Let's open the Odds window to take a (humorous) look at the favorites for this week's Masters ' for entertainment purposes only, of course.
Tiger Woods (6-5): These were my exact words in last years U.S. Open odds: 'I have serious questions about his comeback. I know he came back from his previous surgery to win at Torrey Pines but thats a different setup. I dont think the U.S. Open is a good setup to be making your first start in 8 weeks, I dont care who you are. Granted it was under much different circumstances but we saw what Winged Foot did to Tiger when he came back from his fathers death in 2006. This start wont have the same result as that one; hell certainly make the cut here. If Tiger does win, forget that you ever read thisor send me hate mail, your choice.' In the words of Roberto De Vicenzo, What a stupid I am. While I didnt receive any hate mail, there were plenty of people here that wouldnt let me forget that I made that pick. I gave considerable thought to lengthening the odds on the main man but after that performance at Bay Hill two weeks ago, if I pick against Tiger again, it would be like forgetting to put a driver in my bag for the first two rounds of a major.
Phil Mickelson (3-1): Oh, Im sorry. Was I thinking out loud again? I really have to learn to keep my inside thoughts on the inside. So what will it be this time, Phil? Two drivers like in your 2006 win? How about two drivers, 11 wedges and a putter? With Tiger back and a slew of other capable contenders, now would not be the time for Phil to dabble in his laboratory. His two wins this year are the most hes had before the Masters since his three prior to the 2005 edition. And hopefully for him, he got all of his poor play out of the way in Houston last week.
Retief Goosen (6-1): Since 2002, Goosen has finished third or better four times with three of those coming between 2005 and 2007. Interestingly, he broke 70 once in each of those three high finishes ' all in the final round. He held on to win the Transitions Championship on a brutally tough Copperhead Course three weeks ago. With his pedigree on the Augusta National layout and his recent upward progression in his results (2 worldwide wins, 2 other worldwide top-6 finishes since December), hes a perfect pick in a golf pool if you dont want to use Tiger or Phil yet.
Padraig Harrington (8-1): Not to give away my thoughts on a future major but if Paddy was going for his third major in a row on a U.S. Open venue, I wouldnt have as much confidence. That being said, Augusta National can set up well for Harrington to add another notch in his major championship belt. Hes finished in the top seven each of the last two years and was one of nine players to shoot par or better in last years brutal final round. If he can get conditions like the last two years, it may increase his chances. Besides, isnt it appropriate for an Irishman to wear a green jacket on Sunday?
Sergio Garcia (11-1): As always, Sergio will go as his putter goes. So far in 2009, his putter has taken a vacation. While hes only played eight rounds on the PGA Tour this year, his putts per round number is at its highest since 2006. You know how the greens in Augusta are like putting on your linoleum floor. If he cant regain the touch he had throughout last year, itll be a fourth missed cut in the last five years for El Nino.
Ernie Els (12-1): From 2000 to 2004, the Big Easy was considered by most to be the second or third favorite every year here. In that time, his worst finish was a tie for sixth. Since then, his best finish has been a tie for 27th, including missed cuts each of the last two years. Im sure neither he nor Goosen thought that they wouldnt be the next South African to win this event after Gary Player so the pressure has to be getting heavier, especially since Ernies stated goal is to complete the career grand slam.
Geoff Ogilvy (15-1): Every golf analyst has touted Ogilvy as having the perfect game for Augusta National. If thats the case, why is it that he hasnt broken 70 in any of the 12 rounds hes played there? Dont get me wrong, you certainly dont amass a U.S. Open and three WGC titles because youre playing against guys from the local muni. But to win at Augusta National, hell have to get the same type of aggressive results that helped him win the Match Play back in February, a win that made yours truly look like a prophet.
Trevor Immelman (20-1): Only three players have repeated at Augusta ' Tiger, Jack, and Nick Faldo. This is almost like a pick out of respect for the defending champion because since he won here last year, hes had just two top-10 finishes in 19 starts. But hell at least be around Sunday night to put the jacket on the new champion.
Robert Karlsson (30-1): Quick, can you name the players who had at least three top-10 finishes in majors last year? Paddy ' check. Still thinking? You can stop. Karlsson went T-8, T-4, T-7 in the first three majors last year then opened the PGA with a first-round-leading 68. The buzz about him was so great that I thought he could make it to the finals of the Match Play. Peter Hanson had other ideas, bouncing the big Swede in the first round. Still, Karlsson has the length to take over Augusta Nationals layout and hes steely enough that a little majors pressure wont faze him.
Paul Casey (35-1): He was very close to winning this tournament until he realized that very fact and started spraying tee shots into trouble. If this was Jeopardy and Alex Trebek posed that answer to you, wed accept any of a number of questions ' What is the 2007 Masters? What is the 2007 Bob Hope? What is the 2006 Disney? You get the idea.
Tim Clark (40-1): History isnt the only thing not on the side of this pick. Length also has a little to do with it. Clark doesnt hit it all that far so hell really need conditions firm and fast in order to make a run. The South African does own six runner-up finishes, including here in 2006 when he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the 72nd hole.
Bernhard Langer (50-1): Each year, a blast from the past makes a little noise at Augusta National and creates a little buzz. Last year, it was Sandy Lyle making the cut at 3 over. In 2006, Ben Crenshaw was 1-under through two rounds and had scribes thinking that hed continue his 11-year cycle of winning at Augusta. And lets not forget that at age 46, Langer finished T-4 in 2004. I dont care if he is eating up Champions Tour competition. Winning and being successful at any level can translate well when stepping up in class. At least I think thats what Dr. Jensen would say.
Rory McIlroy (75-1): How many times do you think young Rory will be carded in and around Augusta this week? I can just see the guard at the head of Magnolia Lane asking to see three forms of ID and yet still doubting that hes a participant in this years event. Once he gets onto the grounds, there will be no joking around with as much ability that he possesses. He should be well-rested, too, having played just four events since his win at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Greg Norman (75-1): His T-3 finish at last years British Open was certainly one of the top five golf stories of 2008. What would it mean if he could turn the clock back 12-plus years and turn Augusta National upside-down again? I just hope if he does get into contention, the golf gods wont continue to torture him.
Low Teenager ' If Mr. Payne and company were looking for a fresh audience, this is a good year for it.
Rory McIlroy: Even
Danny Lee: 2-1
Ryo Ishikawa: 4-1
Low Champions Tour ' And then theres the other end of the scale.
Bernhard Langer : 3-2
Mark OMeara: 9-5
Greg Norman: 3-1
Ben Crenshaw: 4-1
Sandy Lyle: 5-1
Larry Mize: 8-1
Tom Watson: 10-1
Craig Stadler: 12-1
Fuzzy Zoeller: 15-1
Gary Player: 20-1
Ian Woosnam: 20-1
Raymond Floyd: 25-1
Danny Lee: 2-5
Reinier Saxton: 4-1
Drew Kittleson : 5-1
Steve Wilson: 8-1
Jack Newman: 10-1
Low 'Cool Hat' Guy ' Eat your heart out Marty Hackel.
Shingo Katayama: 5-2
Greg Norman: 4-1
Alvaro Quiros: 7-1
Bubba Watson: 9-1
Briny Baird: 10-1
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
TIGER VERSUS PHIL
GET IN THE HOLE!
GENE KELLY MEMORIAL
RESTORE THE ROAR
Now, you are properly armed with all the necessary information to make a winning pick in the 73rd Masters Tournament. And as always, choose wiselyas in, take that guy who wears the red shirt on Sunday.