The azaleas are out again for the most traditional and beautiful of all the Majors. It’s an open field that favours a power game and risk-taker. Players with a fine short game, like Mike Weir and Zach Johnson, have donned the green jacket but it’s usually a power-hitter. I would have said Dustin Johnson had he not walked off Houston last week. Matt Kuchar is in form but, of the shorter odds, I favour Phil Mickelson who loves this course; Rory McIlroy who is returning to form; and Sergio Garcia, who is in form. The smart money is on Matsuyama who, despite his youth, had featured well in the past three Majors and big-hitting Gary Woodland.
A virgin has not won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller, but Victor Dubuisson is having a great season and there is a market for top debutant Pat Reed, a 23 year old Texan who is having a successful season too. At the other end of the spectrum, I do fancy Vijay Singh to be highest-placed senior, who has such a solid game. Rory needs to ensure he makes no silly errors which cost him a green jacket to Bubba Watson, another I fancy for his bravura. The course favours those who will take a risk to get a birdie. Unlike links golf, where the weather can change dramatically over four days in the Open, it will probably not play a role. The absence of rough makes driving easier but the real problem is pitching and putting onto those glass-like greens. The big hitters can get closer to the green and have the easier shots for pin placement. As it’s the only major venue to be played every year we get to know the holes, the little bridge at Amen Corner and the glorious richness and colour of the flora and fauna. It’s truly a cathedral of sport.