Amen to Augusta National
April 10, 2019 3:01 AM
by Bill Bowman
Welcome to Masters Week as the world’s sports spotlight shines brightly on the grounds at famed Augusta National.
The sport of golf definitely has its own following when it comes to betting. But during weeks like this one, bettors will come out in full force as the wagering on the Masters can rival other high-profile events like the Kentucky Derby.
The Masters began in 1934 as the Augusta National Invitational. Those who have won here say there’s no better feeling than slipping on that green jacket and there’s no more gut-wrenching feeling than having a chance to win it as you head to Amen Corner on Sunday.
Good luck with either endeavor as many have tried but only a select few have stood up to the pressure.
Augusta National this week will give out two major signals to the PGA Tour players. One, it’s the 72-hole chase for fame — Masters champion. And two, it’s now go-time as players gear up for a make-or-break four-month stretch of the season that will include all four majors being played and a whole lot of FedEx Cup points being doled out.
And it starts right here.
The fraternity of tournament champions is a Who’s Who of greatness with a few less notables sprinkled in.
There have been more than a few names that certainly don’t stand out in the quest for greatness (sorry, Mike Weir, the 2003 champ and Danny Willett, the 2016 winner) but for the most part on Sundays, the first page of the leaderboard is rife with the biggest of names battling for the biggest of titles.
So now we come to the question of who’s going to win in 2019?
Will it be one of the hot golfers keeping up strong play? Or will we see a surprise winner with someone having one of those memorable weeks?
Well, somebody’s got to say it: Yes, the moon and stars can align and we will see Tiger Woods (at a way-too-low 14-1) back in that green jacket.
Take it easy. We haven’t gone off the deep end (yet). Why Tiger will win is actually quite simple: His goal and focus are always on the majors. This is the major of all majors. He appears to be tightening up a few loose swings here and there and working out his recent putting woes.
If there’s someone who knows that his time to win majors (and give him a chance to catch Jack’s magic number of 18) is starting to wind down a little, it’s Tiger.
We will also be keeping an eye on a couple of players who definitely have the game to win, but doubts in their mindset continue to creep in when it comes to The Masters, or majors in general.
Rickie Fowler at 16-1 (some have said he’s now the best player to never have won a major) and Rory McIlroy at 7-1 (people still shudder when they remember his final- round Masters meltdown way back in 2011) can definitely win this thing if they can clear their minds down the stretch and rely on their world-class abilities.
But while we want to know about who’s going to win, it’s also interesting to take a glance at some of the numbers of this famed event that don’t show up on the players’ scorecards.
Take 2013 for example. Chinese golfer Guan Tianlang qualified to play in arguably golf’s highest-profile event. Not that big of a deal you say. Well, it is when you factor in that he was just 14 years old at the time.
Contrast that with six-time champ Jack Nicklaus who won in 1986 at the age of 46 to become the oldest winner.
The youngest winner? Bet you didn’t even have to Google that one as Tiger slipped on that green jacket in 1997 at the age of 21. To rub a little salt in the wound, he also won by a tournament-record 12 strokes.
Tiger is also the last guy to win it back-to-back, posting victories in 2001 and 2002.
Can he win it again? We say yes.
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