US Masters Betting: Top European Market
Padraig Harrington will be thumbs up if he can rediscover the form that saw him win three Major championships
"What’s more, Harrington has the best stroke average round Augusta of all the leading Europeans which is even more impressive when you consider how many times he’s played here."
Mike Norman is a huge fan of European golf, so we could think of nobody better to run the rule over the leading contenders in the Top European market at this week's US Masters.
Lee Westwood - [7.2], best Masters finish 2nd 2010, career scoring average at Augusta 73.16 (38 rounds)
The Lee Westwood that has started this season is clearly not the Lee Westwood that finished second here a year ago and ended 2010 as the number one ranked golfer in the world. Westwood has failed to record a single top-10 finish from seven tournaments played in 2011, and worryingly, his putting looks woefully short of being good enough to win a US Masters. As one of Westwood's biggest fans I would love nothing more than to see him do well this week, but in his current form he is easily opposable.
Martin Kaymer - [8.8], never made cut, 74.0 (6)
After seeing Augusta National for the first time in 2008 Kaymer questioned how he would ever break par round this magnificent golf course, and he's never looked comfortable playing here since. He may be ranked the number one golfer in the world at the moment but three missed-cuts out of three in the season's first Major is hardly inspiring; and if this unflappable German questions his own ability to play well here, then how can we punters be on his side?
Luke Donald - [11.0], 3rd 2005, 73.0 (20)
Donald has a lot going for him this week. He hits the ball straight, he's played well here previously, he has started this season in tremendous fashion, and his putting from inside 12 feet looks to be in tip-top shape. Donald recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour prior to demolishing the field at the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship in February, and whilst he has since missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open it's hard to ignore the manner of his WGC win where his putting was exemplary. He's been on my shortlist for this event for a while now and I urge you to put him on yours.
Justin Rose - [13.0], 5th 2007, 73.0 (20)
Like Donald, Rose has also shown very good form this season, finishing top-25 in seven of the eight events he has played including a fifth and a third in his last two outings. Encouragingly, he has never missed the cut at Augusta and he is arguably a better player now than he was when he finished fifth here, and won the European Tour Order of Merit, in 2007. The highlight of his third place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago was undoubtedly his short game, and that will stand him in very good stead this week.
Rory McIlroy - [14.0], 20th 2009, 72.83 (6)
One missed-cut and a 20th place finish is nothing to shout home about from McIlroy's two attempts to win a green jacket and he has also failed to re-produce anything like the golf he played when winning at Quail Hollow almost 12 months ago. He is brilliant on his day, but those days very rarely come in succession like they would need to here and I would also have a serious question about McIlroy's course management skills - he simply doesn't know the meaning of a safe par!
Paul Casey - [16.0], 6th 2004, 73.25 (20)
Casey has four top-20 finishes to his name from just six Masters appearances, but his overall PGA Tour profile rather mirrors his performance in the Majors - usually in and around the top 20 but rarely in contention to win. Stateside, he has just the one win to his name, and although he is a winner on the European Tour this season, the impression I get is that Casey falls marginally short at this very top level. Put another way, there's always someone else I'd rather back than Casey when it comes to the Major championships.
Padraig Harrington - [16.0], 5th 2002 & 08, 72.5 (38)
There have been definite signs so far in 2011 that Harrington is getting back to the form that saw him win three Majors in 18 months. A top-10 finish at the WGC - CA Championship was a terrific effort, and his eighth place finish last week also reads well. What's more, he has the best stroke average round Augusta of all the leading Europeans which is even more impressive when you consider how many times he's played here. Phil Mickelson apart, there isn't another player in the field capable of making pars and birdies from almost anywhere on the golf course. I fancy him to go really well this week.
Graeme McDowell - [16.0], 17th 2009, 72.75 (8)
Last year's US Open Champion McDowell is arguably the most improved golfer in the world over the last 12 months, so perhaps his relatively poor showings at previous US Masters (two missed-cuts from three appearances) are best ignored. He has already recorded three top-10 finishes in America this season but he arrives in Georgia on the back of a dreadful effort at Bay Hill (nine over par for two rounds). When G-Mac is on the top of his game he isn't shy at letting you know, so the fact that there isn't much noise coming out of his corner suggests to me that we'll see the best of him later in the year.
Ian Poulter - [20.0], 10th 2010, 72.75 (24)
The Marmite of golf - you either love Poults or you hate him. Personally I'm a huge fan, not least because he isn't afraid to tell the world how good he is playing, how confident he is, and even how good he looks. He has a more than acceptable record at Augusta, in fact he's never missed the cut here in six appearances - even better, he has never finished below 33rd. Poulter was very close to being a selection based on his previous appearances here, but his form this season has been way below what he showed towards the end of 2010.
Martin Laird ([22.0]) is a winner already this season on the PGA Tour but along with Peter Hanson ([110.0]) and Gregory Havret ([120.0]) this will be his first appearance at the Masters - and debutants have a particularly poor record. Alvaro Quiros ([60.0]), Edoardo Molinari ([65.0]), and Anders Hansen ([140.0]) have all played here twice before, and have two missed-cuts each to their name, whilst the likes of Sergio Garcia ([26.0]), Francesco Molinari ([30.0]), Robert Karlsson ([44.0]), Miguel Angel Jimenez ([50.0]) and Ross Fisher ([65.0]) all have question marks hanging over them because of either previous course form or current form.
Luke Donald @ [11.0]
Justin Rose @ [13.0]
Padraig Harrington @ [16.0]
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