2017 Masters Preview
America Golf is pleased to preview The 2017 Masters will be contested between April 6th and 9th at the Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia. This year will be the 81st edition of the golf tournament, where winners compete to wear the famous green jacket.
The Masters is unique in that it’s the only one of the four major golf tournaments to be played on the same course every year. The Masters also has the smallest field of any golf major and remains an invitation only event. Other traditions which remain specific to the Masters, includes the Champions dinner. This takes place on the Tuesday before each tournament and is only open to past champions and board members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Players can also take part in the par-3 tournament, which is played on the Wednesday before official tournament play commences.
The Augusta National course is on the site of a former plant nursery and this explains why the holes are all named after trees and shrubs. The flowering plants, such as the Azaleas are a sight to behold during the tournament but do not be fooled by the stunning setting as this is a golf course set to test the players, both in terms of technique and mentality. Perhaps the most famous section of Augusta National is known as Amen Corner and this features the second shot on the 11th, all the 12th and the first two shots of the 13th hole. This section of the course has seen some spectacular moments over the years. Augusta National challenges every golfer’s short game, with only the imagination of the player setting the limit as to what can be achieved around the greens. The fairways have minimal rough around the edges and the greens are hugely demanding, with severe undulations throughout.
There is no doubt, the Masters is the most prestigious golf event in the world and remains the one title every golfer dreams of winning. Previous winners include Jack Nicklaus, who holds the record for most victories at Augusta having won the event six times and Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, who have both won the green jacket four times. Other famous winners include Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer.
Last year, we witnessed a shock as England’s Danny Willett came through to win the 2016 Masters by three strokes from Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood. It was a tournament to remember but for all the wrong reasons as far as Spieth was concerned. The defending champion started the back nine holes on Sunday afternoon with a five-shot lead only to drop six shots on the next three holes, with a quadruple bogey on the 12th hole. Having led the tournament from the first round, Spieth suffered one of the biggest collapses in the history of the Masters and allowed Willet, who shot a bogey-free 69, to win the tournament and become the first European golfer to do so since 1999.
So, which golfers should we look out for as potential winners of the 2017 Masters?
You must go back to 2002 to find the last time a player has won back-to-back Masters titles, which was Tiger Woods and it appears his record is going to remain intact this year. Danny Willett showed improved form at the Maybank Championship in mid-February bur prior to that event struggled for form, missing the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and finishing T54 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It would be considered a big surprise if Willett won the 2017 Masters.
2015 champion, Jordan Spieth, remains the bookies favourite to win the 2017 Masters and has been in good form since the turn the year, including a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am event. Spieth also finished T3 at the SBS Tournament of Champions, third at the Sony Open and T9 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This is a man who will be determined to show what he can do at Augusta after his awful experience last year. It remains to be seen whether his drive to prove a point will be too much and sees the young American try and force the issue, which you cannot afford to do at the Masters.
Current world number one, Dustin Johnson has enjoyed a tremendous start to 2017, winning the Genesis Open and finishing inside the top six at three other tournaments so far, this year. Johnson has shown steady improvement at the Masters over the last two years, with a T6 and T4 finish and with confidence high, could win the second major of his career at Augusta.
Other contenders include Hideki Matsuyama, the 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open winner. The Japanese golfer is yet to win a major tournament in his career but has delivered two of his best major performances at the Masters over the past two years, finishing fifth and T7. Matsuyama makes an intriguing prospect and is currently considered in the group just behind Spieth and Johnson, which includes Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.
It’s easy to look at the golf greats and pick a name but what about those who are outsiders for the tournament? You cannot discount previous winners and both Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson can win the 2017 Masters. In terms of young and upcoming players, Thomas Pieters showed in the Ryder Cup he knows how to handle pressure on the golf course and the Masters will test his nerve to the limit. A recent T2 at the Genesis Open, including a final round 63 shows the Belgian has what it takes to compete at the highest level and if in contention come Sunday, will be a major threat to those around him.
The Masters never fails to disappoint in terms of spectacular golf and sheer drama and the 2017 Masters tournament is going to be another special event. Will a past winner have the honor of slipping on the green jacket again or will a new face walk into the Butler Cabin as Masters champion this year?
The 2017 Masters will be like no other because of the absence of “The King” Arnold Palmer who contributed so much to the success of the Masters and the Sport of Golf.