Favorites for the 2018 Masters
The world’s leading golfers have converged on Augusta this week for the first major of the year and the field looks ferociously competitive. A resurgent Tiger Woods has dominated headlines in the build-up to The Masters, but there are 102 players ranked higher than him and any of them could win it. A prize purse is up for grabs at the tournament and here are the leading contenders to land glory:
Rory McIlroy won his first tournament since 2016 when he landed the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and he is now joint favorite along with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas to win The Masters. Spieth has a magnificent record at Augusta: he won The Masters in record-equaling fashion in 2014 and finished second in 2015. Last year he returned to winning ways at The Open and he will be a formidable force this week.
Thomas was Golfer of the Year in 2017 after winning the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup and finishing top of the money list. He too will be a threat, but all eyes will be on McIlroy, a phenomenally talented player who is now surging with confidence. His game seems well suited to Augusta, but this is the only major he has yet to claim during his glittering career. Intertops will carry the latest odds on Masters and you will see that these three are +1100, followed by world number one Dustin Johnson at +1200. Woods has come on leaps and bounds this year, but it looks a little soon for him to land another major. A better option might be the supremely consistent Justin Rose at +1300 as he went into a playoff last year and he is in fine form. Veterans Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson will also gain a lot of attention as they have discovered the winning touch again this year.
First time hopefuls
Seven of the last eight majors have been claimed by men that had not previously won one, and several leading stars are bidding to join the elite in Georgia this week. Chief among them is Rickie Fowler, who has secured several top five and two runner-up finishes, but is yet to land a major. He will be desperate to break that run in Augusta this week. He is the technical ability to get the job done, and if he can overcome the mental barrier it could finally be his time. But he will have to get the better of Spanish whirlwind Jon Rahm, the 23-year-old who has shot up to third in the world rankings on the back of a sensational 12 months. Then there is the supremely consistent world number six Hideki Matsuyama, who has been buzzing around the top 10 for years and needs a major to cement his superstar status. He carries the weight of the Japanese nation on his shoulders, but he is cool under pressure and it would not be a surprise to find him near the top of the leaderboard on day four.
Forty-year-old Paul Casey has a magnificent record at Augusta and he is in fine form of late, so he
could surprise everyone this week. He has never won a major, nor has he ever truly contended on day four, but several late bloomers have thrived in this tournament, including 41-year-old first-timer Mark O’Meara, so hope springs eternal. Ian Poulter, aged 42, is +6600 after winning a first PGA Tour strokeplay to clinch a Masters spot last week, and his momentum could be crucial. Last year’s winner Sergio Garcia is also in the mix, along with Tommy Fleetwood and Marc Leishman, and it looks like a wonderfully open tournament.