This is the one the players want to win more than any other. So much makes the Masters special; the coveted green jacket, the all-white caddies’ suits, the par 3 competition, the Champions Dinner. As the season’s first major there’s always a buzz about the Augusta National showpiece in Georgia.
Since its inception in 1934 the Masters has grown and grown into one of the most hotly anticipated tournaments in the game. And if you’re looking for a few tips to make your fortune on the fairways then consider this: Only four left-handed golfers have ever won a major.
They are Sir Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. Of course the latter two have triumphed more than once and most fans of Mickelson, aka Lefty, will know he only needs a US Open to complete a career grand slam. Unbelievably he has finished runner up in that tournament SIX times.
If we put aside Sir Bob Charles who captured the Open back in 1963, Canadian Mike Weir landed the Masters in 2003. Mickelson followed in 2004 and since then he has landed two more titles in 2006 and 2010. Big hitting Bubba followed the trend in 2012 and again in 2014.
So in the last 14 years at Augusta, the tournament has been won SIX times by a left-hander. That’s a stat that simply cannot be ignored and given Mickelson is playing some of the best golf of his career which landed him a WGC title in Mexico last month he has to be backed at 18-1.
Likewise Bubba Watson; Bubba is a charismatic player who can fashion some of the most amazing movement of a golf ball ever seen. His recovery shot in the 2012 Masters playoff has gone down in Augusta legend and he heads into the tournament playing at the top of his game. Seeking his third green jacket in six years back him here at 14-1
There’s a third left-handed contender in the field in the form of the diminutive Brian Harman. Hailing from Sea Island, Georgia, he is an outsider but his local knowledge and fantastic short game has me interested. He may not hit it as long as Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy but makes up for it with his deft touches round the green and solid putting stroke. He has all the attributes to win a major and as another lefty I fancy him each way at 66/1.
Other Americans of note are of course the world number one Dustin Johnson and making an emotional return Tiger Woods. If Woods wins his fifth Masters and his 15th major it’s likely the patrons will take the roof off Augusta National.
He may go close and is showing signs of a comeback but I can’t see it happening just yet. For me the standout is Justin Thomas who has gone from strength to strength and will be a strong contender. Thomas has been pretty much flawless this season and can mount a big challenge.
Leading the European charge will be Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. McIlroy showed good form winning the Arnold Palmer invitational recently.
Garcia may struggle to deal with the media hype surrounding him as defending champion and choosing his menu for the Masters dinner, a tradition which sees past winners invited to the pre-tournament dinner hosted and chosen by the reigning champ. A dinner invite any golfer would die for.
Garcia’s fellow Spaniard, the big-hitting Jon Rahm, has the ability to land a big one but doubts remain about his temperament and he has openly admitted to working on controlling his temper. If he can conquer that he has a real chance.
Noren has looked like a major champion in the making for some time and after a solid start to the season looks great value each way.
Englishman Casey was on the podium for the first time in a number of years at the Valspar a few weeks ago and with his experience on the US tour looks well placed for a strong challenge.
There’s a host of other contenders and although some may look out of form it could be they are trying tiny tweaks and adjustments to their game ready for a Masters push.
Whatever your choices, sit back, relax and watch the best in the world battle it out for the honour of pulling on that green jacket.
Course: Augusta National, length 7,435 yards, par 72
Date: April 5-8
Phil Mickelson 2pts ew
Bubba Watson 1pt ew
Brian Harman 0.5pt ew
Alex Noren 1pt ew
Paul Casey 1pt ew