A Masters Preview: Who Will Prevail?

April 06, 2017

- Grant Whittington

While the U.S. Masters at Augusta is always a much-watched sporting event (and arguably the single most intriguing golfing major), this years’ iteration promises to be more thrilling than ever.

Even before the first tee-off, we are reminded that is has been exactly 20 years since Tiger Woods dominated the Masters’ field to achieve the first of 14 major titles. The powerful and relentless nature of his performance set a new benchmark in excellence, while also ushering in a new generation of fit, focused and immensely talented professionals.

While Woods will be absent from this years’ Masters as he continues to recover from injury, his shadow will loom large over the proceedings and surely inspire those participating to even greater heights. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key contenders and offer some golf betting tips on who’s likely to stake a claim for the coveted green jacket.

Will Johnson’s Injury Open Up the Field?

The Masters’ reputation as a dramatic and unpredictable event is well earned, as this years’ installation has already lived up to this lofty billing. On the eve of the first round, the world number one and favourite Dustin Johnson suffered a fall at his home and it remains unclear whether or not he will even participate.

While he is expected to declare himself fit in time for his scheduled 19.03 tee-off this evening, the injuries he sustained may hinder his performance and open up the field for his rivals. After all, last years’ US Open winner has enjoyed a rich vein of form since securing his maiden major title, emerging victorious in his last three tour events and showcasing incredible confidence in his own game.

If Johnson does withdraw or struggles to compete due to his injuries, his countryman Jordan Spieth may be the one who capitalises. After all, he has never finished lower than second at Augusta, and appears to be one of the select few players who are capable of thriving among the challenging greens and changeable weather conditions.

Spieth claimed the prestigious green jacket in 2015, of course, while he was the clear favourite to retain the title after leading by five strokes heading into the final round last year. A disastrous run saw the 23-year old drop a staggering six shots in three holes after approaching the 10th, however, allowing England’s Danny Willett to claim the title by a single stroke. He has since dropped to sixth in the world rankings as his form has suffered, but his affinity with the Augusta course and his recent triumph at the AT&T Pebble (his first PGA tour title since May 2016) have helped to cement his claims.

Next up is the Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, who enters yet another Masters tournament in consistent form and hopeful of competing the coveted career slam. In doing so, he would become only the sixth ever player to win all four majors, joining such inspired company as Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and the aforementioned Woods.

The problem is that McIlroy has been chasing this elusive goal since his victory at the US Open back in 2014, and in truth he has not come particularly close to winning a major since this triumph. However, he is a consistent performer at Augusta and has achieved three consecutive top-10 finishes, while he is also established as the world number two after a stellar recent run. In fact, this may be his best chance to complete the career slam for three years, so he is definitely one to watch this time around.

Are There Any Other Contenders?

Given the unpredictable nature of the Masters and the Augusta course, there are a handful of outsiders who may also be in with a chance of prevailing. Take two-time champion Bubba Watson, for example, as while he has been unable to replicate his 2016 form so far he certainly knows what is required to succeed at this major.

The world number three Jason Day is also set to compete, despite pulling out of recent events to spend time with his mother (who is sadly suffering with lung cancer). The 29-year old certainly has the game to place well at Augusta, so the question that remains is whether or not he can focus and achieve the psychological edge required to succeed.

Elsewhere, defending champion Danny Willett remains a rank outsider in the golf betting stakes to retain his title, after a torrid year in which he has claimed that the green jacket and the expectation that it brings has weighed heavy on his shoulders. Japan’s own  Hideki Matsuyama is seen as a viable outside bet, however, after enjoying a superb 2016 that has seen him rise to fourth in the world rankings.

While the 25-year old has yet to win a major and would become the first Asian player to win the Masters, his consistency makes him a genuine contender if he can rise to the occasion.

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