The Masters 2018: Old Guard Hitting Form before Hotly-Anticipated Edition6 min read
This year’s renewal of The Masters is arguably the most anticipated in decades with the old guard springing into life before a mouth-watering summer of golf. All eyes are going to be on Tiger Woods bidding to win a 5th green jacket, and a first major in over a decade.
Tiger, now 42 years old, is playing in just his 2nd Masters tournament in 5 years, and has an incredible record at Augusta with 12 Top-10 finishes in his last 18 tournaments at the first major of the golfing calendar. Woods’ odds have tumbled in price ( he’s now just ) since making a sparkling return last month at the Valspar Championship finishing second behind Englishman Paul Casey, before following up with a T5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
That tournament was won by Rory McIlroy, who is one green jacket away from the ‘Grand Slam’ and heads the market as the 10/1 joint-favourite for the first major of the season. He heads the market alongside World Number One in waiting Justin Thomas, with the Kentucky-native aiming to win back-to-back majors after last season’s breakthrough success in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.
Could this be Spieth’s year?
‘JT’ has won 4 of his last 14 tournaments worldwide but looked jaded when beaten 3&2 in the semi-finals of the WGC Dell Matchplay and has a poor record in the tournament. The same can’t be said about BFF Jordan Spieth, who has already won once at Augusta and arguably should have had two more; leading entering the final round in 2014, before throwing away a five-shot lead to Danny Willett in 2016.
He should be the correct favourite and should be there or thereabouts come Sunday evening. Spieth was ranked 1st for GIR last week at the Houston Open and, providing his putter gets hot this week, I can’t see him out of the frame.
Sergio Garcia beat Justin Rose in a play-off to continue the excellent recent record of Europeans in the tournament, and I expect both to be in the mix once again. Rose has been the model of consistency this decade and nobody has a better score at the course over the last five years.
Value in big-priced Europeans
He is perhaps skinny enough at and I’m willing to chance a couple at bigger prices including Swede Alex Noren at . Noren was flawless in the Matchplay and was bitterly unlucky to lose to Kevin Kisner in sudden death the week before last. His short game should stand him in good stead and he looks another on a list of ‘major winners in waiting’ for the strong European contingent.
He will be part of the Ryder Cup team this September in France and so will Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The big-hitting Spaniard looks over-priced at , and will no doubt be buoyed by close friend Sergio Garcia’s win 12 months ago, and the previous successes of compatriots Jose Maria Olazabal and the legendary Seve Ballesteros.
He missed the cut 12 months ago but is a much-improved player in the interim, winning the Scottish Open last summer and finishing T4 in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He ranks 9th in GIR, whilst Brian Harman ranks second on tour and looks set to go close after a string of impressive performances last year.
The left-hander finished second to Brooks Koepka in the US Open at Erin Hills and has been the model of consistency thereafter, with 7 Top Ten finishes on tour already this season. He disappointed on his previous trip to Augusta but is a transformed player since 2015’s blip and looks over-priced at the current price of .