It is almost that time of the year again. The Masters, the first major event of the calendar year, has been held at Augusta National since the inaugural tournament in 1934 and golf fans from all four corners of the globe will travel to Georgia to witness the best players in action. Furthermore, Augusta is regarded as one of the most picturesque courses in the world but don’t take it for granted: it is also one of the most demanding.
Over the years, golf lovers have been treated to a number of exciting rounds of golf; from 14-year-old Guan Tianlang making the cut to Jordan Spieth’s record-breaking event back in 2015. This year, it could be the best and most competitive yet; there are plenty of viable candidates for glory – here are five of the leading names ahead of April’s competition.
Rory McIlroyThis is the one that Rory McIlroy really wants to win. The Northern Irishman once sat at the top of golf’s world rankings for 95 weeks but a Masters triumph would go down as one of his greatest ever achievements.
McIlroy finished fourth in 2015 before finishing in the top 10 for the third time in a row last year. He has always been there or thereabouts but a poor round at Augusta can put you out of contention and that is what has happened to McIlroy in recent years.
Write him off at your peril; McIlroy stands a very good chance of victory this time around.
Matsuyama looks destined for a major triumph at some point in the near future and he may be the one to beat at Augusta this year. At 25 years old, he has time on his side but recent form suggests that he could prosper here.
As of March 28th, Matsuyama is 18/1 with Bet Way and punters may want to bet in play for a chance at higher odds. Considering his relative lack of Masters experience, the Japan star is prone to crumbling; just as fellow youngster Spieth did in 2016.
If he brings his A-game, he will be there or thereabouts – Matsuyama is a man on a mission.
You only need to look at his record around Augusta to label Spieth as a challenger. In three trips to the Masters, Spieth has finished second twice whilst winning once; an incredible statistic to say the least.
On current form, he may need a bit of luck to secure a second Green Jacket and his mental strength will be put to the test if he is in contention. That double bogey at the 12th hole on the final day last year probably still gives him nightmares...
Augusta specialist Spieth will be quietly confident of playing himself into serious contention.
His two major victories have both come in this event at Augusta and Watson has the talent to challenge this year. He hasn’t been anywhere near his best in recent years but you have to respect his previous accomplishments.
When it comes to driving, Watson is one of the best in the business and his ability to find the fairway is unrivalled. Augusta is renowned for its fast greens and Watson’s hopes hinge on his accuracy with the putter.
Giving the ball a clout won’t be an issue but the Augusta greens may get the better of Bubba.
And then we have the best player in the world right now, Dustin Johnson. The American was supreme in 2016, winning his first major at the US Open. Since then, he has relaxed and he is playing the best golf of his career; watch this space...
Johnson will head into this as favourite and rightly so. The 2016 Masters was unforgettable but the world number one will try to eclipse Danny Willett’s triumph here. He will be full of confidence and two top six finishes at Augusta in recent years shows how good he is on these greens.
He has been simply sublime in recent years; Johnson is THE man to beat.