In-form Rory looks hard to beat

Winning the Masters is arguably top of the bucket list for any professional golfer and it is fair to say lifting the famous Claret Jug at The Open is the only tournament that rivals the prestige of the Georgia event.

In what is the only major to be played at the same course every year, the majestic Augusta National, the Masters brings an air of excitement to the sport as the world’s best golfers go in pursuit of the famous Green Jacket.

Controversial American Patrick Reed claimed the spoils last year, beating compatriot Rickie Fowler by one stroke, and the defending champion is aiming to become the first play since Tiger Woods in 2002 to retain the title.

Only three players have won back-to-back Masters in the history of the tournament – the other two being Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus – and it seems hard to back Reed, who has been struggling for form, at 56.00 to come out on top again.

Grand Slam glory for Rory

One player that is firing on all cylinders is 8.00 favourite Rory McIlroy. Since winning his second US PGA Championship in 2014, the fourth major of his career, the Northern Irishman has been searching for the elusive Green Jacket that would etch his name into the history books.

Victory in Georgia this week would complete the Grand Slam for the 29-year-old, who would become just the sixth player to win all four majors in the Masters era, joining an elite list that includes Woods, Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

McIlroy is showing his most consistent golf for the past five years and he recently landed The Players Championship for the first time in his career, holding off American Jim Furyk by one stroke on the final round.

The world number three also has a further six top-10’s in 2019 – his results reading T4-T5-T4-2-T6-T9 – and this could finally be the year he triumphs at the Masters and puts his 2011 collapse behind him.

Interestingly, the County Down-born star’s mental approach appears to be much stronger this seasom and he recently spoke of how he now heads into the Masters hoping to win, instead of thinking he must win for his career to be a success.

Looking at McIlroy’s stats on the PGA Tour this season and they make for impressive reading. He is first in strokes gained off-the-tee, tee-to-green and in total, while he is 10th in Greens in Regulation and 12th in putting average.

With the greens at Augusta National so quick, being on form with the flat stick is crucial to success and the fact the Northern Irishman has improved massively in this department strengthens his chances of winning.

Ryder Cup stars to make Georgia charge

All 12 of Europe’s victorious 2018 Ryder Cup-winning team will be teeing it up this week and there are a couple specific individuals that could mount a serious challenge alongside tournament favourite McIlroy.

The first of those is none other than Francesco Molinari. The Italian has enjoyed a sensational 10 months that started with victory at the BMW PGA Championship back in May last year.

A maiden PGA Tour title then followed at the Quicken Loans National in July before the 36-year-old broke his major duck at The Open just 21 days later, winning at Carnoustie by two strokes.

Molinari then became the first European player to win all five matches at a Ryder Cup – forming an unbeatable partnership with Tommy Fleetwood in the doubles before ousting Phil Mickelson in the singles.

The Italian has managed to keep that momentum going in 2019 and he stormed to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, getting the better of Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick by two shots.

Every aspect of Molinari’s game has improved over the past 10 months and it is very hard to pass him up at odds of 21.00 to win his first Green Jacket.

The second Ryder Cup hero that could make some real headwind this week is Paul Casey. Now sitting 11th in the world, the Englishman has played some fantastic golf in 2019 and he became the first player to successfully defend the Valspar Championship in March.

Not only did that win etch the 41-year-old’s name into the history books, but it also boosted his confidence levels massively as he managed to hold off the challenges of several players on the last day, something he failed to do in previous events when leading.

Casey, whose best result at Augusta was a T4 in 2016, has four more top-10’s to his name this year and he also seems like a generous price at 26.00 to break his major duck.

Former champion to make strong start

Jordan Spieth may not be firing on all cylinders heading into the Masters, but he is a player that thoroughly enjoys this track and it would be no surprise to seem him set the early pace on Thursday.

The American was in contention at the half-way stage of the Valero Texas Open last week before a disappointing third round ended his chances of winning.

Despite fading away, the 25-year-old will be buoyed after rediscovering some of his better form and he could benefit from going into the Masters slightly under the radar.

Since making his debut in the first major of the season in 2014, Spieth has led after the first round three times – going on to win once in 2015 – and this shows his game just seems to fit playing at Augusta.

He really should have a second Green Jacket in his wardrobe after he blew a huge lead on the back-nine in 2016 but the US star has shown no ill effects from that collapse on his following visits, finishing T11 in 2017 and third last year.

Course form can often play a huge part when it comes to the Masters and Spieth looks far too tempting a price at 23.00 to be top of the pile on day one.