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The Masters Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 04/10/2013

The 2013 golf season kicks in this week for some as the first major of the season is upon us. This is a special week for players, fans and everyone in-between as the anticipation leading up to the Masters is over. This is considered by many as the unofficial start of spring and while avid golf fans live for this weekend, even non-golf enthusiasts know about this epic tournament and what it means. Its beautiful simplicity is what makes it the greatest golf tournament in the world.

Famed Augusta National plays host to its 77th Masters. Back in the day, hitting the ball a mile would be the greatest asset a player could have. And even though the yardage has increased from 6,985 yards in 2001 to 7,435 yards today, bombing it is no longer the edge. Ball striking, hitting greens and putting are the biggest factors in succeeding. Only three times in the last 12 years has the winner finished outside the top 22 in driving accuracy, and only twice have they finished out of the top 10 in greens in regulation.

Unless you have seen Augusta National in person, you cannot appreciate the enormous elevation changes which means getting a flat lie is a rarity. Basically, it is a 'second shot' course which means the approaches are important just to get into position. Hitting an approach shot to the wrong place in some cases means not even being able to go after the pin, whether it be a chip shot or putt. That brings big scores into play so the thought process of shots is just as important as the physical part of the game.

Even though the course is much longer, it does not take the small hitters out of play. Just look at recent winners Trevor Immelman, Mike Weir and Zach Johnson. Because the course has been tightened, it actually brings every player to an almost even playing field and that is what the goal has been since redesigns started taking place. The setup has made the goal pretty simple actually - hit fairways and then hit the correct side of the green and there is a good chance of being on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.

Past history plays a big part as you will see names near the top that you rarely see in other events as successful players here are usually successful every year. 44 Americans are in the field this week but only two U.S. players have won in the last five years, Phil Mickelson in 2010 and Bubba Watson in 2012. A European hasn't won since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999 and we can also rule out first time participants as a Masters rookie has not won here since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Here is the list of 2013 Masters rookies: George Coetzee, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jamie Donaldson, Alan Dunbar, Steven Fox, Branden Grace, Tianlang Guan,

Russell Henley, John Huh, David Lynn, Thorbjorn Olesen, John Peterson, Scott Piercy, Ted Potter Jr., T.J. Vogel, Michael Weaver, Thaworn Wiratchant. Only Colsaerts (+8,000), Grace (+15,000), Lynn (+50,000), Olesen (+15,000), Piercy (+15,000) and Potter (+50,000) have individual odds as the rest are part of the +2,500 field.

It is hard to go against Tiger Woods (+300) no matter where he plays as he is back to the Tiger of old. He had his worst finish in a major as a professional here last year as his putting was horrific. That is no longer the case as he leads the tour in strokes-gained putting. He has won here four times and even though the last was in 2005, he just looks ready. Three wins in 2013 will do that.

Despite being ranked third in the world, Justin Rose (+2,500) is not getting a lot respect here. He has not finished lower than T8 in his three medal play events on the PGA Tour this year, including a solo second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last time out, and he has cracked the top 25 in 12 straight starts worldwide. He has never missed the cut at Augusta and has finished T11 and T8 the last two years.

Keegan Bradley (+2,500) knows how to win a Major, as he won the 2011 PGA Championship, even though the Masters is a totally different ballgame. After a relatively slow start to the season, he is peaking at the right time as he has finishes of T10, T3, 7th and T4 over his last four starts. He was a Masters rookie a year ago but still finished T27 and that was only that bad because of a Friday 77.

Is it finally time for Lee Westwood (+2,500) to win a Major? He has knocked on the door numerous times but because he has been overtaken in the world ranking by others, he is no longer the best player without a Major. He is still a very good one though and he has had success at Augusta as his last three starts have resulted in a T3, T11 and solo second. He has fallen off the radar which has given him value.

Jason Day (+6,000) is getting incredible value as he looks to be back to his old self. No Australian has ever won the Masters but two years ago, Day, Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy all placed in the top four with Day sharing runner-up. He has not missed a cut this year and has three top tens. He has not been at his best over his last three starts but a week off hopefully has recharged the batteries.

Bo Van Pelt (+10,000) will be the longshot pick this week. He is not playing his best but a return to Augusta can help with that. He has played at the Masters only three times and after missing the cut in 2005, he responded with a T8 in 2011 and a T17 last year thanks to a Sunday 64 which was the low round of the entire tournament. Carrying that memory into this week could be the spark he needs.

Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the Masters (all for One Unit)

Tiger Woods (+300)

Justin Rose (+2,500)

Keegan Bradley (+2,500)

Lee Westwood (+2,500)

Jason Day (+6,000)

Bo Van Pelt (+10,000)

2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units

2013 Record to date after 11 events: +1.6 Units

Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units

Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units

Humana Challenge - 5 Units

Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units

Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units

AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units

Northern Trust Open -5 Units

WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units

The Honda Classic -5 Units

WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units

Tampa Bay Championship -5 Units

Arnold Palmer Invitational -1.5 Units

Shell Houston Open -5 Units

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