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Golf Tips & Preview – US Masters

One of world sport’s great events gets underway this week courtesy of the year’s first golf major, The Masters. Check out the big guns, smokies and Australian contenders at Augusta.

The pursuit of the green jacket at the US Masters, held at Augusta National Gold Club every April, is arguably golf’s greatest prize. It’s mesmerised hardcore and casual fans of the sport since the first edition in 1934 – and the 87th Masters promises to be a memorable one.

The iconic Jack Nicklaus won a record six Masters titles in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, while Tiger Woods’ incredible victory in 2019 put him clear second on the honours board with five ahead of the great Arnold Palmer, a four-time winner.

But the last two year’s have produced watershed champions: first-time major winners Hideki Matsuyama and Scottie Scheffler.

American Scheffler shapes as a one of the players to beat, along with the ever-popular Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy – who is striving to end a nine-year major drought – and in-form Spaniard Jon Rahm. The Saudi-backed LIV Golf controversy, with Australian star Cameron Smith among the rebel league’s contingent at Augusta, adds another juicy element to the tournament.

 

THE TOP CONTENDERS

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won the last of his four majors in 2014, but last year he gave the most compelling indication yet the drought was close to an end. He was the runner-up at the Masters (his seventh top-10 finish), third at the British Open, tied for fifth at the US Open and came eighth at the PGA Championship. His recent formline is solid with a win at the Dubai Desert Classic in January and a second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Favouritism may weigh heavily on him as he looks to become just the third European winner at Augusta this century.

Odds: $7.50

Scottie Scheffler

The fact no player has defended their Masters title successfully since 2002 seems to be Scheffler’s biggest obstacle – the world No.1 returns to the scene of his breakthrough triumph in tremendous touch. Scheffler took out the Phoenix Open and The Players Championship in the past two months. He also tied for second at the US Open in 2022 on the back of his Masters success and has finished top-10 in six of the last nine majors.

Odds: $8.00

Jon Rahm

The early favourite in Masters betting, Rahm has slipped a bit but has plenty of expert backing to add to his sole major, the 2021 US Open. He struggled at the majors in 2022 – finishing no better than a tie for 12th – but has had some near misses at Augusta, finishing ninth or better from 2018-21. Rahm was on fire on the PGA tour earlier this year with three tournament wins and a few other top-10 finishes, but his form dipped recently. Great chance, though.

Odds: $10

Jordan Speith

On the fourth line of betting is three-time major winner – including the 2015 Masters – Jordan Speith. He’s a five-time top-three finisher at Augusta, though he missed the cut last year. The 29-year-old Texan has hit a timely rich vein of form, recording top-four results at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Valspar Championship.

Odds: $17

AUSSIES IN THE AUGUSTA FRAME

Cameron Smith

Tied for third at the Masters last year – the fourth time in five years he’d landed top-10 at Augusta – Smith earned his major breakthrough at the British Open. Then he defected to the LIV Golf league. However controversial the move may have been, it hasn’t impacted his form: the Queenslander won his first title on that tour in October and won the Australian PGA Championship for the third time in November.

Odds: $19

Jason Day 

The 2015 PGA Championship winner fell off the golfing map over the past couple of years, competing at just four of the last eight majors, missing the cut twice and finishing no better than 44th. But Day, a four-time top-10 finisher at the Masters, has enjoyed a remarkable early-2023 renaissance. He’s yet to finish outside the top 20 in six tournament appearances, including a fifth-place effort at the Phoenix.

Odds: $26

Min Woo Lee

Just 24, Lee lines up at Augusta for the second time after a very respectable 14th-place finish last year. He made a statement by coming sixth at The Players Championship recently, on the back of some fine form in Australia and the UAE over the past few months.

Odds: $41

Adam Scott

The 42-year-old Adelaide native holds a hallowed place as the only Australian to win the Masters, carrying off the green jacket back in 2013. He’s finished better than 18th in the tournament just once, however, while his last top-10 major finish was in 2019 and his last PGA Tour victory was in 2020. Aside from a runner-up finish at the Australian Open in December, not much about his recent form inspires confidence of another triumph at Augusta a decade on.

Odds: $101

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