*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change.
All of the market principals are respected but I’m not sure any of them is as well set for Augusta glory as Justin Thomas. That might seem odd given that he’s the only one of them without an Augusta top 10, but it’s coming after improved finishes throughout his four years playing in the Masters. Thomas is the best iron player in the sport and that attribute – the one that has been key to Tiger’s success here – is likely to prove pivotal again. Second last time, he arrives ready to earn a Green Jacket.
There’s no doubt Rory McIlroy has more to prove than the rest of the favourites, but that may work in his favour with expectations perhaps lower than they have been. Not that his five attempts to complete the career slam have been poor – four top-10 finishes and a decent effort last year – but I certainly feel he’ll benefit from the focus being elsewhere. He’s driving the ball brilliantly again, the putter is warming up, and a soft Augusta National is exactly what he needs to be at his most dangerous. This is a huge opportunity.
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There’s a risk of reading too much into last week’s Houston Open, where Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama all contended in a weak field. Still, of all the top 30 players in the world it’s possibly Matsuyama who will benefit most from an injection of confidence and he was superb throughout the weekend. A consistent factor here, he’s another whose approach play can help pick apart Augusta and the absence of crowds, and the Japanese media who follow his every move being reduced in size, is a positive.
Debutants don’t win the Masters. Just one has done it, back in 1979, and Fuzzy Zoeller was probably a little fortunate to do so. That will put plenty off those without course experience, but the switch to November means conditions are new to everyone and those huge Augusta crowds – patrons, as they like to call them – will be absent. That could make life easier for the first-timers and Cameron Champ, who was 10th at the US PGA, has a decent chance here. He was eighth in elite company last time and his long driving can carry him far.
Read Ben Coley’s full preview at SportingLife.com
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change