As the Masters tournament gets set to tee off today, GolfOnline is breaking down the top players to watch at Augusta. Giving you an inside track on our Team’s favourite picks to win the 2017 Green Jacket!
GolfOnline has held its own Masters competition and invited customers to guess who they think will claim the 2017 major. With an incredible £300 in gift vouchers up for grabs we had a huge response. Check out how our Team’s picks compare to the GolfOnline Competition STATS. Could one of the six be slipping on the Green Jacket this Sunday?
On Masters Sunday last year it looked like Jordan Spieth was about to win his second Green Jacket in a row. The then 22-year-old had a solid lead during the final round but an epic collapse on the back nine saw the Texan quadruple-bogeying the 12th after landing two shots in the water. Leaving Englishman Danny Willett to swoop in and claim the major title.
Even with the memories of 2016 looming in the background Spieth is still a solid pick to win at Augusta. This marks the American’s fourth appearance at the major. In 2014 he finished T2, won the following year and finished T2 again last year.
For Spieth, the events of last April are something he is anxious to put behind him. Telling reporters this week,
“No matter what happens at this year’s Masters, whether I can grab the jacket back or I miss the cut or I finish 30th, it will be nice having this Masters go by.” Adding, “The Masters lives on for a year. It brings a non-golf audience into golf. And it will be nice once this year’s finished to be brutally honest.”
If he can shake off reminders of 2016 we could be seeing Willett slipping the Green Jacket back on to Spieth this Sunday.
The Only One Left Pick – Rory McIlroy
One player in the field who can certainly relate to Spieth’s desire to bury the ghost of Masters past is Rory McIlroy. The 28-year-old has won every other major tournament except the coveted Green Jacket. In 2011 McIlroy had his own epic meltdown on the back nine. On the final day six years ago the Northern Irishman started off his round with a four-stroke lead, only to utterly collapse finishing with an 8-over-par-80 and a tie for 15th place. The Nike player admitted this week that he associates the great tournament with one word, “stress.”
Despite the pressure of completing his Grand Slam dreams McIlroy enters the tournament today the number two-ranked player in the world and has gotten a little advice from someone who knows what it takes to succeed at Augusta.
Telling reporters earlier in the week that, “around here [Augusta], don’t take on too much, that’s the thing. I actually I had a little conversation with Jack Nicklaus on Monday, and that’s what he said. He told me I took on too much a couple of times and it cost me a couple of Green Jackets.”
The Feel Good Pick – Jason Day
Former number one Jason Day had an incredible 2015 and 2016. With his win at The Player’s Championship last May the Australian secured his seventh victory in 17 starts. A stat that even got the other golfers acknowledging how hot he was on the course.
“Well, that’s Tiger-esque, that kind of a run,” fellow Aussie Adam Scott told reporters at the time.
But as 2017 rolled around it seemed Day had lost his spark, losing the number one spot to Dustin Johnson in February. Then three weeks ago Day revealed his mother was battling lung cancer and it was causing him to lose focus on the game. The 29-year-old held a tearful press conference after pulling out of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play to be with her during an upcoming surgery. His appearance at this year’s Masters was suddenly uncertain.
What's in the Bag? - Jason Day
Fast-forward to last week and Day announced he was in Augusta and ready to take on the first major of 2017.
“For the first time in about a month and a half, I was happy to be on the golf course,” Day told reporters ahead of this week’s event. “I was enjoying myself again. It’s been really, really hard to enjoy myself. But I think things are starting to brighten up.”
Will things brighten up enough for the TaylorMade player to win his first Green Jacket? It would be a great Sunday ending, especially for the Days.
The Returning Champ Pick – Danny Willett
He’s the newest player in the field to know what it feels like to win the Masters, so does that give 2016’s champion Danny Willett an advantage going into today’s first round?
“You do have a spring in your step coming back as champion,” Willett told the BBC. “But you can’t change your game like that.”
The Yorkshire golfer rose to instant notoriety last April when he pounced on Spieth’s back-nine collapse to win his first major title. Despite the hype that accompanied the win Willett has struggled to maintain that high level of play and has dropped back outside the top-ten world rankings. His last win was here 12 months ago so he knows what it takes to succeed at Augusta. But will that add enough fire to the 29-year-old’s game?
Whatever the outcome Willett seems to be enjoying his week as returning champion. Hosting a traditional English meal last night and breaking in his newest caddie – his one-year-old son Zack!
Besides Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler is the only player on our list not to have a major title but that doesn’t mean you should discount him from winning the Green Jacket on Sunday. The 28-year-old might have missed the cut at Augusta last year but he’s showing fine form heading into 2017’s tournament.
In his last six PGA Tour starts Fowler has finished in the top-four three times, including his win at last month’s Honda Classic. The American is going in to today’s first round with a positive attitude and looks ready to tackle Augusta.
“I’m mak[ing] a lot of birdies right now, and that bodes well around this golf course,” Fowler told reporters earlier this week. “These last two tournaments are something that I want to feed off of, and if I can continue to do that here this week, a lot of birdies, maybe a couple of eagles in there, that’s going to be something that’s going to be very good around here.”
The “I can’t believe he doesn’t have a major title” Pick – Sergio Garcia
It’s hard to believe with a career that includes nine PGA Tour wins and 12 European Tour victories that Sergio Garcia still hasn’t found major success. But that could all change this year at Augusta as the Spaniard heads to the tournament in good form with an impressive win from February at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Garcia also credits happiness off the course with his newfound confidence on the course as he looks forward to marrying his fiancé later this summer.
Telling reporters earlier this year, “I think I’m definitely more calm than I used to be, but my enthusiasm is still very strong. I still get very geared up to play every week and do my best every week because it’s what I love doing.”
Adding, “The hunger is still there. I still want to keep achieving things. I still want to keep becoming a better golfer when it comes down to my career. I have other goals.”
We think a Green Jacket would be exactly the type of achievement El Nino is after!