notice on the rest of the tour.
Dufner does not have a strong track record at the tournament and most recently finished out of the top 20 in his last two appearances at Augusta, but he's played the best golf of his career in the last year and has looked solid of late.
Angel Cabrera (50-1)
In 2009, Angel Cabrera captured his second major title with a win at Augusta. In 2013, he nearly did it again. Adam Scott is the most recent winner of the green jacket, but he required a playoff to defeat Cabrera.
In some respects, the Argentine is uniquely suited to succeed at the Masters. He learned under renowned Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros. As Cabrera relayed to Adam Schupak of Golfweek.com at the 2013 Visa Argentine Open, Ballesteros imparted sage wisdom on the future Masters winner:
I remember when we arrived on the 12th tee, Seve said, ‘Always aim to the left of the bunker.’ I said, ‘But what if the pin is on the right? I’d have a 90-foot putt.’ He said, ‘It’s not bad to make a 4 on this hole. You want to eliminate making 5 or more.’ At the time, I may not have understood the importance of what he was teaching me. But whenever I got in difficult situations on the golf course, his words of wisdom come back to my mind.
That 12th is the heart of a stretch known as "Amen Corner," an unforgiving hole with the green guarded by sand traps and water. A misstep on the 12th can change a golfer's tournament, and with an assist from the late Ballesteros, Cabrera brings a veteran's knowledge along with a track record of success at the tournament.
Louis Oosthuizen (60-1)
Oosthuizen took Bubba Watson to a playoff to decide the 2012 Masters champion, so at a 60-1 shot, he's worth a five-dollar bet. He even knocked in a double eagle, or an albatross, on the second hole to spur his final-day run to the playoff.
Oosthuizen has struggled lately by missing the cut at his last two PGA appearances, the Valspar Championship and Shell Houston Open. However, he won on the European Tour as recently as January's Volvo Golf Champions in Durban, and his game plays well on a course like Augusta National.
Jim Furyk (66-1)
In September, the 43-year-old Furyk posted a second-round 59 at the BMW Championship, making him only the sixth golfer ever to shoot a 59 on tour. He finished third at the tournament and carried that momentum into the 2014 season.
Furyk has two top-eight finishes in stroke play in 2014 PGA already. He has not missed a cut in six events so far, and he's coming off a strong showing at the Valero Texas Open where he finished sixth.
In golf, more often than not experience trumps youth. On a tour with a strong crop of young hitters, Furyk possesses the savvy and consistency required to shock the field and be in position for a very special Sunday.