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By Dave Tindall Last updated: 6th April 2010
Dave Tindall makes England's Paul Casey his number one pick in this week's Masters at Augusta National.
Paul Casey has had the look of a Masters winner ever since he took to Augusta like a duck to water on debut in 2004.
But prior to last week's event in Houston where he was preparing to defend his title the Englishman's odds looked cramped with quotes of 20/1 and 25/1 commonplace.
When Casey pulled out through injury I was secretly delighted as it meant two things: he would avoid the stress of defending his title and his odds would likely drift.
And so it's proved.
Casey admitted that he felt tired going into last year's Masters after his win the previous week and with the Houston course set up to play like Augusta it's likely he would have been in contention and under the gun again at Redstone.
Now he is much fresher and, as expected, the injury was something and nothing.
Speaking of the shoulder 'injury', Casey told reporters on Sunday: "It was just because I slept on it awkwardly. I've had lots of treatment and it feels fine now."
In short, nothing has changed and yet we can now back Casey at 33/1.
Although his sixth place on his first start remains his best Augusta finish he's built a solid bank of Masters form since. He was 10th in 2007 after recovering from a 79 on day one, 11th in 2008 after starting the final round in fourth and 20th last year despite being fatigued by his Houston win the week before.
Time and time again Casey will tell you that his best chance of a major is The Masters and in his current form this could be the year.
Before his Houston withdrawal, Casey had oozed class with a runners-up finish in the WGC Accenture Matchplay, a fourth in the Honda Classic and a sixth in the WGC CA Championship at Doral.
Casey does everything you want from a potential Masters winner and his third place on the US Tour's 2010 All-Around ranking (a measure of all parts of the game) shows just how well the world number six is playing.
With Tiger Woods still feeling his way back and Phil Mickelson struggling for consistency, this is a golden chance for Casey. He has the class to take it.
Previous form at Augusta means more than at most courses in my view and explains why, for example, Steve Flesch has finished sixth and fifth the last two years despite displaying little form elsewhere.
On that basis, I'm drawn to Chad Campbell - the forgotten man of last year's three-way play-off.
Campbell's eventual joint second place finish followed on from a third place at Augusta in 2006 when he was the halfway leader.
"I know I can win it, absolutely," Campbell told Augusta.com recently.
"I like the golf course and feel comfortable on it. I think it helps to be in contention and know what it's like to be up there, to know how to handle things. Hopefully, I won't be up there without winning another time. I'm excited to get back there this year and finish one spot higher."
So why does he do so well there? In short, he hits plenty of greens and does well on the ultra-slick putting surfaces.
Looking at his three good shows in the Masters (last year's second, his third in 2006 and 17th in 2005), he finished 11th, 4th and 16th in greens hit and 10th, 21st and 23rd in putts per round.
Campbell - a four-time US Tour winner - has an underrated short game and this year is 9th in Sand Saves and 24th in Scrambling.
Although his results haven't been great since his 8th place at the Sony Open on his 2010 bow, he's made the top 25 on his last two starts and the most recent of those came in Houston last week where he was fourth in Greens In Regulation.
Despite his excellent course form, he's still flying under the radar and it means we can get 100/1 on the Ryder Cup star. Get stuck in!
When Matt Kuchar first played at Augusta as an amateur in 1998, he won the crowds over with his constant smile and excellent golf.
His 21st place finish marked him down as a future contender or even winner of The Masters but so far it hasn't worked out that way. Kuchar has only made two visits since (50th and missed cut) and the last of those was way back in 2002.
However, this year he heads to Augusta as one of the hottest players in golf.
In his last 12 US Tour starts (dating back to October) he can boast a win, a second, two thirds and two other top 10s.
Kuchar's last two starts show a third at Doral and an eighth (easily his best finish there) in last week's Houston Open and looking at his 2010 stats shows him first in Birdie Average, 2nd in the All-Around ranking, 17th in Greens In Regulation, 18th in Putting Average and fifth in Scrambling.
One other key point is that his Georgia connections (he went to Georgia Tech) means that his Augusta history doesn't just end in 2002. As an Atlanta resident, Augusta is never far from his mind and he revealed recently: "(Since 2002) I have played casually (at Augusta) many times and have been able to keep up with the changes."
With plenty of support, Kuchar could be smiling his way to victory if he plays as well as he has been and the 90/1 is more than a fair price.
A third American pick is Sean O'Hair at 66/1.
The three-time US Tour winner shot three rounds in the 60s when finishing tied 10th at Augusta last year so was left to rue a second round 76.
His top 10 added to and improved upon a tied 14th in 2008 so he certainly puts a tick in the course form box.
His 2010 has been a bit of a disappointment but that's been due to a stress fracture in his forearm which has hampered him.
That would appear seriously off-putting but he said in mid-March that it was "pretty much healed up" and he was starting to hit his driver well.
But it's the knock-on effect of the injury which might serve him well this week. Whilst resting from the range, O'Hair has been able to sharpen up his short game and admits his putting - so often an Achilles heel - is the best he's known it at this time of year. As evidence he's ranked fifth in Putting from 5-15 feet and he'll get plenty of those length putts at Augusta.
O'Hair's 12th place in the current Scrambling stats also highlights his improved short game play and getting up and down this week is another big key to success.
The signs are there - 21st at Bay Hill and 18th at Doral on the recent Florida Swing - that O'Hair is starting to hit form and the 66/1 could prove a very nice price.
Finally, Ryan Moore could prove an interesting contender at 150/1.
Moore enjoyed a sensational amateur career and that earned him two trips to The Masters where he finished 35th in 2003 and tied 13th in 2005 (low amateur).
Injury stopped him returning in 2006 so this is his first appearance at Augusta as a pro.
It's fair to say he can't wait.
Speaking to reporter Todd Miles recently, Moore revealed: "It's the one tournament I look forward to the most every time, every year. This is my favorite major. I honestly have a hard time believing it's not everybody's.
"I really like fast greens - the faster, the better - and that is a big part of it," Moore said. "You don't have to hit putts. I don't have a lot of 'pop' or hands in my stroke, so it works well on faster greens.
"Part of it is the layout and the holes. They look good to me. I can step up and hit shots. It's hard to explain why."
After playing in a practice round with Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Charles Coody in 2005, no wonder he loves this place and having managed 13th as an amateur he has every chance of improving on that as a pro.
Having shaken off his injury problems, Moore is now starting to thrive and at the back end of 2009 finally became a PGA Tour winner.
He's cooled off a little of late but was tied 14th in Phoenix three starts ago and has only missed one cut all season.
The stats show he's driving the ball great (2nd in Total Driving) and he's also in the top 25 in the Scrambling stats so his game looks a good fit when you add in his liking for slick greens.
Moore has started just six majors as a pro and has made the top 10 in two of them so can thrive at the very top level and in what looks a wide open year he could be a dark horse worth investing in.
2pts e.w. Paul Casey at 33/1 (Betfred, Ladbrokes, Hills 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). In great form, has perfect game for Augusta and over minor injury.
1pt e.w. Chad Campbell at 100/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Course form counts for plenty at Augusta and Campbell has a 2nd and a 3rd.
1pt e.w. Matt Kuchar at 90/1 (totesport, Betfred, Hills 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Good Georgia connections and one of the hottest players in golf right now.
1pt e.w. Sean O'Hair at 66/1 (Ladbrokes, Hills 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Short game looks much sharper and 10th and 14th in last two years here.
1pt e.w. Ryan Moore at 150/1 (General 1/4 1,2,3,4,5). Loves this event, game suits it and 13th on last appearance when an amateur.
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