Justin Rose hits from the rough on the seventh hole during a practice round for the Masters, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Justin Rose hits from the rough on the seventh hole during a practice round for the Masters, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)Associated Press

The Masters: This Justin, Mike Kern likes a Rose at Magnolia Lane, expects Jon to be Rahm tough, and will go to the Matt for Kuchar.

The Masters tees off Thursday at 8:30 am after Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus serve as honorary starters.

Last week I gave out Charlie Hoffman as one of my picks at the Texas Open, and darned if he didn’t finish second at 25-1. Not bad, but still not good enough. He would have been my fourth winner in the last two months. Just saying. And some weeks we don’t make the cut. So it can happen both ways.

Now we’re finally on to the Masters, the tournament that golf fans and even non-fans alike look forward to the most. Because it goes back to the same place every year, Augusta National. And it’s like the official opening of spring.

Here’s a look at some of the usual suspects:

Rory McIlroy is the fave, at 8-1. He of course has never won this major, but he’s won four others. He just hasn’t won any since the 2014 PGA. He needs this to complete the career grand slam. So there is that added whatever. He had that gruesome final-nine meltdown in 2011, but won his first major at the U.S. Open a month later. He tied for fifth last year after shooting a 74 on Sunday. He’s played well this season.

Dustin Johnson, who’s 10-1, has a best finish of fourth in eight appearances.

Justin Rose, at 12-1, just moved up to No. 1 in the world rankings. Since those rankings started in the mid 1980s, only four guys who were No. 1 have won. Tiger Woods was the last, in 2002. Rose was the runner-up in 2015 and ’17, and is also in good form, as the blokes put it.

Speaking of Tiger, he’s 14-1. The four-time winner got his last green jacket in 2005. And his last major in 2008.

Justin Thomas is 16-1. But he’s shot in the 60s just once in a dozen career rounds here.

Jon Rahm is also 16-1. He usually seems to be in the picture, but still looking for that breakthrough victory. Didn’t close well at The Players last month. Had two top fives in majors in 2018, including a fourth at Augusta after opening with a 75.

Rickie Fowler, also majorless, is 18-1. He’s had his chances. Closed for second a year ago, one back of Patrick Reed.

Jordan Spieth is 20-1. He won in 2015, and could’ve won in ’14 and ’16. Closed hard last April to get third, two back. But he hasn’t been his old self in awhile. And I’ve got him in my yearlong pool that I pick in December, so Mush on that. Of course I had him last year and that turned out OK.

Tommy Fleetwood is 20-1. Almost won at TPC. Tied for 17th in his second Masters start 12 months back.

Francesco Molinari is 20-1. The reigning British Open champ won The Players and nearly won the recent match-play event.

Brooks Koepka is 25-1. He’s won three of the last six majors he’s played in. He’s lost some weight, which apparently has cost him some yardage off the tee. But he obviously has what it takes.

Jason Day is 25-1. He nearly won two of his first three Masters, but hasn’t come nearly as close since. His back has been bothering him some, but he had been playing well before that. And I’ve got him in a pool. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Bubba Watson, who won in 2012 and ’14, is 25-1. But his putting is often an issue.

Paul Casey is 30-1. He won a few weeks ago at Valspar. And he’s been in the top 15 at Augusta the last four years.

Hideki Matsuyama is 30-1. Of course no Asian has ever won a major. He’s been in the top 20 four straight times here, and has shot par or better in 12 of his 16 rounds.

Phil Mickelson is 40-1. He’s won three times, but not since 2010. He won earlier this year at Pebble Beach. He would become the oldest to ever win a major.

Matt Kuchar is also 40-1. He won earlier this year and almost won the match-play. Has four top 10s in his past seven Masters.

Patrick Reed, your defending champ, is 60-1. Hasn’t’ been doing much lately. Sergio Garcia, who won two years ago and has been playing decently, is 50-1. Kevin Kisner, who just won the match-play, is 60-1. Brandt Snedeker, who missed last year, has been 15th or better in four of his 10 apearances. And Henrik Stenson, who tied for fifth last year with four rounds under par, is 60-1. He’s been struggling but did reach the round of 16 in match-play. And he did win the British in 2017. In a memorable duel with Mickelson.

So who’s it going to be? The problem with Augusta is I could make a case for a lot of different names. But I can only give you three. And you know I try to avoid chalk, because what’s the fun in that? But we are trying to cash, first and foremost.

Keep in mind that you can also bet guys to finish in the top five, or lead after a round or just about anything else. I’m just trying to give you three guys that I think have a chance.

I’m going to go a little out of character. I’ll take Jon Rahm. I’m not sure why, except that he has the potential and maybe it’s his time. Or maybe he’ll still be waiting. I’ll also try Justin Rose, despite that No. 1 jinx thing. He’s about as solid as it gets, which should count for something. And my third is Matt Kuchar. I’m not sure he has what it takes if he’s seriously in it come Sunday, but he’s having a really good year. Let me add that I might throw a few bucks on Mr. Mickelson, just because. Augusta has a way of producing those kind of stories, and at those numbers you can at least take a little shot.

Good luck. And remember this tuna-mint, as they will tell you down there, doesn’t start until the final nine. Just saying.

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