The Masters is the most iconic of all of golf’s majors despite it being the youngest of the four. Much of this is due to the course on which it is played, Augusta National is a perfect canvas for golfers to become artists of their trade. This year looks set to be a vintage tournament, the potential of completion of career slam by Rory McIlroy is the standout storyline and that is accompanied by many others. Tiger’s return, Bubba’s quest for back to back Masters, the rise of Jordan Spieth and the potential for a new major winner are just some of the storylines which will play out over the four days. Rory’s career slam has dominated much of the build up and will continue to do so which will hopefully not be a distraction for him. All of his pre-tournament comments have been framed in terms of having a lot of attempts at mastering Augusta rather than focusing on this year, which is a big positive in my opinion.
McIlroy enters the event as clear favourite, which belies the fact that he has struggled to put four rounds together at Augusta. In each of his appearances in The Masters except his encouraging debut, Rory has had a round of 77 or more. I wouldn’t be so bold as to Rory won’t win this week but I do feel the gap in odds between himself and the field should be shorter. This gap has shortened in recent weeks due to the sustained form of Jordan Spieth, two runner up finishes have followed his Valspar win in early March. Last year’s runner up looks to have a genuine chance this week but so too does the man who vanquished the young Texan, Bubba Watson as well as fellow big hitter, Dustin Johnson. In truth you can put an argument forward for at least 20 players this week, here are my four players for this week:
Adam Scott – In World Ranking points terms, this is Scott’s title defense so the importance of this week is increased for him. His decision to use to the long putter this week shows that he is putting enormous focus on this week, it’s a decision for the short-term not the long-term. By his high standards, 2014 was a low key year highlighted by his brief stint as the top ranked player and victory at Colonial. However, I have been encouraged by his ball striking so far in 2015 and the switch back to the long putter will help him navigate the slick greens this week.
Jimmy Walker – A player who has bloomed since taking 187 attempts at his first PGA Tour win before his maiden win in October 2013. Four subsequent wins have followed as well as top ten finishes in three of 2014’s majors and a Ryder Cup debut where he impressed. The plaudits that he has earned in the last eighteen months are fully merited and he looks set to further his position in the game in the coming months. Augusta is a course where knowledge and experience are paramount so there is every reason to build on his debut eight place finish last year.
Matt Kuchar – Aside from recent winners, Watson & Scott, no-one has a more impressive record at Augusta in the last three years than Kuchar. Inside the top ten in all three years and two of those inside the top five, this will be his seventh visit to Augusta so he fits the profile of experienced winners. Having studied at Georgia Tech, this is an event that is close to his heart and he comes in very much under the radar but in good form. He has two runner up finishes so far in 2015 and has shown good signs in recent tournaments so he comes here with a live chance.
Lee Westwood – Much has been written about Westwood and his eight top three finishes at majors without converting one to a win. He is now 41 but he is still winning golf tournaments around the world, twice a winner in 2014. He is also riding a streak of finishing no worse than eleventh at Augusta in his last five appearances. He has also shown improvements with his putter this year which has been a hindrance to him previously, he sits in the top 30 for stokes gained putting in the PGA Tour this season. This putting improvements can be put to good use this week.