There has not been as much excitement for The Masters for years, the buzz is electric. Players are supporters are licking their lips in anticipation. There’s not long to go now before it all begins. This really could be quite something.
Why this year ? Well, for a start, Tiger Woods is back. Not only back but playing some very decent golf too, the best he has played for years. Whatever anyone might say or think, there is still such an aura about him and he remains hugely popular, a box office star like no other. Everyone else is being carried along on the Tiger ‘wave’ and it feels a little like the old days when he was in his pomp.
But its not just about Tiger, oh no. Rory Mcllroy is still seeking that elusive grand slam of majors and he’s showing signs of a return to form. But its not just about Tiger and Rory, oh no. So many other of the world’s top players, those that have won majors before, such as Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Jason Day have already won US PGA events this year, so all will feel in the winning groove.
Then there are those major winners who have yet to win yet this year but are always there or thereabouts, such as Jordan Speith, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson; there are others who have won this year but have still yet to win a major such as Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, but the list of contenders does not end there, oh no.
There is another group of highly talented players who will fancy their chances of winning their first major and are invariably ‘in with a shout’, the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Yet there are more, the group of younger and emerging talented golfers. Write off the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger, Thomas Pieters and Bryson DeChambeau at your peril, for they have all been in contention to win tournaments this year and are hungry for success, the ‘young bucks’ of the golfing world.
Is that it ? Oh no. There is the slightly more experienced guard, those that have won majors previously, who will always fancy their chances even if their best days might possibly be behind them. Into this category fall the likes of Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen.
That must be it, surely? Oh no. Who might spring a surprise ? There are a few players who are quietly going about their business, slightly under the radar, but have been recording some very decent finishes this year. These what might be termed ‘dark horses’ must include the likes of Alex Noren, with three top 3 finishes; Brian Harman with four top 10 finishes; Marc Leishman with three top 10 finishes and Ryan Moore with three top 10 finishes.
The prospect is simply mouthwatering. So many good players on such good form, it really could not be much better.
Yet who will be donning the green jacket on Sunday night ?
It is hard to look further than an existing major winner despite the claims of Rahm, Matsuyama, Fowler, Fleetwood, Casey, Noren, Hatton and Poulter.
Of the former major winners possibly in contention, doubts surface regarding Dustin Johnson’s mental fortitude; it is extremely unlikely that Garcia will win it two years on the trot despite his good form this year; for all the excitement triggered by Tiger’s re-emergence, it has to be unlikely that he will really be able to pull it off and, whilst Jason Day’s game has picked up, he is not the player that he was when he reached the world number one spot.
Both Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson fall into the similar category of being multiple major winners and have both been on exceptional form this year, Bubba having won two of his past four events and Mickelson having four top 6 finishes. Both must be very serious contenders but they can both be a little up and down and blow hot and cold.
So, it is this writer’s contention that the winner of this year’s Masters is likely to come from that small group of dedicated major winners, those with hunger, desire and a real drive to add another major title to their list. It has to be one of Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Rory Mcllroy or Justin Rose.
Or does it ? It is going to be some four days and fascinating finding out. On the tee…….