Golf Today - Over 80000 pages of golf information
Golf News
 

Wide open Masters this year

With just a few hours to go before the Masters gets under way at Augusta National, the growing sense of anticipation for the season’s first major has reached fever pitch because of its rich promise.

While Phil Mickelson’s victory at the Houston Open on Sunday marked him out as a slight favourite for his title defence this week, the tournament’s 75th edition is one of the most wide open in recent memory.

The general feeling among the players is that there are at least 20 likely winners in the field of 99 with a further 20 who are capable of donning the cherished green jacket on Sunday.

“It’s pretty open,” Australian Stuart Appleby told Reuters on a glorious day of spring sunshine at Augusta National on Wednesday.

“Certainly you have had your traditional winners here and the odd dark horse. You’re not likely to get an out-of-nowhere winner here.

“I think a call for 20 likely winners and 20 capable of winning is very fair. That’s nearly half the field.”

Triple major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland agreed.

“It’s an open Masters,” the 39-year-old Dubliner said. “I’m not sure if the new guard is coming through or the old guard is taking control again. It’s a great Masters for the public to watch.”

With four-times Masters champion Tiger Woods having not won a tournament in almost 17 months, the list of potential winners at Augusta National is as long as anyone can recall.

World number two Lee Westwood, fourth-ranked Luke Donald and big-hitting Dustin Johnson (11th) can all lay claim to being due a maiden major victory and that trio will hold high hopes when they tee off in Thursday’s opening round.

So too will the other reigning major champions—Britain’s Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open), South African Louis Oosthuizen (British Open) and German world number one Martin Kaymer (PGA Championship).

The list does not stop there.

Veterans such as Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen and 2000 champion Vijay Singh, PGA Tour winners like Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, plus a host of younger guns led by Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Ryo Ishikawa, are all capable of flourishing this week.

“There’s a lot of young guys playing well right now and they are not afraid to go out and contend in a major,” said the 22-year-old Fowler, a Masters debutant this week.

“It’s going to be pretty wide open. The seasoned veterans usually do well here. Hopefully we can get a couple of young guys on top this year.”

Mickelson signalled he was ready to claim a fifth major crown by winning in Houston, his first success on the PGA Tour since he landed his third green jacket here 12 months ago.

“I played very well and it was a big confidence booster because I felt that golf was in me this year but I haven’t been getting it out,” the American world number three said.

“To have that type of performance heading into here feels very good. It reminds me a lot of 2006 when I was able to put it together the week before and carry the momentum through.”

Five years ago, Mickelson won the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta before clinching the second of his three Masters crowns the following week.

Woods, a 14-times major champion, has not triumphed anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters and his customary status as a pre-tournament favourite has been taken by Mickelson.

“Doesn’t matter,” Woods said while preparing for the first round. “Favourites don’t win golf tournaments. You still have to play the golf tournament. We all have an opportunity.”

Asked if he felt ready to win this week despite his lengthy barren run, the 35-year-old replied with a nod: “Mm-hmm.”

When questioned why, Woods again responded: “Mm-hmm.”

It will be his first major since joining forces with Canadian coach Sean Foley after the PGA Championship in August, the same month that Woods’s divorce from his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, was finalised.

Experience is always a prized commodity at the Masters and Ireland’s McIlroy expects the “usual suspects” to be lurking in the upper reaches of the leaderboard in the final round.

“It takes a while to learn the golf course and it takes a while to feel 100 percent comfortable on it,” he said. “The Masters is always going to be a tournament that everyone in the field feels that they can win, but I think you’ll still see the usual suspects up there on Sunday.”

An overnight storm with high winds knocked down several trees on the perimeter of Augusta National in the early hours of Tuesday but conditions are expected to be mostly warm and sunny for Thursday’s opening round.

The Masters RELATED STORIES









© Golftoday.co.uk 1996-2018 - Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy - About Us - Advertise - Classifieds - Newsletter - Contact Us