Looking out of the window it may not feel like it, but it is just a few short weeks before many golf fans’ indicator that winter will soon be over – the Masters, takes place. Here we take a look at some of the runners and riders for the first major of 2017, looking at those who will be expected to make an impact, but also some from out of left field who may just surprise a few people come April 10th.
The Usual Suspects
Barring injuries and accidents, when the players head to the first tee in Georgia, the favourite at BritishBookmakers.co.uk will almost definitely be drawn from one of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, and you can see why.
Day has a good track record at Augusta, and the world number 1 will be desperate not to repeat his major-less 2016. Spieth’s record in the tournament is phenomenal, never finishing out of the top two (admittedly the 23 year old has only competed in 3), and he will be desperate to lay last year’s capitulation to rest.
If Rory can find his best game, it would be hard to bet against the Ulsterman. His 80 on day 4 in 2011 is the lowest point of his professional career, and he will be confident that if he wakes up on the Sunday in the lead this time, he will be able to finish the job, and complete his collection of major victories.
Last year’s US Open success should see Johnson go on to claim more majors in years to come. The big hitting world number 3 is firm favourite in many people’s eyes, and it is hard to see him not being there or thereabouts when the fat lady is preparing to sing this time around.
Far more interesting when it comes to picking a winner, is to look away from the obvious contenders, out to left field where there is some real value to be had. Hideki Matsuyama is on a hot streak that he will be hoping will last until early April. His back to back victories at the WM Phoenix Open put him in with a definite shot of becoming the first Japanese player to don the green jacket. Another player who impressed in that tournament was JJ Spaun, though it may be asking too much for the Californian to pick up his first PGA title at the Masters.
Jon Rahm, the former world number 1 amateur only turned pro last year but is already making a name for himself, winning the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January. Another golfer who is hitting form at the right time is William McGirt. Steady if unspectacular results will ensure he will start with tempting odds, but he is playing the best golf of his career, and stranger things have certainly happened before.
For the Romantics
It is far too easy to get nostalgic and misty eyed when it comes to the majors. After Tom Watson’s heroics at Turnberry who wouldn’t be tempted to put some money on the likes of Sandy Lyle or Bernhard Langer? Finally, talking of romance, recently married Sergio Garcia will be looking to finally get his hands on a major in 2017. After winning in Dubai last month, he will be feeling good about his game as well as his life, so if he can take that positive attitude into Georgia, he may well end up emulating his countryman Seve.