By Steven Clark
PREDICTING the winner from a three-ball matchup can be one of the trickier bets to successfully navigate in golf.
I don’t see any real value in going with someone shorter than 1-1 when they have two people up against them so on that note I’ll be looking towards those at 1-1 or better from the 32 matches going off on Thursday.
First under the microscope is the line-up of Brendan Steele, Tim Clark and Craig Stadler. Steele’s star is burning brightly after a win in his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2011.
Clark is still struggling to find his form after major elbow surgery last year and is yet to make a cut since last year's SONY Open.
Stadler is a Champions Tour veteran now and is included because Masters traditions extend invitations to previous winners.
Not to do the Walrus a disservice or assume he’s only there to make up the numbers but it would be a huge effort for someone in his late 50s to pull off something special like that.
Coupled with Clark’s post-injury dip in form means Steele is the man to back at 6-5 (bet365).
Next on the agenda is the three-ball of Ryan Palmer, Ross Fisher and Harrison Frazar. Fisher has been very solid the last few seasons on the European tour but has hit a barron patch recently with form deserting him.
Palmer is fresh off an impressive seven under in last week's Shell Open and looks to be hitting form at the right time coming into Augusta – he finished 10th last year – while Frazar will be making his debut at the Masters. I'm going for Palmer at 7-5 (bet365).
The final grouping I’m focusing on for the first round is Jason Dufner, Charles Howell III and Bernhard Langer. The legendary German will tee up with his younger American counterparts through an ex-champions invite similar with Stadler however I cannot realistically see him outperforming them.
Howell is another one of those guys who were touted as the next big thing before somewhat failing to live up to the hype.
He’s bounced back well to become a steady player but this will be his first appearance at Augusta in five years.
Dufner has gone about his business quietly and efficiently since cruelly missing out to Keegan Bradley at last year's US PGA while being one of the most consistent putters on tour and, in proving the Americans really do have stats for everything, comes second on the “First Round Scoring” charts for the 2012 season. Dufner is my final pick at 11-8 (Stan James).
First Round Three-Balls
Brendan Steele (6-5) 12.50pm tee-off
Ryan Palmer (7-5) 13.23pm tee-off
Jason Dufner (11-8) 17.35pm tee-off