Golf: The Masters preview

By Jason Fernandes

  • Rory McIlroy will look to complete the Career Grand Slam in Augusta
  • Jason Day is the favourite to take home his second major
  • Defending Champion is Jordan Spieth

AUGUSTA, USA- Rory McIlory is among the favourites to take home The Masters title as Golf welcomes its first major of the year in Augusta.

For the second year running McIlroy comes into Augusta with the chance to complete the elusive Career Grand Slam many can only dream of. The former world number one said a couple of days ago that “This is one I wish I caught earlier” and “I had a chance”, referring to back in 2011 where he led the first 3 rounds only to put in a horrendous round of 80 on the Sunday and fall 10 shots behind eventual champion Charl Schwartzel.

Since then it has been a mixed bag from the Irishman at Augusta. In 2012 and 2013 he finished T40 and T25, both far below his usual high standards.  However the last two years has been better. 2014 was his first top 10 finish at The Masters in eighth place, followed by his best ever finish last year with a solo fourth, shooting a 10 under par weekend.

Despite not having won a title thus far this year, the Northern Irishman prepares to bring his best to the majorsand that’s exactly one of the main reasons why he’s the bookies’ second favourite. Even putting that aside the fact he has not won this year is perhaps a bit misleading. At the WGC Cadillac Championship and WGC Dell Match Play events, the golf required to win has been there for the 26 year old but it’s just been lacking near the end of tournaments to close them out.

If the four time major champion is going to join the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Gary Player with a Career Grand Slam, he is going to have to find his A game and perform in what defending champion Jordan Spieth defined as “the hardest one (Masters) to win in quite a while as far as the depth of the field and quality of golf being played by people who play Augusta National very well”.

So who is Spieth mainly talking about, and who can stop McIlroy from a place in history?

Jordan Spieth

Well obviously one is himself. The 22 year old stunned everyone last year by winning not only the Masters but also the next major in the US Open as well as coming so close at The Open and PGA Championship with top four finishes in both. While his recent form has been wavy what the defending champion has on his side is results. In his only two Masters appearances, the American has finished T2 and the winner, so clearly he has a game that suits Augusta

Bubba Watson

Whenever you think of a golfer who’s unpredictable, you think of Watson, and that word perhaps sums up his results here over the last few years. Since winning here in 2012 in a playoff, the two time champion has followed that up with a T50 finish in 2013, another win in 2014 and a T38 finish last year. This season the tall American has been in form, winning both the Hero World Challenge hosted by Woods and the Northern Trust Open.  Add that to the fact he has already won here twice and the course suits his left-to-right game, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Watson pick up his third green jacket on Sunday.

Jason Day

It is crazy the difference a month can make. For much of 2016 thus far, it looked like a Day imposter was on course. His game was not where we all expected it to be given just how strongly he finished last season which included his first major at the PGA Championship. The Aussie’s poor form was perhaps to do with the birth of his second child, but either way Dayhas picked things up once again winning in both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC Dell Match Play events in the last few weeks. The 28 year old comes into Augusta with two previous top three finishes and is looking for his second major in a row. Add that to being the world number one, and Day is the bookies favourite to win in Augusta

Adam Scott

A lot of people may not have expected Scott to be contending for majors so quickly after the long-putter ban, but here he is as one of the favourites for the Masters. Having been arguably the best player so far this season with a second place finish at the Northern Trust Open and back to back wins at The Honda Classic and WGC Cadillac Championship, it is clear the change to the short-putter has not hampered the talented Australian’s game at all. The 35 year old clearly knows what needs to be done at Augusta having taken the green jacket home in 2013 and one wonders if he can double his major count this week with another win here.

If McIlroy is to join a select few individuals who have won all four majors, he clearly has a gigantic task on his hands given the expectedly quality field on offer at Augusta. Such a field includes those mentioned as well as former 3 time champion Phil Mickelson, 2007 and 2011 champions Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. There’s also others looking for their major maidens such as Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. The only big names missing are Jim Furyk and 14 time major champion Woods, both who are still recovering from wrist and back surgeries respectively.

Other Brits in the field include Justin Rose, last year’s runner up and 2013 US Open champion, the loveable Andy Sullivan making his Masters debut and newly father Danny Willett playing his second Masters.

The Masters starts Thursday 7th April with live coverage on several platforms such as the official Masters website, Sky Sports and BBC.

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