The most important week in the world of golf is here. The 2014 Masters is as unpredictable as past iterations, but perhaps even more so with the absence of Tiger Woods.
With a field that oozes potential sans a talent who has actually seen it realized via consistent wins, the odds in Vegas are all over the place. The same can be said for expert predictions, although it's important to note they usually are—only one major name correctly picked Adam Scott would don the green jacket a year ago.
Here's a look at the notable odds to watch, followed by some expert predictions to help make the decision process for bettors easier.
Full list of odds can be found on Odds Shark.
Let's start with a safe prediction before moving onto some of the more risky ones, as Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel elects to roll with Rory McIlroy:
Fresh off a final-round 65 in Houston, on a course tailor-made for his game, McIlroy might be the rare favorite to win the green jacket. If he does, consider the consequences: He will be three-quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam … at age 24.
It's hard to argue Sobel's sound logic, and Vegas seems to concur. McIlroy has failed in recent years to string a bevy of important wins together, but inconsistency is an issue that should go away with both age and experience.
Keep in mind as safe of a pick as McIlroy is, given the field, Sobel's second-place finisher is quietly one to keep a keen eye on as things progress. The next expert couldn't agree more.
Jason Garrity of SI is the name that was hinted in the intro who managed to get the pick right last year.
That's no small feat, and he's at it again this year with a bit of an interesting underdog, as captured by Golf.com:
I need to pick Adam Scott so I can remind everyone that I picked him last year and I was right. I've never had a chance to say that before. My dark-horse pick is Sergio Garcia. Nobody remembers that he finished in the top 10 last year, and nobody takes him seriously. That could be the opening Sergio needs.
Garcia is a rather big sleeper in the odds, given the decent payout and his actual chances of winning. Pair his strong performance last year with a recent strong showing at the Shell Houston Open, and it's easy to see why Garrity is in Garcia's corner.
So happy with my round on very difficult conditions today!!! Hope you guys enjoyed it! Let's keep it going on the weekend!— Sergio Garcia (@TheSergioGarcia) April 4, 2014
Bettors should be as well if they want to win a bit more cash. Garcia is talented and confident, and sometimes that combination can be the difference at Augusta.
A host of experts line the Golfweek predictions with the usual names. McIlroy shows up three times, and Keegan Bradley gets a nod, but it's Jim McCabe's pick that should get the focus.
Like Garcia, Henrik Stenson is a bit of a gamble—but one that will pay off handsomely. That said, McCabe admits there are holes in the prediction:
Superb ball-striker who seems to be coming out of his early-season sleep. Nothing in history points to him – in eight Masters he’s missed three cuts and shot in the 60s just once in 26 rounds. But then again, nothing pointed to him winning money titles on both sides of the pond last year, either.
Everybody loves an underdog, and Stenson has been on a bit of a roll the last calendar year, so him coming out and exorcising his Augusta demons is not out of the question.
The folks in Bristol also put together an all-star cast of experts to analyze the proceedings in Augusta.
McIlroy's name gets thrown in the ring twice, while Scott and Jason Day get mentioned once. The surprises are Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson, with the latter's description via Kevin Maguire:
With so many rookies in the field (nearly one-quarter of the golfers teeing it up this week), there will be a premium on experience, and the 2007 Masters champ certainly knows his way around Augusta National. Depending on how firm and fast the course plays, he might not lay up on every par-5 (like he did in his win) but slow and steady wins this race and Johnson will be receiving a present from Adam Scott come Sunday night.
Bettors have to decide for themselves on this one, as Johnson has been rather inconsistent at best with finishes all over the place during the course of his career, including a win in 2007 and a missed cut as well.
Still, experience is key in this field, as Maguire points out. There is simply too much of an unknown across the board to count out a name with so much experience, so don't be shocked if Johnson makes a run. Be there to cash in on the surprise.