All eyes will be on Augusta this Thursday when the greatest golfers in the land swing it out for the chance to sport the famous Green Jacket. The 83rd edition of the Masters promises to be an absolute belter, jam-packed with sizzling sub-plots and numerous narratives, five of which we delve into below...
Tiger Woods: Can he win a fifth Green Jacket?
Only one golfer has more Green Jackets hanging proudly in his wardrobe than Tiger Woods: Jack Nicklaus (six). Woods has been rooted on four triumphs since 2005, while his last major success stretches back to 2008. The American, 43, will be well aware that not a single player in his 40s has won at Augusta this century - Mark O'Meara was the last player to do so in 1998. However, Tiger Woods is, of course, no ordinary golfer.
“I feel like I can win,” said the man himself this week, radiating confidence. The scenes when he won the Tour Championship in September were simply incredible as he secured his 80th PGA Tour title in front of waves of frenzied fans. The Masters is a different kettle of fish but what a sensational story it would be if he was to stand alone at the summit come Sunday…
Rory McIlroy: Can he complete the Career Grand Slam?
Speaking of stunning stories, Rory McIlroy is still searching for the final piece in his personal Career Grand Slam puzzle, something the Northern Irish golfer has been attempting to unearth since 2014.
We all know what happened to McIlroy in that Masters appearance in 2011, but in his last five displays he has recorded top-10 finishes; T8, 4, T10, T7, and then T5 last time out. Talk about consistency.
Four years have whizzed by without McIlroy winning a major, but his form is on point, having secured top-10 finishes in every stroke event this year, and he won THE PLAYERS Championship in March. Obviously, time is on his side, he’s still only 29, and what an achievement it would be if he became the sixth player in the Masters era to complete the Career Grand Slam.
Justin Rose Leads a Strong English Charge
Over on these shores the media gaze will be pinpointed on our own contenders for glory. Nine to be precise.
Justin Rose, the runner-up in two of the last four years, leads the English charge ahead of Tommy Fleetwood, and Paul Casey. Fleetwood will be making his third appearance, while Casey has three top-6 showings since 2015, and won the Valspar Championship a few weeks ago.
Ian Poulter also has three top-6 finishes, albeit in 13 appearances at Augusta, but missed the event in 2017, and had 40+ finishes either side.
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton also feature, as do debutants Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell, and let’s not forget the 2016 champ Danny Willett, who remains the only one of his countrymen to don the Green Jacket since Nick Faldo’s third triumph in 1996.
Of all the above contenders it’s Rose who is the 7/4 favourite to finish as the Top Englishman, while Willett is the 22/1 outsider.
Rickie Fowler: Can he join the Major club at the 37th attempt?
Tiger Woods aside, there’s unlikely to be a more popular winner this weekend than Rickie Fowler. He’s been forced to watch on as a host of players from his era have been showered in major success, instead settling for eight top-5 finishes, four of which were accumulated consecutively in 2014, while at last year’s Masters he finished one shot behind winner Patrick Reed.
Fowler came out on top in the Waste Management Phoenix Open a couple of months ago, his fifth PGA Tour success, then came 2nd at the Honda Classic a month later. “Compared to four, five, whatever years ago, yeah, I’m more ready than I’ve ever been,” Fowler told reporters in the build-up to this year’s Masters.
First Time Winners: Can the trend continue at Augusta?
Speaking of hopeful first time major winners. Players in this particular category will no doubt be pleased to hear that the last four men to triumph at Augusta had all previously failed to win one of golf’s top gongs. In fact, the same has been the case in 10 of the previous 13 major tournaments.
We’ve already mentioned Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, and some English hopefuls, but other players who hold aspirations of joining the major party include the fiery Spaniard Jon Rahm, Japanese superstar Hideki Matsuyama, and Bryson DeChambeau.