WATCH out Jordan, Jason, Rory and Adam – Dustin Johnson is on the prowl and he’s looking for a green blazer.
Yes folks, it’s time for the US Masters.
It’s when the dogwoods and azaleas are in stunning bloom and the best players on the planet line up for a tilt at winning the green jacket – the most coveted adornment in golf.
If form leading in to the April 6-9 showdown is a guide then Augusta National Golf Club officials will be sizing up a jacket to fit the broad shoulders of Johnson.
Having said that, the 32-year-old from South Carolina isn’t the favourite with the bookies – Jordan Spieth is.
Ubet has Spieth at $7.50 while Johnson is on the next line of betting at $8.50.
The bookies have done their homework.
In his last three Masters appearances, Spieth has not finished outside the top-two. He tied for second tied in 2014, won in 2015 and tied for second last year.
If that is any indication then the 23-year-old is the man to beat.
Still, Johnson has been firing on all cylinders since winning the US Open last year.
Following that victory, Johnson has won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the BMW Championship and this year he was back in the winner’s circle claiming wins at the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC Dell Match Play.
His game has no obvious weaknesses now that he has improved his touch and inconsistent putting.
With his length and strength, he can easily account for Augusta National, which stretches to 6808m.
Johnson might have a huge advantage there, but power alone doesn’t guarantee victory. Augusta National’s greens can be a minefield so carrying a hot putter into the tournament is imperative.
His form at the Masters has been credible. In 2015, he finishing tied for sixth and last year tied for fourth behind Englishman Danny Willett.
“I think we are about to see Dustin Johnson clean up,” Peter Senior told me earlier this year. “He has been so unlucky in majors and finally made one (2016 US Open) so I think that will be just the start.”
Equal second favourite with the bookies at $8.50 1 is four-time major champion Rory McIlroy.
Should the Northern Irishman win the Masters, he will join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as a career grand slam winner.
Whenever the Masters comes around, the word “Tiger” comes up.
Can the man once feared by his rivals win his fifth green jacket? Well, to win he has to play and that’s debatable after such a long layoff with recurring injuries.
Still, the bookies are taking no chances and have him at 67-1.
The “will he play” question too applies to former world No.1 Jason Day, who has had injury and illness concerns in recent times, as well as questions surrounding the health of his mother.
Day is fourth favourite at 13-1 just ahead of rising star Hideki Matsuyama (15-1) and 2013 Masters champ Adam Scott 29-1. Bookies suggest other top challengers will be Justin Thomas (26-1), Henrik Stenson (23-1), Justin Rose (31-1), Rickie Fowler (29-1), two-time champion Bubba Watson (41-1) and 2004-’06-’10 champion Phil Mickelson all at 31-1.
Lefty might be 46, but don’t bet against him because he still drives the ball well and we all know how good his short game is.
Thomas, 23, is a relative newcomer on the PGA Tour, but he already has three victories this season.
He’s relatively long off the tee and after finishing tied 39th last year will fancy his chances.
So, what of Masters defending champion Danny Willett?
At 67-1, he’s not fancied by the bookies.
Last year was his most successful on tour winning the Masters, the Dubai Desert Classic, had a runner-up finish at the Italian Open and a third at the BMW.
Then came the Ryder Cup, which started with controversy when his brother Peter stating in an article, “for the Americans to stand a chance of winning, they need their baying mob of imbeciles to caress their egos every step of the way”.
After that, poor old Danny boy never stood a chance and failed to contribute a point in his three outings.
Earlier this year, he entered the final round of the Maybank Championship in Malaysia with a three-stroke advantage over the field.
In the final round, he was the only player in top 29 positions to shoot over par and finished in a tie for fifth.
At the time of going to press, five Australians are in the field – Day, Scott, Marc Leishman, Rod Pampling and amateur Curtis Luck.
Day qualified as 2015 PGA champion, 2016 Players Championship winner, was among the top-12 in the 2016 Masters, among the first four in the 2016 PGA and is in the top-50 in the world rankings.
In his six appearances at the Masters, Day has had three top-five finishes and four top-10 results.
Scott, too qualified through a number of categories, but he has a lifetime invitation courtesy of winning the Masters in 2013.
In 15 appearances, Scott has missed the cut twice, finished in the top-5 twice and top-10 four times.
Pampling’s invitation to the Masters came via winning the 2016 Shriners Hospital for Children Open on the PGA Tour. In his three Masters appearances, he is yet to miss the cut. Pamps tied for fifth in 2005, T16 in 2006 and T37 in 2007.
Leishman will go into the event firing on all cylinders; his entry courtesy of a gutsy win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Aussie amateur Curtis Luck makes his debut at the Masters qualifying as current US Amateur champion and Asia-Pacific amateur champion.
I can’t wait for the tournament to start and the excitement that comes with the Masters.
You can almost guarantee there will be drama around the famed Amen Corner (holes 11, 12 and 13) and on the back-nine on Sunday as the magnificent risk-reward aspect of the golf course permits great things to be achieved by the best players.
For those in contention coming down the stretch, you can guarantee the nerves will start to kick in.
I reckon, the players will be twitchier than the Australian Test captain Steve Smith when he’s at the crease.
Mind you, for most players the butterflies in the stomach start on day one during the trip down Magnolia Lane.
As three-time Masters champion Gary Player said, “The Masters is the only tournament I ever knew where you choke when you drive through the front gate.”
Predicting a Masters winner is nigh on impossible, but it’s hard to go past Spieth, Johnson, McIlroy, a fit Jason Day and Adam Scott but it would come as no surprise if Danny Willett enters Butler Cabin to assist Justin Thomas, Heideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm or even veteran Phil Mickelson into the Green Jacket.
CARD OF THE GOLF COURSE
Total par-72 – 7445 yards (6808m)
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out
Par 4 5 4 3 4 3 4 5 4 36
Yards 455 575 350 240 455 180 450 570 460 3735
Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In
Par 4 4 3 5 4 5 3 4 4 36
Yards 495 505 155 510 440 530 170 440 465 3710
MASTERS ODDS AND FORM CHART
Player Odds 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Jordan Spieth 7.5 T2 1 T2 DNP DNP
Dustin Johnson 8.5 T4 T6 MC T13 DNP
Rory McIlroy 8.5 T10 4 T8 T25 T40
Jason Day 13 T10 T28 T15 T8 MC
Hideki Matsuyama 15 T7 5 MC DNP T54
Henrik Stenson 23 T24 T19 T14 T18 T40
Justin Thomas 26 T39 DNP DNP DNP DNP
Adam Scott 29 T42 T38 T14 1 T8
Rickie Fowler 29 MC T12 T5 T38 T27
Phil Mickelson 31 MC T2 MC T54 T3
Justin Rose 31 T10 T2 T14 T25 T8
Jon Rahm 34 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Bubba Watson 41 T37 T38 1 T50 1
Sergio Garcia 41 T34 T17 MC T8 T12
Marc Leishman 51 MC DNP MC T4 DNP
Tyrrel Hatton 51 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Patrick Reed 51 T49 T22 MC DNP DNP
Brandt Snedeker 51 T10 MC T37 T6 T19
Paul Casey 51 T20 T11 T10 DNP MC
Thomas Pieters 61 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Louis Oosthuizen 67 T15 T19 25 MC 2
Tiger Woods 67 DNP T17 DNP T4 T40
Brooks Koepka 67 T21 T33 DNP DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel 67 MC T38 MC T25 T50
Matt Kuchar 67 T24 T46 T5 T8 T3
Gary Woodland 67 DNP MC T26 DNP WD
Branden Grace 81 MC MC MC T18 DNP
Jimmy Walker 81 T29 T38 T8 DNP DNP
Danny Willett 81 1 T38 DNP DNP DNP
Matthew Fitzpatrick 81 T7 DNP MC DNP DNP
Lee Westwood 81 T2 T46 7 T8 T3
Zach Johnson 81 MC 1 T47 T6 T9
Alex Noren 101 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Daniel Berger 101 T10 DNP DNP DNP DNP
JB Holmes 126 DNP T25 DNP DNP DNP
Shane Lowry 126 T39 MC DNP DNP DNP
Rafael Cabrera Bello126 T17 DNP DNP DNP DNP
Byeong Hun An 126 MC DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rod Pampling 251 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Curtis Luck 251 DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
T = Tied – MC = Missed Cut – DNP = Did Not Play WD = Withdrew
US MASTERS TV SCHEDULE
FOX SPORTS is serving up the most comprehensive coverage of The Masters, with a dedicated 24/7 channel showcasing round-the-clock action from Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
FOX SPORTS More (Channel 507) will become the home of golf’s most prestigious major from Monday (April 3), with the LIVE action kicking off with the opening ‘On the Range’ practice session the following day.
Fans will once again be able to watch every round LIVE and in HIGH DEFINITION, beginning with Round 1 from 4.30am EST on April 7.
PGA Tour golfer Stuart Appleby will join the FOX SPORTS team LIVE in Augusta for the first time this year, guiding viewers through the action alongside former PGA Tour player Paul Gow and host Tim Sheridan.
In addition to LIVE coverage of every round, FOX SPORTS will showcase every ‘On the Range’ practice session, the traditional Par 3 tournament, plus two additional hours of LIVE content recapping the action at the conclusion of each day’s play.
FOX SPORTS viewers will also have access to bonus Masters content available via Foxsports.com.au and the FOX SPORTS App, including featured groups, plus a LIVE feed from holes 15 and 16, and the famed ‘Amen Corner’.
Fans can warm up to the live play by reliving some of the Masters’ most memorable final rounds, including Adam Scott’s 2013 victory, plus 60-minute highlights packages of past Masters.
FOX SPORTS News will deliver all the latest and breaking news from Augusta, while Foxsports.com.au will be the online destination for rolling results, news, highlights and bonus content.
THE MASTERS – FOX SPORTS BROADCAST SCHEDULE
ON FOX SPORTS 507
MON 3 APR
Dedicated channel switches on at 12.00am
TUE 4 APR
On the Range, LIVE at 2.00am & 11.00pm
WED 5 APR
On the Range, LIVE at 11.00pm
THU 6 APR
Par 3 Tournament, LIVE at 5.00am
On the Range, LIVE at 10.30pm
FRI 7 APR
The Masters: Round 1, LIVE at 4.30am
Live From The Masters, LIVE at 9.45am
SAT 8 APR
The Masters: Round 2, LIVE at 4.30am
Live From The Masters, LIVE at 9.45am
SUN 9 APR
On The Range, LIVE at 1.00am
The Masters: Round 3, LIVE at 4.30am
Live From The Masters, LIVE at 9.15am
MON 10 APR
On The Range, LIVE at 1.00am
The Masters Final Round, LIVE at 3.30am
Live From The Masters, LIVE at 9.15am
EXCLUSIVE FEEDS VIA FOXSPORTS.COM.AU & THE FOX SPORTS APP
LIVE feed from holes 15 & 16 plus Amen Corner and featured groups.