Three picks to win the 2019 US Masters
Picking a winner in golf can sometimes feel like pulling a golf ball out of a bag at random: a bag containing hundreds of golf balls, no less.
It can feel like you have more chance of teeing off alongside Tiger Woods than winning money off the back of his success (and not because of your impressive golf handicap).
That feeling applies even more than usual at Augusta National, where a host of surprise winners have earned their first green jacket in the last decade or so.
Stormy conditions in practice may emphasise that lottery factor even further. Here though, are three not-so-random candidates to win this week’s Masters.
The favourite: Rory McIlroy
Those backing the favourite at the Grand National last week were given a timely treat as Tiger Roll won his second consecutive National at Aintree. At Augusta, the strong favourite is Rory McIlroy – 8/1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill, while Dustin Johnson is the nearest competitor at 10/1 and Justin Rose third in the running at 12/1.
While a host of contenders, including Masters specialist Jordan Spieth, Johnson and Rose, have a strong claim to this year’s throne, McIlroy tops the pile with good reason. The Northern Irishman is second in the FedExCup Rankings and won the Players Championship with a -16 finish in March.
Boasting seven top-10 finishes this season, the 29-year-old’s game is in fine fettle. That Players victory will give him the biggest confidence boost possible ahead of the only major he is yet to win.
The downside for McIlroy backers is the unavoidable fact his last major triumph came in 2014. But he finished tied for eighth at Augusta that year and has made the top 10 at the Masters every year since. McIlroy will relish the chance to make history this week.
The wild card: Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler was an unlucky man at Augusta last year. A -5 final round could not prevent a one-stroke defeat to Patrick Reed, though his birdie on the 18th was enough to earn him second outright thanks to Spieth’s bogey on the same hole.
Fowler however, should use Reed’s success as a source of inspiration. The 2018 Masters represented Reed’s first major victory, just like it did Sergio Garcia’s the year before and Danny Willett’s in 2016. If the trend is to continue in 2019, who’s better placed than Fowler to win his first major?
The 30-year-old – no longer sporting as much moustache – won the Waste Management Phoenix Open by two shots in early February and finished tied for second at the Honda Classic a month later. If you’re looking for a longer price than 8/1, Fowler could be your man at 16/1 with Sky Bet and 20/1 with William Hill.
The long shot: Matt Kuchar
Of those never to have won a major, Matt Kuchar has experienced even more frustration than Fowler. But that hasn’t stopped the 40-year-old reaching new heights this campaign, sitting top of the latest FedExCup Rankings.
Kuchar has already matched his career-best season by claiming two first-place finishes this term – at the Sony Open in Hawaii and Mayakoba Golf Classic. The American has earned more than $4.4m in prize money this campaign, finishing in the top 10 five times.
Veteran Kuchar has not been without his success at Augusta either, tying for third in 2012 and tying for fourth only two years ago. At 40/1 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes, and 45/1 with BetVictor, Kuchar could well be worth a long shot.
By Tim Poole