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Bigwig or Black Beauty? Predictions for Masters week

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As if you won’t get enough Masters predictions this week, here’s my official tournament form chart, which comes with very unofficial odds and snapshot perspectives on each player. Keep in mind that four of the last five Masters have been won by guys nobody would have fought for in their office pools. Given the laws of probability, look for a household name to reign supreme Sunday evening.

FAVORITES

Rory McIlroy – Only question involves lingering demons. Is last year’s Masters collapse still in play, or did U.S. Open dominance resolve all issues? Took three weeks off coming in, an exceptionally long break for anyone. Odds: 8-1.

Tiger Woods – Bay Hill victory couldn’t have been timed better, and TW finally got things going with his putter. Hasn’t won here since 2005, hasn’t putted well here in forever. Is this the year? Must rule par 5s to earn fifth green jacket. Odds: 9-1.

Phil Mickelson – Arrives off T-4 in Houston, but it’s not about what he’s done lately. Has sharpened big-game focus considerably in recent years. Hammered Woods in head-to-head matchup to win at Pebble Beach in February. Best buy on this board? Odds: 12-1.

Lee Westwood – Mr. Close But No Cigar isn’t running out of chances, but you’ve got to make putts to win majors. Has played well in four U.S. starts in 2012. Nobody hits it better, but no top-tier player gets less out of it. Odds: 15-1.

Luke Donald – Last month’s victory at Innisbrook can’t hurt, and if it’s a short-game contest, you go with this guy. Has improved dramatically on climb to No. 1 in World Ranking. Shortest hitter among favorites, leads PGA Tour again in putting. Odds: 15-1.


AMERICANS

Steve Stricker – Disappointing history in majors for a guy who factors so often. Hasn’t shot under par in first round at Masters since 2001. Third on Tour in GIR and par-5 birdies, not a bad combination this week. Has never hit it better. Odds: 30-1.

Hunter Mahan – Two early wins suggest bigger things to come for the game’s highest-ranked Yank. Spotty history in majors, only cut made last year was at PGA (T-19). Is he a different player now? Drives it well enough to factor anywhere. Odds: 35-1.

Bubba Watson – Worst finish in seven 2012 starts is T-18, but Sunday derailment at Doral doesn’t say much for his relationship with pressure. Extraordinary physical gifts, needs to find focus and toughness to take the next step. Odds: 35-1.


EUROS/INTERNATIONALS

Justin Rose – Has made cut at all six Masters, squandered chance to win with double bogey at 17th in 2007. Win at Doral was more Bubba’s loss, but Rose plays tough courses well. Has jumped 50 spots in driving distance in 2012. Long enough to win. Odds: 22-1.

Adam Scott – First Masters with Steve Williams on the bag, which may or may not mean anything. Pair of weekend 67s earned him T-2 with Day last year. With Scott, it’s not about how he hits it, but how quickly he gets it in the hole. Odds: 25-1.

Jason Day – Finished T-2 in first Masters start last April, added runner-up at U.S. Open. Quiet start this year, just four events in U.S. Hits it a mile and can get hot with the putter, but 181st this year in GIR? He’s better than that. Odds: 28-1.

K.J. Choi – A sleeper pick who seems to sneak into the hunt more often than you’d expect. Has opened with 67 at each of last two Masters, finishing T-4 and T-8. Has made all six cuts in 2012 but just one top 10. Looking for a dark horse? Here’s Black Beauty. Odds: 30-1.