|J Snyder III||+|
Augusta on my mind - Part 2
By Dave Tindall Last updated: 10th December 2010
In part one, I discussed the merits of the ante-post Masters punt and listed some of the successful winners from years gone by.
So now it's time to turn to the 2011 event and get some bets on.
The price that sticks out like a sore thumb as being unexpectedly high must be the 50/1 about Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irisman has enjoyed an extraordinary 2010 and climbed to world number 7 in the process.
The highlight, of course, was his first major when he showed fantastic poise and determination down the stretch to win the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Then there was the Ryder Cup where he secured the winning point after another hugely impressive display of bottle when the Americans were putting on a late charge.
There was another Celtic Manor success when he won the European Tour event held there in June while he continued his habit of winning on elite courses by capturing the title at Valderrama in late October.
With the cake iced, he added a cherry on the top by gunning down Tiger in his own event and winning the Chevron World Challenge in California in a play-off after starting the final round giving Woods a four-shot start.
So why on earth is he 50/1 to win the Green Jacket?
It must lie in his Masters record which shows two missed cuts out of three but it's certainly dangerous to think he can't perform at Augusta.
Looking at his three past visits, his debut in 2005 started with a humbling 79 but there was certainly nothing wrong with his second round two-under par 70 even if it wasn't quite enough to help him survive the cut.
It took McDowell four more years to earn a return to Augusta but his second start contained plenty of promise.
He opened with a 69 and then moved to five under in round two after birdies at the 9th and 10th. At that point he looked set to go into the weekend sat inside the top five (-9 led at halfway while -5 was good for tied fifth) but he dropped shots at 14, 15 and 17.
"I am disappointed with how I finished but the course is playing three shots harder than yesterday. The wind is difficult to read and I fell victim to it a few times today," said McDowell. But he added: "I am pleased where I am after two days and now I want to push on and see where I can finish."
A second successive 73 halted his hopes of a weekend charge but he shot a second round in the 60s when closing with a 69 to finish tied 17th.
It's worth noting that he went into the Masters that season without a single top 10 finish under his belt so to make the top 20 was pretty impressive.
You could say it was another example of his consistent ability to do well in the majors; in his last 10 the Ulsterman has a win, a top 10 and a further five top 25s.
Of course, in the vast majority of those he was not the player he is now - one oozing with confidence and who fears no-one.
A missed cut (75-74) in last year's Masters - caused by a seven at 15 when he was set to make the weekend - isn't ideal but is probably the reason why we can get 50/1 about him. And his 2010 trip to Augusta wasn't a total write-off; he scored a hole-in-one in the Par 3 competition. As he said at the time: "That will go into the memory banks as definitely a special moment in my majors career so far."
McDowell has committed to the US Tour in 2011 and said in October: "There's definitely going to be more of an American influence to my schedule for the first six months."
If all goes to plan it's likely that McDowell will thrive on the Florida Swing in March and any big performances will see his Masters price seriously contract.
Last year he finished sixth in the CA Championship at Doral while he's also a previous runner-up at Bay Hill (2005) so if he produces a repeat in those two Florida events the 50/1 about him winning The Masters will quickly vanish.
The fly in the ointment is a potential equipment change but it remains speculation and although we often hear the downside of switching clubs, it is possible of course that new gear can enhance performance.
The bottom line is that McDowell deserves to be much shorter than 50/1 given the huge strides he's made in the last 12 months.
The second bit of definite each-way value I like at this stage is Vijay Singh.
No, I haven't gone mad. I think the Fijian is definitely worth having a punt on at 150/1.
First, let's look at the uncontroversial reason - his excellent Masters record. Singh won the Green Jacket in 2000 and his finishes then read 18-7-6-6-5-8-13-14-30-MC.
True, the last couple haven't been great and the doubters will use that as evidence of his decline.
It's pretty clear that since winning the FedEx Cup in 2008, Singh's form has gone south and injuries have hampered him - his desire to rush back too soon being part of the problem.
But, on the plus side, he did make the cut in the final three majors of 2010 and his final three regular US Tour starts of the season yielded finishes of 11th, 24th and 12th.
He placed in the top 10 for greens in regulation in each of those three events so his ball-striking was good but, surprise, surprise, his putter was cold.
The flatstick remains his Achilles Heel and obviously you need to perform on the greens at Augusta but majors are never mere putting contests and Singh's driving and iron play are strong weapons.
As with McDowell, there's a good chance that Singh will show some form in Florida as he's got a great record in the Sunshine State. And, of course, if he does, the 150/1 could look massive. As a guide, Singh's quotes for last year's Masters a few weeks before the event ranged from 33s to 50s.
Okay, we're taking a punt but. if between now and Masters time Singh can stay fit and get his putter working a bit better, he could give us a run for our money - even if it's just to land some of the, nevertheless substantial, 37.5/1 for a top five.
You often get a veteran playing well at Augusta where experience counts for plenty (think Kenny Perry and Fred Couples in recent years) so maybe Singh can fly the flag for the oldies this year.
2pts e.w. Graeme McDowell at 50/1 (Bodog 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Way too big a price on one of the game's hottest players. Shot two 69s at Augusta in 2009.
1pt e.w. Vijay Singh at 150/1 (Victor Chandler 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Veteran has excellent Augusta record and may not be a spent force just yet.
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