It’s finally here, months of waiting are finally over. It’s Masters week.
Players are prepped and ready to go, Azaleas are in full bloom, fairways are cut and manicured to perfection and weekends are booked out to ensure maximum viewing time.
Augusta National and The Masters is so special, the only major to be played at the same course year in year out. Players are able to prepare for this tournament weeks and months in advance. Although the course has changed slightly from last year, a new tee has been added to the fifth hole being lengthened by some 50 yards. A few of the greens have also had some marginal changes to them, with some of the drop offs softened. One thing is for sure we are about to witness one of the greatest courses presented in such beautiful condition with the world’s best players vying for one of the most coveted prizes in sport.
It is so hard to pick a winner from the field, with as many as 30 players in great position to claim the famed Green Jacket and win the season’s first Major. Amongst the favourites are Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson.
Rory McIlroy has had a fairly successful season so far, the world number three already has one win and seven top ten finishes on the PGA Tour. This has all been achieved with one eye on his ultimate prize, a win at ANCC. This has haunted Rory since he won his last Major in 2014, having won the US PGA Championship in 2014 he has been a Masters win away from completing the career Grand Slam. Every press conference since then has been an Elephant in the room. This year is different though, Rory has addressed the Elephant and completely overhauled his playing schedule with one goal in his sights, slipping on the Green Jacket in The Butler Cabin. As one of the pre-tournament favourites, the pressure is on, but with his recent victory at The Players in the back of his mind, we see no reason why he can’t become only the sixth player in history to complete the career Grand Slam.
Another pre-tournament favourite is none other than Tiger Woods. He has risen from the ashes since his return in 2017 when he ranked 668th in the world, all the way to 12th this week. He has won already, last year’s Tour Championship was one of the highlights of the golfing year, with scenes that many would never have seen. The aura that had long been associated with Tiger had returned and surely strikes fear into players. With his return to Augusta as a real contender, the romantic in every golf fan cannot help but will Tiger to have a good week and take one step closer to Jack’s tally on 18 Major wins.
Last year Dustin Johnson headed into the season first major as the undisputed favourite, he was in the form of his life. Then on the Wednesday before he fell down some stairs at his rental home. He faced a race against time to make a miraculous recovery, ultimately, he didn’t manage to play in the tournament and potentially missed his best chance at winning The Masters. This year he isn’t in the same vein of rich form, but he has already tucked away a win at the WGC - Mexico Championship. Although around Augusta National it is deemed favourable to draw the golf ball to access the best positions on the course, with DJ’s length off the tee his patented fade won’t harm him as much as others.
TIPS FOR THE WEEK
(Excluding players previously mentioned)
Justin Rose: World number one, has the second lowest score to par at Augusta for the last five years. Has hit more greens at this course than any other player in the last five years and is sure to add to his Major tally.
Brooks Koepka: In the last 6 majors that he has played, he has won three of them. Has power, precision and patience to add another major to his CV. He has a big game mentality and year on year at this tournament he has bettered his previous finishing position.
Paul Casey: In supreme form this year, with one win already secured. When Casey has some confidence, he is a difficult player to contain. Casey has many top finishes at The Masters, keep an eye on Paul this week at the top of the leader board.
Francesco Molinari: Another of the very best of the form players in the world, has added some length to his tee shots, so should be able to attack a few more of the holes than he previously has been able to. Will he become the first Italian to win a Masters.