Johnson, Spieth and McIlory top Masters hopefuls

Augusta National, a 7,435-yard par 72, has become arguably one of the most iconic sporting venues in the US, if not the world, with famed Magnolia Lane guarding Butler Cabin, and blooming azaleas painting the fairways.

The first major tournament of the year will feature the game’s best players, but that will not include Tiger Woods, who will miss the Masters for the third time in the past four years due to his ongoing back problems.

Augusta National Augusta National

Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will line up as the favourites this week, but there are a host of challengers ready to slip on a green jacket should they falter.

Johnson is the No. 1 player on the FedExCup points list and has already won three tournaments this year. The US Open champion also has five top-10 finishes in the seven events he has entered.

With a win and a runner-up finish in his last two starts here, Spieth has mastered Augusta at a very young age. Ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation percentage, Spieth is certainly a player to follow and the former world No.1 would love to get another Green Jacket after his heart-breaking defeat last year.

McIlroy has been out of action for much of the season (just four starts worldwide) due to a rib injury, yet that shouldn’t stop the former world No.1 from contending this week. Still in search of a career grand slam, McIlroy is hungry to add a Master’s title to his list of mamor titles.

Rickie Fowler is always a player to follow in a Major.

Now 28, Fowler has seven wins worldwide, from the US to Korea, stopping in Scotland and Abu Dhabi, but he’s without a Major. Fowler can also bomb it and is ranked in top-25 in driving distances and given Fowler has made the cut in each of his first five visits, including a fifth in 2014 and 12th in 2015, the likeable American is sure to be in the mix come next Sunday.

Australian Adam Scott will have to put aside his missed cut last week in Houston but the 2013 Masters champion has 17 top-20 finishes since his two wins last year. If Scott’s putter is hot we can expect a strong showing from him.

Four other Australians will tee it up at this year’s masters.

Jason Day and Marc Leishman qualified due to their word rankings while Rod Pampling and Curtis Luck received a start as a result of their success in qualifying events over the last eight months.

Only one Australian has won this event in its 80 year history with Adam Scott’s breakthrough win in 2013, but on eight other occasions Australians have been runner-up, three of those by Greg Norman.

One of the most relevant factors in 2017 may be the weather forecast. There’s a prediction of a complete washout at Augusta on Monday, which could seriously push this event into the hands of the bigger hitters – and that includes Fowler.

It’s the Masters so anything can, and will, happen so set the your alarm for some early morning starts and enjoy the action.