Rory McIlroy

Reed Ruins Rory’s Masters Party

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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The story of El Alamo came to mind during Sundays at Augusta as Rory Mcilroy tried every shot in his bag in the final round to secure victory. But no matter how he tried or how many strikes he made in anger his opponent fired right back. As the day progressed Mcilroy became surrounded by more adversaries: Jordan Spieth, John Rahm and Rickie Fowler that added to a sense of siege, against the four-time major winner started to run out of bullets. Arriving to eighteenth green the Holywood man cut a disconsolate figure with his second appearance in the final Sunday group foiled over the back nine. Although this time the sheer tenacity of his playing partner Patrick Reed was impressive. Albeit his round was also scrappy at times.

However, every time Reed stumbled or looked on the edge he came back with some magnificent strokes. Having studied in Georgia he had some local support even though Reed has a chequered following in the game due some outspoken comments over the years. In the end the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine influenced both men in the background one feels. Yet again it was the European golfer who wilted under the American’s pressure and struggling end to even stay in the fight. But up against the steely Reed the outcome was no real surprise. Like fellow Texan, Jordan Spieth, Reed is ruthless, focused and the ultimate competitor. Fighting back from the first bogey of the day on the opening hole to the last par putt om the eighteenth.

Unlikely to win any popularity contests, Patrick Reed, delivers on the course and his cut throat competitiveness takes no prisoners. A steely determination obvious since he was young kid and one that helped him survive through some turbulent college years also. But he seems to love pressured and now closes in on statements made in 2015 about being one of the top five gofers in the world. Remarks that ruffled his playing partner at the time a few years, as Mcilroy has held the world number one, along four major titles. Yet has been unable to master his demons at Augusta for the second time. He then sees Reed arrive and with the first chance he gets he squeezes the life out of all comers and leaves Georgia the proud owner of a green jacket. Like many of the recent winners wins without holding any major title. It seems Augusta has little respect for CV’s

Indeed, that weight of experience was of no hep to Mcilroy and when his putting stroke abandoned him on Sunday he saw a number of birdie chances slide by and moved down the leader board and out of reach of a green jacket this year. As he went south on the scoreboard the Americans went North with Spieth and Fowler starting charges. While the two gunslingers battled it out the real action was further up the field with Jordan Spieth starting his own fireworks by making the turn in 31 – and going on to card a 64. Only his birdie putt slid by the final he would been 14 under and pushing for a possible play off if Reed faltered. Not a bad effort considering where he started earlier that day. With Californian Rickie Fowler then engaging in the fight and going six under on the last 11 holes, finally coming of age at a Major it would seem. Indeed, when the pressure was at its most Fowler showed a calmness of thought that promises a major win soon.

On Saturday night though he said of his five-shot deficit over 18 holes. “I mean, I’m a ways back,” he remarked with an air of concession. But on Sunday he showed metal on the run for home: “I didn’t have the front nine that I quite needed,” Fowler said Sunday night, “I didn’t look at the scoreboards a whole lot today, but I wanted to kind of check in and see where things were at around the turn,” Fowler said. “I saw Jordan was off and running today. That was kind of a kick in the butt. I knew I needed a good back nine, but to see one of your buddies playing well … I knew what I needed to do.”

On Sunday, Spieth — the 2015 Masters champion — had one of the best final rounds in the 82-year history of golf’s most prestigious event. His 8-under 64 not only matched a personal best at Augusta National, it was only the seventh time in history someone shot a final-round 64 at The Masters. Yet it wasn’t enough. “The first few holes were stress-free,” Spieth said after his round. “I know where these Sunday pins are, and fortunately played the golf course exactly how it needed to be played.

“I’ve proven to myself and others that you never give up,” Spieth said. “I started nine shots back and I came out with the idea of playing the golf course and having a lot of fun doing it.”

“I didn’t look at one board,” Spieth concluded “The only time I knew where I stood was after I finished on 18. I knew the putt was important. Every shot was very important coming down the stretch, because I knew I needed to get deeper and deeper, because with that many guys ahead, somebody’s going low, But I didn’t know exactly what it was, so obviously pretty gutted at the finish. I hit a tee shot that wasn’t that, it just caught the last little branch of that tree. So obviously I want to go back to that tee shot right now, but it was a phenomenal day.”

Spieth career finishes at Augusta are 2014: T2; 2015: Champion; 2016: T2; 2017: T11 and
2018: Third. And he is only 24 years of age.

For Rory in contrast The Masters may be one of those tournaments where he may never dominate. Not unlike Ivan Lendl in tennis, who won every major except Wimbledon and was losing finalist on two occasions and unable to master the centre court on the final Sunday in June. Or Seve Ballesteros who never captured a US Open title with his best finish as third in 1987. Then Colin Montgomerie never won a major but was European Number 1 for many seasons. And so, it might be for Rory and the more he tries to win the Masters the further it gets for him. Sunday had that feel as he was a bit erratic even from the starting hole on the green, and finally signing for a two-over par 74. A card which dropped him to a share of fifth place on nine under overall. A total six strokes adrift of the champion Reed with whom had at in his sights and was just one stroke adrift.

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“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” said McIlroy, who littered his card with five bogeys against three birdies. “Of course, it’s frustrating and it’s hard to take any positives from it right now but at least I put myself in a position, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.

“For the last four years I’ve had top 10s but I haven’t been close enough to the lead. Today I got myself there, I didn’t quite do enough, but I’ll still come back next year and try again. I’m 100 per cent sure I can come back and win here.

“I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top 10s, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times. But I’ll sit down and reflect over the next few days and see what I could have done better.

“Whether it be mindset or whatever, I just didn’t quite have it today. I played some great golf, but I just didn’t continue that into today,” added McIlroy, who admitted his putter had “let me down” throughout the final round.

“I just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference,” he said. “I was trying to hit good shots and good putts and anytime I felt like I hit a good shot I got myself on the wrong side of the pin or gave myself a tricky one down the hill.

“Then when I did get some chances I didn’t take advantage of them, but it was a tough day and hopefully I’ll be better next time.”

Sunday proved Reed is ferocious in match play, and that singles victory over McIlroy at Hazeltine in 2016 was no fluke and led to the nickname of Captain America. The moniker was apt yet again at Augusta. Albeit all of American doesn’t necessarily love him. Regardless, he is deservedly the 2018 Masters Champion.

A title that still eludes McIlroy after ten visits to Georgia.


Busy Dance Floor at Augusta

Brendan Mcdaid ,

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Busy Dance Floor at Augusta

The hype is full throttle in the build to this season’s Masters, with Rory McIlroy choosing the unplugged version this year; Tiger Woods arriving totally plugged-in on the foot of some excellent performances in the Florida Swing in the preceding weeks; Phil Mickelson looking relaxed even in a button down shirt; Jordan Spieth returning to form just on cue and Ian James Pouter getting through to the Georgia course by sheer grit and valour winning in Houston by winning a playoff at the weekend. The returning champion Sergio Garcia landing pretty much under the radar. But with a few signs that he too means business this week.

Not unlike other years, Augusta National promises once again to throw up a few surprises.

For Rory it’s been a decade of trying with a few close calls and one where the tenth hole unravelled a round when it looked easier to just par the back nine all the way home. With that memory behind him now and some majors under his belt he now seeks the Grand Slam and his tenth appearance might just be the one. It would place him with some big names who also won it after a decade, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Or indeed, the more recently departed Arnold Palmer who achieved the Masters win in his twenty-eighth year – the age the Holywood golfer is these days. Conscious that the years are ticking by one gets the sense that McIlroy means business at this year’s Masters.

The signs of more focus come with the news that 2018 has no entourage either, his rented house this year not filled with buddies, nor is he renting the adjoining house to cater for the friends that want to join him for the week. The price of celebrity being squandered this time as he plans for that extra focus that just could help deliver the elusive Green Jacket. So maybe this year the man from Holywood will make his mark on the magnolia laded course.

Tiger may be out of the injury Woods and already has completed the most amazing of sporting comebacks. But he knows he’s vulnerable to the hype too and is in unfamiliar territory of fallibility these days. However, the fact that he is now playing seventy-two holes more often is not only a wonder of nature but a reflection of his gritty determination. Enough visible to suggest he could be a contender this week too. Although his swing is slightly different – given his back trouble – the raw power can still be seen at times on the tee box.

So, he will be hoping to continue at Augusta what he showed at the Valspar at Innis brook. Then again at the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill where he was undone by no little misfortune, seeing McElroy blitz his way through the final holes in style to secure the first win in the same number of years Woods has been injured. Now to see a more relaxed Woods these days is also good. It’s also very good for the game.

In December Golf Channel and NBC’s coverage of the Hero World Challenge and Tiger Woods’ return to competitive golf for the first time in 16 months delivered significant ratings increases for the networks: Most-watched Thursday Round 1 since The Open Round 1 in July: Most-watched Round 1 at this event on Golf Channel (2007-16); Excluding Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, most-watched 4th quarter Round 1 in Golf Channel history (2006-16)

When NBC Sports released its audience numbers from the Valspar Championship, where Woods came very close to winning for the first time in five years, viewers turned on in record numbers. The Golf Channel PR department reporting that the final round at the Copperhead course drew a figure that is the highest non-major audience since the 2013 Players Championship. Which to surprisingly was won by Tiger Woods), and the highest non-Masters rating since the 2015 PGA Championship. So clearly golf still needs Tiger.

In the build to this week the sight of Phil Mickelson and Tiger practising together is a joy. With some of the those less attractive moments from their younger days falling by the wayside and consigned to history. The wisdom of age falling over both as they realise that the days inside the ropes are on the wane so enjoy it. As player at least. Which doesn’t mean that Mickelson isn’t coming to claim another green jacket at Wood’s expenses either. No bigger competitor at Augusta than Phil.

Mickelson said he bumped into Woods on Monday and the two set up the practice round ahead of the 82nd Masters. “It was good to be able to watch what he was doing and how he was hitting it,” Mickelson said of Woods. “I wanted to see him play.”

Spieth arrives from the Houston Open where he finished third, and maybe the favourite for many to win his second career green jacket. In his own words he feels there are two reasons- He’s been here before, and he’s feeling better than ever.

“I feel like my game is in the form that I’ve needed to be for major championships,” Spieth said. “Things are kind of clicking at the right time.” The familiarity of Augusta, where Spieth has competed four other times, is also a major reason for his comfort entering this week’s showcase.

“I’ve played it in very firm conditions, I’ve played it in soft conditions (and) either way played well,” he said. “The golf course, it fits my eye, the way you have to play off of different slopes … they require a lot more feel than just you’re in-a-dome, driving-range shots, and going back to when I started playing the game, I’ve been a ‘feel’ player.”

A first-time Masters winner in 2015, Spieth was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people the following year and then won the 2015 U.S. Open with a 5-under-par. A second-place finisher in that year’s PGA Championship, he has since logged wins at The Open Championship and seven other PGA Tour event

Ian Poulter looked to have blown his last chance to qualify for the year’s first major with an opening 73 in Houston. But after three rounds Poulter had played himself into contenion and then sinking a 19-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. By winning the first extra hole against American Beau Hossler Poulter found himself on his way to Georgia. Again, when it really mattered Poulter delivered. Hence his nickname “The Postman”.

No doubt the former Woburn Pro will enjoy his first trip to Augusta since 2016.

Poulter had reached the quarterfinals of the WGC Match Play and thought he had done enough to make the world’s top 50. But when he lost his quarterfinal 8&6 to American Kevin Kisner he was then informed he hadn’t made it. A huge blow to his season.

“To get this done today to get me to Augusta is amazing,” said Poulter, “My first strokeplay win in the States, and to do it with the Masters on the line is unbelievable.”It’s going to take a little while to sink in. I’m super excited.”


The Ryder Cup For Love Not Money

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , , , , , ,

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These next few days just outside Minneapolis a dozen golfers, their caddies, half dozen vice captains’ from two differing teams, a whole host of back room officials and hangers on take part in the 2016 Ryder Cup. These being the 41st matches and a battle which already promises to be a bloated commercial exercise that culminates on Sunday evening after the 12 single matches complete between US and European players.

The event now hostage to an endless series of money spinners and one that has taken the original concept of Samuel Ryder well beyond the imagination of even Mark McCormack – the founder of sports management in the last century. But the untimely loss of Arnold Palmer this week is a reminder however of some more basic sporting values, and another great supporter of the tournament and all that was good about golf.

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Great Scott McIlroy Putts for Dough

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , , , , ,

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Nike recently reported flat to down annual sales last month in its golf business for the last two years at $700 million. A business that has been running since 1984 and introduced the first clubs after bringing in a design team in the year 2000. Its first efforts appeared within a year in the form of the Nike Forged Blades irons and then followed in 2002 with Pro Combo irons, which uniquely combined three different kinds of irons within the same set. Sales in 2013 and 2014 were nearly $800 million a year. The company also had recruited a young Tiger Woods as its clothes peg for shoes and apparel, and ultimately the clubs were to come sometime later. Woods however making that transition to the clubs very gradually – showing a wisdom beyond his years.

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Chance for Lefty to Repair Ryder Cup Legacy

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Not sure if it’s just me. But there seems little hype in Ireland about the 41st Ryder Cup matches at Hazeltine National Golf club next month. May be just my imagination as I’m busy with lessons all day. Suppose it was a bit the same with the Olympic golf also, which all of a sudden last week kicked into action and became interesting. Particularly when Seamus Power made a run up the leaderboard on Sunday reaching the turn in 30 strokes. Only to fade from a chance of the Bronze medal in the last few holes. The Waterford native certainly justifying his selection albeit because the bigger names were no shows. Regardless of the Zika driven thinking of the absentees, Power’s form must be reassuring for a good second half the season in the US.

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Johnson and Johnson

Brendan Mcdaid , , ,

Zach+Johnson+Dustin+Johnson+Hyundai+Tournament+P9jB66Vqj9hlPadraig Harrington returns to Scotland once again, the scene of his first major victory in 2007 where he won a play-off at Carnoustie against Sergio Garcia. That victory came in the four-hole play-off – after dropping his one shot lead in regulation on the eighteenth fairway – following a visit to the Barry Burn. A lead which would have secured him the title outright but instead allowed García a putt for the title. Fortunately for Padraig the Spaniard missed.

History now records what happened next and that Harrington won the first of what was to become two Open Championship titles in consecutive years. The trip to Scotland this year has started well with a few good rounds at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open last week and hint that the Rio bound player is moving into form at the right time. So think he might have a bit of a run this week at Royal Troon. But my favourite would be the American Dustin Johnson, now number two in the world, who is also on a bit of a roll.

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The Caddie Chemistry

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , , ,

Caddy-of-Peter-Lawrie-fro-008Some of the more common questions about caddies on the Tour:

Q: What is their work schedule?
A: It lasts for as long as a golfer will have you, and for as many tournaments as he or she plays. But the average is about 30 weeks a year, although some caddies will tote for other golfers to pick up extra work. So, what about the other 22 weeks of the year?

“Whatever comes up,” said Joe Skovron, Rickie Fowler’s caddie since the 22-year-old went pro two years ago. “You take care of things at home that maybe you aren’t able to take care of on the road. Maybe play a little golf.”

Q: What does their typical tournament week entail?
A: Tournaments are usually six- or seven-day weeks. They walk the course on Monday or Tuesday, confirming yardages. Tuesday is typically a full practice day, including a round of usually nine holes. Wednesday is often a professional-amateur round (not at Bridgestone), and the four-day tournament starts on Thursday.

Q: How much do they make?
A: As independent contractors, caddies and their bosses — the players — negotiate their pay. On average, according to Dennis Cone, president and founder of the Professional Caddies Association, caddies make about $1,000 per week while on tour, plus a share of the winnings. Caddies generally earn 5 percent if their player makes the cut, 7 percent for a top-10 finish and 10 percent for a tournament win.

The World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational pays the winner $1.4 million, meaning the man lugging the bag potentially pulls in a sweet $140,000. Finish at or near the top consistently and a caddie can find himself in rarefied air. Steve Williams, former caddie for Tiger Woods and now caddying for Adam Scott, is reportedly a million-dollar man.

By the way, last place at Bridgestone paid $30,750 last year. Five percent of that is about $1,500. Not shabby for a week on the golf course, but caddies usually cover their own travel expenses, lodging, meals, insurance and other fees. So, for every Williams there’s a Williams wanna-be.

Q: How much does that bag weigh?
A: “Depends on how they’re playing,” said Damon Green, Zach Johnson’s caddie for eight years and a professional golfer himself. (Green tied for 13th in the U.S. Senior Open last week in Toledo.) “If they’re playing good, [the bag is] light. If they’re playing bad, it’s really heavy.”

A bag weighs anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds, with clubs and gloves, maybe a dozen balls, an umbrella, rain gear for each, drinks and snacks and first-aid items, such as bandages and pain relievers.

Q: What does a caddie do besides carry the bag and towel a golfer’s clubs and ball between shots?
A: It’s more like, what doesn’t a caddie do?

“They could get anybody to carry a bag,” said Dan Weigand, editor of the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and co-author of “Caddy-Talk: Psychology of Being a Great Golf Caddy.” “What we found is a caddie is very much an on-course psychologist, biochemist, nutritionist, physiologist, counselor, friend. It really depends on the what the player needs from the caddie.”

 

 


Sunny Final Day at Valderrama Office

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , ,

_81024921_peter_lawrie_gettyPeter Lawrie was close to signing for under par round on Sunday until a few stray putts undid some of his good work at the San Roque course. A great recovery after a wayward drive on the 17th hit out of bounds showed a return of confidence that bodes well for the season.

A loss of momentum could result though from a lack of events following Lawrie’s loss of European Tour playing rights which leave him with an unwanted three week break until the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco next month.

However, in the first full four rounds of the year – having missed the cut at the Tshwane Open in February and withdrawn from the Alfred Dunhill Links before Christmas – Peter Lawrie should be satisfied with his weekends’ work. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club the next biggest event on the horizon.

As a former winner of the Open de España Lawrie was automatically exempt this weekend and his hard work during the close season was rewarded in the toughest and most demanding of conditions at Valderrama. Reuniting for the Spain trip with his swing coach Brendan McDaid, who also was on the bag, clearly delivered some additional impetus at key moments.

The weekend though belonged to Andrew Johnston who won his first European Tour title as he held off the challenge of Joost Luiten to claim the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.

The Englishman came into the final day alongside Luiten at two over and signed for a one under par 70 to take the title by one shot and become the first man to win a European Tour event with an over par score since Justin Rose won the US Open at Merion in 2013.

It had been 20 years since a regular event had been won over par, Ian Woosnam shooting the same score to win the Scottish Open at Carnoustie in 1996, showing just how difficult a test Valderrama had been over the four days.
“I drove the ball well all week, chipped and putted well all week, I struggled a bit with my irons the first three days but I just kept going and kept digging in and then on the fourth I found something,” he said.

“I came off the course and I just started crying with the emotion of it. It’s just very surreal and I don’t think it will hit me for a few days.

“You see them winning these tournaments, and the history of it and all these names, so to put mine on there feels pretty ridiculous, really. It really does.

“Hopefully I can be one of those guys who has an incredible career like that and people are sitting here in the future going, ‘oh, Beef’s on there’. It’s pretty incredible.”

Tournament host Sergio Garcia made six birdies in his round of 67 to finish at three over, a shot ahead of defending champion James Morrison and Søren Kjeldsen.

The win completes a long journey for 27-year-old Johnston, who first made it onto The European Tour via the Challenge Tour in 2012 before a loss of form and fitness saw him lose his card.

Two wins on the Challenge Tour in 2014 saw him win the Road to Oman and now, after finishing 70th on The Race to Dubai last season, he has his breakthrough.

For Dutchman Luiten, the result is the continuation of a brilliant start to the season and hands him his fifth top ten in eight events so far this term.

Johnston bogeyed the first as those around him jostled for position, with Martin Kaymer opening up a two-shot lead over the field with a birdie on the third.

Luiten and Kaymer continued to battle it out but when Johnston hit a sensational approach to the seventh for birdie and made another gain on the next, a dropped shot from the German on the seventh meant Johnston and Luiten shared the lead at the turn.

Morrison had also turned in 34 and bogeys on the 11th from Luiten and 14th from Johnston meant there was a three-way tie for the lead. That became a four-way tie when Garcia birdied the 16th and 17th to surge into contention.
A bogey on the last saw Garcia set the clubhouse target at three over but Johnston holed a 20-footer on the 16th to move ahead and Luiten could not reel him in as he finished with seven straight pars.

Kjeldsen’s 68 handed the Dane a second straight top ten after his excellent performance at the Masters Tournament last week, while Morrison finished with a 72.  Ross Fisher, Kaymer, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Alex Noren were then at five over, a shot clear of Craig Lee.

Last season Lawrie spoke about the fears of losing his automatic playing rights for 2016:

“I thought it was going to be the end of the world if I didn’t do well and it seriously effected the way I played. This year, I realise it’s not actually the end of the world. There is life somewhere, after losing your tour card.”

“You come out here (on tour) and you feel that you’re not worthy to be out here sometimes. You’re trying as hard as you can to feel that you should be here. I know I should be here. My golf game is good enough,”

At Valderrama Lawrie’s was good enough carding rounds of 77-74-77-73 and receiving a cheque for €7,400 for a share of 53rd place.

*Peter Lawrie is sponsored by NewstalkFM

 


Masters Preview – Rickie Fowler’s Year

Brendan Mcdaid , , , , , ,

Rickie+Fowler+Shell+Houston+Open+Preview+Day+aZJi37bNHQulThis could be Rickie Fowler’s year at Augusta National.

Just fancy his chances even though he has not done anything special so far this year. He can hit it, pitch and putt it. So he has a very good chance this year.

Jason Day obviously can’t be ruled out after being a nearly man for so many events he is now stringing together wins. Last week in Austin at the WGC Dell Match Play and before that at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

So that current form makes him a firm favourite. Although his back seems to be an issue at the moment.

Rory McIlroy is the leading Irish contender no doubt and the Dell Match Play might have sharpened him up somewhat and helped his confidence. A few unexpected cuts this season did not help his momentum and so I wish him a lot of luck this year.

McIlroy just needs to hold it together and tame any tendency to lose control at key times. Or make an unneeded aggressive strokes which get severely punished at the Masters. It’s a time to remain patient throughout.

Shane Lowry hasn’t done enough to suggest this could be his year. But he will have tremendous confidence after the WGC Bridgestone title win from last year. He has the game to do it though Augusta tests it for any weaknesses over 72 holes. The match play in Austin hinted that he is not in the same rich vein of form as of yet.

GMAC has a few demons gathered over the years at The Masters and distance seems to be main challenge for him at Augusta. His win in December at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba can do him no harm though.

Bubba Watson will be hard to beat as will Phil Mickelson. The latter travelling to Georgia slightly under the radar but showing some consistency in recent weeks.

Watson carding wins at hero World Challenge and the Northern Trust Open so will loom large as a possible contender on the Sunday afternoon

Adam Scott is up there too after his two wins this season – The Honda classic and WGC Cadillac Championship.

Outside chances include Brandt Snedeker who has shown some form this season. Or maybe Swede Henrik Stenson – always a firm favourite of mine. But again they need some consistency over the four days to be winners of a Green Jacket.

Another fancy is Louis Oosthuizen. He’s a tough, steady and competitive player with all the skills in his armoury to make the Masters his on this occasion. After coming so close in 2012.

Clearly he can manage his way around the Augusta course quite well   And has that that big easy swing that made Ernie Els such a success and hides the real power he gets on impact.

Jordan Spieth may arrive too exhausted after a Champion’s Year filled with lots of victories, commercial commitments and global travel. Recent weeks suggest it might have just taken its toll – as it does with every Masters Champion – and so the pressure might tell.

Then again Spieth might react positively to driving back down Magnolia Drive and the memory muscles help him just make it back to back titles.

No matter my money is still on Rickie Fowler