Tuesday’s edition of Golf Shots looked at the favorites for the 2014 Masters Tournament, and today is dedicated to some dark horses. The first round of play is Thursday, and here is a look at the players who are listed at higher odds, according to the sports book at Station Casinos in Las Vegas.
Dustin Johnson (16-1) has played seven events this year with a first and two runner-up finishes. He also has five top-10 performances. He certainly seems to have a better chance than Jordan Spieth at 12-1, but it is hard to overlook his withdrawal after shooting 80 in the first round of last week’s Shell Houston Open. He said his back was stiff. Which is more of a red flag; the stiff back or the poor play? Johnson has the length to overpower Augusta National if he is hitting it straight.
Sergio Garcia (18-1) has been a trendy pick this year. He is another player, like Matt Kuchar, who likes to work the ball left-to-right on an Augusta National golf course that favors the right-to-left hitters. Still, Sergio has been playing better than ever in 2014 and it would surprise no one if he is among the leaders on Sunday.
Keegan Bradley (18-1) seems to be too high-strung to have the patience required to negotiate Augusta National for 18 holes over four days. On the plus side he has made the cut in 10 of the 11 tournaments he has played this year and has seven top-25 finishes. The bad news is that he has not won. His best was a second at Bay Hill. At Houston last week he had 66 in the first round but followed it up with three rounds above 70.
Jason Dufner (20-1) is the antithesis of Keegan Bradley. If anyone would appear to have the laid-back personality it takes to be at peace amid the storm that rages around Amen Corner, it is Dufner. He has not missed a cut this year in seven events and has three top-10 finishes. On the other hand, all of his top-5 major finishes have been in the U.S. Open and PGA championships. He has none in the Masters Tournament.
Bubba Watson (20-1) is a crowd-favorite at Augusta. He won two years ago in dramatic fashion in a playoff and, like Dustin Johnson, hits the ball far enough to shrink the golf course. Bubba is currently fifth in the FedEx Cup standings and has a win and two runner-up finishes this year. If any player deserves consideration based on form, it is Bubba Watson, especially when you factor in his ability to shape his shots in either direction.
Angel Cabrera (22-1) always needs to be included in the mix in a major tournament. “El Pato” has played eight events this year and missed the cut in six of them. That does not matter. Cabrera seems to find his “A” game for every major tournament, especially when he is considered a dark horse at the Masters Tournament where he has five top-10 finishes, a 2009 win and a playoff loss last year to Adam Scott. In some betting houses he is as high as 40-1.
Justin Rose (25-1) was the winner at the U.S. Open last year, and has a good record at Augusta with fifth- and eighth-place performances. A shoulder injury has hampered his play this year.
Henrik Stenson (25-1) won the FedEx Cup last year but has not set the golf world on fire in 2014. In six events he has one top-10 performance. His best effort was a tie for fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He tied for 54 at Houston last week. Stenson’s record at the Masters Tournament is not much better. He has never finished in the top-15.
Brandt Snedeker (25-1) has played a lot of events this year. The bad news is, out of his 11 starts in 2014, his best finish is eighth. He has been outside of the top-40 seven times. Many people thought he would win the Masters last year, but there is very little support for him in 2014.
Zach Johnson (25-1) is seventh in FedEx Cup points this year with a win and four top-10 finishes. In his last outing before the Masters he tied for sixth at the Texas Valero Open. He is an extremely steady player who is good with his wedges. He knows what it takes to win a Masters, with a win in 2007, and has gone from 80-1 down to his current odds. Johnson merits a look this year.
What about extreme dark horses for the 2014 Masters? Hunter Mahan (35-1) has showed flashes this year. The one negative that stands out is a withdrawal from Bay Hill because of a bad back. Rickie Fowler (45-1) is due to win a big one sooner or later. At worst his new haircut will endear him to the membership at Augusta. K. J. Choi (100-1) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (100-1) are similar to Cabrera in that they always show up strong in the big events. At those odds there is value in experience.
There is one more thing to watch out for when considering a winner at the 2014 Masters Tournament. Make note of who wins the Par-3 Tournament on Wednesday. The player who has won the Par-3 contest has never gone on to win the Masters in the same year.
Golf Shots is a daily series which provides analysis and commentary on the PGA tour and golf-related topics all year long.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky