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Preview: The Masters 2017

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Golf fans will tell you that spring hasn’t really arrived until Masters Week, and with the tournament just around the corner we’re weighing up the main contenders...

Dustin Johnson has a chance to become the first golfer since Tiger Woods in 2005 to claim victory at Augusta while simultaneously being ranked world number one. Meanwhile Rory McIlroy, if he takes the green jacket, would complete his career grand slam.

Jordan Spieth is also, as always, one to consider. His Masters record is amazing: he became the youngest ever green jacket winner in 2015 and finished second in 2016. However last year’s second place finish did come after a remarkable collapse on the final day, for which Spieth received a lot of criticism.

Dustin Johnson comes into the tournament a 5-1 favourite, showing just how much has changed since this time last year when DJ came to Augusta a 20-1 outsider. At that point Johnson was one of the best golfers to have not won a major but having since claimed a US Open win he’s raised his profile and will be looking to press his claims to a green jacket.

Jason Day also has to be closely considered and will have a real chance if things go to plan. The Australian is a former world number one and finished second at Augusta in 2011. However he may be adversely affected by his mother's on-going struggle with lung cancer. He abandoned his defence of the Dell Technologies Match Play to be by his ailing mother's side just two weeks ago. 

It’s always dangerous in golfing terms to predict a win by one of the main contenders and, in turning our attentions to the field, there are plenty of genuine challengers.

Phil Mickelson, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia all have to be considered, and that’s far from a complete list. In terms of ‘the favourites vs. the field’ - the field looks strong this year.

Garcia is a notable outsider, currently at 40-1 to win the tournament. But recent form and the ease with which he’s playing definitely means he could put himself into contention with a little luck. 

Last year’s champion, Yorkshireman Danny Willett, has had a torrid time since his life changing Augusta win. At a 100-1 and in bad form it’s hard to trumpet his chances too loudly but it’s always tricky to write off a former champ.

Overall this year’s Masters is bound to be a competitive one. It’s hard to name one clear cut favourite, despite Johnson’s prevalence with bookmakers. A number of players are chasing important records or are coming into the tournament on surges of good form, Matsuyama and Garcia included. Expect a hard fought contest.

It’s worth making the closing note that Masters legend Arnold Palmer sadly passed away since the 2016 Masters and will be sorely missed by competitors and fans alike. He was the tournament’s senior, in terms of age, and won it four times. His absence this year will make the tournament a poignant one. Jack Nicklaus’ tribute sums up the importance of his absence - he described Palmer as a man who “transcended golf… He was an icon. He was a legend.  Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport”.

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