2015 Masters- Who are the main contenders?

With less than a week to go until the first major of 2015, the excitement is building for the Masters. As ever, the tournament will be held at the Augusta National and will provide the sternest of tests for the world’s best players. The field for this year’s event will be as competitive as ever, with every player capable of putting in an outstanding performance, but the deciding factor will be consistency and mental strength. One good round is not enough to win the Masters. The Green jacket must be earned and, with the length and complexity of the course, players must keep up their concentration for the whole of the four days.

As recently as 2007, the Masters has been won with an over par score. Zach Johnson’s victory by two strokes, despite carding a one over par 289, shows just how challenging the course is. It is hard to see such a high score walking away with the title this year but the players will know that they need their wits about them if they are to do enough to win. On recent form, it is possible to suggest that a score of 10 under par would be sufficient to win the title. But, with three of the last six tournaments going to play-offs, it looks sure to be tight at the top of the leader board. With betfair paying out on seven places, an each way bet could offer punters the best possible value. In this article we look at some of the contenders for those top spots.

Rory McIlroy

All eyes will be on 25-year-old Rory McIlroy going in to this year’s Masters. The Northern Irishman enjoyed a scintillating run of form throughout 2014 and will be desperately looking for it to continue into this year. McIlroy finished tied for eighth place in last year’s Masters but then went on to win the The Open Championship and the PGA Championship, leaving him just the Masters required to complete the career Grand Slam. Having burst on to the scene in the late 2000s, McIlroy’s prodigious talent has long been evident for golf fans to see and his rise to the top of the sport has surprised few.

In recent times, it appeared that McIlroy’s focus had shifted away from golf and a much-publicised split from tennis star Caroline Wozniacki seemed to hit his form. He also opted to take up a sponsorship deal with Nike which entailed him switching clubs and adapting to new equipment. With all of these factors taken into account, it was perhaps no surprise that McIlroy’s form dipped and, after winning the 2012 PGA Championship, he endured a difficult 2013, failing to make the cut at that year’s Open Championship. Thankfully for European golf fans, McIlroy is now back to his best and he was a pivotal member of last year’s Ryder Cup-winning team, taking three points as Europe stormed to victory. McIlroy arrives at Augusta having finished 11th at the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational and having won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic back in February. If he is in the mood at Augusta, then he will be the man to beat.

Jordan Spieth

At just 21-years-old, Jordan Spieth is the new kid on the block when it comes to golf superstars but, despite his tender years, he is already making waves and he is well fancied to challenge for the Masters. Spieth is, by his own definition, enjoying something of a run of form of late, having won the Australian Open last November, then winning the Hero World Challenge in December and finishing tied for second in the recent Shell Houston Open. He could not be going to Augusta with much more confidence. His victory at the Valspar Championship in March made him the third youngest player in history to win multiple PGA Tour events, and expectations of what he could go on to achieve are rising rapidly.

Having only turned professional in December 2012, Spieth has only limited major experience, appearing three times in the US Open (once as an amateur), twice in the Open Championship, twice in the PGA Championship and once at the Masters. Spieth has so far failed to shine in all of the majors, barring the Masters. His best finish in the other three majors was a tie for 17th at last year’s US Open. At Augusta, however, Spieth seems to have found a home and in his only Masters appearance he finished tied for second behind Bubba Watson. Had Spieth managed to hold on to the lead that he held at one stage during the final round of last year’s tournament, he would have become the youngest champion in history. If Spieth can take the positives from his 2014 Masters experience and build on the confidence that he has gained, then he will take some stopping in this year’s Masters. If he can handle the weight of expectation from the home crowd and keep his mind focused on the job in hand, then he could be a great bet to win a memorable title.

Sergio Garcia

If Spieth is golf’s great young hope of the moment, then Sergio Garcia was certainly its great young hope in the early 2000s. The mercurial Spaniard has been one of the PGA Tour’s most consistent performers over the last 15 years since turning professional in 1999 after shooting the lowest amateur score at that year’s Masters. Like Spieth, Garcia seems right at home at the Augusta National and even registered an albatross on the par five second during a practice round in 2002. He also began his career at lightning speed, winning the 1999 Irish Open, just his sixth tournament after turning professional, and becoming the youngest PGA Tour winner since Tiger Woods when he won the 2001 MasterCard Colonial aged just 21.

Spieth will most probably hope that the comparisons with Sergio Garcia end there. For all that the 35-year-old Spaniard has achieved on the Tour, he has 11 European Tour wins and eight PGA Tour wins to his name, he has yet to lift a major championship. Garcia, who will forever be popular with European crowds because of his achievements in winning the Ryder Cup five times, has made 47 appearances in major championships but can only boast four top-two finishes (two at the Open Championship and two at the PGA Championship). Garcia’s best result at the Masters came back in 2004 when he finished tied for fourth place. In last year’s event he failed to make the cut.

There is no doubt that Garcia has the ability to win the Masters but, having failed to win a major on so many occasions, it is possible that his temperament could be called into question. Prizes are not given out for consistency, or for effort, but if they were Garcia would surely be in line for a major. It has been said for many years that Garcia will win a major but the longer his drought continues the harder it is to see it happening. A win for Garcia may not be too popular with the Augusta crowd following his public spat with Woods, but few golf fans could deny that Garcia is worthy of being a major winner. The question is, can he deliver at Augusta? It seems a very long shot but stranger things have happened.

Bubba Watson

Defending champion Bubba Watson really has got the measure of the Augusta National course and, regardless of his current form, he will be a tough man to beat at the Masters. Watson won last year’s tournament by three strokes from Spieth and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt, showing great heart and spirit to reclaim the lead from Spieth during the final round. Renowned as one of the biggest hitters on the tour, Watson’s drive gives him a significant advantage at Augusta and has been one of the key factors in his success at the Masters over the years. As well as winning last year’s event, Watson was successful two years earlier and will go into this year’s tournament full of confidence.

Aside from the Masters, Watson’s record in Major Championships leaves a lot to be desired. Watson has made 22 appearances at the other three majors but has only made the cut on 12 occasions. Last year he missed the cut at both the US Open and the Open Championship and only finished in a tie for 64th place at the PGA Championship. Watson’s last tour victory came at the HSBC World Golf Championship in November. In his last tour appearance, the 36-year-old finished fourth at the Cadillac Championship in his native Florida.

Having worked hard to earn his tour card, and risen to prominence in the game slowly and without the kind of hype that surrounded Spieth, Garcia and McIlroy, it is easy to see why Watson may be popular with Augusta fans. Having played so much of his golf in the South Eastern United States, it is also easy to see why there may be some local support for the former University of Georgia student at the Masters. On the course, however, Watson is not such a popular character and a recent poll of pro golfers suggested that 25% of them would not help him in a fight. If there is one man that the whole field will be looking to beat at this year’s event, it is Watson. In the past, Watson may have thrived on this ill-feeling and used it to his advantage. If he is to win in 2015, he will have to do it all again and will receive no favours from his fellow pros.

Tiger Woods

All eyes will be on Woods at Augusta next weekend. The 39-year-old’s last tour victory may have been at the Bridgestone Invitational back in August 2013, and he may have suffered a huge loss of form and fitness in the weeks and months since then, but he has the quality and pedigree to make a real impression at Augusta. Woods is a 14-time major winner, the second highest total of any player behind Jack Nicklaus, and holds the record for the most consecutive weeks as the world’s number one golfer. With 79 PGA Tour wins and 40 European Tour wins to his name, Woods has one of the most formidable records in the game but in recent times his form has been on the decline.

Over the last few years, Woods has made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, allegations of infidelity and personal problems have overtaken news of his golfing achievements. In addition to this, the four-time Masters winner has also had to overcome significant injury problems, most recently a back complaint which resulted in him being granted a leave of absence from the tour. Woods’ absence, and his loss of form, has famously seen him drop out of the top 100 of the world golf rankings for the first time since 1996 – a year before he won the Masters for the first time. Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and his best finish last year was a 69th place at the Open Championship.

If reports coming out of Augusta are to be believed, Woods is looking in great shape ahead of the tournament and has carded a number of impressive scores in the practice rounds. Given his lack of form, Woods will be down in the odds but he cannot be ignored and an each way bet could prove to be great value. Few players will want to find themselves paired with the Tiger in the closing stages of the competition. If he is playing his best golf and is in the right frame of mind, then he will be exceptionally hard to beat. If Woods cards a solid opening round, expect him to get stronger as the tournament goes on and he could record a fairytale fifth win at Augusta, ten years on from his last.

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Golf Betting In 18 holes

by  Vidbynäs Golf Club

by Vidbynäs Golf Club

Sports punters often cite golf as being one of the most fun games to get involved in as a bet on the sport can give you an interest across four days.

Unless you are betting on a matchplay format, every shot matters towards your bet so you get great value for your stake that you may have placed at betfair.com, paddypower.com, or whichever is your bookmaker of choice.

Find the winner of a competition that involves more than 100 players isn’t easy though but there are a range of different markets available that can help shift the chances of winning more in your favour.

Here are 18 ways to bet on golf:-

1. Outright betting

The most popular way to bet on golf is by backing a selection in the outright betting. If you do so with a win bet, your selection needs to come out on top in the tournament for you to be deemed a winner.

Bookmakers open betting on golf tournaments in the lead up to the event in which they price every participant up in a market. The majority then continue to bet on the winner during the four days until the final hole when the leading golfer is awarded the first prize.

Each-way betting is also very popular with outright bets as, depending on the place terms, you don’t always need to find the winner to get paid out. If your selection is one of the places on offer, you will pick up a return. When there are fields of 150 plus, the extra places are always welcomed and can give you a better chance of securing a pay-out.

When betting on the outright market, look for players who are not only playing well, as form is an important factor in golf, but those who have a good record at the particular course. There is so much information available today on the internet that it does not take long to pull up previous results of any given tournament.

In some cases, such as major events like the Ryder Cup, several bookmakers will offer free bets and promotions (which are touched on later) when staking outright bets that you can take advantage off and in turn maximize any chances of winning!

2. First round leader

Rather than wait for four days for your golf tournament to finish, bookmakers offer odds on who will lead after the opening round of 18 holes. This will suit those who prefer a quick result, rather than to sweat it out for the full 72 holes in the competition.

Like an outright winner bet, each-way terms are normally offered so you may only need to hit the top five in the first round leaderboard for a return.

Look out for players who often make a strong start to events. You will be surprised how often these golfers top the standings in the early stages but fade as they get closer to the winning line.

The great thing about in-play betting is you can watch some of the action in the competition before making your opinion on who you think will win.

3. Match bet

If a field of 100+ is too daunting for you in golf, match bets narrow the selections all the way down to two players. A match bet can occur across 18 holes or the full 72 throughout the tournament.

Prices will be offered as to who will fare best out of two players. These may be mythical as they won’t always be paired together in a round but you will often find prices for the parings as it is very logical for the bookmakers to offer prices on these ties.

In match betting if you have an opinion about a certain player, whether it is positive or negative, you can hopefully make it pay. You will need to assess the chances of both golfers before making your decision.

The odds you receive in a match bet tend to be around the even money mark as bookmakers like to pair together similar priced players in the outright betting.

4. Top 10 finish

This is exactly what is says on the tin in that you are betting on a player to finish in the top 10 at the end of the tournament. This market is great is you fancy someone to go really close in your specific competition but you feel they could just miss out. The bigger the price of the player in the outright betting, the larger their odds are likely to be in this market.

5. Top continent/nation player

Betting is available on a range of top continent or nation markets. For example, on the PGA Tour, the Top European player is generally popular as the majority of the fields are made up of Americans so you can reduce the number down considerably. The winner is determined by the highest position from the group of players from your specific continent/nation.

In some cases there may only be a handful of players from a certain nation. If you have a strong feeling about how a particular golfer will do in a tournament, have a look at their price in their respective top continent/nation market as you may be able to find some good value.

6. Betting in-play

In-play betting has grown considerably in recent years and so much so that it is now almost as big as the pre-match outright market.

The great thing about in-play betting is you can watch some of the action in the competition before making your opinion on who you think will win. This can be done midway through the opening round, going in the final day on the Sunday or with just a few holes to play in the final round.

If you have already made a selection pre-tournament, in-play markets allow you the opportunity to build your portfolio of bets as the action nears a conclusion. You may have backed the leader before the competition got underway and there is realistically only one other player which can catch you. What some people do in this instance is hedge their bets by backing the other golfer to ensure a profit if either of them win.

7. Winning margin

If you don’t have an opinion on who will win a golf tournament, a punt on the winning margin will still give you some interest on the event.  Most competitions tend to be won by a small margin so if you fancy a runway leader, you may be rewarded with big odds.

8. To miss/make to cut

At the midway stage of most tournaments, around half of the field leaves the competition, while the other half stay around for the final two rounds. If you are backing a player to make the cut, they simply have to stay in the competition for the last 36 holes, in which you are deemed a winner.

The odds on these markets are not always great, unless you are going against the grain, i.e. backing one of the favorites to miss the cut which should be available at attractive odds.

It can be quite exciting to follow your player in the second round when they float around the cut mark as often it can come down to their final shot with regards to survival or not.

9. Hole in one

Hole in ones are becoming more frequent in golf tournaments and odds are generally available for yes and no before they get underway. If you are betting on this market, it is always worth looking at how many par 3s are available at the course as the more there are, the better chance of one occurring.

10 years ago the odds on a hole in one occurring used to be around the 33-1 mark, now it is just about odds against mark.

10. Play-off?

A play-off in golf takes place when two or more players finish on the same score at the top of a leaderboard after 72 holes. They will then take each other on in a sudden death matchplay format which usually starts at the 18th hole, but this varies across different tournaments.

If you do back a play-off to occur in any given competition, the good news is you don’t need to worry about the winner. Once the 72 holes are complete and there is still a tie at the top of standings, you will have won your bet.

11. Dual forecast

Those searching for big returns in golf can look no further than a dual forecast bet. This is where you select two players before a tournament starts in which you require them to finish first and second. Unlike with a straight forecast, it does not matter which player wins or is runner-up, as long as they share out the top two placings, you have won your bet.

Although this is very difficult to predict, you are rewarded if successful as the odds tend to be high which means you only have to bet small stakes to pick up big returns. It is also encouraged to have more than one bet in this market to give yourself a better chance of being successful.

12. Big guns v the field

This market basically splits the top three or four in the betting against the rest of the field. It works particularly well when there is a short priced favourite as you then have the choice of taking them on, in which you will have a number of runners in your favor, or by having the market leader on your side with the second and/or third best in the betting with them.

13. Group betting

Group betting generally consists of five players where bets will be taken on who will fare best over mythical 18 and 72 holes. These are similar to match bets but the big difference is the odds will be much better as you have more than one player to beat with your selection.

14. Double chance

Rather than backing one player in the outright betting, bookmakers now offer odds on pairings in which you get two selections for the price of one. Naturally, the odds will be reduced and reflect the chances of your two players but it will allow you to cheer on more than one golfer if you want a single bet.

15. Three balls

Three balls take place on the opening two rounds of golf tournaments before the cut when there is a large field. Betting is available on who will have the best round of the three players which have been grouped together in the draw. If there is a tie, dead-heat rules apply.

In the four majors, three ball betting is very popular as the organizers tend to put together at least two exciting three ball groups which involve the biggest names in the sport. This tempts punters into having a play in this market as these players tend to pick up the most television coverage so you get to see every shot from their round,

16. Winning nationality

Each nationality that is represented in your selected golf tournament will be priced up in this market. Depending on where the event is played, the home nation is likely to be the ffavoriteas they tend to have the most representation, i.e. in a PGA Tour event; American is usually short in this market.

17. Handicaps

Handicap markets are very popular in sports betting and the same can be said in golf. What they aim to do is give every player an equal chance of winning. They do this by assigning each golfer with a starting mark, whether that is – or +/-.  Everybody in the field would then be the same price in this market.

Sometimes it is best to avoid the favorites in the handicap betting and look for someone who has been given a decent start and could outperform that score.

18. Specials

Bookmakers like to come up with a number of specials ahead of the bigger tournaments on the calendar such as the four majors. These are bets which are usually specific to a certain player. For example, an individual to record four or more birdies on their card in a given round.

Specials can also be offered on a season-long basis. There are usually a number of them on offer before the start of the campaign such as how many majors will an individual win.

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Can the New Task Force Save the US Team After its Crushing Defeat in the Ryder Cup?

With the US team having been handed a firm beating in the recent Ryder Cup, the great and the good have pulled together a task force to try and solve their problems. No matter what great minds they put on the case, however, the answers will not be easy to come by.

A team without its best players

One of the reasons which may explain the defeat of the US team was its very composition. Excellent young players like Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler would have made great additions but were not selected. Besides, the team was weakened by the absence of its best players, the first being Tiger Woods. The man who has already won 105 tournaments would no doubt have given a boost to the team and that must be why he is now part of the task force. Forced to rest due to a back injury, Woods could only cheer his team from a distance. He may have consoled himself by indulging in some of his favourite casino games from the comfort of his home: a simple visit to Gambling Land and we found over 50 different online casino software providers. With his whopping $1.3 billion in career earnings, Woods could easily get his pick if he wanted to spend and win big outside of the golf course.

European hero Jamie Donaldson. Image by Cyrille BERTIN

European hero Jamie Donaldson. Image by Cyrille BERTIN

Comprehensive Defeat

But to come back to this crushing defeat… When Welshman Jamie Donaldson pitched to within inches of the hole to secure Europe’s sixth Ryder Cup win in the last seven tournaments, there were still several games out on the course – the European team would go on to win by a comfortable five-point margin, their largest in eight years. At the start of the final day Europe led by the same margin that they had trailed at Medinah two years previously but this time there was to be no miracle comeback and the inquisition into US failings had already begun before the last pairings reached the clubhouse.

Task Force

In the aftermath of the defeat stalwart Phil Mickelson launched an attack on captain Tom Watson and suggested that poor planning had been to blame for another US defeat. Mickelson is now part of an 11-strong task force looking into how the US can reclaim the trophy that they dominated for so many years. The man who Mickelson lauded as the architect of his team’s last triumph at Valhalla in 2008, captain Paul Azinger, has thus far, tellingly, refused to join the task force, suggesting that it is too soon to start searching for a successful formula for 2016. Maybe Azinger is right but it couldn’t harm the team to give some thought about where they went wrong this time round.

  • The team lacked unity – Mickelson’s public outburst showed a lack of respect for his captain and suggested that the camp was divided
  • The US team lacked experience and were missing a number of key men including Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker
  • The qualifying period for the US team ended three weeks before that of the European team – this meant that in-form players, such as Billy Horschel, missed out
  • Quite simply the US team were not good enough – Europe have four of the top six players in the world and were brimming with confidence. Europeans won three of the four majors this year
Phil Mickelson. Image by Steven Newton

Phil Mickelson. Image by Steven Newton

Will it make a difference?

It is hard to say whether or not the task force will be able to make a significant difference to the US team’s fortunes ahead of the 2016 tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club but if the Americans continue to fall short of the heart, character and quality shown by Europe then it is very difficult to see them regaining the trophy any time soon.

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2014 Ryder Cup Facts & Stats

Ryder Cup Facts And Stats Infographic

 

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How to Golf – Jason Dufner

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