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Stars aligning for the Masters

The Masters Odds (As of March 28):

Rory McIlroy: 10.00
Tiger Woods: 10.00
Justin Thomas: 10.00
Dustin Johnson: 12.00
Jordan Spieth: 13.00
Justin Rose: 15.00

Say this about Tiger Woods: When it comes to the business of golf, he has the needle moving heading into the first major.

And that needle will move right into the customary Tiger-on-Sunday red if the former world No. 1 is contending - or perhaps even leading - the Masters at Augusta National next week. It never seemed completely impossible that Tiger could regain his form as a dominant, intimidating golfer. But improbable that he could challenge the game's best -- of a younger and fiercely talented generation - given his injury situation? Ah, yeah.

But in his comeback from back surgery not even a full year ago, Tiger has worked his way into the status of a co-favourite to win the Masters alongside Rory McIlroy, who scored an emphatic victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational thanks to a final round of eight-under par, and 24-year-old Justin Thomas, who has already won twice this year and had finished first, second and fourth in each of his last three events prior to the start of the Houston Open on Thursday.

All three golfers, as of Wednesday, had odds of 10.00 to win the Masters, as per

Golf Betting Breakdown:

The Masters

Major Specials

The Houston Open

Live Betting

The spotlight will of course be on Tiger. So long as he's playing - be it at a major or another tournament on the schedule, he is the headliner. But this could be shaping up to be one of the most intriguing Masters in years.

Tiger is back. He's looked dangerous. Like a breakthrough isn't an 'If' but a 'When.' Enthusiasm has been building for months, with about 21 per cent of the money wagered on the Masters so far has been on Tiger to win.

McIlroy had a huge win less than two weeks ago, which seems to have gotten the attention of bettors, with an increase in the money wagered on him to come away victorious next weekend.

Thomas is a great player, the leader in the FedEx Cup standings and the world No. 2. He's putting together an impressive season and we're still in the early spring.

Beyond those three, the list of favourites entering this tournament is a deep one. The reigning champion, Sergio Garcia, is well down the order with odds of 30.00 to win, while other accomplished and highly talented players like Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed are even further down the list.

Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are situated in the top five among the favourites (odds of 12.00 and 13.00, respectively) although their play of late has left something more to be desired. Johnson, the current world No. 1 golfer, didn't look at all like himself at the WGC Match Play last week and didn't even make it out of the group stage following a pair of upset losses - including to Abbotsford's Adam Hadwin - to send him packing.

Spieth's showing so far this season has hardly been inspiring, with as many top 10 finishes (two) as missed cuts. But he's been a leaderboard mainstay at Augusta over the past few years, with a win and a pair of tied-for-second place finishes dating back to 2014. A return to Augusta may be the cure for what's ailing his golf game right now.

And then there is Justin Rose, so steady and solid. Jason Day is there, too. Both have odds of 15.00 to win, as of March 28. Bubba Watson has won twice this year, most recently at the WGC Match Play, and slipping in under the radar next week is now impossible for him given his play the last month and at the Masters in previous years. His odds to win at Augusta National stand at 17.00. Ditto for another lefty in 47-year-old Phil Mickelson, who won in Mexico earlier this month and has odds of 18.00 to win the Masters.

The anticipation for that first major is always palpable. This year just has a much different feel, like the perfect storm is brewing for the golf world and it will all culminate in potentially epic fashion next week at Augusta National.

The rise of a 42-year-old Tiger Woods has been a driving force behind that, with momentum growing for months now.

A number of the world's best players previously mentioned, however, are serving notice with their recent performances that this is shaping up to be anyone's tournament at this point.

Buckle up.

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