With the best will in the world, the golf season so far has all been building up to this moment. The Masters is the first major of the season and every player worth his salt has been planning his schedule to make sure to be in fighting fit shape for a visit down Magnolia Lane to take on the stunning Augusta National. The best players in the world are ready to do battle with one another and punters everywhere will be looking to do battle with the bookies.
This is the 80th hosting of the Masters and in that time Augusta National has changed remarkably. It remains one of the most revered golf courses in the world but the original course designers, Bobby Jones and Alastair MacKenzie would be shocked if they could see the layout now. Fairways have been altered and the odd bunker changed but the main difference between now and 1933 is the course’s distance. It stretches to 7,435 yards nowadays to try and keep up with the power of the modern golfer.
Much like last week’s warm up event, the Shell Houston Open, the Masters is an event which really favours the longest hitters. There are few real penalties for straying off line from the tee but it is also still important to hit greens in regulation. The other tricky aspect is Augusta’s famously quick greens which will take some mastering. In terms of scoring, going low on the four par fives has always been important but any player who has a good week on the par threes will pick up shots to the field.
The three young players at the top of the golf rankings are also the top three in the betting. Jason Day and Jordan Spieth are going to be major factors in this week’s action but the player to stop is Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman would surely have pushed Spieth much closer last year were it not for a sluggish start but he rallied well to finish fourth. That’s not the only time McIlroy has gone close here, he’ll never really be able to live down his implosion in the final round of the 2011 Masters. Still, he has taken his preparations incredibly seriously in the lead up and can justify his odds of 17/2 with BetVictor.
Another British player who did well last year and can improve further this time is Justin Rose. The Englishman ended up tied for second place with Phil Mickelson in the final reckoning in 2015 and despite not really catching fire yet this season he has displayed his well renowned ball striking often enough to think that a good week with the putter can see him over the line at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
Charl Schwartzel was the man to capitalise on Rory’s meltdown in 2011 and he will drive up Magnolia Lane confident that he is playing well enough to pick up his second green jacket. The South African has won on both the PGA and European Tours this season and has all the course knowledge to come in at odds of 40/1 with Coral – well worth an each way punt.