The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) would suggest that Dustin Johnson, world number-one is the man to beat. But his track record at the Masters, two top-10s in seven outings would indicate that, as they say in golf, Augusta National, ‘Does not suit his eye.’ Perhaps his big-hitting, power-ball game lacking the subtlety to plot his way around one of the most strategic courses in world golf.
The phrase, ‘A sledgehammer to crack a nut,’ springs readily to mind when it comes to DJ, arguably lacking the guile, and perhaps the temperament to win on the biggest stage of all.
American idols, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, will, without doubt, be amongst the fans’ favourites. Thomas, second on the OWGR, is yet to record a top-20 finish in two appearances at Augusta to date, but his time may yet to come.
Meanwhile, his Ryder Cup teammate Spieth, runner-up twice and Masters champion in 2015, left one to wonder if the scars of what looked like a nailed-on title defence when leading by five strokes heading into the back-nine, suffered one of the biggest collapses in Masters history after bogeys at the 10th and 11th holes. Spieth hit two balls into the water at the par-3 12th hole, carding a quadruple-bogey and dropping him to a tie for fourth.
Memories of Greg Norman’s calamitous collapse around the notorious Amen Corner in 1996 when the Great White Shark sank without trace. Handing the Green Jacket to Nick Faldo and, despite three runners-up finishes, the Australian was never to experience the schmaltzy ritual in Butler’s Cabin, whereas the 24-year-old Spieth has, preceding his 2015 US Open victory with a maiden Major at Augusta.
Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic champion and up to fifth on the OWGR must surely learn from last year’s playoff defeat to García and has the game, and the temperament to add the Masters to his 2013 US Open victory. With five top-10 finishes - runner-up twice - in 12 Augusta outings, the 37-year-old South African-born Englishman will be one to watch again this year.
Those two inheritors of Sergio García’s burden as the best players never to have won a Major, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler not only have that albatross circling as-yet unfulfilled careers. But, take heart, if the Spaniard could find a way to win after 18 years of trying and at the 73rd attempt, then Westwood - in the same territory and with three top-three Masters finishes since 2010, anything is possible.
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