It’s that time of year again, when the camellias and azaleas are in full bloom and the eyes of the golfing world turn their attention to Augusta National in Georgia. The Masters, played between Thursday 9th April and Sunday 12th April this year, is considered to be the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.
The Masters is the first major golf tournament of the year and to be classified as one of the best golfers of all time, it is imperative for a player to win the tournament outright. As three time champion Phil Mickelson once said, “The winner of this tournament doesn’t just win a major. He becomes a part of the history of the game, and that’s what excites me.” Mickelson is not the only player who will be teeing off on the Tea Olive who has been successful on more than one occasion at The Masters with Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods also participating in the event as multiple winners.
The Masters is an invitation only event and has the smallest field of any of the major golf tournaments, which means an elite field is always guaranteed. The 2015 Masters will be no different as the world’s greatest golfers descend on Augusta for four days of what is expected to be dramatic and spectacular golf at its finest. This year especially is one of the toughest Masters to call with a number of players coming in to the event at the top of their game peaking at the most opportune time.
The defending champion is American Bubba Watson who won two of the previous three Masters events. If Watson is to win this year, he will become the first player since Tiger Woods to win The Masters back-to-back and that would mark an incredible achievement. Add to it that Watson’s form has been solid so far this season with a win at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions towards the end of 2014, a T2 finish at the Phoenix Open, plus a 3rd place at the recent World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship.
However since 2008, every winner of The Masters has hit Greens In Regulation in at least 68% of the time and Watson is currently sitting at 64.62% for the 2015 season. That being said, the rest of Watson’s game stacks up and with his previous experience of winning at Augusta, he has serious consideration from British bookie Ladbrokes with odds to take another green jacket at 10/1. Watson’s prolific iron shots, such as the one below at the WGC – HSBC Champions tournament, show exactly why he is such a threat at The Masters.
A player who has won three of the four major tournaments but yet to win The Masters is none other than world number one Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman has won the last two majors and ticks all the boxes for contending heavily to come away with a green jacket after all is said and done at Augusta National. In great form, McIlroy’s driving distance, driving accuracy, GIR and strokes gained putting statistics for 2015 all match up against those who have been successful at The Masters over the past 7 years. Having played at Augusta National for the last six years in a row, everything seems to be coming together for McIlroy to complete his grand slam of major titles in 2015. The bookmakers seem to agree with bookmaker Ladbrokes offering 5/1 for McIlroy to claim his first Masters title.
Another European player who has played himself in to contention for this year’s Masters is Henrik Stenson. Available at 18/1 with Ladbrokes, the Swede finished T14 at The Masters last year and his recent performance at the Arnold Palmer Invitational has pushed him in to the leading group of contenders for 2015. With great statistics so far this year, including 70% plus on driving accuracy and GIR, Stenson has a real chance if he can keep it together during those pressure moments. With consistent approach play like his, it’s little wonder why Stenson is high up on many people’s lists to claim fame as a 2015 Masters winner.
But let’s not forget about up and comer Jason Day. This could be the year that Day emulates his fellow Aussie, Adam Scott, by winning The Masters. With a win at the Farmers Insurance Open back in February, Day has shown he’s got what it takes to get over the finish line in a tournament. Yes, the pressure at The Masters may be somewhat different to that of the Farmers Insurance Open but this was Day’s first stroke-play win since 2010 and the Australian has been in good, consistent form over the past 3 months. With previous T2 and 3rd place finishes at The Masters, this could be Day’s year to finish atop of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. Day is 16/1 with Betfred to take home a green jacket.
Another young golfer whose statistics and form are just right for a Masters win is Jordan Spieth. So far in eight tournaments played during the 2015 season, Spieth has one win, one 2nd place and five top 10 finishes to his name. The American is certainly at the top his game right now and at 9/1 with Betfred, he joins Bubba Watson as being the two most likely players to win from the USA.
Other players who deserve a mention include former winner Adam Scott who statistically is in good form to win his second Masters title. The Australian’s bid to claim a second green jacket could hinge on his decision whether to revert back to his old putter. The feeling is that if he does he will increase his chances. Other notables include American-hopefuls Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker along with the consistent Lee Westwood who has put in some strong performances at Augusta in recent years as he aims to become the first English golfer since Nick Faldo to win The Masters. The fact that Westwood has never won a major in his career will put many people off but with 7/1 odds to finish in the top 5 courtesy of British sportsbook Betfred, placing some action on Westwood is very tempting to say the least.
And let’s not forget about rising Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama is another name worth considering for a top 5 finish with odds set at 11/1 with Betfred. A T2 finish at the Phoenix Open shows that Matsuyama has what it takes to perform but will he be able to put the missed cut at last year’s Masters behind him in 2015?
There are a number of players mentioned above who all have a chance of winning the 2015 Masters but one stands out above the rest and that’s Rory McIlroy. The world number one is in his prime. Having won the previous two major tournaments and with a chance to complete the grand slam, he’ll be aiming to top last year’s finish of T8 as he focuses in on claiming the 2015 Masters.