AT THE HIGHEST level, golf is a game ruled as much by happenstance as practice and the sensible application of god-given talent.
Yes, spending hours on the range has a habit of making some players “luckier” than others, but when it comes down to it, golfing success hinges on the body’s ability to sense minute physical adjustments at nearly 100 miles per hour.
Nothing is certain.
Yes, Tiger Woods can win the Masters. So too can Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood or mild-mannered Luke Donald.
But should form count for little, should a series of Amen Corner calamities eliminate the above, who among the unheralded or neglected is most likely to profit?
The following players may not offer the bettor the peace of mind that comes with recent success, but they do offer value.
Angel Cabrera (100/1)
Plagued by injury since his victory at Augusta in 2009, the Argentine maestro has made but two noteworthy cameos in recent years, at last year’s Masters tournament (7th) and several days ago at the Shell Houston Open, where he put himself in position to win the tournament before slumping to a third round 76.
Phenomenally long and blessed with a delicate touch around the greens, Cabrera has five top-10s in 12 appearances at Augusta.
Nick Watney (50/1)
After claiming victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Nick Watney entered last year’s tournament a favourite to capture his first major title and buckled under the weight of expectation.
This year, with several months of solid if unspectacular play under his belt, the Californian arrives at Augusta looking to build on his positive experiences here in 2008 (11th), 2009 (19) and 2010 (7).
Jason Dufner (125/1)
The man who squandered a commanding lead during the final round of last year’s PGA Championship, Dufner doesn’t exactly have a winning pedigree. In fact, he’s the only member of the world top-50 without a professional victory.
He does, however, have a deep and abiding love of Augusta National, having waxed lyrical about the course during his only prior visit to the Masters in 2010 (T30). Famously untroubled and in form, the Ohioan could make an appearance – if not a winning one – in the upper reaches of the leaderboard.
Henrik Stenson (150/1)
Having spent several years in the golfing wilderness, there have been rumblings of late that the former world No3 is returning to something approaching his mercurial best – coincidentally, Stenson’s resurgence began the week Texan financier Allen Stanford, the man’s whose ponzi scheme consumed a significant portion of his life savings, was convicted of fraud.
Though yet to make a breakthrough at Augusta, the Swede’s blend of muscular ball-striking and imaginative pitching is, on its day, very nearly irresistible.