The 2014 version of the Masters tournament promises to be one of the most intriguing editions of the event in history. The field is wide open for just about anyone to win, be it a favorite or underdog.
Tiger Woods, the most prolific golfer of his generation and four-time winner of the green jacket, has declared himself out of the field due to back surgery—a decision that means one of the usual favorites is already out of contention.
Let's take a look at who has stepped in and filled Woods’ shoes as the odds-on favorite, as well as take a peek at an underdog with a great chance to win and more projections on how the notable golfers will finish.
Rory McIlroy: Installed as 9-1 Co-Favorite
Rory McIlroy has not won a major since the 2012 PGA Championship, but the 24-year-old Irishman continues to make progress, and it seems to be only a mater of time before he claims a victory at Augusta National.
With Woods out of the picture, McIlroy, along with Adam Scott, is expected to perform the best of any player in the field and has been given 9-1 odds by the bookmakers (per OddsShark.com).
Many bettors may be leery to back the young star, as he has yet to record a finish inside the top 10 during his five previous attempts in this major tournament, but 2014 appears to be the year that all changes.
McIlroy has been one amazing round away from not only a solid finish but also from contending for a championship at the Masters in each of his past three attempts. In each of those tries, he turned in three great performances that were ultimately derailed by one immensely poor showing.
Will McIlroy win the 2014 Masters?
The British star acknowledged that he should have a favorable finish at Augusta by now, pointing out that course fits his style of play, per Ewan Murray of The Guardian:
“The way I play golf, the way my game is, Augusta does set up well for me. And for me not to have a top-10 coming into my sixth Masters …"
With more experience and a decent start to the year under his belt, don’t be surprised to see Rory take this tournament by storm. He will be opening the Masters in a favorable grouping that includes Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, two other young golfers.
Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel pointed out just how youthful this trio is:
Grouping of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth is combined only three years older than Tom Watson, the oldest player in the field.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 8, 2014
If McIlroy can put together three consecutive great rounds of golf, he will undoubtedly be challenging for the lead on championship Sunday. It remains to be seen if he can hold it together for four straight days, but it finally seems time for that to occur.
Lee Westwood: Great Sleeper Bet at 40-1
Westwood is an intriguing bet to back at 40-1, especially considering his skill and prior finishes at Augusta.
The former world No. 1 golfer has recently fallen back in the rankings, plummeting to No. 37 heading into the Masters, but he has the talent to make a push for his first major championship this weekend.
The twilight of the 40-year-old’s career is now here, and his window to add a major to his mantle is rapidly closing, a fact that Westwood must be acutely aware of. He should be desperate to validate his career with a signature victory, and there is no better opportunity than at Augusta, a course he knows extremely well from his many trips to the Masters.
He explained that familiarity, via the Nottingham Post: "I feel when I do drive up to the front gates I know the place very well and it’s a golf course where I can walk onto the first tee feeling comfortable with where I am. That’s shown in my results in recent years."
Westwood first played in this tournament back in 1997 and has finished in the top 11 in each of the last four events, including a third-place showing in 2012 and runner-up performance in 2010.
It certainly would not be shocking to see the Englishman atop the leaderboard at times during the Masters, and he should be in contention down the stretch. If he makes a few spectacular shots and gets a little bit of luck, he may be wearing the green jacket on Sunday.
|Third Place. Tie||Adam Scott|
|Third Place, Tie||Bubba Watson|
|Fourth Place||Lee Westwood|
|Fifth Place||Dustin Johnson|