Golf’s first major of the year begins later today in Augusta with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy leading the way as favourites to grab the Masters title and coveted Green Jacket. Attention will be on Woods, who is seeking his fifth Masters title, upon winning his first PGA Tour title two weeks ago; though significantly it was his first title since September 2009, ultimately suggesting that he has found his form at the right time. For McIlroy, it will be a case of righting last year’s wrongs, as he infamously took a four-shot lead into the final round only to collapse with a round of 80, consequently finishing 10 shots away from eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.

Woods & McIlroy are hot favourites for Masters glory

McIlroy will be buoyed by his victory at the next major where he convincingly took the U.S. Open title, whilst his recent stint at world number one will further assure his confidence that he can beat the very best. McIlroy leads a strong European contingent, with current world number one Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, ranked number 3, looking to elevate their reputations as they are both on the hunt to add a first major title to their respective careers.

As well as Woods, the American focus will be on three-time champion Phil Mickelson as he looks to match Woods on four Masters victories. America’s highest ranked golfer is currently Hunter Mahan at number four, and his two victories so far this season will give him the extra impetus he needs to grab his first major title also.

Recent Winners: 2011 – Charl Schwartzel; 2010 – Phil Mickelson; 2009 – Angel Cabrera; 2008 – Trevor Immelman; 2007 – Zach Johnson.

If you take a look at the recent winners you will see an unfamiliar list and this will provide the whole field with a great deal of belief that they too can achieve their dream of putting on the Green Jacket. Whilst it is evident that McIlroy and Woods are heavily favoured, my outside bet would have to be on Germany’s Martin Kaymer who has consistently found himself in the world’s top 10, whilst my heart says Lee Westwood will clinch his first major title and make all those second and third-placed major finishes a memory of the past.

It all makes for a very exciting 76th Masters and the field is open as ever; the cries of ‘get in the hole’ will follow Woods et al on all 72 holes of Augusta, as this passionate American crowd provide the backdrop for what should be a fascinating first major of 2012.


Michael Hincks