Masters 2016: Will the Big Three dominate?
Says Mark Townsend
This seems an odd thing to be so confident about given that, in 13 appearances, our Great Triumvirate have only won one Masters between them. This is overlooking the time that Jason Day had to withdraw with an injured ankle in 2012. Remember that? Me neither.
My order of preference would be 1) Spieth 2) Rory and 3) Day which is pretty much how the bookies see it. All are comfortably in single figures, then we go down to Rickie Fowler at 16s. This is all a bit reminiscent of how the Masters was priced up in the noughties, when nobody could win unless their name was Tiger or Phil.
Which is pretty much how it played out with the dynamic duo winning five of six tournaments from 2001 onwards.
And there is so much to like about our modern-day heroes. Spieth, second and first in just two trips to Georgia, could turn out to be the greatest Master ever. In among all the hoopla of possible Grand Slams, Spieth began the year proper with the joint-best opening two rounds in Major history. Charley Hoffman started 67-68 and trailed by five.
Rory’s record at Augusta, in comparison to the other two, looks ordinary at best. His T15 in 2011 masks the misery of a four-shot lead on Sunday morning – two months later he won the US Open by eight shots (over Day) – and last year, with all eyes pinned on him ticking off a career Grand Slam, the Northern Irish maestro appeared to be heading for an early exit.
He turned in three over, on the cut mark, and ended the week 15 shots better and in fourth place. H’s fine, he can do it round there and maybe with Messrs Spieth and Day getting their fair share of questions before the Thursday this will be the breakthrough year.
Which leaves Day who has two top-three placings here and, were it not for Charl Schwartzel’s four-birdie climax, would have played off for the title with countryman Adam Scott. Day himself finished three-three.
Two years later he led with three holes to play only to drop a couple of shots.
You can’t fluke a Green Jacket. My thinking is that you have to have suffered in some shape or form before you win one and, when you have won one, that makes it all the more likely that you will win another.
Throw in the fact that these three are by far the best in the business, tick off tournaments for fun and have banks of positive memories (even Rory) here then I find it very difficult to look elsewhere.
Says Dan Murphy
Even in the era when Tiger Woods was at his dominant best there was a season – 2003 to be precise – when the Major champions were Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel.
The great thing about betting on golf, and what keeps us all scouring the odds, is that long shots can and do contend for the big tournaments.
Last year alone, there were juicy each-way returns to be found on the likes of Hideki Matsuyama (Masters), Branden Grace, Cameron Smith (both US Open), Marc Leishman, Jordan Niebrugge, Danny Willett (all Open) and Anirban Lahiri (PGA). So to suggest that the Masters is a three-way contest before a ball has been struck is plain folly.
I’ll start with two left-handers who are almost certain to contend.
Between them, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have won five of the last 12 Masters. If you are getting superstitious, every one of them has come in an even-numbered year. In fact, only one right-hander has won the Masters in an evennumbered year since 2002 (Trevor Immelman in ’08 if you must know).
I’m telling you here and now that Watson (B, not T) and Mickelson should be the first two names on your betting slip.
The possibilities beyond them are almost endless. How about Dustin Johnson, who made three eagles and 18 birdies last year en route to finishing T6th? Or Justin Rose, joint second alongside Mickelson with an aggregate score that would have won the Masters in just about any other year?
It would be great for golf if Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day were to go on to dominate golf over the next decade. But forgive me for being unconvinced we are quite at that stage just yet. The record books are full of fine players who won a Major or two and were tipped to win several more but the truth is this is extremely difficult to pull off. Only 13 men in history have won more than five Majors.
Winning a bunch (as our American friends like to put it) of Majors takes a concerted effort. Probably a decade. Of the latest Big Three, only McIlroy has won a Major in more than one season.
All we can really say for sure about the other two is that they were significantly better than the rest for most of the 2015 season.
So if you’re offering me the field, I’ll bite your hand off. And the drinks are on me when Bubba romps it.