The US Masters takes place this week at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. Danny Willett is the defending champion in the first men’s Major Championship of 2017

US Masters Preview

British golfers celebrate the start of the golfing season proper this week as the US Masters encourages thousands to dust off the clubs and head back to the fairways. As ever, a great field has assembled at Augusta National to contest the 81st Masters.

The 2017 Masters has all the makings of a classic with a number of players displaying fine form heading into the tournament. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson has won six events in his last 16 starts, including the recent WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Rory McIlroy and Jason Day have come close to Masters victory in the past and both will be hoping this might be their week, 2015 winner Jordan Spieth will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of last year’s meltdown while new kid on the block Jon Rahm will be aiming to defy the accepted wisdom that first-timers can’t win at Augusta… Only Horton Smith, Gene Sarazen and Fuzzy Zoeller have done it in the past.

The UK will be well represented with 15 players competing, including defending champ Danny Willett and Lee Westwood, who has six top-10 finishes at Augusta on his CV.

At the time of writing, the field for this year is 93 strong with 18 former champions currently on the start sheet.

 

There’s a great amateur tradition at Augusta stemming from tournament founder Bobby Jones, this year there will be five amateurs in the field. They are: Curtis Luck of Australia who made it through two separate results – he won the 2016 U.S. Amateur and the 2016 Asia Pacific Amateur Championships, Brad Dalke who was runner-up in the U.S. Amateur, British Amateur champion Scott Gregory and Latin America Amateur Champion Toto Gana.

Played over the same course each year and packed with tradition and character, The Masters is, perhaps, the most iconic tournament in world golf. Since it was first held in 1934, it’s been won by many of the greats of the game. Sarazen, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Watson, Ballesteros, Faldo and Woods have all won here. To don the famous green jacket is a must if a player is to earn legendary status within the game.

Masters Facebook Live Preview

Last season witnessed a typically dramatic Augusta back nine as Jordan Spieth blew a five shot lead and Danny Willett took full advantage of the young American’s mistakes. Spieth, winner at Augusta in 2015, birdied four straight holes from the 6th to move five clear but he dropped strokes a the difficult 10th and 11th holes. Then, on the famous par-3 12th, he hit two in the water en-route to a quadruple bogey seven. Willett birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to take command and he ended up winning by three.

Augusta is a challenging course, particularly for those without experience around the layout. It’s a track where a strategic approach is essential and knowledge of where the ball will feed in from, and away to, is key to success.

The weather looks good for the weekend but it could be windy on the Thursday and Friday.

Venue: Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia
Date: April 6-9
Course stats: par 72, 7,435 yards
Purse: $10,000,000 Winner: $1,800,000
Defending Champion: Danny Willett (-5)

Player watch:
The top-10 ranked players will grab most of the attention. But who else might have a chance this week?

Charl Schwartzel – The 2011 Masters champion clearly knows how to play the course at Augusta. He’s been flying under the radar but played well in the Valspar Championship last month and again in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

Marc Leishman – The Australian won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and made the top-10 in the Match Play. He was tied fourth in the 2013 Masters.

Thomas Pieters – This may be his first Masters but he has shown he can mix it in the big events. He played superbly in last year’s Ryder Cup, displaying he can handle the pressure and he has some good recent results, including a tie for fifth in the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Thomas Pieters driving tips video:

Key Hole: 11th. At 505 yards, this par 4 is one of the most difficult holes on the course. The hole demands a solid drive then a good second shot to a green that turns to the left and is protected short and left by a pond. Look for the majority of approach shots to bail out to the right hand side here.

The 11th marks the start of Amen Corner and can act as a springboard for a famous Augusta, back nine charge. Make a solid par here and a player might well press on to make birdies, drop a shot or two and they could be on the back foot – never a good place to be at Augusta.

Key skill required: Short game. Augusta is a course famed for its viciously sloping and lightning-fast putting surfaces. The challenging run-off areas and green surrounds mean that only those with the sharpest chipping, pitching and putting skills will contend.