By Steven Clark
I'VE already flagged up Phil Mickelson as my Masters winner and now I'm looking beyond the main contenders for some each-way value.
Aside from Mickelson's win two years ago the majority of Masters champions in recent years have came from out of nowhere to claim victory.
Examples of this include Zach Johnson who was in excess of 250-1 prior to his 2007 triumph and last year's winner Charl Schwartzel started off at 150-1 in some quarters.
Other recent champions Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera were also well into the three-figure region in the ante-post markets.
Keeping this in mind there is definitely some substance in considering some of the bigger-priced names especially for those of us who are dabbling in the smaller stakes market as even nicking an each-way place at such high odds can yield good returns.
Augusta will play in excess of 7400 yards for this week's tournament. American galleries love following the guys who can smash it a country mile and the US currently boast the “Big Five” as they call it with Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, JB Holmes, Robert Garrigus and Gary Woodland making up the quintet.
All will be teeing up on Thursday with the exception of Holmes while Alvaro Quiros will be flying the flag as the European Tour's long-ball specialist.
There is no denying these guys are fantastic to watch and while the sheer distance they carry defies belief at times – all the par fives at Augusta should be comfortably in reach within two strokes for each player.
It’s not rocket science to realise that to prosper on the fiendish greens of Augusta you need a short game which will stand up to scrutiny.
Mickelson and Luke Donald as mentioned earlier are as good as anyone from within 100 yards and if they do miss their first blow on the green a second slip up rarely follows.
Donald had a streak of 450 plus consecutive holes without a three-putt on last year's tour. On a similar vain it’s also good to look towards those who get a high GIR percentage (providing the opportunity to make the putts in the first place) and also those who can regularly get it up and down from off the green whether it be sand, rough or Augusta’s infamous pine needle tree lines.
People without much Masters experience tend to fair quite poorly. There are some exceptions, such as Jason Day, but generally I’d be looking to those who’ve played a few tournaments and experienced all the nasty surprises Augusta can throw at you.
With all that in mind I’m going to put together half a dozen or so picks at longer odds who I believe can be in the mix come Sunday evening.
Although he is probably best remembered for a cruel four-putt on the 72nd hole of the 2009 BMW Championship which cost him the title Snedeker takes my eye at 85-1 with William Hill.
The 2007 PGA Tour rookie of the year is making his fifth appearance at the Masters and includes a third-place finish in his previous outings.
Coming off an excellent 2011 season he has three top-10s to his name so far this year and is another who fares well in the scrambling statistics department which can prove pivotal at Augusta.
Although it contradicts what I said earlier about experience counting – this will be his debut appearance – Simpson's recent rise to prominence has been extremely impressive.
Two wins within a fortnight on the main tour midway through last season underpinned with some excellent GIR statistics and another impressive figure of hitting in excess of 60 rounds under 70 on last year's tour which takes some doing. His form hasn’t dipped and he is 66-1 at William Hill.
Moving to the other end of the spectrum is the vastly experienced Stricker. The 45-year-old from Wisconsin seemed to drop off the face of the golfing planet in the early noughties but has made an amazing return to form in recent times capturing no less than nine titles and twice winning Comeback Player Of The Year.
His ball striking off the fairway is rock solid and is probably second only to Mickelson in my opinion as the best American putter.
Stricker’s name features in the top 10 in no less than three categories on this season's tour (GIR, scrambling and scoring average).
This coupled with 11 previous visits to August means he could be the man to look out for at 50-1 (various).
The Aussie has a sole PGA tour title to his name but has been on a steady run of form in the early part of this season. The form book can often go out the window where Majors are concerned but Senden has been there or thereabouts in 2012 making every cut en route to three top-10 finishes.
An excellent ball striker, he ticks most of the same boxes as Stricker does on the key stats and at 200-1 (bodog) it’s an each-way bet I’ll be taking.
This year's event will see the South Korean notch up his 10th tournament appearance and he will be keen to follow up on two stellar performances in the last two Masters where he finished inside the top 10 on each occasion.
This season so far hasn’t seen anything to write home about by his usual high standards but he has the accuracy with his irons and the all-important short game to stand up to the test over four days. Another one in the 70-1 (William Hill) range, KJ should go well on a course which he seems to favour.
Finally the last of my picks is again someone who knows Augusta like the back of his hand. I’m trying hard not to let my heart rule my head but there is no way I couldn’t give a mention to Couples.
Like Mickelson and Woods there just seems to be that X Factor that Freddy has with Augusta. His record speaks for itself and this will mark 20 years since he won the Green Jacket here.
Moving away from the nostalgia and sentiment for a moment this is not a bet with clouded judgment. Couples has been troubled with back problems which have bothered him for years however in recent time he seems to be a lot more comfortable on the course and has been dividing his time latterly with regular appearances on the Champions Tour with the odd fleeting appearance at full tour events and showing he can still hang with the best of them.
The Rolls Royce swing still looks as good now as it’s ever done and at 52 he’s still as fierce a competitor as ever. Priced up at 200-1 with bodog can he roll back the years and produce some more magic? I certainly hope so.