US Masters betting: Spieth, Fowler and four other tips
Who should you put your money on from the big three and who is the best outsider to back at Augusta this week?
The US Masters, the first golf major of the year, gets underway on Thursday, with Jordan Spieth looking to defend his title on the greens of Augusta.
The 22-year-old American announced himself to the world with an astonishing performance last year, finishing on 18-under to equal Tiger Woods's course record and win by four strokes.
Spieth's sudden emergence, together with that of Australian Jason Day, the current world number one, means golf now has a "big three", with Rory McIlroy looking to reassert himself after a relatively quiet 2015 following his breakthrough year in 2014.
Between them, they have claimed five of the last six majors - but there will still be 89 golfers prowling the course this year. So who are the best bets?
Jordan Spieth 10-1
Of the big three, Spieth offers the best value at 10-1 and there is no reason the defending champion can't claim another green jacket. It is undeniable that Day is the form player at the moment, but his odds are too short, at 7-1, and world number ones have a terrible record at Augusta. What's more, "Day struggled with a bad back at the Match Play Championship and suffered from flu-like symptoms which he said caused him to lose a startling amount of weight", says CBS. McIlroy, meanwhile, still lacks the putting game to win at Augusta, which makes Spieth the best placed to win. His odds also make an each-way bet more attractive.
Rickie Fowler 16-1 (3-1 top five)
"Almost every year brings a new major champion - 2015 brought two of them, both highly predictable - and Fowler is by far the best placed to do what most of us have long thought he's capable of doing", says Ben Coley, of Sporting Life.
Fowler also has the right game for Augusta, adds the journalist, and others agree. "It seems like it's time for Rickie Fowler to shed the label of 'best golfer to never win a major' by breaking through at Augusta," says Neil Greenberg, of the Washington Post, who crunches the numbers and concludes that Fowler's statistics make him a definite contender. "There are no guarantees in picking the winner at the Masters, but based on what has been successful at Augusta National, Fowler is the best bet to pick up the green jacket this year."
Justin Rose 25-1 (5-1 top five)
Another player whose stats back up his claims is Briton Justin Rose and he, too, catches the eye of Coley in Sporting Life. Rose came second to Spieth in 2015 and already has a major under his belt. "His all-around stats are strong and in three of the last four years he's been inside the top six," notes Coley. "In other words, when he tees up here in the Masters he invariably produces something close to his best."
Rose also gets the nod from the Golf Punters Guide, which says "his experience, plus length off the tee makes him a good fit for Augusta". And Brandel Chamblee, of the Golf Channel, agrees. "Rose is so good tee-to-green that he needs only an average week with the putter to win a green jacket."
Louis Oosthuizen 35-1 (8-1 top five)
The South African arrives in Augusta in fine form and a good track record in the big tournaments. "Last year Oosthuizen finished 19-2-2-30 in the four majors and was unlucky not to win at least one," notes the Golf Punters Guide. "Having lost in a playoff in the 2012 Masters he can go one better this year."
Given his form - Oosthuizen was second to Day in Match Play - and record at Augusta, he is an "appealing price" agrees John Harvey, of Metro.
Much depends on his health, says Chamblee, of the Golf Channel. "He is as fragile as a wet bag of groceries but when he is uninjured, and on form, he makes the game look laughably easy."
Zach Johnson 66-1 (12-1)
The experts are split on Johnson chances, but Golf Monthly believes the 2007 winner and Open champion "is flying under the radar this week". He has changed manufacturers and had some criticism this year, "but he has had three top tens this season now and is coming into some good form".
His odds represent a "huge overlay for Johnson in this event", says Brian Blessing, of the Las Vegas Review Journal. "He comes into this week's tournament in outstanding form and in possession of the Claret Jug," which makes his price "hard to pass up".
Brooks Koepka 80-1 (16-1)
If you are looking for an outsider, then this could be the man to back. There has been support for Jimmy Walker, but Koepka is the one, says Matt Willis, of ESPN, after applying a process of elimination to the field. Koepka is young and has Masters experience, he is in form and inside the top 30. And the killer factor for Willis, "in four of the past five years, the Masters winner had never previously won a major".
Koepka also catches the eye of Chamblee. "He simply has the ability to hit the ball longer and better than anyone else," he says, noting that the golfer has improved at every major he has played.