The U.S. Masters takes place this week at Augusta National Golf Club. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion in the first men’s Major Championship of 2018

The U.S. Masters Preview, TV Times

The best golfers in the world are in Augusta, Georgia this week for the year’s first Major. Sergio Garcia is defending champion at the 82nd U.S. Masters.

British golfers celebrate the start of the golfing season proper this week as the U.S. 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 82nd Masters.

The 2018 U.S. Masters looks set to be a thriller with a number of players coming into the event showing fine form and some captivating storylines to follow.

Tiger Woods will play his first Major since 2015 and the four-time champion heads to Augusta with high expectations following an encouraging comeback this season. The former World Number 1 finished tied second in the Valspar Championship and tied fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Tiger first won in 1997

Tiger first won in 1997

Also heading into the year’s first Major with confidence will be British players Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter. All three have been winners on the PGA Tour within the last month.

Poulter needed to win the Houston Open to secure a start at Augusta and, displaying his trademark tenacity, he managed to do it; coming through a playoff against Beau Hossler.

2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth enjoyed his best tournament of the season last week in Houston and his tied third place finish hints that he will be a factor again at Augusta. Justin Thomas is in great form as are Phil Mickelson and England’s Justin Rose. Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson has won twice so far in 2018. With so many of the top players close to the peak of their games, this Masters could be a classic.

Jordan Spieth was winner in 2015

Jordan Spieth was winner in 2015

There’s a great amateur tradition at Augusta and this year there will be six amateurs in the field. They are: 2017 Amateur champion, England’s Harry Ellis, U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman and runner-up Doug Ghim, Asia Pacific Amateur champion – 17-year-old, Yuxin Lin, Latin America Amateur champion Joaquin Niemann and US Mid Amateur champ Matt Parziale.

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. Last season witnessed a brilliant battle between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. Garcia claimed his first Major title in a playoff.

Sergio Garcia is defending champion

Sergio Garcia is defending champion

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 could play a part this week. Friday is expected to be windy with thunderstorms potentially rolling in over the weekend.

Venue: Augusta National GC, Augusta, Georgia
Date: April 5-8
Course stats: par 72, 7,435 yards
Purse: $11,000,000
Defending champion: Sergio Garcia (-9)

How to watch The Masters

Sky TV Coverage:

Thursday 5 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm
Friday 6 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm
Saturday 7 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Mix from 7pm, Sky Sports Main Event from 8.30pm
Sunday 8 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Mix from 6pm, Sky Sports Main Event from 6.30pm

Not a Sky Sports customer and want to watch The Masters?

Why not buy a Now TV pass? For £7.99 you can get a day pass if you wish to watch one of the rounds or, for just £12.99, you can get a week pass to see the whole tournament.

Buy a Now TV Sky Sports Day Pass for £7.99
Buy a Now TV Sky Sports Week Pass for £12.99

Players to watch:

There are so many contenders this year with so many of the world’s best on good form coming into the event. The focus will be on Tiger, Phil, Rory, the Justins (Rose and Thomas,) Jordan, DJ, Bubba and Jason Day. Who might just spring a surprise from outwith the favourites?

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – He’s been playing some great golf in 2018 with two victories to his name. He was also tied fifth in the last two WGC events. He has the touch and talent to perform well at Augusta.

Kevin Chappell – Tied seventh in last year’s Masters, Chappell has a precise game that’s well suited to Augusta. He’s played well so far in 2018 with three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.

Kevin Kisner – Although he lost to Bubba in the final of the Match Play, Kisner played some superb golf to reach that championship match. He’s on form and might be this year’s surprise package. He’s made the cut in both of his previous Masters starts.

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.

Skills 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.