The first of golf’s four major tournaments is just around the corner and it will be as hotly contested as ever this year.
Played at Augusta in Georgia, USA, the tournament has been running since 1934 and has been held every year since its inception, with the exception of the years 1943-45 due to the Second World War.
The tournament is loved by golf fans across the world and for many players has a magic that no other tournament can replicate.
A large part of that magic is down to the beauty and difficulty of the Augusta National course, which is renowned for its ability to trip up the best of players.
Legendary golfer and three-time winner of The Masters, Gary Player, has said of playing the course that “Every shot is within a fraction of disaster. That’s what makes it so great.”
It is the only major tournament to be held at the same course each year, with the other three golfing majors, The Open, The US Open and the PGA championship, being held at various venues.
Whilst it is difficult to say definitively which is objectively the best major golfing tournament, with many believing The Open holds a claim as the oldest, The Masters always has a unique buzz that sets it apart as being a truly special event.
Golf’s greatest players, such as Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Tiger Woods, have all won The Masters and the green jacket that the winner receives has been notoriously elusive for many other greats, such as Greg Norman, proving just how competitive the tournament is.
It has been traditionally difficult to predict the winner of the green jacket before the tournament begins, as the Augusta course is famous for ruining players’ hopes in a single round and allowing others to make meteoric rises to the top.
Dustin Johnson, the current world number one, goes into the tournament in a strong position with the bookmakers. However, no world number one has won the tournament since Tiger Woods did so in 2002.
Woods himself has finally found a return to form after long periods out through injury. After strong performances at the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational recently, bookmakers have tipped him for a fifth green jacket. Woods, however, last won The Masters 13 years ago and has not had a tour win of any kind since 2013.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy will also be hungry for the green jacket, as it is the only major tournament that has eluded him thus far, with infamous crumbles at Augusta in years gone by. He will be a serious contender as he looks for what he describes as “the last piece of the puzzle”.
Reigning champion Sergio Garcia is also likely to put in a strong performance after he finally claimed his first major win in Georgia last year. However, reigning champions have a poor history of retaining their title. Tiger Woods was the last person to do it in 2002, with previous winners such as Danny Willett even missing the cut in the year after their win.
Other notable favourites include Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose, all of whom could very feasibly claim the title this year.
Whilst we can speculate on who might perform well at Augusta this year, it is exceptionally difficult to pick out the winner, as The Masters is predictably unpredictable. Recent winners such as Garcia (2017), Willett (2016) and Bubba Watson (2012, 2014) all began the tournament as outsiders.
What we can be certain of, however, is that there will be plenty of excitement and exceptional golf. This major never fails to entertain, and the magic of The Masters will be in Georgia again this year.
Image courtesy of Dan Perry