Many would warn of the dangers of providing predictions on golf tournaments. One only has to look to last year, when Danny Willett unexpectedly took home the Green Jacket.
It is with great embarrassment that I have to admit I turned the TV off last year with four holes to play, conceding that Jordan Spieth had run away with the race for the second year running. It was only after numerous texts and phone calls from friends and family that I tuned back into one of the most exciting finishes Augusta has seen in recent years. The nature of the collapse from a player with calmness and composure far beyond his age highlighted that anything can happen in a golf tournament.
Warnings about predictions are no more accurate than at Augusta, where history has proven anything that can happen probably will. However, my history of successful predictions for The Saint has given me confidence in my assertions for potential winners of the first major of the year.
WHO TO SUPPORT
Sergio Garcia: 40/1
Sergio Garcia has never looked happier and more relaxed on the golf course than he has in the last few months. Garcia is one of the greatest players in the modern day era not to have won a major. His ball-striking capabilities are the envy of all professionals on tour, yet his putting and mental fragility have resulted in him not fulfilling his potential on the biggest stages. Fate, however, has intervened. This year marked Garcia’s 37th birthday as well as the 37th anniversary of the first time his idol, Seve Ballesteros, won the Masters title. Some might dismiss this as barring no significance to the outcome of the Masters, but it would be a fitting year for Garcia to end his search for a major title.
Hideki Matsuyama: 16/1
Matsuyama’s 2017 has started remarkably, finishing either first or second in his first six starts. These successes have also been at tournaments of significance: Matsuyama has triumphed in world class fields at the Hero World Challenge, as well as the WGC HSPC Champions. He also has a brilliant record at Augusta, with top ten finishes in 2015 and 2016, and was the leading amateur in his first appearance at the Masters in 2011. In his current form, Matsuyama is a serious contender for the Green Jacket.
WHO TO AVOID
Dustin Johnson: 6/1
It is perhaps controversial to instruct punters to avoid the in-form player in world golf and current world number one. On paper, it is impossible to look past Dustin Johnson as the favourite for the Green Jacket.
His victory at the WGC Match Play tournament last year was his third title in three starts, continuing a dominating 12-month streak for the American. His length off the tee provides him with the ability to tear up course, and he should be confident with the greens at Augusta after leading the putting stats at last year’s tournament.
However, I feel strongly that it would be foolish to back Johnson to win this year’s Masters. It is extremely rare that the favourite and in-form player has success at Augusta. Jason Day was in a similar unstoppable run of form last year yet struggled to replicate it on the biggest stage. In fact, the pre-tournament favourite hasn’t won since Tiger Wood’s triumph in 2005. Instead, the Green Jacket has found itself around the shoulders of some unlikely heroes: Charles Schwartzel, Trevor Immelmann, and Angel Cabrera, to name a few. Thus, place your money elsewhere and avoid being lulled into the trap of backing the hot favourite.
Jason Day: 16/1
The Australian has been amongst the world’s elite for several years and has consistently done well at the Masters, finishing tied second in his first appearance back in 2011, third in 2013, and joint tenth last year. Add in an incredibly successful 2016 that saw Day finish as the second-highest earner on the PGA Tour, and you have a man favoured by many to win the entire compeition.
However, I think that backing him would be a reckless decision. His form has dropped off in the last six months, and he has been forced to miss several recent matches: a double ear infection prevented him from attending the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he skipped the Match Play to spend time with his mother, who is suffering from severe lung cancer. Day is more than capable of winning the big one, but circumstances are conspiring against him.
A FLUTTER EACH WAY
Lee Westwood: 100/1
Westwood’s form has improved after a difficult twelve months. The Englishman loves the Masters and has a terrific record at Augusta. If he knew how to hole putts from 10 feet, he could already be a threetime Masters champion. However, year after year we see Westwood make tap in pars on Sunday evening when the rest of the field is making progress around him. That said, on his day, not many people play better golf tee to green around Augusta. At that price, I would strongly recommend a flutter.