Golf

Bubba Watson admires one of his booming tee shots at Augusta National.

Who owns the tag of 'favourite' for The Masters?

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With The Masters beginning at Augusta National tomorrow morning, lets take a look at who is staking their claim to be the pre-tournament favourite.

It is often hard to judge the form of players around this time of year as many guys have not played regularly whilst those who have played on a weekly basis have seen their playing levels fluctuate frequently. Nobody really knows which approach works but if you ask me, playing time is always beneficial and having wins under your belt can never be a bad thing. With a lot of the top players in the world having found form at some stage

With a lot of the top players in the world having found form at some stage already this season, this year's tournament is set to be one of the most enthralling in a while. So, without further ado, here are the players that could be battling for a green jacket come Masters Sunday. 

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You simply cannot leave Jordan Spieth out of this conversation, he's the world's number one player and the defending champion at Augusta.

His victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January proved yet again that he excels amongst top competition and despite only having two further top-ten finishes this season, there is no reason not to expect him to turn up all guns blazing come April 7.

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Just a year off setting the all-time low finish in Masters history, Spieth will feel comfortable and confident around the luscious and spectacular Augusta National and it would be a surprise to not see his name somewhere near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. He does have to deal with being the defending champion of a major for the first time and there are some worries about his form, particularly his ball striking, but don't be too hasty to bet against the young man claiming his second green jacket. 

World number two Rory Mcilroy is another who is always in and around the thoughts of those making pre-tournament predictions. 

Whilst he has not won since the Wells Fargo Championship in May of last year, he has been playing well of recent including an impressive third-place finish in an elite field at the WGC Cadillac Championship a fortnight ago. His putting issues seem to be disappearing as he adjusts to his newly implemented left hand dominant grip and as far as ball striking goes he remains second to none.

Mcilroy's length off the tee will allow him to access pins a lot more easily than most of his peers and assuming he plays solidly tee to green, he will certainly be in with a shout of picking up his first Masters title. This is a course he likes but also one he has history of bad meltdowns on, namely his final round of 80 in 2011 when holding a four-shot lead. So it may become more of a mental battle for Rory and it will be intriguing to see how he manages a lead at any point over the four days.

The Masters - Preview Day 2

Other Possible Favourites

Jason Day is another man who will be hoping to add a green jacket to his already impressive resume. Day has come tantalisingly close to winning at Augusta before, finishing in a tie for second in 2011 and in solitary third in 2013, both times he had a real chance to win coming down the stretch on Sunday. 

Day might be the most confident man in golf following his explosion into a force of world golf last season, winning five times including a stretch of four wins in six weeks and his maiden major championship at the PGA Championship.

Day has not played much this year, only entering four events, but has been solid without being spectacular with one top ten finish and no missed cuts. He is another one for the big occasion and considering his length and his previous history at the Masters he must be considered as a potential winner. 

Next is the final member of the so called 'Big Four', Rickie Fowler.

Fowler is having his best season as a pro, gaining the biggest wins of his career at the Players Championship and the Deutsche Bank and breaking into the world's top five for the first time.

Some decent results this season show no regression in the level of his game and two previous top 15 finishes at Augusta also highlight his ability to play well there. This could be the next man to win his maiden major championship and this really could be his week if he gets his putting game going. His scrambling ability is simply outstanding and whilst not having the length of Mcilroy and Day he certainly isn't short and will back his outstanding iron play to put him in contention at the weekend. 

Others To Watch

Now to a former champion and the form player in golf at this moment, Adam Scott.

Two wins in the past two weeks at the Honda Classic and WGC Cadillac Championship along with two further second place finishes have catapulted Scott back into the world's top ten and his confidence will be through the roof heading to Augusta where he won in 2013.

Scott went through some struggles with changing his putter and had a rare down year last year but he seems to be back to his best and he knows what it takes to get the job done at the Masters. Has his brilliant form come a few weeks too early? only time will tell, but he will definitely be going into the tournament full of confidence and that could be an ominous sign for the rest of the field especially considering his outstanding ball striking ability on a course that rewards such play richly.

Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club

Despite the fact that all of the previously mentioned players all have legitimate claims to being labelled the pre-tournament favourite at Augusta, Bubba Watson owns that unofficial title. Bubba Watson and The Masters might be one the more obvious oxymorons in sports but they somehow have forged a compatibility.

The flashy, unconventional Bubba has found a way to master the pristine, tranquil, almost shrine like course in a way only comparable to the genius of the late great Seve Ballesteros. His ability to move the ball in the air and bomb tee shots 340 yards down-hole give him a unique perspective of this place and it just works, it seems like this course was made for Bubba.

Having won two of the past four Masters Watson will go into the 2016 tournament on the back of a win this year at the Northern Trust Open and playing strangely consistent golf for a man of his mercurial yet sometimes unreliable ability. Of course, this is golf and anything can happen and it would be ill-advised to crown him as the champion now but in terms of pre-tournament predictions, his name has to be up there.

World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play - Round One

A few other names do pop up in this conversation namely, three-time champion Phil Mickelson who also has a particular affinity with Augusta National and can never be ruled out going in to Masters week. 

Charl Schwartzel, 2011 winner and last week's winner at the Valspar Championship, is another who plays well around this course and should be considered a danger especially with his ability to string together a flurry of birdies in a short space of time.

Fellow South African and major champion Louis Oosthuizen also sets up very well around Augusta and has a number of high place finishes there.

Of the Europeans, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia will all harbour hopes that this can be their time and all four could do the job on their day. But, it just seems like a tournament for Bubba Watson to go out and take for his own, whether that is correct or not we shall see come April 10 on the grandest golfing stage of them all, Augusta National. 

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Topics:
Bubba Watson
Adam Scott
US Masters
Golf
Rory McIlroy

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