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81st Masters Tournament


Davis Love III
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Who will win the 81st Masters Tournament?  

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Two decades ago, a lean and athletic 21-year-old from California ushered in a new era for golf with an extraordinary performance that blew away the cobwebs of a sport in dire need of rejuvenation. He had been on the public radar since childhood, rising through the amateur ranks, and the 1997 Masters was the completion of an almost pre-ordained destiny for Tiger Woods. 

His dominant 12-stroke victory – the biggest championship winning margin in over a century -  effectively ended the time of Faldo and Norman, recalibrating the game on the path of one mixed-race young man, who appeared to subvert the stereotypes that had long defined the game. Unprecedented levels of success and interest followed over the subsequent decade, as a generation of youngsters were inspired by the red-shirted figure who could seemingly conjure the improbable.

The tragedy of the eventual 14-time major champion is that his apparent demise as a golfer has for too long been a main talking point, rather than reflecting on the legacy of huge riches and deep fields of internationally diverse and gifted young players that he certainly had a creative hand in. During this hotly-anticipated first major of the year, we are set to appreciate that fact.

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The Masters Tournament has long emanated a unique sense of being just as much about the past, as it is the present and indeed the future. We revere the history, celebrate the champions of today, and look for the individuals who will carry the mantle forward. They may be identified this week.

Augusta National is the most tantalising of golf courses. Beautiful but cruel, alluring and deceptive, dramatic and crushing. We saw all those characteristics last year, when the hopes of defending champion Jordan Spieth unduly collapsed during a devastating few minutes on the 12th hole. 

That opened the door for Yorkshire’s Danny Willett, viewed as a pre-tournament outsider, who took advantage of his opportunity to close out the Masters in admirable fashion to become the first British (and indeed European) winner in Georgia this century. This success came just a week after the birth of his first child, completing a whirlwind and life changing fortnight for the 28-year-old. 

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His road since has not been a comfortable one, however, and a repeat success would seem even unlikelier this year. Despite Willett’s own insipid form, it’s been something of a renaissance for English golf, with the evidence fully apparent by the record eleven who have taken that iconic drive down Magnolia Lane in 2017. At the turn of the Millennium, only three – Sir Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood and amateur Graeme Storm – were representing the St. George’s Cross.

Returning to the scene of his demise 12 months ago, Jordan Spieth is many people’s favourite to stand triumphantly in Butler Cabin for a second time. It’s easy to understand the clamour behind the 23-year-old, considering he has won and finished runner-up twice in three years at Augusta. Following in the footsteps of the great champions from the Lone Star State such as Ben Crenshaw and Byron Nelson, the younger Texan looks set to become a Masters legend during his career. 

Imperiously dominant in recent times, Dustin Johnson is deservedly the world number one having tasted success in his last three competitive events, including two World Golf Championships. The powerful and languid American has shaken off the rough edges to his lifestyle and emerged a stronger and more formidable character on and away from the course. His brilliant triumph in June’s U.S. Open at Oakmont – in the face of a major rules controversy – should allay doubts about his ability to close out crucial final rounds under pressure. He’s a winner now. And could be here.

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Eyes will once again be on Rory McIlroy – as they will be until he does (or not) succeed – on his quest to complete the career grand slam of major championships, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in having accomplished the ultimate lifetime achievement. With soft conditions expected following heavy rainfall early in the week, the omens are strong for the Northern Irishman, who has performed consistently at Augusta in recent years, though will always have the memories of his collapse in 2011, and third round struggles last time.

Rookies have famously been without success – despite Spieth’s best efforts in 2014 – since Fuzzy Zoeller was triumphant in 1979. Blistering young Spaniard Jon Rahm has become one of the world’s form players this season, carrying on his record as an amateur into the professional ranks, having reached the final of the WGC Match Play just a couple of months after brilliantly winning at Torrey Pines. The 22-year-old unquestionably has the tool and belief to be a contender this week, but the National doesn’t usually give up her secrets too easily. 

Former champions Adam Scott and Bubba Watson always remain a danger here, as does the evergreen Phil Mickelson, who proved last summer at Royal Troon that a sixth major title is not an impossibility for the 46-year-old American. His imagination and creatively is ideally suited to a course that embraces feel and touch, but questions remain about his ability to close out a tournament, having not tasted victory since memorably claiming the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013. 

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It’s a brave new world for golf, and the internationally diverse list of players who have emerged, many of whom were perhaps inspired by events of two decades ago. Augusta National has continually progressed with the evolution of the game, and its penchant for delivering indelible moments and great champions remains undiminished. More of the same this week, please.
 

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I just automatically greenie DL3s previews before I read them, he could have written anything there tbh, but I'm sure it'll be magnificent.

Read a rumour that Monty has been pied from the Sky coverage this year which would be almost as magnificent (though it'll affect me less as I'm away on a stag do Fri-Sun so will see next to f**k all this year).

Spieth for me out of the big name guys with e/w on Oosty, Leishman and Berger. Might put another couple of picks on Sunday if / when they all miss the cut.

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12 hours ago, stuart. said:

Dustin Johnston seems to have the perfect game for Augusta. I've also bet on Leishman ew and Henley too, his putting and gir stats are decent.

Watch the 3 of them miss the cut now.

He actually doesn't have the perfect game in that he hits the ball left to right and Augusta suits right to left, but given he hits it about 400 yards off the tee and is in ludicrous form it's not as big an issue as it could have been.

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I'm on Spieth, Rahm and Garcia. 

 

Spieth will be steady enough to get himself a second green jacket I think, I just can't see how DJ keeps up his incredible form again. 

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I've put cash on Justin Thomas (35/1), Tyrrell Hatton (50/1), Thomas Pieters (66/1), Patrick Reed (80/1) and Russell Knox (token Scot bet at 175/1). Still think DJ is playing Tigeresque golf at the moment though and will be difficult to stop.

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