Friday, 5 April 2013

The US Masters - 2013

The eagarly waited US Masters is finally upon us as all golfing eyes turn towards Augusta National in Georgia next week. It goes without saying that golfs majors make riveting viewing on TV, and despite reduced coverage on the opening two days, I'm sure alot of my spare time will be spent fixated on the coverage throughout the tournament. Bubba Watson is the defending champion having beaten Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff last year. Bubba bids to become just the fourth player ever to win back to back green jackets. Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods being the others who have achieved this feat.

The first Major of the year, is always hosted at Augusta National Golf Club. The course was opened in 1933 and co-founder Bobby Jones declared
    "Our oveall aim at the Augusta National has been to provide a golf course of considerable natural beauty,enjoyable for the average golfer and at the same time testing for the expert player striving to better par.We want to make bogeys easy if frankly sought, pars readily obtainable by standard good play, and birdies except on par 5's, dearly bought."

Green Jacket
Since 1949, the Masters Champion has received the now famous green jacket. Sam Snead was the first to win such a jacket. The custom is now that the preceeding champion presents the new champion his jacket. Jack Nicklaus, when defending successfuly in 1966, slipped on his own jacket, whereas Tiger Woods was helped into his when successfuly defending in 2002 by Augusta chairman, Hootie Johnson.

Amen Corner
The course comprises many fantastic holes but none moreso than the 11th -13th holes known as "Amen Corner". This name was penned by Herbert Warren Wind of Sports Illustrated in 1958. Wind defined Amen Corner as being comprised of the second shot at 11 through the drive on 13. He used the phrase from an old jazz recording, "Shoutin' in that Amen Corner." He wrote
  "On the afternoon before the start of the recent Masters golf tournament, a wonderfully evocative ceremony took place at the farthest reach of the Augusta National course - down in the Amen Corner where Rae's Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green."
   - Excerpted from "The Fateful Corner," by Herbert Warren Wind, Sports Illustrated, April 21, 1958.
 Many a player has "prayed" around Amen Corner, and seen their Masters bid evaporate and indeed in that infamous final round in 1996, Greg Norman lost his tee shot in the plantation behind the green only to offer afterwards in his press conference anyone 50 bucks who could tell him where it went (he never found it). The cameraman in the overhead crane, duly obliged later that day.

The Par 3 Contest
Since 1960, the Masters tournament has been preceeded on the Wednesday by a par 3 contest on the par 3 course. This is a fun event and its worth noting that no winner of the par 3 has gone onto win the green jacket in the same year. If you want to hold of placing your bets until this concludes and scratch the winner from your staking plan by all means !

My TOP 3 Shots at Augusta

1. Last year we witnessed one of the rarest scores to be made on a golf course, an albatross (a 2 on a par 5).This was achieved in the final round by Louis Oosthuizen on the 2nd hole, the first ever on this hole. Louis would later that day lose in a play-off to Bubba Watson who also performed one of the greatest approach shots from the trees to seal victory.



2. My all time favourite golfer, Greg Norman is the only man in history to be beaten in all 4 Majors in a play-off. In the 1987 Masters, my betting slip was squashed within my fingers,as whilst the Shark was lining up his birdie putt on the 11th hole, Larry Mize did this .....



3. Every golfing fan will recall this shot from the 2005 Masters. I do, because that year I was on Chris Di Marco! Another betting slip chewed up when Tiger did this.......



and for me one of the greatest shots I have ever seen ( and I bet we get to see it sometime during coverage this year too)




Birdieclubtipster Selections

So then....who do we pin our hopes on this year ?

Tiger Woods is deserving favourite this year and could very well go on and win such is the form he is in at present. At the time of writing this post I have not seen any betting without Tiger markets. I would prefer to invest in that market but for the time being I am happy to put up 4 players that can seriously challenge this year.
First up is a guy I have backed here a couple of times and a guy that is comfortable playing this course and is hitting his peak at the right time. Lee Westwood has the patience and the game to win this week. Ideally, I would like to see Tiger not leading after 54 holes and perhaps Lee being in the penultimate or even 3rd last group out on Sunday and post a 66 or 67 to snatch it. If he's up there he can stay calm and get the job done, he's come close to a Major a few times over the past few years.  Lee's results here the past 6 years read - 3-11-2-43-11-30. One of the best drivers out there and Augusta does reward good driving, he will bound to get his ball in good positions to make positive approaches. His weakest link is his putting but he does make his fair share. He only has to make them over these 72 holes to get his hands on that green jacket. He showed good form last week at the Houston Open, a course setup quite similar to this. Westwood is available at 28/1 with Stanjames / Betpack

My second pick is a player that I backed some time ago on Betfair at 90.00 but is still available e/w @ 66/1 with Paddypower and that is the US Open Champion, Webb Simpson. I like everything about Webb's game apart from the slow play. Majors require patience though and this player has gained a lot of experience on tour the past few seasons. He shot a final round 78 last year to finish back in 44th. The 27 yr old has solid form this season too having finished T6th at Riviera and another top 20 at Tampa Bay. Whilst he did miss the cut at Bay Hill, he showed signs his game is back to its best last week at the Tavistock Cup and renewed partnership with caddy Paul Tesori should enable him to set about the task at hand with the checklist complete. I may be bucking the trend in that experince is vital here, hence the bigger price, but I think 66s is still great value for a young Major winner. I fully expect him to be up on the leaderboard.

My third pick is defending champion, Bubba Watson. Regular readers of this blog will know I am not a fan usually of backing defending champions but Augusta suits Bubba down to the ground. The course suits those with a draw in their armour, or in the case of left-handed Bubba, a fade. Over the past 10 years, there has been 5 winners who play left handed (Phil Mickelson-3 wins and Mike Weir along with Bubba last year). I like this stat. As mentiond previously, back to back winners have occured in the past here and I can see Bubba getting amongst them again this time round. From 6 starts on tour this season he has missed the cut at Riviera but finished in the top 20 in the remaining 5, and I believe thats without hitting top form. He too, warmed up very nicely at the Tavistock Cup a couple of week ago.He won here at around 50/1 last year and surprisingly is available at 40/1 this year again with Boylesports. Lets see if chairman, Billy Payne helps him into his jacket this year.

My fourth pick has to be fellow countryman, Padraig Harrington. Not the player he was in 2008, although over the past 12 months he has shown signs that he can produce the goods again. I don't doubt he can, its putting 4 solid rounds together in the same tournament that has produced less than expected results for the Dubliner. If he gets an early enough start time on Thursday he is a definite First Rd Leader (FRL) bet.(tee times to be posted on Tuesday, 9th April) Padraig schedules his season around the majors like most of the big guns do, but this year I am delighted to see him play a lot more competitive golf leading up to this one. He could have won it last year, but for some missed putts in his final round where he eventually slipped back to a T8th. Padraigs record here the past 6 years read: 8-MC-MC-35-5-7 (2011 & 2010 were not great seasons for him anyway). Key to a good showing is his putting and given than Augusta will not punish his sometimes errant driver, I am sure he will grow in confidence as the tournament progresses, especially if he remains within striking distance. Afterall, I did write back in January on the blog here that this year at Augusta I was looking forward to the Tiger v Rory Masters duel with Padraig giving them both a run. Anything less than 66/1 and I would probably opt for Graeme McDowell at 66s or Peter Hanson @ 80s but I'm siding with Padraig to compete for his 4th Major @ 66/1 with