One day out from the Masters and all eyes are firmly on Augusta to see if Rory McIlroy can complete a career Grand Slam. The man from Down has to win on the course he had his spectacular implosion four years ago.
J.B. Holmes made a remarkable comeback to snatch the Houston Open away from Jordan Speith with a very impressive final day 64. Matt Kuchar had a tournament to forget finishing with a final day 78, but a T5 finish in Augusta last year will have him aiming for at least a repeat of last year.
Paddy’s paying six places from now until the US Masters and here are the half dozen players you’re backing to make him pay this weekend.
1. Rory McIlroy 11/2
Unsurprisingly the World Number 1 is the favorite with both the bookies and the punters. A career Grand Slam beckons for the Northern Irishman and after a personal best of T8 last year he’ll be expecting to finally win on the course that seems built for him. All eyes will be on him from the start and the tournament could come down to the age old question: Which Rory McIlroy will turn up?
It’s been a mixed 2015 so far winning the Dubai Desert Classic before failing to make the cut in the Honda Classic, the first in 22 events. Needs to banish the demons of 2011 for good with a strong start and finish this time. Expect to see him in the top three come the final day.
2. Jordan Speith 10/1
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This guy is like Alan Pardew at the moment. He can do no wrong. Up to 4th in the World Rankings after a runners up place in the Valero Texas Open and Houston Open after leading going into the final day. A win at the Valspar Championship sets him up nicely as second favorite. Still only 22 Speith should be challenging for years to come.
After pushing Bubba Watson all the way last year Speith will be hoping to go on better against McIlroy this year. This could be a big start to Speith’s year. A win in Augusta and he’ll be the man to watch for the rest of the majors. Should be one of the main challengers again this time round.
3. Henrick Stenson 20/1
A second place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational was as good as it’s been for Stenson in 2015 so far. He placed 4th in Valspar behind the Zlatan of the golf world Patrick Reid, Sean O’Hair and winner Jordan Speith.
T14 in last year’s Masters Stenson will be looking to add to his four previous wins on the PGA tour, but a top ten finish is much more likely at 7/4.
4. Rickie Fowler 30/1
A top five finish in the Masters and three subsequent runner ups in the remaining three majors show that Fowler brings his A game to the big tournaments. Needs a win to cement himself as one of the big guns.
A 12th place finish at the WGC is his best of the year so far and only one win on the PGA Tour will not count well for the poster boy of American golf. Will be looking for a repeat of last years top five finish, but will need a spectacular turnaround in form.
5. Dustin Johnson 16/1
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Victory in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral was the ideal way for DJ to bounce back after his exile for a reported liking for the white stuff. Two other top five’s make good reading for DJ, but the two missed cuts will be a cause of worry.
A T13 in 2013 is the best DJ’s managed, but a resurgence in form and the power drive could see him finally crack the top ten. He has the talent to win and now seems to have got his act together top be considered a serious challenger. The temperament will decide Johnson’s fate.
6. Phil Mickelson 20/1
The best bet for the old guard Mr. Opinions will be chasing a fourth Green Jacket this year. T17 at the Honda Classic and Houston Open has been the best in a poor run up to Augusta for Lefty. Needs a big tournament after a disappointing time of late.
His form since winning the Open in 2013 has been about as exciting as a slow Aston Villa game, but the dodgy putting has been put to bed afters hours upon hours on the putting greens. If anyone knows this course it’s Phil expect him to go on the attack from the off.