So much talk heading into the Masters this year is about the ‘big three’; no-one can foresee anyone outside Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth winning the green jacket. The top of the betting odds is saturated with golf’s biggest names. But there are a few who seemed to have slipped under the radar: the contending outsiders.
MARC LEISHMAN: World ranking 27: Odds 60/1
Leishman took home first place at the Arnold Palmer invitational two weeks ago and since then has had a convincing tied ninth finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, seeing off Lee Westwood and Pat Perez on the second hole of sudden-death to win his pool. His form prior was steady but the Australian seems to be peaking at just the right time.
His tied fourth finish at this event in 2013 proves he knows exactly how to go well here; plus a tied second at the 2015 Open Championship to prove his capabilities across major championships. Four Masters appearances have resulted in three missed cuts but he has never entered Augusta in a vein of form remotely this rich – he missed two consecutive cuts prior to his tied fourth in 2013.
“There’s a lot of things that have to go right, but I definitely feel if I play well I am good enough to win it,” Leishman said after Monday’s practice round. He seems to have the perfect balance of realism and self-belief for success this week.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD: World ranking 32: Odds 60/1
Fleetwood currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings – ahead of one of the Masters favourites Jon Rahm – and yet is considered an outsider for a green jacket. The 26-year-old rounded off 2016 and began 2017 with three consecutive top 10s culminating with a win at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in late January. He then finished tied 12th at the Maybank Championship before pushing world-number-one, Dustin Johnson, to the 72nd hole of the WGC-Mexico Championship after a phenomenal 60-foot birdie putt on the 18th to briefly scare the American.
The course set-up at Augusta National is suited to Fleetwood as well, he believes: “I’m not going to sit here and say I expect to win, but a lot of the shots I feel comfortable with on the course,” he told the Daily Express.
The only main concern, however, is that Fleetwood has never played the Masters before and the course takes some acclimatisation to say the least; no debutant has won a green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
TYRRELL HATTON: World ranking 15: Odds 50/1
Another debutant who will need to hope he can adjust to Augusta quickly is Hatton. The 25-year-old now finds himself as one of golf’s ‘big guns’ with only 14 players in the world ranked higher than him. He even pipped Rory McIlroy to fourth place in last season’s Race to Dubai final standings.
Hatton’s first career win only came in October but in the 11 starts since then he has seven top 10s, including second place at the DP World Tour Championship, one of which came at the WGC-Mexico Championship. His fine form has seen a world ranking rise of 40 places in six months.
Four top 10s in his last five starts – one third and two tied fourths – show Hatton’s comfort at the top of the leaderboard. Something that is furthered by the experience of his tied fifth place finish at the Open Championship last year.
ADAM HADWIN: OWGR 46: Odds 80/1
Just over two months ago Adam Hadwin burst into the golfing spotlight by becoming just the ninth scorer of a PGA Tour 59 – where he eventually fell second to Hudson Swafford at the CareerBuilder Challenge. His last two starts have seen a win at the Valspar Championship, which earned him his Masters invite, and a sixth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since January, the Canadian’s world ranking has rocketed from 181st to 44th.
He is another debutant, with little major championship experience to fall back on, but a rapid rise against the odds is something Hadwin has become very familiar with over the last few months. Don’t count him out.
Incidentally, he was due to be on his honeymoon this week but, after his late invitation, has prioritised teeing off at Augusta on Thursday.
ALEX NOREN: World ranking 10: Odds 90/1
Perhaps this is naïve given Noren is another making his Masters debut; but 90/1 seems a colossal price for the world number 10 who ended last season with four wins in 11 starts and finished third in the Race to Dubai behind only world-number-five Henrik Stenson and reigning Masters champion Danny Willett.
In his last outing Noren finished tied fifth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play winning three consecutive matches en route to the quarter-final without trailing in any of them. He failed to make the semi-finals after losing to eventual winner Johnson, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
As someone with nine career titles, Noren has a proven knowledge of winning and, with 13 appearances including an Open Championship top 10 in 2012, has experience of playing in major championships.
ROSS FISHER: World ranking 45: Odss 125/1
The past month has proven Fisher’s ability to compete on the biggest stages in golf; his last two starts have come in the two recent World Golf Championships and both resulted in top five finishes. At the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Fisher won a group containing world-number-four Hideki Matsuyama, veteran Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen before he comfortably downed Bubba Watson 4&3 in the round of 16. Big stages and big names certainly don’t faze Fisher.
He’s a seasoned major championship player with 23 starts, including a fifth at the 2009 US Open, and is playing his fifth Masters this year. In his four attempts so far Fisher has a top 20 and only one missed cut – more impressive than it sounds given the quality of the reduced field at the Masters. 14 tournament rounds around Augusta is enough for Fisher to have come to terms with the course and a practice round or two should be plenty to jog the memory.
Fisher wasn’t due to play this week having headed into the WGC event two weeks ago ranked 53rd in the world. But, after a high placing earned him a late invitation, he’ll be desperate to ensure he doesn’t let the opportunity pass him by.
Make no mistake, the winner this week is likely to come from the top of the betting market; but if there’s a shock on the cards, these are the guys to back – especially with an each-way payout. All of these names are capable of placing high up the leaderboard or even claiming their maiden green jacket.