71st Masters Tournament Preview

71st Masters Tournament Preview

71st Masters Tournament Preview
April 1st, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There are sure signs that spring is upon us.

Whether it's a runny nose and scratchy throat from allergies, or maybe the annual trip to the attic to get your shorts out of storage, you can tell when spring is on the horizon.

An undeniable foreshadowing to spring comes from the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Not only the tournament itself, but the signal that comes when you start to hear that familiar Masters tune on CBS.

"A tradition unlike any other. The Masters."

When the season's first major championship tees off Thursday morning, the story will be the players. There were very few changes made to Augusta National the course.

Behind the scenes, Billy Payne took over as chairman for Hootie Johnson. Payne was in charge of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and was Johnson's hand-picked successor, so there will be almost no difference in philosophy, although Payne is an advocate of allowing PGA Tour winners to get an invite to the Masters.

There are no social protests or questions about a certain player finally breaking through and winning a major. There is no controversy, it's all about the field.

Well, not exactly.

This is all about Tiger Woods and his race to immortality. Already the owner of four green jackets, Woods trails Jack Nicklaus by two and in the overall majors race, is seven down.

Woods captured last year's British Open and PGA Championship, therefore he needs this year's Masters to keep hope alive of a second "Tiger Slam." (For the uninitiated, the "Tiger Slam" occurred in 2001 when he won the Masters and held all four major titles. He just didn't do it in the same year. Pretty awesome to have that kind of sports accomplishment named after yourself.)

It's not like Woods has not played well leading up to the Masters. He won the Buick Invitational and two weeks ago, romped through Doral to capture the World Golf Championships - CA Championship.

If you believe in karma, posit this: This year is the 10-year anniversary of Woods' coming out party. He won the 1997 Masters in a jaw-dropping performance that was merely a harbinger of things to come.

He is playing the golf that led everyone to pick him to win this thing every year. Woods has honed his game to peak come Masters week and to expect anything less than a win would be foolish.

That's not to say that Easter week will be a Woods' coronation. Last we looked, Phil Mickelson has won two of the last three Masters and, like Woods, has won already in 2007.

Mickelson's high ball flight and imagination around the greens means he will be a factor. Plus, Lefty had an epiphany three years ago when he realized that if he played a controlled game during the majors, he could actually win some of them.

However, even though Mickelson won his second green jacket last year in fairly convincing fashion in a Sunday duel with Fred Couples, most fans still remember his final-round collapse at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But the fact is Mickelson's game, like Tiger's, is perfectly suited for Augusta, so he'll more than likely be in the mix.

How about Vijay Singh? He's won this before, has won twice this year and hasn't finished outside the top 25 since missing the cut in 1998.

This may be the year for the youth movement. Charles Howell III is in the midst of his best season to date. Aaron Baddeley already won this year and will carry the torch of being the "Sports Illustrated" anonymous tour player's pick. Luke Donald, Henrik Stenson, David Howell, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia could finally break through.

Unfortunately, these names will most likely be irrelevant by Sunday afternoon.

It should be one heck of a 10-year anniversary.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Tiger eyes fifth green jacket at Augusta

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES, March 30 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, boosted by his victory at the elite WGC-CA Championship at Doral on Sunday, will tee off at next week's Masters as overwhelming favourite to win the title for the fifth time.

The world number one is ideally suited to the par-72 Augusta National layout which was stretched to a formidable 7,445 yards for last year's tournament, making it the second longest course in major championship history.

Never known for the accuracy of his driving, Woods is among golf's biggest hitters, has a superbly creative short game and is arguably the best putter in history from inside 15 feet.

The biggest challenge at Augusta comes on the severely sloping greens. Woods, since making his Masters debut as an amateur in 1995, has become well acquainted with their nuances.

"I feel pretty good at Augusta," Woods, 31, said earlier this year. "I know how to prepare the way I like to play the tournament.

"It helps that I have gained a lot of knowledge from members and former champions I have played practice rounds with.

"I love going to that golf course. I felt in love with it watching it on TV, and each and every year I go back, it's one of the greatest places we can ever play."

Winning his 56th PGA Tour title at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa last weekend gave Woods the perfect Masters send-off.

FEELING GOOD


"I feel good about the things that I've been working on and I'm feeling more comfortable with it," the 12-times major champion said after his two-shot victory.

"I'm looking forward to my practice sessions this week and leading up to Augusta."

Woods, who claimed his last green jacket at the 2005 Masters, has been practising for the first of the year's four majors at his home in Isleworth, Florida.

While Woods is odds-on favourite to win his third consecutive major next week, the credentials of title-holder Phil Mickelson cannot be ignored.

The American left-hander triumphed by two shots at Augusta last year, oozing confidence for all four rounds while cleverly using a two-driver strategy.

He plans a similar approach for his defence, with a subtle difference. While his policy last year gave him the option to hit either controlled cuts or booming draws off the tee, he plans to mix versatility with raw power next week.

For shot variety, Mickelson has been successfully using a Callaway FT-5 driver while he expects to gain extra length with the new square-headed FT-i.

"The FT-5 is very versatile," the 36-year-old said. "I'm able to hit the ball low, I'm able to hit cuts and I'm able to hit draws with it very easily. It is very responsive.

SWING HARDER

"The FT-i is a square driver, designed to go straight. Although it's very hard for me to work balls with it, it goes so straight that I'm able to make a longer shaft, swing a little harder and pick up an extra 15 to 20 yards off the tee.

"There are some holes at Augusta where I'd like to use that, like 17 and number two, where I might be able to carry that bunker on the right if I hit it hard enough."

Mickelson, who won his first major title at the 2004 Masters, believes driving is a vital component for success at the ultra-long Augusta National.

"The distance has really been the biggest factor and I swing as hard as I ever swung for any tournament the week of the Masters because distance is so important there," he said.

"Driving at Augusta is critical because, with the first cut (of rough) now, the ball will not roll as much down some of the holes. If you miss the fairway, you now have a much tougher downhill lie.

"The short game is always going to be important at Augusta because of all the room around the greens to chip but driving is probably underrated there."

Big-hitting Vijay Singh, the 2000 champion, is another player likely to be a factor at the Masters after winning twice on the PGA Tour this season in 10 starts.

Also worth monitoring are world number two Jim Furyk, U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia, Sweden's Henrik Stenson, winner of last month's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, and Britain's Paul Casey, who tied for sixth on his Masters debut in 2004.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

2007 Masters: Odds to win outright


2007 Masters Golf Tournament
Augusta National Golf Course
Augusta, Georgia
April 5-8
Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson

Odds to win outright:

Tiger Woods +150
Phil Mickelson +700
Ernie Els +1400
Vijay Singh +1400
Jim Furyk +2000
Adam Scott +2000
Retief Goosen +2500
Henrik Stenson +2500
Sergio Garcia +2800
Geoff Ogilvy +3300
Chris DiMarco +3300
Luke Donald +4000
Padraig Harrington +4500
Trevor Immelman +4500
Paul Casey +5000
Darren Clarke +8000
Jose Maria Olazabal +6000
Davis Love III +6000
Stuart Appleby +6600
David Toms +6600
Justin Rose +6600
Mike Weir +6600
Chad Campbell +8000
Stewart Cink +8000
David Howell +8000
Michael Campbell +10000
K.J. Choi +10000
Nick O'Hern +10000
Angel Cabrera +10000
Tim Clark +10000
Ian Poulter +10000
Lee Westwood +12500
Ryan Moore +12500
Field (Any Other Golfer) +500

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Despite 7-5 odds, Tiger draws plenty of action
By DAVE TULEY

LAS VEGAS - Do you remember those Nike commercials a few years back in which a bunch of people would say "I am Tiger Woods"? Well, if the game of golf could talk, it would say "I am Tiger Woods."

After all, Tiger Woods is golf.

When he doesn't play in a tournament, the TV ratings dwindle and it's harder to find scoring updates during the day or on SportsCenter at night. And the Monday paper doesn't devote as much space to golf when Woods takes a week off. The International dropped from the PGA Tour this year because it couldn't secure a sponsor, primarily because Woods no longer plays in the event.

Woods has the same effect on golf wagering, says Jeff Sherman, sports books supervisor at the Las Vegas Hilton and the top golf oddsmaker in the city.

"There's no doubt Tiger has meant everything in wagering on golf," he said. "If he hadn't come along, golf betting would be a shell of itself. Handle really drops when he's not in a tournament."

That's not a problem this week with the Masters taking place at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., this Thursday through Sunday. The Hilton has Woods as the 7-5 favorite in the first major of the year. But you will note I didn't use the word "prohibitive" before the word favorite. That's because people will be on Woods no matter the price. The Hilton has had odds up on the Masters since after August's PGA Championship, when he opened at 2-1. Sherman actually raised Woods to 5-2 at one point, but then Tiger ran off seven straight victories and his odds kept dropping. Even at 7-5, Woods is still getting plenty of play.

"People just love to bet him and watch him," Sherman said.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson is the distant second choice at 8-1, followed by Vijay Singh at 12-1 and Ernie Els at 15-1, and then another drop-off to the quintet of Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, and Geoff Ogilvy at 25-1.

"One of the things that really helps betting on the sport is with the odds on Woods being so low you get good prices on other really good golfers," Sherman said.

As with any big sporting event, the sports books try to capitalize on the interest by increasing handle with a bevy of proposition wagers. The Hilton has 15 head-to-head matchups. In many tournaments, Sherman has avoided using Woods in a head-to-head matchup vs. any individual player because he has been so dominant, but for this year's Masters he put him vs. Mickelson. It's interesting to note that while all of the other matchups are priced at -110 on each side or shaded slightly to make one golfer a -120 favorite over the other, Woods is a -310 favorite vs. Mickelson with Lefty offered at +260.

"This is the largest event of the year, so I tried to put Tiger in as many betting propositions as possible," Sherman said. "With Mickelson winning some majors now and with more people hoping they can get a rivalry going, it made sense to use that matchup."

There is a proposition wager on what the winning score will be with Sherman setting the over/under at 280 1/2 (par is 288 over the four days).

"A few years ago, I would put up 278 or 279, but they keep lengthening the course to keep up with the technology-enhanced equipment that players are using and we see the scores rising," said Sherman, pointing out that Mickelson won last year's tourney with a 7-under par 281.

Other generic props include what score will make the 36-hole cut (148o1/2), lowest completed round by any golfer (65 1/2), will there be a hole in one (the "no" is favored at -180 with "yes" offered at +160), and will there will a playoff ("no" is -300 while "yes" is +250).

There are also props on individual players, such as what their first-round score will be Thursday (Woods is set at over/under 71 1/2), on a player's finish position (Woods is set at over/under 2 1/2, with the over at -125 and the under at +105), and whether a player will make the cut.

Sorry, bridge-jumpers, there is no price offered on Woods in that last category as he has missed only two cuts in his pro career.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

US GOLF MASTERS 2007 BETTING PREVIEW

Maybe no tournament stirs the imagination of golf fans around the world as the US Masters, and so for all fellow golf maniacs out there, the upcoming weekend is sure to be highly anticipated.

Get those bank holiday weekend chores out of the way during the day time, as come 9pm you will no doubt be glued to live coverage from the sumptuous Augusta National. Sorry, but we’re not watching Casualty this week, and even Match of the Day won’t get a look in at my household.

Two men have dominated the build up, unsurprisingly considering their recent records at the Masters. Other than when Mike Weir won in 2003, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have accounted for this title in each of the last seven years.

Mickelson is the defending champion and is priced at a best of 8/1 by the bookies. Whilst his love for Augusta is not in doubt, we feel this price is too short on this occasion. The left hander has not been playing at all consistently this season and there is no real scope for an each way bet at this quote.

A win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was followed with a runners up cheque at the Nissan Open, but otherwise the 36 year old has not had a single stroke play result within the top 20. Compared to last year when all six stroke play events prior to the Masters saw Mick inside the top 14, including a victory just a week before at the Bellsouth Classic, this recent run is not so inspiring. The crowd favourite clearly has the game to do well on this set-up but his overall form of late makes us believe he is unlikely to claim what would be his third green jacket in four years.

Moving onto Woods, the world number one has everything is his favour. Our job though is to deduce whether all of the positive aspects in Woods case really merit support at an incredibly short 3/2 in the outright markets.

It is ten years since he, as a 21 year old, made perhaps the most significant statement in modern day golf, when winning his first major. It was not just the victory from a very talented young man with a bright future, but the manner of it. A 12 shot success over a top class field in a week when Woods outdid or equalled 26 all time US Masters records. Many believed they had witnessed the birth of the finest golfer in history. Ten years on and still more are coming to that conclusion.

Three more green jackets have been added to his Floridian wardrobe, meaning this hallowed corner of Georgia has granted him a third of his 12 major titles. Since winning the Open Championship in July last year, Woods has been pretty much untouchable. In nine out of ten stroke play tournaments in the intervening period it has been Woods holding the trophy at the end of the week. This is a phenomenal statistic.

There is no weakness to his game, and he has consistently proven his ability to rise to the top when under pressure. Even a bad week by his standards would be enough to put him in the mix, and even at this price we just cannot avoid having him in the betting verdict.

So, with Woods being our headline pick at not far off evens, we need to have a good look through the lists in search of some each way value.

One person who stands out is Geoff Ogilvy. The Australian is priced at a best of 40/1, and we believe this is worth taking for a man who seems to have a game perfectly suited to not just the Masters, but all majors.

He is a dogged campaigner, and a player who never loses focus or gives up. In majors, where the set ups are a good deal tougher than in a regular tour event, slip ups are going to occur and it takes a resolute strength of mind to take this is your stride. It is easy to become defeatist and feel that things are “unfair”, especially when the Pros spend much of their time playing target golf where birdies are the order of the day. This is a man who is willing to fight it out.

Looking at Ogilvy’s statistics does not do much to spur interest. He is quite a long hitter, but has a poor driving accuracy percentage. His putting stats are unremarkable as are those for hitting greens in regulation. It was the same story during 2006, but the one figure that is important is his position on the Money List. Last year he finished 5th, and this year currently occupies 8th.

Statistics can be misleading, and there is no number recorded for mental toughness. If there was, Ogilvy would be very close to the top of the list. This was perfectly illustrated at the US Open last year when Rudyard Kipling’s immortal words “if you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs, you’ll be a man my son” took on a very human form in the shape of the Australian. The supposedly solid and experienced Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie lost their heads on the 72nd hole, and Ogilvy kept his to join the elite list of major champions.

Winning the WGC-Accenture World Matchplay last year, and making the final again just last month is further evidence of this intangible strength of character.

As well as winning at Winged Foot, the 28 year old also came 16th here in his first ever appearance at Augusta, 16th at the Open Championship and 9th at the PGA Championship. In 2005 his three major showings were 5th (Open), 6th (US Open) and 28th (US Open).

These are all decent results and bear out what we are saying.  Recently he came 3rd at the WGC-CA at Doral and 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as well as his 2nd place at the Accenture matchplay. There are several reasons to be confident about Ogilvy this week, and you can be sure that he will be trying all the way to end. There are reports that he will be wearing specially made gold shoes this week, and we feel he has every chance of taking them onto the rostrum, if not the winners podium.

When you mention Augusta, some players always demand consideration simply because of an exemplary record there. One such man is Jose Maria Olazabal. The Spaniard has finished 15th or better in 13 of his last 15 Masters, winning twice and coming 3rd twelve months ago.

Three missed cuts in eight outings and just one finish in the top 20 (13th in the Nissan Open) does not equate to the sort of form likely to feature however, and as such we shall steer clear of the 80/1 being offered.

He is one of 23 Europeans who is competing, and once again we have to discuss the length of time since one landed one of the big four. The number (since a Euro victory) is up to 29 now, and the last occurrence was back in 1999.  Sergio Garcia is the most fancied to break this cycle, and has been for some time but El Nino has failed to win so far this season and has a horrible tendency not to make the most of strong positions in these tournaments. Also rated highly is Swede Henrik Stenson.

The Swede has been a key player on the European Tour for several seasons but perhaps first came to the notice of the American public at the Ryder Cup last year. He was part of the team that demolished the American at the K-Club, winning 3.5 points along the way. This recognition took a massive leap earlier this season too when the 31 year old landed the WGC-Accenture World Matchplay in February.

This will be his second visit to Augusta and the cut was missed last year. Although he has six European Tour titles to his name we are not sure that he is ready to make the step up at this level. The Accenture was a huge victory but matchplay success is not always transferable to harsh courses in a stroke play format. Overall we do not see 40/1 as being especially generous.

Unfortunately, we cannot get excited about the prospects of any of the European contenders this week. Some are positive about Paul Casey because of a 6th place debut in 2004, but 50/1 is not the sort of price we would be hoping for, especially considering he missed the cut in his only other appearance a year later. At least Luke Donald has had some success on the US PGA Tour, and a 3rd place here two years ago, but the Englishman’s game does not appearing to firing presently. The same is true of David Howell and Padraig Harrington, each of whom is priced well inside three figures. We expect this will be another occasion where the European contingent falls short.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Woods among last groups Thursday at Augusta; Mickelson late Friday
April 3rd, 2007

Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Four-time champion Tiger Woods will tee it up late on Thursday in the first round of this year's Masters Tournament, while defending champion Phil Mickelson will have a late tee time on Friday at Augusta National.

The two have dominated the golf season's first major championship recently, as Mickelson has captured two of the last three titles with Woods sandwiched between.

Woods, who also won the coveted green jacket in 1997, 2001 and 2002, will begin the quest for another championship on Thursday afternoon at 1:52 p.m. (et) and will have a 10:34 a.m. tee time on Friday. He will play the first two rounds with England's Paul Casey, who finished sixth last year, and Australian Aaron Baddeley, who has missed the cut in his previous two Masters appearances.

Mickelson will play with Australian Adam Scott, who wound up ninth last year and won last week's Houston Open, as well as Scotland's Richie Ramsay, the winner of last year's U.S. Amateur. The trio will tee it up Thursday at 10:56 a.m. (et) and on Friday at 2:03 p.m.

This year's field is comprised of 97 players and includes 31 groups of three players and a pair of twosomes.

Billy Mayfair and Ian Poulter will have the honors of hitting the first official tee shots of this year's tournament at 8:00 a.m. (et) on Thursday, but only after Arnold Palmer hits the ceremonial first tee shot.

Palmer, a four-time Masters champion, played his 50th and final Masters in 2004. He will become the first honorary starter since Sam Snead in 2002.

Reigning U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy, who tied for 16th last year, will play in a threesome with 1992 champion Fred Couples and two-time Masters runner-up Ernie Els.

Vijay Singh, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour already this year and the 2000 Masters champ, will play in the group directly after Woods on Thursday and Friday.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Master's Preview: Win for the Ages
By ANDY VASQUEZ
April 4, 2007

MIAMI — It has been a decade since a 21-year-old Tiger Woods strolled up the 18th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club, sporting a 12-shot lead in the Masters Tournament and a host of broken records in his wake.

But for Woods, the most important moment of that week wasn't his record-breaking putt at the 18th hole, or the feeling of having a green jacket eased over his shoulders for the first time.

"For me personally, now that my father is no longer here, (I reflect on) how important that hug was to me on the last hole," Woods said a few weeks ago at a news conference for the CA Championship at Doral. "When I hugged him, looking back on it now, I could not have won that tournament without him."

A lot has changed for Woods since that memorable embrace behind the 18th green in 1997, the day he won his first career major and unofficially began his reign as the world's best player. He has gone on to win 11 more major championships, changed caddies and gotten married — Woods and his wife, Elin, are expecting their first child in July. And in the past year, Woods has had to learn to win without his father — Earl Woods died last May at the age of 74, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Also in that 10 years, the game of golf has changed immensely. A lot of it has to do with the way Woods beat up on the field that week in Augusta, finishing at 18 under par, miles ahead of runner-up Tom Kite, who was 6 under.

"He's brought at lot of people to the game to be fans or maybe even playing the game that weren't before," 2001 PGA Champion David Toms said. "I think that's a big deal ... Everybody thought that he would be a superstar at some point. But maybe that he was able to do that and win a tournament like that, it probably got it jump-started and he hasn't looked back."

Woods' success has coincided with a massive increase in money winnings on the PGA Tour. In 1997, Woods' winning share at the Masters was $486,000. Last year, Phil Mickelson earned $1.26 million for his first-place finish at Augusta.

It's not just at the majors, as purses have gone up significantly in every PGA Tour event in the past decade. Woods, with his trademark fist pumps in victory, also has changed helped change the once-stuffy image of golf.

"I remember when I was in high school, golf was considered like a wussy sport," Woods said. "No one ever played it. You were not cool if you played golf. That stereotype is changing and it's evolving and more kids who are part of football and track and baseball and basketball are now trying out for golf teams."

Woods said that of all his accomplishments stemming from his 1997 Masters victory, he's most proud of the abundance of diverse and youthful faces that he sees in the crowds following him on Tour today.

"When I played in Tour events as an amateur, I used to go out and watch the pros at the L.A. Open, even down there at (The Buick Open) as well," Woods said. "That wasn't the case. Now to see, you know, more youth involved in the game of golf, it's just a pretty cool sight."

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Year after year, these guys have proved that they know how to win at Augusta. All 3 have won here and have contended regularly.

You can count on one, if not all of these players, to be in contention during the final round on Sunday.

Tiger Woods

There's a reason Woods has won four of the 11 Masters he's played in. He can hit the ball high, which is ideal at Augusta. When he misses the tricky greens he can recover with one of the deadliest short games in the history of professional golf.

Phil Mickelson

This two two-time Masters champion knows where to hit the ball on the slick Augusta National greens, which has played a large part in his success. After his meltdown at Winged Foot in the U.S. Open, one must wonder if Mickelson can rekindle last year's dominance at Augusta.

Vijay Singh

After struggling for much of the past two years, Singh already has picked up two wins this season. A Masters winner twice, Singh has a renewed confidence after switching back to a long putter. If he putts well he will be in contention to win his first major since 2004.

DON"T BE SURPISED IF...

None of these players have won the Masters, despite having abilities that seem to fit the course. These three are expected to contend, best classified as "sleepers" to win the tournament. But if one of them puts together a strong week, we could see a first-time champion.

Charles Howell III

He beat Mickelson to win the Nissan Open earlier this season, and knows the course at Augusta National better than most in the field. He drives the ball long enough to contend here, and as an Augusta, Ga., native, he has been playing the course since age 10, when he shot a 79 from the members' tees.

Henrik Stenson

He already has proved he can beat the best in the world, winning earlier this season at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Stenson has the distance and iron accuracy that makes him a natural favorite at Augusta, but can this Swede putt well enough to contend?

Ernie Els

A knee injury in 2005 knocked Els from his place as one of the world's elite. But a now healthy Els seems to have a renewed confidence after a recent equipment change to Callaway. If he truly is at full strength, this smooth-swinging South African could contend again at Augusta.

WHAT TO EXPECT

KEY HOLES

It has been said that the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. In the past, these holes have proved to be where this hallowed tournament is won and lost. Don't expect that to change this Sunday, when the leaders make the turn onto the back nine at Augusta National.

12TH HOLE: PAR 3, 155 YARDS —GOLDEN BELL

What this hole lacks in size it makes up for in degree of difficulty. Swirling winds make this sliver of a green hard to hit, but the pressure on Sunday makes this hole downright frightening. The margin for error is virtually zero, with a bunker behind the green and a shaved bank in front, ready to deposit any short shot into Rae's Creek.

15TH HOLE: PAR 5, 530 YARDS — FIRETHORN


This hole is the ultimate risk-reward challenge on Sunday at the Masters. Any player who hits a good tee shot will have a chance to reach the green in two. But with water in front, this downhill approach to the green can be tricky. Laying up leaves a wedge and putt for birdie. But the prospect of an eagle with four holes to go will be too much for some to resist.

16TH HOLE: PAR 3, 170 YARDS — REDBUD

This hole consistently is the most exciting in the final round at the Masters, as a shot hit to the middle of the green will take the slope and roll close to the traditional back left hole location. Jack Nicklaus nearly had a hole-in-one on the way to victory here in 1986, and in 2005 Tiger Woods used the slopes to roll in an improbable birdie chip on the way to fourth Masters win.

18TH HOLE: PAR 4, 465 YARDS — HOLLY

It's one of the most challenging finishing holes in golf, requiring a straight drive and precise second shot. Anything right off the tee is dead and the bunkers left of the fairway make hitting the green tough. Players who find the fairway then must hit the correct tier on the green, or face one of the most challenging putts on the course. A birdie here on Sunday will go a long way.

FIRST-TIMERS

There are 17 players who will be making their first appearance at the Masters this week. But don't let their lack of Masters experience fool you. The list includes three players from the Ryder Cup and 12 worldwide professional wins since January 2006. Here are the seasoned newbies who have the game to contend at Augusta.

BRETT WETTERICH

A year ago, Wetterich was on the Nationwide Tour. But a win at the Byron Nelson allowed him to gain valuable experience on last year's U.S. Ryder Cup team. Two weeks he finished second after putting pressure on Tiger Woods at the CA Championship.

CAMILO VILLEGAS

This University of Florida graduate would love to keep his school's recent good karma alive with a win at the Masters. He has the game to do it, as one of the best ball-strikers on tour.

KENNETH FERRIE

Last year, Ferrie contended for much of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and wasn't afraid to put his emotions on display. He's not a long hitter, so his long irons must be accurate for him to contend.

A LEGEND'S TAKE

Two weeks ago, six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus spent two days at Augusta National. Nicklaus, who was in Port St. Lucie on March 23, said that the boom in golf technology in the past two decades has resulted in major course changes, including the ones at Augusta National.

With good players hitting the ball farther than ever, course designers must lengthen courses and add hazards to defend courses. But that lengthening comes at a price.

"I played the members tees (at Augusta), I can't play the back tees anymore, I'm not even close to being able to hit it far enough," said Nicklaus, who made a cut on the PGA Tour in 2004. "What they've done at Augusta is made it so that the longer hitter has more of an advantage over the average good pro. I think Ben Hogan and Gary Player would have a hard time winning today in their prime."

Vijay Singh: Three majors (Two Masters, one PGA Championship)

Phil Mickelson: Three majors (Two Masters, one PGA Championship)

Ernie Els: Two majors (British Open, U.S. Open)

Retief Goosen: Two majors (Two U.S. Opens)

Mark O'Meara: Two majors (Masters, British Open)

Since Tiger Woods became a professional golfer in the fall of 1996, there have been 40 major tournaments, including his dominant win in the 1997 Masters. Here's a look at how hard it has been to win a major championship in the Tiger Woods era.

Tiger Woods: 12 majors (Four Masters, two U.S. Opens, three British Opens, three PGA Championships)

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Masters Tournament Preview
       

Finally, it’s here. With the blooming of the dogwoods and azaleas, the golf world takes note that it is time for the first (and arguably best) major championship of the season. The Masters tournament is the only major championship played on the same course year after year, and true golf fans could walk you through the undulations with their eyes closed after obsessive viewing year after year. Nothing changes (save for some added length) each season, and every season more history is made and another green jacket is award to the winner. Could that winner be sleeper candidate Stuart Appleby this year?

Everyone that is playing in the field earned their way in – this is not a PGA sponsored event so Augusta’s leadership has the right to invite whomever they please. The World top 50, top 10 on the US PGA money list, past champions, and selected internationals are sent invitations to play, and some one-time players actually frame those invitations as it indicates the pinnacle of a career. Poll the field and this is the tournament they want to win.

By the way, weather for this week’s championship does not look to be a factor, with rain forecasted during the Wednesday practice round but nothing ominous from Thursday to Sunday. Let’s take a look at the favorites and long shots that are poised to make a move this week at Augusta:

-- Favorites --

Tiger Woods

Four green jackets tie him with Arnold Palmer at the age of 30, and Jack’s record of six is in serious danger. Woods won at the WGC-CA Championship the week before last and is no doubt visualizing the shots he needs to pull off to be in contention on Sunday, April 8. How do you bet against him?

Adam Scott

Scott was a major player in the Shell Houston Open this weekend, and has the type of game that can win a major. He won the “fifth major,” the Players, a few years ago, so he has the nerves to handle big nerves on Sundays. When Scott is on he is the second best player on the planet – the only problem is he is not always on!

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson has a win this year and has been quiet over the past few weeks as he prepares for the next major test. Despite the victory, he is obviously still smarting about the lost opportunity at the 2006 U.S. Open and wants another jacket to help salve the sting of handing last summers national title to the Aussie, Geoff Oglivy

Vijay Singh

Singh makes this list for two reasons – he has won the Masters in the past and he has won twice already on tour this year. Singh’s practice regiment is legendary, but his decision to move away from the belly putter last year still makes golf experts scratch their collective heads. Of all the favorites, he is the least………favorite, due to that putting stroke. From tee-to-green he is rivaled only by Tiger.

-- Sleepers --


Jim Furyk

Furyk as a sleeper is as rare as a tabloid not running a Paris Hilton story. Furyk is still ranked highly in the rankings, and has won a ton of events in the past – but if you look close he has not won yet, nor really even threatened. Furyk is a beautiful putter of the ball and that is a prerequisite for success on the glass-like greens at Augusta. Look for Furyk’s name on the board on Sunday, and put him in your arsenal if the price is right.

Stuart Appleby

Appleby has done little to change the syrupy swing he has had for a decade on tour. The only difference now his that he is a bit more experienced and has grown out his blonde locks to mix things up a bit. He went 32 holes at the Shell Houston Open without a bogey, and has won an event three times in a row (the Mercedes Championship).

Charles Howell III

Everyone knows the story of Howell: Augusta native, struggled over the past few years to finish an event, double-digit second place finishes prior to winning for the first time since 2002 this year. Then early 2007 happened, and Howell seemed to be on every leaderboard of the PGA calendar. A victory in his hometown would mean so much to Howell, and the only question is if he would be able to handle the pressure of the back nine on Sunday with Woods and company in hot pursuit.

Shaun Micheel

Micheel is a unknown player, strange for someone that won the 2003 PGA Championship. He went through the expected sophomore slump after winning the PGA and was later diagnosed with a medical condition that was treated with drugs. Once this was resolved, Micheel was no stranger to the leader board in the fall of 2006. If your expectations are fair (top 15), Micheel can be a value pick for this week.

Henrick Stenson

Stenson is the darling of the media this year at Augusta. Sports Illustrated has him as a strong favorite to win the 2007 Masters. One has the question his credentials to win, but at this point he is top 10 in the world – check it out if you find it hard to believe. Stenson won the Accenture Match Play earlier this year and some consider that the toughest event to win – regardless of what the green-jacket group at Augusta say.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

2007 Masters Odds and Betting Suggestions
by T.O. Whenham - 04/03/2007

The Masters is just around the corner. That means it is finally the time of year when golf tournaments matter. It also means that the casual bettor will start looking towards golf again. The bad news for those bettors is that, on the surface, the Masters is not going to be a very interesting tournament to bet on. To be a pleasure to handicap, the outcome of an event like this has to be somewhat in doubt, and the chances of a seriously huge payday at least have to be reasonable. Though, theoretically, anyone in the field can win this tournament, the likelihood is very high that one of the two guys that have won five of the last six tournaments - Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods - is going to be wearing green again on Sunday. In either case, the payoff won't make you rich. Regardless, I will examine some of the 2007 Masters odds and see if there is any betting value that can be found.

I'm not going to bother to try to find an adjective to describe Tiger Woods. It's not worth it. He's at +150 to win the Masters, and as ridiculous as that number is, it's not unjustified. Woods won his last time out at Doral to prove that he's in form, but it's what preceded that win that makes him such a favorite at Augusta. He had a disappointing run in the Match Play, and followed it up with another dud at Bay Hill. After a fourth-round meltdown at the latter tournament, he hit the driving range, corrected what was wrong with his swing and won with relative ease. That ability to self-correct, which he has shown throughout his career when he is at his best, is proof that he is focused and coming to Augusta ready to win. Betting on him at +150 probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but you'll have to have a pretty good reason to bet against him.

If Tiger isn't the obvious choice, then Phil is. After struggling to win at Augusta, he's turned the course into his personal playground the last few years. He's the defending champion, and he hasn't been out of the top 10 since 1998. His new success has come hand-in-hand with a focus on preparation on the majors that is almost maniacal. He's been in Augusta longer than most of the pros this week, and the effort is paying off - he had a hole in one on the 16th in a practice round on Sunday. Mickelson hasn't won since Pebble Beach, and hasn't had much to show other than a playoff loss at the Nissan since then, but there are signs that he is in the zone. He had a terrible first round at Doral, but bounced back with a 69 in tough scoring conditions on Sunday - one of the best scores of the day. Mickelson's at +850, and certainly presents better value than his nemesis.

Adam Scott is going to be a trendy pick at the Masters. I'm not buying it. People will see value at +3250, especially since he's coming off a win at the Shell Houston Open last week. In my mind, though, it would have been a bigger story if he hadn't won that tournament, or at least come close, given how comparatively weak the field was. He hadn't been playing particularly well here or in Europe before that, and he has been far from dominant in his previous trips to Augusta. He has the potential to win, but if he does, it won't be with my money on his back.

The trendy European pick seems to be Henrik Stenson at +3500. He's another one I'm not buying into. The argument in his favor is that he is ready to play with the big boys after winning the Match Play and following that up with another win in Dubai. Masters winners, however, are generally people that have played the course enough to get beyond the intimidation and aura of Augusta and settle into their own game. Stenson has only been to the Masters once, and he didn't make the cut last year. That doesn't bode well.

An interesting player is Charles Howell III. He's had a very good year so far. He stared down Mickelson in the playoff at the Nissan Open and won, and he has two more second place finishes at well. He offers a solid price at +4000, but he has the same monkey on his back at Augusta that he has always had. Howell is a local boy, and he has never seemed to deal particularly well with the pressure of performing in his own backyard. The course is built for his long game, though, and a breakthrough could happen. He probably knows the course as well as almost anyone in the field.

If none of those choices work for you, then where can you look? I'm a Canadian, so I would have my citizenship revoked if I didn't mention Mike Weir. He's the last mere mortal to win here, and his +10,000 price would pay some bills, but he's going through a swing reconstruction that has dragged on for years now, and a win would be a miracle. The two golfers who were supposed to be part of the Big Four before Tiger and Phil ran away are always worth a look. Vijay Singh is playing extremely well this year. He has won twice, and he has banked almost $3 million, so you aren't throwing you money away on him at +1800. Ernie Els at +1600 seems like a bit more of a mystery. He's had solid but unspectacular results this year, and he's two years removed from his best results at Augusta. He's a pretty severe underlay in my mind. The other way to go is with Bradley Dredge or Shingo Katayama. They're the longest shots on the board at +40,000. If they win you will be rolling in the cash and you'll have bragging rights to last a lifetime.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Golf Betting - The 2007 Masters at Augusta, April 5-8
By BetUS Staff

The first major tournament of the season returns to its historic and gentile home of Augusta, Georgia.  Thousands of lucky fans will descend on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club to join the thousands of azaleas and magnolias which will capture the action of the 2007 Masters Tournament.

Australian long-drive specialist Adam Scott won this Saturday’s Shell Houston Open by three stokes over fellow countryman and last-year’s Houston Open champion, Stuart Appleby.  However, while any Tour victory is an astounding accomplishment, it presents little forecasting value because most of the top-caliber players avoided Houston to prepare for the Masters.

Tiger Woods’ collapse three weeks ago at his old home course (Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida) was extraordinary – even alarming.  But his win the next weekend at Doral’s Blue Monster showed that he is still an emotional and mental giant on Tour.  Any talk of Masters’ favorites must begin with Woods.

Tiger has played only four tournaments so far this season, but he won two of them (50% win rate!).  His #1 ranked 74% greens-in-regulation rate is part of the reason that he ranks 3rd in the FedEx Cup and enjoys the #1 All-Around Tour Statistical ranking.  Woods’ worst 2007 finish?  Twenty-second place at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

Phil Mickelson won last year’s Masters.  This year, Mickelson ranks one spot behind Tiger in the FedEx Cup standings AND in the PGA’s All-Around Statistical ranking.

Mickelson had a wonderful stretch this year in mid-February (winning Pebble Beach and finishing 2nd in the Nissan Open).  However, his last two Tour events resulted in finishes of 36th (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and 23rd (World Cup Championships – CA Championship).  Still, Mickelson cherishes The Masters and will certainly play some of his best golf of the season this weekend.

Heading into The Masters, Vijay Singh, John Rollins and Charles Howell III round out the rest of the top-five in the Tour’s All-Around ranking.  Singh has finished in the Masters’ top-eight each of the last five years (his 5th spot in ’05 being his top finish during that stretch).   

Rollins’ last Masters’ outing was in 2004, where he missed the cut.

Howell, an Augusta-native, failed to make the cut in ’05 and ’06.  However, he did finish a respectable 13th in 2004.  Howell’s March started out strong (6th at the PODS Championship) but his 56th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer was not the way he hoped to develop momentum heading into The Masters.

In last year’s Masters, Tim Clark finished behind Mickelson.  Chad Campbell, Tiger Woods and sentimental-favorite Fred Couples finished in a three-way tie for third.

Clark has not finished above 62nd in his last two Tour stops this season.  Faring slightly better this year, Campbell captured 9th-place at February’s Accenture Match-Play championship, but has missed a cut and finished no higher than 22nd in his last three outings.

Sentimental favorites are common at Augusta (consider Jack Nicklaus and Payne Stewart’s unlikely twilight wins and Couple’s challenge last year).  One player who may play that role this season is 49-year old Bernard Langer.  Though he missed two cuts in mid-March, he finished 9th in the Shell Houston Open and 10th in the Honda Classic in the first-weekend of March.  He holds the 11th-ranking in the PGA All-Around Statistic and is particularly good at sand-saves (something which could come in handy at Augusta).

Of course, Mark Calchavecchia’s win at the PODS Championship makes him a possible sentimental challenger this weekend, too.  He is currently the Tour’s 7th-ranked driver (combining distance and accuracy stats) and only five players have more birdies this season

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Masters Preview
by: Brian Gabrielle 

It's April and the azaleas again are abloom at Augusta, which means one thing: golf's prestigious Masters Tournament is upon us.

Judging by posted odds-to-win and propositions, the public pretty much views the 2007 Masters as a Tiger Woods versus the World event.

"Looking at the action BoDog.com has received so far, the public believes this is Tiger's tournament to lose," an unnamed BoDog.com bookmaker said.

"More people are behind him than the next five golfers combined (Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els)."

International players outnumber Americans for the first time in the tournament's hallowed 71-year history, underlined by the fact 13 foreign invaders have been ranked among the world's Top 20 players over the past three years.

Greens observers note these points should weigh heavily on bettors as they determine their picks to win.

Pinnacle Sports is offering Masters "group" wagering, which has a separate set of betting rules and throws patriotic fervor as well as other spices such as age into the mix.

Nationalistic groups include England, Australia, South America, Sweden, the United States and an "Around the World" team that includes Canadian Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion.

The United States contingent consists of Jim Furyk, Chris DiMarco, Davis Love III, Stewart Cink, David Toms and Steve Stricker.

Other betting groups are Past Champions, Rookies, Majorless and Young Guns.

Interestingly, Woods and defending champion Mickelson, the second betting choice, are not included in any groups.

Four-time Masters champion Woods appears to be approaching Augusta in solid form, having won the WGA-CA Championship at Doral the week before last.

Every sportsbook on the planet lists the 29-year-old American superstar and expectant father as a heavy favorite to claim his fifth green jacket in the Thursday-Sunday tournament.

Dimeline Sports' odds generally were lower than many others, but the offshore book offered a field wager at 6/1 while other shops listed odds-to-win on all entrants.

Woods, who had a tough time at Augusta in 2006 as his beloved father Earl was dying, on Tuesday afternoon was plus $1.40 at Dimeline Sports, plus $1.55 at Pinnacle Sports and 3/2 at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Mickelson was plus $7.00 at Dimeline, plus $8.50 at Pinnacle and 17/2 at the Vegas Hilton.

Pinnacle had native South African Ernie Els at plus $16.00, while Dimeline listed him at plus $11.00 and the Hilton at 16/1.

Current Fed Ex Cup points leader Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters winner, was 12/1 at the Hilton, plus $16.00 at Dimeline and plus $18.00 at Pinnacle.

The unnamed BoDog.com bookmaker notes bettors looking for good paydays had taken "educated risks" on Chris DiMarco at 40/1 and reigning U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy at 33/1.

"We also have a lot of bettors looking for a lottery-style payouts by taking Miguel Angel Jiminez at 150/1," he added.

Pinnacle had Weir at plus $100.00.

Shops have expanded proposition menus for the Masters, much as they do the Super Bowl.

One of the current crop's most popular props at BoDog.com pits Woods against all European players.

"From the looks of it, the majority of players support the Europeans," the bookmaker said.

Pinnacle put up a proposition that asked simply if Woods would win.

"No" was minus $1.66 and "Yes" plus $1.56.

The same question was proposed about Mickelson.

"No" was minus $9.30, "Yes" plus $8.40.

One BoDog.com prop asked exactly how many majors Woods would bag this year.

One was a 3/2 favorite, while none and two were 5/2 second choices.

Three was 7/1 and a Grand Slam (all four) was 20/1.

Woods' Swedish model wife is expected to deliver the couple's first child between the U.S. Open and British Open, leaving the matter of his participation in the latter up in the air.

BoDog.com earlier posted odds on what the child's gender would be.

Casual and uniniated golf bettors tend to wager on tournament odds-to-win, though sharp ones prefer matchups.

The BoDog.com oddsmaker says it's typically about a 60/40 breakdown, but majors feature more head-to-head showdowns that generate increased action.

"This year we are trying something new," he said.

"During Rounds 3 and 4, we will give players the chance to bet on Tiger Woods (if he makes the cut) on every hole and how well he'll perform versus his pairing."

Pinnacle hung a Woods-Mickelson matchup for Thursday's first round.

Woods was minus $2.80 and Mickelson plus $2.60.


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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

The Masters
by: Brian Gabrielle 

Straight to the matter at hand,folks-kicking off the major season. (Despite my grumbling about the geographical incongruity of moving the Players to May, at least this way we’ll have one major a month from now until August.)

The Masters is won by the top players in any given decade. Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen won in the 1930s. Nelson, Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead won in the 40s. Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Snead and Demaret won in the 50s. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Palmer won in the 60s. Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Fuzzy Zoeller, Nicklaus and Player won in the 70s. Seve Ballesteros, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Nicklaus and Watson all won in the 80s. Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Jose Maria Olazabal, Faldo and Langer all won in the 90s. This decade Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson and Tiger have won.

The 60s were dominated by Palmer and Nicklaus, who each won three times. The oughts are going the same way, Woods with three and Mickelson with two. (Singh won in 2000, Mike Weir in 2003.)

The point is that when you look at the winners over the history of the tournament, you see mostly top players. Leaderboards at The Masters are usually an All-Star team. This is not a major to take a chance with a 150-1 shot. (It’s fun to look at the long,long, long shots, though: Would you take Ballesteros at 750-1 or Nicklaus at 1000-1? Player at 5000-1,anyone?)

That said, there are some compelling possibilities under 100-1. Like Olazabal at 66-1. Bottom line: the guy can still play. Like Charles Howell III at 50-1. He’ll go early in office pools. He’s the not-so-under-the-radar pick. Local boy, staying with mom and dad this week, having an excellent year, already a win, etc.

The mid-range odds are even more enticing. Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington at 33-1 seem like good cost-benefit picks. Furyk, in particular. He had to make a long putt on 18 last year just to make the cut, and he still finished T22. He’s got three top-10s at Augusta to boot. Probably the best deal is Adam Scott at 33-1. He won last week, he’s won the Tour Championship and the Players, so he’s no stranger to big tournaments with strong fields. And, as Johnny Miller pointed out last weekend, his swing once again looks identical to Tiger’s. He was shaky with short putts on Thursday and Friday, though. You can’t miss many close opportunities if you’re going to contend at Augusta.

The picks are below. As I’ve said many times, this is my favorite sporting event of the year for many reasons, near the top of the list being the relative lack of commercials. Oh, and the pretty flowers are high on the list. And the course. The slick greens. And the sound of birds chirping in the Georgia spring. And Amen Corner. The accuracy required of No. 13. And …

At The Masters, take Tiger Woods (11-8), 1/6 unit: When Tiger says he likes the way he’s playing, which is what he said after winning the CA Championship two weeks ago, look out.

Take Vijay Singh (16-1), 1/6 unit: When Vijay says he’s close then wins, which is what happened three weeks ago at Arnie’s tournament, look out.

Take Retief Goosen (25-1), 1/6 unit: Last five trips to Augusta: T3, T3, T13, T13, 2.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

Quigley a father, and on his way back to Augusta
Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - Brett Quigley became a father Wednesday and was headed back to Augusta National in time to make his debut in the Masters.

Amy Quigley gave birth to a girl at 2:55 a.m. in south Florida. Her due date was not until April 16, but Quigley got word during a practice round Tuesday that the baby would be delivered early.

They picked out a name just for the occasion - Lillian Sage Augusta Quigley.

Quigley, 37, does not tee off in the first round Thursday until 2:03 p.m. with Vijay Singh and Hideto Tanihara.

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

For those of you stuck at work you can watch the Masters here on your PC

http://www.sportsline.com/golf/masters/video

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Re: 71st Masters Tournament Preview

mvbski wrote:


For those of you stuck at work you can watch the Masters here on your PC

http://www.sportsline.com/golf/masters/video

http://attblueroom.com/sports/inc_event … r.php?id=3

Offers more coverage  wink

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