In-form McIlroy heads favourites at Augusta National

It’s easy to get embroiled in everything that revolves around the Masters ‘tradition’, which is defined by a set of odd rules and customs that just don’t exist outside of Augusta National.

By television viewing standards it is arguably the best viewing of the four Majors, with minimal adds and a level of control by Augusta National to ensure everything is to their liking.

Augusta National In-form McIlroy heads favourites at Augusta National

From the perspective of the golf fans, I mean ‘patrons’, the crowd eagerly awaits the crowning of the year’s first Major champion and the new owner of the prestigious Green Jacket. Many are hoping for a new champion with Patrick Reed perhaps not the Masters champion every golf fan would have wanted.

Last year, a large number of patrons arrived at Augusta National with hopes of seeing Rory McIlroy finally complete a career grand slam and it will be the same again this week.

McIlroy leads the Tour in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained tee to green (a crucial indicator of Masters success) and strokes gained overall. On top of that, McIlroy has finished T6 or better in each of his six stroke-play events this season including the Players Championship, where the he beat arguably the strongest field assembled this year.

The 29-year-old has battled with his game in recent times but has seemingly turned the corner in 2019. He’s yet to join an elite group of six players, who have completed the career Grand Slam by the age of 30 and with his birthday just around the corner he has all the motivation he needs to finally collect that final Major.

Tommy Fleetwood is still searching for his first win in the US, despite being close. His last two stroke-play events at Bay Hill and The Players have featured elite fields, and he finished T3 and T5. On the PGA Tour, the Englishman is fourth in strokes gained off the tee, fifth in strokes gained tee to green and fifth in strokes gained overall.

Then there’s Molinari, who is in the form of his life, Dustin Johnson and new world No.1 Justin Rose and of course, Tiger Woods.

With only Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Cameron Smith and 2013 champion Adam Scott in the field, it’s the third time in the past six years that Australia has fielded just four players in the Masters.

We might have the quantity but we have quality with Day (14), Leishman (20), Smith (28) and Scott (29) are ranked among the world’s top 30 golfers.

Day’s form is hampered by injury, yet he’s adamant a weeks’ rest has him ready.

Leishman has improved markedly in the PGA Tour’s strokes-gained-off-the-tee statistic this season and knows the driver will be key to success at Augusta. Leishman is the only Australian to win a US PGA Tour event this season and has posted three top-four results this year.

Smith will be able to draw from his closing 66 at Augusta National last year which left him as the top Australian, sharing fifth place. Smith also has played well at the US Open and is at ease with the US crowds.

Since last year’s Masters, Scott has reunited with former swing coach Brad Malone whom he says played a large role his famous maiden major victory at Augusta in 2013.