2010 Masters Odds: 10 Golfers Who Could Win the Green Jacket
Usually we're drawn to the Masters tournament each April because its prestige, perilous beauty, and importance make it golf's grandest stage.
This particular Masters will forever be remembered for Tiger Woods' return to golf, after one of, if not the most cataclysmic collapses the sports world has ever witnessed.
After you sift through the TMZ-esque hoopla, the outlets that aren't concerned with the tournament itself, and certainly could care less about the game of golf, you'll remember that we are talking about the first major of 2010.
Not only is the yet another dapper green jacket up for grabs, but with Tiger Woods in the field, the winner will once again be a "valid" major champion.
Let's look at the players who may receive one of those green jackets from Angel Cabrera on Sunday.
10. Kenny Perry
It's sometimes hard to believe that such a hitchy swing can produce such a dependable ball flight.
It's also hard to believe that such a wide putting stance would roll the ball so true.
Believe it or not, Kenny Perry gets the job done, and doesn't care if his swing and putting technique are different from many other PGA tour players.
When he gets that power draw going with his driver, pin-seeking approach shots are usually soon to follow.
Outside of maybe Tiger Woods, there's no one that can get in more of a groove than Perry, who's normally a longshot to win, but normally is playing for a title on Sunday.
Don't forget his tie for second in the 2009 Masters. You think he doesn't want a do-over after bogeying the 71st and 72nd holes last year?
9. Camilo Villegas
Villegas has plenty going for him as he embarks on another journey at Augusta National. He was one of the hottest players on tour in March, when he won the Honda Classic. His solid 13th place finish in last year's Masters is another confidence booster.
He's been a part of the exclusive top-ten rankings since 2008, and though his apparent consistency hasn't translated to consistent winning, Villegas knows how to keep himself in a tournament.
As it is with a lot of younger players on tour, Villegas often struggles with his putter. However, he's improved by nearly a half stroke on last season's average, hitting 28.86 putts per round in 2010.
If Villegas competes for a green jacket, his putter will be the key.
8. Zach Johnson
In 2007, Johnson proved that you don't need to send the ball screaming on every shot to be crowned Masters champion.
His game plan for that tournament was to make every par 5 a three-shot hole, and his preparatory plan worked to perfection, turning some of Augusta's lengthiest tests into sure-fire birdies.
Johnson's short game is superb, and he's an underrated putter who can get into a rhythm even on Augusta's slippery slopes.
He hasn't fared well at the Masters since his championship three years ago, but if he's hitting fairways, and you can bet he will be, Johnson is one of the safer bets to be near the top of the leader board on Sunday.
7. Angel Cabrera
One might think the seven spot is a bit high for the reigning champion who also has a U.S. Open title on his resume.
But with Angel Cabrera, it's almost impossible to figure out which "El Gato" we'll see each time out.
He finished tied for 73rd in his last "pre-game warmup" at last week's Shell Houston Open. He's played his last 43 holes in nine-over par. He's averaging a whopping 30 putts per round.
But before you write the defending champ off so quickly, he missed the cut the tournament before he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007, and didn't play the weekend before winning the Masters last year.
With his calm demeanor and brute strength, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cabrera fighting for his second consecutive Masters victory.
6. Padraig Harrington
You've got to give Padraig Harrington credit, he took full advantage of Tiger Woods' injury absence, winning the British Open and PGA Championship in 2008.
Since then, he's slowly become one of the tour's more reliable players, and this season marks his 11th trip to golf's most hallowed fairways.
Harrington doesn't have extreme distance, he isn't a fantastic ball-striker, and his putting can get spotty, but he always seems to do enough to keep himself in the hunt.
In 2002 and 2008 he finished tied for fifth, and has showed he knows his way around Augusta National.
5. Phil Mickelson
Mickelson takes the five spot because although he's been marked as the closest Woods competitor, he failed to reign atop the golf world in Tiger's most recent time off.
He made an epic charge in last year's tournament, but only had a fifth place finish to show for it.
Mickelson hit less than 50 percent of the fairways last week at Redstone, a number that if repeated, would almost certainly lead to a poor finish at Augusta National.
However, much is to be said about his experience at the course. Mickelson will make his 18th appearance and has 12 top 10 finishes at the Masters.
After taking off the latter part of the 2009 season to spend time with his wife Amy, who was fighting breast cancer, Mickelson has narrowed his focus back to golf, and has told multiple sources he's back to the form that will allow him to compete for the his fourth major win.
4. Steve Stricker
Stricker has cemented himself as the second best player in the world. He's won six times on tour in the last calendar year, and his reserved behavior masks his fiery competitive spirit.
In the 2009 Masters, Stricker rode four rounds in the 60s to a career-best fifth place finish.
After spending a good chunk of time as the world's number two, many believe this is the time Stricker will break through and win that elusive first major.
He rarely misses with his irons and is known as one of the best rollers of the golf ball on tour, two facets of one's game that are vital at Augusta National.
3. Jim Furyk
What's not to love about Jim Furyk?
Though his swing resembles a lot of hacks on the local municipal course, Furyk has been one of the cleanest ball-strikers for nearly a decade now.
He doesn't bomb it with the driver, and won't hit tons of glorious approach shots that dance around the pin, but seemingly each time out, Furyk sneaks his way to the top of the leaderboard.
He's always been a great putter, and his quick hands allow his shots around the green to land soft and stop quick.
It's hard to count out Furyk before any tournament, and Augusta National plays right into his precision game.
2. Ernie Els
If Tiger Woods wasn't returning, Els would be the odds-on favorite to take home a green jacket this year.
He's been in the zone not just for the 2010 season, but since the British Open last summer. He finished in the top 10 in the season's last two majors, and won the WGC-CA Championship and the Arnold Palmer invitation in March.
The Big Easy may finally be ready to showcase his powerful yet delicate game en route to a Masters victory.
If the putter stays hot, Els could shoot multiple rounds in the 60s this week at Augusta.
1. Tiger Woods
Hello, World. He's back.
Tiger Woods is probably the only athlete on Planet Earth who could come off the most devastating and humiliating scandal of a career, and still be favored to win the sport's toughest and most distinguished event.
In Vegas, Woods is a 4-to-1 favorite to take home his fifth green jacket, although he hasn't won at Augusta since 2005.
Very few know how Woods is actually striking the ball, but many agree that putting may take the longest to come back to him.
If he does get the flat stick working, you've got to love Tiger's chances.
He seemed eager and enthusiastic during his press conference yesterday to get back on the course in major competition, and no one has more mental capacity than Woods.
If Tiger is solely focused on his game and this tournament, like he was in the early stages of his career, the field at this year's Masters will once again become an afterthought.