Bookies taking no chances with McIlroy
 Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Darren Clarke might think that Rory McIlroy is "certain" to win the Masters Tournament but picking winners is an art form and the bookies rarely lose.

With the first major of the season less than 10 weeks away, McIlroy is the 8/1 joint-favourite with the William Hill golf betting matches page (alongside the world No 1 Jason Day and 2014 winner Jordan Spieth) to capture his first green jacket in April and become just the sixth man to complete the career Grand Slam.

In fact, he's either the joint favourite or the outright favourite for all four majors.

Considering McIlroy will be out if action until the WGC-Mexico Championship as he recovers from a stress fracture in his ribs, it's a measure of just how highly fancied he is that he remains at the top of the betting list.

What's even more remarkable is that four-time former winner Tiger Woods is just 25/1 despite his struggles with his game.

Irish fans looking for value may fancy an each way flutter on Shane Lowry, who finished 39th last year and then went on to finish second in the US Open in his next major start.

The Clara man is 125/1 with William Hill to win at Augusta National this year but just 50/1 to win the US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

McIlroy, Day and Spieth are again the favourites at 7/1 with 2010 champion Graeme McDowell a decent 100/1 bet should he recapture his form of old.

The Portrush man is keen to get back to his old self and contend for majors again. And while he's also a 100/1 shot for The Open at Royal Birkdale, McIlroy is the outright favourite at 7/1 to win his second Claret Jug.

Pádraig Harrington captured his second Open title at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and he's surely worth a punt at 150/1.

With the US PGA set for Quail Hollow in Charlotte, McIlroy is again the clear favourite having captured the PGA Tour stop there not once but twice.

In 2010 he shot a course record, 10 under par 62 to come from four shots off the lead and claim his first PGA Tour win there by four strokes over Phil Mickelson.

Then in 2015, he won there again, romping to a seven-shot win over Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson on 21-under par.

McIlroy is currently rehabbing his injury rib and expected to be fully fit well before the Masters.

It's a tournament that appears tailor-made for his skills and Clarke is certainly confident that his fellow Northern Ireland man will get that coveted green jacket sooner or later.

"He will win the Masters sooner or later - he is too good not to," Clarke told the Mirror after catching up with McIlroy in South Africa where he hurt his ribs. "He is that good, he will be fine. He is hitting the ball fantastic. I spent a bit of time with him down in South Africa and he was just flushing it, as he always does.”

McIlroy's enforced lay-off might leave him short on tournament preparation for Augusta National but he believes that he has a chance to sharpen up his short game as he stays away from the longer clubs during his recovery period.

"I am trying to get back for Mexico," he said. "That's my timetable for returning. I feel like I could get back before that but if I were to play Honda and then go straight to Mexico, that would be playing two weeks in a row.  

"I'd like to ease my way back in gently so Mexico is perfect. It's four rounds. There's no cut. I can see how everything feels and I have a week off after that. So all signs point to Mexico and hopefully it works out that way and that's when I am planning to be back."