In many ways, picking a winner at the Masters is like trying to project the first couple of rounds at the NCAA tournament. You know who the favorites are, you know a few sleepers are going to emerge and, for the most part, you're just throwing darts at a board.
Sure, a lot of research can help steady your hand, but you're still far more likely to be wrong than you are right.
With Tiger Woods not playing this year, that's even more true. Woods is generally the popular pick to win a major—at least amongst the fans—and the odds reflect that. But without Woods in the running, the pack is drawn together tighter, according to OddsShark.com:
|Favorites at The Masters|
|All other players at 55-1 odds or worse (Oddsshark.com)|
It's no surprise Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy would be atop the list. The former won this tournament a year ago; the latter is considered the brightest young star in the game today.
Phil Mickelson lurking near the top of the odds is no surprise, either. Lefty has won at Augusta three times and always seems capable of pulling off a moment of magic.
Those are the top contenders. But you have to dig a little deeper to find the best bang for your buck.
There's Dustin Johnson, for instance. At 22-1, he has more upside than the main contenders, but his form this season has also been excellent, as he has five top-10 finishes and is second in driving distance, which could play well for him this week.
And golf experts know what Johnson is capable of. Wrote Kyle Porter of CBS Sports, "I never know which DJ I'm getting but he might be the only golfer in the field who can still overpower this course. He could win by four and I wouldn't blink."
Matt Kuchar will be another popular pick. At 20-1, he'll pay off nicely if he wins, and he's performed well this year with six top-10 finishes.
Or maybe you want to go on past performances at the course. That means you'll be behind Bubba Watson, perhaps, who so famously won this tournament two years ago, or Charl Schwartzel, who took the tournament in 2011.
Looking for a young gun not named McIlroy who could pull off the feat? There's Jason Day, who tied for second in 2011. You might be worried about his thumb, but don't be—Day told the Associated Press he isn't feeling pain:
"Not really a concern," Day said Monday. "I think I just need to tighten up a few things, just kind of get a little sharper with my tee shots. I think I'll be good."
Day said the rest was a good tonic for his thumb, and he had a cortisone injection a week ago in Ohio. He feels no pain, though he will be taping it as a precaution, and he has been icing the thumb at night.
"It's more frustrating for me because just coming off the win at the Match Play, I was playing some pretty good golf," he said. "It was trending in the right direction going into Doral and the Florida Swing there. Just something so small, it's so frustrating, because everything else is fine. But you need your hands to grip the golf club, and every time it hurt when I swung the golf club. I would kind of flinch at impact, and you just can't compete against the best players in the world doing that."
Thankfully, that issues seems to be behind him.
Another young gun you could get behind is Jordan Spieth. Just 20, he already has a win on the PGA Tour and has the talent to shock the field. He's had a good season—he's No. 13 in the rankings—and he would quickly become a crowed favorite if he starts off strong in this tournament.
Ultimately, which player you choose to support comes down to which archetype you subscribe to. Maybe you like the wily ol' veterans. Perhaps you like the hot names in the game today. Maybe you've identified a young star in the making to support.
Or maybe you think you've found the next Dayton or Florida Gulf Coast way, way down the list of odds. If that's the case, well, may your bravery be rewarded.