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Nic Ladds 23rd Mar 2009 - 14:03

Countdown to The Masters - Betting update

It looks like we are set for an intriguing, open Masters this year, and we can start to get a better idea of how the market might shape up now a certain Mr Woods has made his come back.

Tiger currently takes his place at the head of the outright market at odds of 5/2, and if history is anything to go by this could seem big come the end of this year's tournament.

Woods has won The Masters no fewer than four times, his most recent victory coming in 2005. So while he has not won it for three years, he finished, t3, t2, 2 so you can be sure he will be on the premises again.

He has looked a little rusty around the greens and with the putter which is hardly surprising given his injury but he has looked sublime with the driver, hitting it long and accurately and his knee looks have healed up fine.

The fact that he is returning from injury however will give the rest of the field hope of turning over the world number 1, but whatever way you look at it, Tiger has every chance of taking his fifth green jacket.

Phil Mickelson has long been Woods' biggest rival and the world number 2 could be coming in to this year's Masters in better form.

First recaptured the Northern Trust Open at The Riviera for the second year running then a followed up a few weeks later by taking the CA Championship at Doral to demonstrate to the world just what great form he is in coming in to the tournament.

His odds have been steadily cut after his excellent run and 'Lefty' can currently be backed at 6/1 in the betting it will be fascinating to watch him renew his rivalry with Tiger, and he is no forlorn hope, having won The Masters in 2004 and 2006.

These two aside, is there anyone else who can come in to the reckoning? The simple answer is, yes of course there is but who is open to debate.

Young Irishman Rory McIlroy has been fantastic this season so far and without a doubt will be a future major winner. He has received plaudits from the likes of Tiger Woods and is loved by the American media.

Odds of 33/1 however look too short at the moment for the 19 year old. He put in a poor last round at Doral putting it down to tiredness and his young body has been through a gruelling campaign and while he is ultra-consistent and rarely out of the frame, The Masters may be too tough for him this year.

So what of the other big guns? Sergio Garcia could not possibly be backed at 16/1 in the betting.

He has had some reasonable finishes this year from just three starts but his Masters record is atrocious and the world number 3 could not be backed with any confidence.

Padraig Harrington certainly appeals more than Garcia at odds of 16/1 and the Irishman is looking to win his third Major in a row.

He won The Open Championship and the PGA Championship last year (albeit both in a field without Tiger) and his Masters record isn't bad having finished, t7 and t5 the last two years and he looks to be the main British hope.

Elsewhere Anthony Kim undoubtedly has the potential to win a big tournament and he is 20/1 here but injury problems and lack of form so far this season casts doubts over his credentials.

Retief Goosen who can be backed at 20/1 got back to winning ways last week in the Transitions Championship and an on-song Goosen could be a big danger to all.

Geoff Ogilvy who has been so impressive this season was gambled on after his win in the WGC Match Play and he is now at odds of 25/1. He has the never to win a Major, having won the U.S. Open in 2006 and could be a big contender.

Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas and 2000 winner Vijay Singh are just three more who have the talent to win at odds of 25/1, 28/1 and 33/1 respectively, while last year's winner Trevor Immelman is 66/1.

We will get to see Woods, along with a host of other big names go at it before the Masters at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament which Woods won last year, and this should give us an even better idea of how close to fitness Tiger, and see who's going to be a likely challenger.

One thing for sure is that this looks the closest Masters for quite some time and come April 9 all eyes will be on Tiger and if he's fully fit then 5/2 may start to look very big.

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