Finally we are here, Masters week! An event that every player in the world aspires to play in, and also dreams of winning. Not only that but for golf fans, it is arguably the most exciting time of year. Of course people have their preferences when it comes to their favourite major, but as far as an event goes there is no bigger. This year is my first year of tipping and I am both excited and apprehensive of the week ahead, first and foremost I plan to enjoy it. Although tipping & winning a golf bet, being rewarded for research and golfing knowledge is a fantastic feeling  I do not want it to take away the sheer enjoyment of watching such a great spectacle. All that being said I do hope to add to this enjoyment by picking the winner and I believe with the picks I have made there is a strong possibility of this happening.

The favourite of course, is none other than once again World No.1 Tiger Woods. Woods regained his top spot after winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, which came after two more wins at both the Farmers Insurance Open and the WGC Cadillac, each of these he has been a multiple winner. Tiger is and always will be in my eyes not only the greatest golfer to play the game, but possibly the greatest sportsmen. Yes he had his rough spells, but this season he has put that all behind him and won 3 of the 5 events he has played. There is always that same question of ” Is Tiger back?” and this question is very hard to answer. Will Tiger ever be quite as dominant as he was before? Maybe not but there is now in my opinion a lot more competition and bearing that in mind he has already won three tournaments this year, so how much better does he need to be to silence the critics. The World No.1 has won the Masters four times, two less than record holder Jack Nicklaus who won his final Green Jacket in 86′ at the youthful age of 46, Tiger is still only 37. Tiger has won 14 major titles compared to Nicklaus’ 18 and it is hard to tell whether that record will be broken. Tiger is a determined individual and nothing less than a win will be acceptable for him, but with no major title since 2008, doubts have been cast  as to when his next will come, but the 2013 Masters certainly looks to be his best chance in recent years and at a top price of 4/1 most bookies tend to agree.

Enough about Tiger Woods, he is a player that no one can rule out, a silly thing to do considering his current form and his past successes, however at 4/1 I will be looking elsewhere at players I believe can challenge him. 2013 has been a year full of surprises in the golfing world, with multiple first-time winners on the PGA Tour especially and what’s to say we won’t be crowning a new Masters champion this year. With Tiger’s short odds as well as Rory Mcilory and Phil Mickelson both coming in at 10/1 & 11/1 respectively, there is value to be had in the field and the last two years we have seen two outsiders in Bubba Watson (2012) and Charl Schwartzel (2011) getting the win here in Augusta. Let’s look at what it takes to win here and who offers that value this week.

The Course: Augusta plays at 7,435 yards and is a par 72. Each hole has a name taken from either flowers or aromatic trees or shrubs, signalling yet another particular detail about this course/event. There have been around 500 yards added to the course ever since 2010, and this is considered a factor when taking into account who can win.  In many people’s opinion however this is not the key factor here, on and around the greens is where you need to be on your game, with the undulating greens considered deceptive by many. With the rough not being a factor there is certain freedom off the tee, which plays into previous winners hands, notably Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and of course Tiger Woods. Short game however is often rewarded, with players like Luke Donald, who isn’t regarded as one of the longer hitters on tour finishing in great positions at Augusta, coming T32 and T4 in his last two attempts. In summary length of the tee can offer an advantage but might not be the deciding factor when picking a winner in 2013.

Defending Champion: Bubba Watson. Watson donned the Green Jacket in 2o12 after beating Louis Oosthuizen on the second extra hole of their play off, after they both parred the 18th. On the second extra hole (the 10th) both players found themselves out of position, but this wasn’t enough to stop Bubba. Watson hit his 52 degree wedge with around 40 yards of hook in order to find the green and leave himself a birdie putt, that he went on too miss, over hitting the hole by a foot. Oosthuizen didn’t recover as well as he fell short of the green, chipped past the hole and missed his lengthy par saving putt, thus giving Watson the opportunity to tap home his putt for the win. Coming in to the 2012 Masters Watson had shown some fantastic form, with a 2nd place finish at the WGC-Cadillac and two other top 5s, whilst making all seven cuts. Bubba’s telling stat of the week was his 73.61% of Greens in Regulation, which is considered as ever as one of the most important stats, alongside Putting. Watson will be keen to show what he’s made of once again in 2013 and his form has been pretty good leading up to this week, finishing in the top-20 in all events barring one where he was cut at the  Northern Trust Open, he was battling with flu around this time of the season and should now be raring to go. At 40/1 Bubba is an attractive price and is sure to tempt many.

So finally on to what we can expect this week, what we know is that Tiger Woods will be the main focus attention closely followed by Rory Mcilroy who finished strongly to come 2nd at the Valero Texas Open this past week, beat only by the brilliance of Martin Laird who shot a -9 63 to secure the final spot in the field here at Augusta. Bearing in mind that a European player has not won at a Masters since Jose Olazabal won in 1999, and a Brit has not won since Nick Faldo won his third Masters in 1996, the odds are stacked against European players once again, but after Europe’s Ryder Cup triumph in Medinah, the current crop of European talent have proved it is well within their capabilities of putting one over their state side rivals. This season has seen only one European winner on the PGA Tour, with Martin Laird winning in Texas this past week, so the American dominance is once again hard to ignore, but with many European players still looking for their maiden major win it really is as hard as ever to call. Here are my picks for the 2013 Masters and the reasons as to why I have gone for them, I wish everyone all the best with their bets this week.

Keegan Bradley 30/1 (General, 28/1 Paddy Power 6places) 3pts e/w: Keegan is my shortest pick of the 2013 Masters, and I had a tough time including him in my plan. I really fancied him after his T3 at Bay Hill but that was when his price dropped to what it is now. Originally I wanted around the 35/1-40/1 mark, but in the end couldn’t face leaving him out. Bradley is a player that at such a young age has achieved so much already, that in comparison to players like Dustin Johnson & Nick Watney. He has 3 PGA Tour victories including his first major the PGA Championship, where he rallied to beat a faltering Jason Dufner.  The most impressive part of all this is that when he won his major in 2011 he was still in his rookie season, and he had already picked up a win at the HP Byron Nelson. Both of these victories came in the form of a play-off and his third and most recent win came at the WGC-Bridgestone where he beat Jim Furyk by one stroke, so tight finishes certainly don’t phase him. He showed his grit and sheer determination in his first Ryder Cup appearance, losing just one point in his singles match against then World No.1 Rory Mcilroy. His first and only Masters appearance came in 2012 and he finished in a tie for 27th, not a bad first effort. He followed up his 2011 PGA Championship with a T3 in 2012, showing that he is comfortable on the big stage. Bradley has averaged over 300yds of the tee this year, 9th best on Tour as well as 7th in Scoring Average. Bradley is 1st in Top-10 finishes, and is 4th in Par-5 performance, a huge stat in terms of winning this event. He is in my eyes capable of winning another Major already and certainly expect him to go well here in Augusta.

Dustin Johnson 33/1 (General, PaddyPower 6places) 3pts e/w: I am very happy to have Dustin Johnson as one of my top picks (in terms of shortest odds) this week, and I believe that he is more than ready to win his first major. Johnson is a 7-time winner on the PGA Tour, and two of those wins came in the prestigious FedEx Cup play-offs. Dustin has come in the top-10 of three of the four majors, and you may have guessed that the Masters is the one where he hasn’t, so why am I picking him? The reason being is Dustin clearly knows how to win, winning in tough situations and can deal with the Major atmosphere. His best finish at Augusta to date is T30 in 2009, but after having to pull out in 2012 due to injury, he will be looking to build on that significantly here in 2013.  He won in the first tournament of 2013, at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but later flattered to deceive, withdrawing from his following tournament and then followed that up by missing two cuts. So again you ask the question, “why are you picking him?” I’m picking him because he has bounced back significantly, finishing T12 at the WGC-Cadillac, and T4 in the Shell Houston Open two weeks ago. The Shell Houston Open is considered the perfect test for Augusta  due to it’s similarities and in that week he found 72.22%  of Greens in Regulation and was -9 on the par 5s, both important factors at Augusta National. In summary I think a major win is on the horizon for Dustin after having 5 top-10 finishes in major championships in his relatively short career. I’m happy to have him on side at 33/1  and I truly believe this could be his year.

Luke Donald 40/1 (StanJames & Coral) 2pts e/w: Donald’s price is the deciding factor in picking him this week. Luke has often been considered one of the best short game players in the world, his putting rivalling the best and his consistency is also a big part of his game. Luke is another player who will no doubt be desperate to win his first major, but not someone that will crumble under the pressure placed on himself and by others. Many people are looking to Justin Rose as Britain’s best hope of winning the Masters this year but at double his price I’m happy to take Donald ahead of him. Luke has three top-10 finishes at Augusta coming in a tie for fourth in 2011, 10th in 2007 and T3 in 2005. He had another top-5 at a major last season, when he came T5 at The Open and he will hope to draw on other high finishes in order to go after the Green Jacket this week. Donald has won all over the world, with 5 PGA Tour victories, 7 European Tour titles and also a win on the Japan Tour. In 2011 Donald was the leading money-winner on both tours and this shows his quality wherever he wants to play. The only down-side to Luke’s game at Augusta is his length of the tee, but with multiple high finishes previously he has proven he can overcome this obstacle with good approach play and an impeccable short game.

Brandt Snedeker 45/1 (StanJames) 2pts e/w: Up until his injury during his win at Pebble Beach, Brandt Snedeker was in my opinion the best player in the world. Before that win he came 2nd, to both Tiger Woods & Phil Mickelson, as well as a 3rd place finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in the opening week. His price has drifted back out due to two missed-cuts since his return, but in my opinion he wasn’t playing the way he wanted in either week, in order to protect his ribs for the first Major of the year. He has now had two weeks off and hopefully this has been enough for him to find his game and hopefully regain fitness. On his day he is up there with the best in terms of putting and in the last two years has improved every aspect of his game. Up until his injury he never dropped below 70% in Greens in Regulation, and was taking full advantage of all Par 5s thrown his way, in 5 tournaments he was -38 on par 5’s alone. He is still 1st in All Round Ranking on Tour due to his fast start, including 1st in Scrambling & 2nd in Greens in Regulation. He has some great form to speak of at the Masters finishing T19 & T15 in his last two attempts and also finished T3 in 2008. He has improved dramatically as a player, a rise which has seen him reach 4th in the World Rankings and if all being well with his fitness, 45/1 is certainly a big price, and one that I’m happy to take the risk on.

Webb Simpson 70/1 (General, PaddyPower 6 places) 1pt e/w: The 2012 U.S Open winner is my outside pick this week, and I will give you many reasons why. Firstly 70/1 for a player of his quality is huge, he has the ability to play at the top of his game at the flip of the coin and Augusta might just be where it happens this time around. Last year Simpson made his first Masters appearance, finishing in a less than impressive T44. However this doesn’t completely tell the tale of his debut at Augusta, he shot +6 on the final day last season and that is subsequently the score he finished on, meaning he was level par through three rounds. He finished just one shot short of  Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy and no I am not trying to justify his score in saying this, just trying to give you a rough idea of how he placed. The big story from his first start however was this, Webb finished T4 in Greens in Regulation and T7 in Fairways hit two key stats when trying to gauge how a player performs. He has been quoted saying after the tournament “I love the golf course so much. It’s my favorite course in the world. It sets up great for me. Tee to green, it suits my eye so well. I love the doglegs. I grew up with pine trees so it just fits my eye so nice. It just takes some time to learn it and get adjusted to it and respond to it.” Now obviously I don’t expect Webb to say that he hates the course, but to make a statement like this, hand in hand with the stats previously mentioned and you have your reasons I mentioned previously. A combination of poor readings of the greens and a few caddying mistakes led to disappointing result, but hopefully both he and his caddy have learnt from these mistakes and can put these right in 2013. It pays to mention that Paul Tesori, Simpson’s caddie will be carrying the bag for his 11th Masters after previously working with the likes of Vijay Singh and Sean O’Hair. Putting was Webb’s downfall last year and hopefully he can get that out of his system this time around and hole some putts. Although he hasn’t hit his best form yet this year, he won the U.S Open after missing two consecutive cuts in his previous two starts at both The Players and the Memorial, so he can bounce back and I’ll be looking at him to do just that here.

Total Points staked: 22

Profit/Loss: – 27.5

This rounds up my first ever preview of a major event and just from writing it my excitement builds that little bit more. I hope you enjoy the read and if you follow any of my tips, I hope they serve you well. I will be looking at match bets and other specials later on in the week and will update this with any value I can find. My tips aside I wish everyone the best of luck with their bets and hope everyone can enjoy the Masters for what it is, one of the greatest sporting events of the year. It is worth noting that BetVictor are offering your money back if either Woods or Mcilroy win, an offer that might interest people who are worried about the top-two in the world. Follow/Tweet me on @TomJacobs8 for anything Golf related. Good luck!