Tomorrow marks the start of the new golfing season: the opening of the Masters. For golf fans like me it doesn’t get much better than this: four days of top class golf in stunning surroundings, culminating in a final nine holes of nail biting tension this Sunday night.
The Masters has produced its fair share of legendary moments but who could forget 2005? Tiger Woods stands on the fringe of the 16th, watching his ball roll across the undulating green, pausing on the edge of the cup – just long enough for the sponsor’s logo to feature in full focus – before dropping in. The resulting celebration on TV by player and caddie served both Nike and Sky well for years.
If Tiger wins this time – in what would be his first major since 2008 – it would be the greatest sporting story of our era. He may well succeed Jack Nicklaus as the greatest of all time. But while Tiger continues to draw adulation and animosity in equal measure, he’s not the only golfer to watch. Here are our picks:
The title “The best golfer in the world never to have won a major” has safely been passed from Sergio Garcia to Rickie. As comfortable in the wind and rain of a British links course as he is on the manicured lawns of Augusta, for Rickie it’s a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ before he makes the big breakthrough and wins his first major. If he can just rule out his tendency for a double or triple bogey.
After a meteoric arrival on the golfing scene winning major after major, Spieth had threatened to be the dominant force for the current generation. His success has been characterised by brilliance on the greens with an unerring ability to sink putts from almost any distance. However, this year the wheels have come off. Even his trademark putting stroke hasn’t been up to scratch. Can he finally cast off the shadows of 2016, where a series of failed attempts to clear the water at the 12th saw him throw away a clear lead to finish second to Danny Willet? Perhaps a return to the Masters will see him return to form and surprise us all.
This 60 year old is the pick for anyone waking up this morning with the aches and pains of ageing. He may need a team of physios and chiropractors but no one strolls the fairways of Augusta like Fred. Looking to the outsider like he’s on a visit to his local garden centre, the silky swing and laid back manner that has endeared him to Augusta crowds since 1983 mean many will cheer him on to make the cut. I wouldn’t bet against it. You could blindfold Fred and he could still find his way round Augusta in under 80.
Brits have a pretty good record in the Masters, and there’s a promising band of young British talent coming through this year including the likes of Hatton and Fleetwood. For me Rose still looks to be our best hope. If he can get off to a good first round, then expect him to do us proud.