World’s best to gather in Augusta for opening golf major of 2016
Simon Sinclair | March 13, 2016
Seven long months have passed since Jason Day triumphed on the final day in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the first major of his career.
Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will continue their duel for top spot in the world rankings after the American’s second-place finish edged him ahead of the Northern Irishman.
The three players are expected to be locked in an intense battle to add further honours to their impressive records at The Masters come April.
Spieth eyeing historic year
Spieth had an outstanding year in all four major competitions, claiming his first title at The Masters while adding his second two months later at the US Open.
The 22-year-old enhanced his lofty reputation with a fine performance at The Open, finishing in tied fourth place, and he was narrowly beaten in Whistling Straits due to Day’s brilliance.
A frightening aspect for players on the world tour is that Spieth will only improve in the coming years, as he gains further experience in pressure situations.
He has also proven that he has nerve and the quality to withstand the stress of the sport at the highest level, which has eluded many fine players over the course of history.
Spieth will have his sights firmly set on adding a historic quadruple to become the first man in golf history to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year.
As you would expect, the odds are long indeed at 250/1 for the 22-year-old to achieve the feat but, if any player on the circuit has a chance of accomplishing that act, it’s Spieth.
His form since finishing as runner-up at the PGA Championship has been inconsistent, despite two wins at the Tour Championship and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
However, in his last three events, he has failed to finish inside the top 10 and missed the cut for the final two rounds of the Northern Trust Open.
As a result, Spieth has work to do to rediscover his championship touch before he reaches Augusta, where he is 13/2 to notch the green jacket for the second year on the spin.
McIlroy to return to major glory
Eighteen months have passed since the Northern Irishman tasted success in a major, following a below-par campaign by his high standards in 2015.
The 26-year-old’s struggles were epitomised when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament before The Open, forcing him to miss the tournament.
He returned for the PGA Championship but could only finish in 17th, though he managed to display a glimpse of his best form by placing fourth at the BMW Championship.
However, McIlroy failed to rediscover his touch at the start of the year with poor performances at the Northern Trust Open and the Honda Classic.
The Northern Irishman put in a strong challenge for the title at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, but a disappointing display on his final round cost him dearly, losing out by two shots to winner Adam Scott.
As a result of his underwhelming displays over the past year, McIlroy will be desperate to add to his four majors, starting at The Masters next month.
The Green Jacket has eluded the 26-year-old thus far in his career, although few can forget his implosion on the final round of the competition five years ago, when he fired an eight-over par 80 to finish tied-15th, despite taking a four-shot lead into the last day.
McIlroy has finished in the top 10 twice at Augusta since his collapse, and he is now a 6/1 favourite to finally banish his demons of 2011 to win the competition ahead of Spieth.
The four-time major winner is also heavily backed to add to his previous successes at the US Open, The Open and the PGA Championship all at 6/1, with the odds of claiming a historic calendar grand slam at 200/1.
A more manageable feat could be a repeat of his double triumph of 2014 when he won The Open and the PGA Championship, and the Northern Irishman has odds of 13/2 to make lightning strike twice in his career.
Day aiming to build on first triumph
The 28-year-old broke his duck by claiming his first major at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Aussie Day was carving out a reputation as the nearly man following three second-place finishes at The Masters and US Open, before he finally put in a complete performance over four days to lift the crown.
Day followed up his success with wins at The Barclay and BMW Championship to finish the year strongly, although he has failed to find the same rhythm in 2016.
He has notched just one top-10 finish in four events since the turn of the year, which came at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, while the Australian could only finish 23rd at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship last week, carding at even-par for the competition.
Day faces a challenge to get back to his best ahead of The Masters in under a month, with only two tournaments left to find his rhythm.
As a result of his form, he is behind McIlroy and Spieth as a 10/1 outsider to earn the green jacket, despite second and third-place finishes at Augusta in previous tournaments.
However, a better betting option could be a 13/8 price for Day to win his second major in the calendar year, as 2015 showed that he improved at every passing competition before his triumph in Wisconsin.