The US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is the opening Major Championship in 2018 and it is the tournament that a lot of golf fans and players alike look forward to the most. Whenever this event comes around, the golf course is always in pristine condition which helps to make this a special competition. Here is an early look at who will be the key contenders to win the Green Jacket in the 2018 renewal of the tournament.
The 2016/17 season was another brilliant campaign for American Jordan Spieth who won his 11th PGA Tour title of his career when he landed the Open Championship for the first time at Royal Birkdale. The 24-year-old finished second on the money list as not only was he winning trophies, he was consistent throughout the 12 months.
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Spieth will be looking forward to returning to Augusta as, in the four attempts at the tournament so far, he has finished no worse than a tie for 11th. In 2014 he ended the weekend in a tie for second on his debut, while 12 months later he went one place better to win his first Major Championship.
Unless there is rain, the greens at Augusta tend to very quick which suit Spieth’s game as he is arguably the best putter on the Tour. If he can control his driving across the four days, he is sure to be in the mix going into the final 18 holes on the Sunday in Georgia.
Sergio Garcia was one of the most popular winners of the US Masters in 2017 when he beat Justin Rose in a playoff following a brilliant tussle between the two European players on the final nine on the last day. It was Garcia’s 74th attempt at winning a Major, which for a player of his talent, was far too long.
Like he has in many Major Championships over the last couple of decades, Garcia drove the ball better than the rest of the field at Augusta back in April. The difference this year was that the Spaniard putted a lot better than he normally does.
When Garcia returns in 2018, the pressure will be off his shoulders. It would be no surprise to see the 37-year-old collect a number of Majors at the back end of his career. He looked in great form recently in the Andalucia Masters where he was tipped by Oddschecker in their betting preview of the tournament in his home country.
If there were a vote on the player of the 2016/17 season, Justin Thomas would win hands down. The FedEx Cup bonus winner has had the year of his life as he has been victorious in five tournaments, with the biggest victory being the 2017 US PGA Championship, his maiden Major success.
Thomas will want to continue his excellent run of form when he lines up in the Masters for only the third time in April. He will now be familiar with the course and will expect to do much better than his two previous visits to Augusta.
The signs are good for Thomas’ supporters in the early stages of the 2017/18 season as he is already a winner on the PGA Tour with victory coming in the CJ Cup where he beat Australian Marc Leishman in a play-off.
Going into the 2017 US Masters, Dustin Johnson was the bookmakers’ favourite to win his second Major after the big-hitting American was in great form on the PGA Tour. Unfortunately for the world number one, he was forced to pull out of the tournament on the opening day before even hitting a ball due to a back injury he picked up on the eve of the competition.
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Johnson will be hoping to make up for last season’s disappointment when he lines up at Augusta. The former US Open winner can take advantage of the par-five holes at the golf course where he is capable of finding the greens with his second shot.
The 33-year-old will be making his eighth appearance at the Masters in 2018 and he will be buoyed by his last two visits to the course as he finished in the top 10 in 2015 and 2016.
Rory McIlroy has struggled with his game over the last 12 months but there have been signs recently that the Northern Irishman is not far away from playing his best golf. The four-time Major winner needs just the Masters to complete the Grand Slam in the sport. He went to close to landing the Green Jacket in 2015 but he had to settle for fourth place in the year Spieth came out on top.
There have been reasons as to why McIlroy’s game in 2017 has not been as good as his usual high standards. A change in clubs meant he needed time to get used to his new equipment, while he split with his long-time coach JP Fitzgerald.
In need of a return to form on the biggest stages, McIlroy will be confident he will return to winning more Major Championships in 2018 and given he needs the Masters to complete his set, this will be the tournament he will want to land more than any other.
The 2018 US Masters takes place from April 5-8 and is one of the highlights not just on the PGA Tour but also the sporting calendar around the globe.