Sarah Stirk: Under the radar Rory my idea of the Masters winner

Rory has played a light schedule - will that be a benefit at Augusta?
Rory has played a light schedule - will that be a benefit at Augusta?

Our star golf columnist is on the ground at Augusta watching the world's best warm up for the big event, but she found time to fire this missive across the Atlantic to mark your cards ahead of the year's first major

"I asked Butch Harmon, the American's close friend and former coach, if an each-way bet on Sneds was a good shout and he didn't dissuade me!"

After a great stretch of tournaments it's finally time for the year's first major. We've seen big name winners in the early part of the year, Jordan, Rickie and DJ all picking up trophies, and we'd all love to see that trend continue here at Augusta National.

What's been interesting for me is the schedule leading in here, and who has got that scheduling right. The West Coast swing, WGCs, extra incentive to play Arnie's event at Bay Hill, it's tough to balance where to tee it up with so many strong events, and how to make sure you peak for the year's first major.

Gleneagles Ryder Cup star Jamie Donaldson was in the Sky Sports studio with me last week and he was talking up the merits of playing the week before a major. So many of the top guys like to, and in fact did at last week's Shell Houston Open. However, many of the big names missed the cut and with conditions softer in Houston than previous years due to the pre-tournament rain, how valuable was the experience?

Trevor Immelman and Angel Cabrera both missed the cut the week before winning The Masters, but it's a tough call to opt to play and then leave before the weekend, deflated ahead of the first big test of the year.

Spieth, Scott and Stenson all suffered an early exit in Houston and I was particularly concerned about Henrik. The big Swede had a poor week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and although not helped by a series of mud balls on day one in Texas I felt he needed a confidence boosting few days ahead of trying to secure his first top 10 or better at Augusta.

Spieth was a little concerning too and I'm still nervous about the scar tissue from last year, the constant questions about his 2016 meltdown continue to prove irksome for him and while I expect him to slip on more Green Jackets in the future, he's not my favourite to be champion this time around.

The weather forecast is awful for Wednesday with a lot of rain likely and wind will be a big factor on both Thursday and Friday. If so, a soft course will obviously play longer and very much play into the hands of the bigger hitters, right up DJ's and Rory's street.

DJ is the most favoured favourite in terms of a major for quite a while, and while he's hard to bet against, my main concern is has he peaked too early? His coach Butch Harmon believes he's got the Tiger intimidation factor at the moment, with his rivals knowing when he's on he's hard to live with.

Rory meanwhile, well everyone is saying he's undercooked, but is he!? There was a definite feeling around the ground today that everything could be playing into Rory's hands. Quite often McIlroy plays some of his best stuff when he's fresh and although he hasn't got the reps he originally wanted, that may prove to be an advantage.

Because of his lack of tournament time, and due to the amount of focus on Spieth and DJ, I think the Northern Irishman is really coming in under the radar. Paul McGinley, part of our Sky team this week, agrees and really likes his chances. Rory himself, said, "It's been nice preparation heading in, especially with less hype around."

So I'm picking Rory as the man most likely to win, or maybe DJ?! No Rory definitely, no wait, yes Rory! In terms of my actual selections though, I'm going each-way on the following picks, with Betfair paying six places.

If you're thinking of backing one of the favourites be sure to watch me talking with Betting.Betfair golf expert Steve Rawlings in the video below...


For all the latest Masters betting tips and previews, check out our dedicated category.

Sarah's Selections - The 2017 US Masters

Justin Rose - 28/12>

I tipped him in an earlier column and he let me down so I'm hoping he owes me! JR has had a consistently good season and I think he's due a big week. Top 10s over the past two years at Augusta bode well and I love his temperament in the Majors. He pulled out of his Press Conference today (Tuesday) with a slight neck strain but it's not a concern.

Matt Fitzpatrick - 66/1

With 11 Englishmen in the field for The Masters, I'm going for a couple of them here. The baby-faced assassin is my second home pick. He possesses a great short game and really impressed here a year ago leading the field in GIR, plus he's found some solid form already this year.

Phil Mickelson - 30/1

I mentioned Phil in last week's column as a pick for The Masters and I'm sticking to it. As a three-time champion you can't deny it's a course he loves and I think a switch goes on every time he tees it up here. He's had some notable weeks so far in 2017 and his iron play was really sharp at the WGC Match Play. Augusta is the most forgiving off the tee of all the Majors and with that freedom he's always a danger.

Brandt Snedeker - 60/1

Brandt is my annual Augusta pick! I love the way his game matches up to this layout. His weakest suit is his driving accuracy, which he gets away with here, and he's a great putter, especially on slick greens. I asked Butch Harmon, the American's close friend and former coach, if an each-way bet on Sneds was a good shout and he didn't dissuade me!

Soren Kjeldson - 125/1

I thought I'd throw an outsider in there, and I'm going for the tenacious Dane. If we get a lot of rain and the course plays long, conditions won't be in his favour but he's a gutsy competitor who can never be underestimated, plus he's a great wind player. He's got terrific short game skills and he posted a top 10 here a year ago.

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