Just over 24 hours. That's all that remains between now and the official start of the Masters Tournament.
Can you feel the excitement brewing in the golf world as the first major of the season is set to tee off at Augusta National? The muted claps of the crowd will fill up the course as some of golf's greatest players battle it out in search of an illustrious green jacket.
While several of the top players are ready to start play in Augusta, one notable name is excluded from the field. Tiger Woods, currently the No. 1 player in the world, underwent surgery for a pinched nerve and will miss the Masters. Woods announced the news on his official website:
After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done.
... I'd like to express my disappointment to the Augusta National membership, staff, volunteers and patrons that I will not be at the Masters. It's a week that's very special to me. It also looks like I'll be forced to miss several upcoming tournaments to focus on my rehabilitation and getting healthy.
With the four-time winner of the Masters out of the running, the tournament is wide open. Names like Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are at the top of the odds coming into competition, but fan favorites like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are looming with hopes of capturing another green jacket.
Here's a look at some of the notable golfers in the field and their odds of taking the entire tournament. A complete list of odds can be found at Oddsshark.com.
When it comes to McIlroy, it's either going to be a great tournament or a horrid one.
The 24-year-old golfer hasn't won a major since 2012, but has been sharp as of late. McIlroy registered a 65 in the final round of the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, navigating his way from out of contention on Saturday to tied for seventh by Sunday's end.
I couldn't ask for much more heading into next week. ... I think it's important to finish well. I don't think there's any better way to prepare than getting yourself into contention and playing golf under pressure because that's ultimately what you want to do next week.
Not surprisingly, his recent string of great results now has him as the co-favorite for the Masters, and in contention despite the fact that he's never finished better than 15th at Augusta.
As for any sort of emotion for McIlroy coming into the Masters, the Northern Irish golfer said he still remembers dropping the tournament in 2011 after having a four-stroke lead, per the PGA Tour's official Twitter account:
"That's probably the only time I've cried over golf... the morning after (the Masters) in 2011." - Rory McIlroy #PGATOUR— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 8, 2014
Expect McIlroy to once again be in contention and potentially pull off the win at the Masters. While he's been slightly erratic this year thus far, McIlroy has the skill to come away with a victory in Georgia.
Much like McIlroy, Scott is considered a front-runner at the Masters, and deservedly so.
After pulling off his first win at a major last season in Augusta, Scott is now one of the favorites to repeat at the event, something last done by Woods in 2001-02. Scott spoke about his thoughts heading into the Masters, per Nick Bonfield of Golf Monthly:
I feel like this should be the peak time in my career. I have got to create these chances more often and I’ve got to take them more often than I have. I’ve got to start closing at a better rate than ever before. So I’m very hungry.
Everyone is just so excited to go. We don’t know what it’s going to hold and it always produces something. It will be exciting for me going there feeling like I’m playing pretty good. Who knows what can happen again?
Though it's a rarity in the game, Scott does seem like a good candidate to win it all again with his recent play.
At the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Scott pulled off a 10-under on the first day and eventually took a third-place finish. The Australian appears to be one of the best coming into the tournament and has a shot to contend with McIlroy and the rest of the field for the green jacket at the Masters.
Considered more of a long shot this season, at 25-1, to pull off the victory at Augusta National than either McIlroy or Scott, Watson has produced some magic before and is primed to do the same again.
One of the biggest reasons for Watson being considered one of the top contenders is his great short game, as Kyle Porter of CBS Sports points out:
Watson will have to putt immensely to win this tournament again which is good because he currently has a 255-hole streak going without a three-putt. Yes, Bubba Watson.
That speaks to the bigger picture, though, that Bubba has to be in total control of his mental game for 72 holes and he has of late. He has grinded top 10s like he's Ernie Els or Matt Kuchar out there.
Plus, he's one of only a handful of favorites who can call himself a Masters champ.
On the year, Watson has a win at the Northern Trust tournament to go along with three top-two finishes and another top-10 result at the WGC Match Play. With that type of confidence on his side, expect to see great play out of Watson, making him a great choice for bettors looking to line their pockets.
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