Augusta outsiders can beat the odds

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The early tournaments of this year's US golf tour threw up some very odd results, but the approach of the Masters seems to have concentrated the minds of the leading players, not least Fred Couples. Winner of the Players' Championship a weeks ago and just four shots off the lead before yesterday's final round in the BellSouth Classic, the 1992 winner is a worthy favourite with most leading bookmakers to win his second Green Jacket this week.

Among the big three layers, you will not beat the 14-1 offered by Ladbrokes, who bracket Couples with Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman. Given that Monty himself admits that Augusta National is hardly tailor-made for his game - it certainly is for Freddie's - and that Norman has missed two consecutive cuts, those odds are very fair, particularly in a tournament which rarely sees a major upset.

It goes against the grain, however, to support any player at less than about 20-1 in such a large and talented field, when a single wayward shot can spell disaster. Certainly, Nick Faldo at 16-1 makes no appeal for all his previous Masters dominance.

Rummage instead through some of the slightly less obvious candidates, such a Tom Lehman, a 20-1 chance with Ladbrokes, and Davis Love III, the same price with both Ladbrokes and Hills, and the runner-up to Ben Crenshaw 12 months ago. Both players have long been tipped as future Major winners on the American Tour and will arrive at Augusta with solid recent form.

David Frost, too, is playing consistently well, and must be backed at 33-1 with Ladbrokes Between them, Frost, Lehman and Love will give punters a strong hand against the field.

US MASTERS (Augusta, Thursday): Ladbrokes: 14-1 F Couples, G Norman, C Montgomerie, 16-1 N Faldo, E Els, 20-1 T Lehman, B Langer, P Mickleson, C Pavin, N Price, S Elkington, D Love, 25-1 I Woosnam, 33-1 D Frost, J Daly, V Singh, M O'Meara, M Calcavecchia, L Roberts, 40-1 L Janzen, S Hoch, T Watson, 50-1 P Stewart, J Furyk, J Haas, B Crenshaw, L Mize, 66- 1 bar.

FA PREMIERSHIP (Hills): 4-9 Man Utd, 13-8 Newcastle, 25-1 Liverpool.