The first major golf tournament of 2016 is on the horizon as the world’s elite players will gather in Augusta, Georgia, on 7 April for the Masters.
The Masters never fails to live up to expectations, with millions of golf fans across the globe ready to put their lives on hold to watch the action unfold. We have witnessed numerous historic moments since the first Masters in 1934. Since then there have been 38 other winners – the latest to join that list being current world number one Jordan Spieth who tied the Masters record of an 18-under par when he beat Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose by four strokes.
So who will triumph in 2016? Can Spieth retain his crown? Will Rory McIlroy recover from his disappointing display at the Arnold Palmer Invitational? Or will a golfer emerge completely out of the blue to create history and win the green jacket? Here are the five of our picks ahead of the 2016 event.
Jordan Spieth: the hot favourite
The obvious place to start is with reigning champion Jordan Spieth. The 22-year-old golfer, from Dallas, Texas, has already tasted success in 2016, winning the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
Spieth’s Hawaiian victory was his seventh PGA Tour success, matching the legendary Tiger Woods for winning the same number of events before turning 23. In 2015, Spieth equalled the lowest winning score in Masters history
Spieth heads into next month’s event as one of the red-hot favourites to join an elite list of 17 other golfers to have won the Masters on more than one occasion.
Rory McIlroy: the most likely Brit
One man who will be looking for his first Masters triumph is Rory McIlroy. The popular Northern Irish golfer has had a slow start to the new year, and will be looking for a quick change in fortune next month.
But as we all know, when McIlroy is playing at his full potential, he is very difficult to stop. The world number two finished fourth at last year’s tournament, his scorecard reading 12 under.
The Masters is the only major championship that has eluded McIlroy and his focus will be on winning the full set.
In recent months, the 26-year-old has been criticised for doing too much in the gym and not enough on the course. The Masters therefore offers him a timely opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and pick up his fifth career major.
Danny Willett: the British underdog
British golfing fans should watch out for Sheffield-born Danny Willett.
Willett’s reputation is on the up, and in February of this year, he claimed the biggest win of his professional career at the Dubai Desert Classic.
His memorable moment in Dubai was his third victory in the last 14 months, alongside another nine top six finishes, so the form guide is firmly on his side.
A near certainty to make this year’s European Ryder Cup team, there is a slight doubt that Willett may not even make the Masters with his first child expected to be born near to the tournament start date.
However, he remains confident he will be there next month, and if he is, his recent purple patch see him collect his first major championship title.
Emiliano Grillo: first-timer, dark horse
There will be 18 newcomers at the Masters this year, and what a story it would be if one of those golfers does what many consider impossible and wins the tournament.
Out of those 18 golfers, the player we have chosen to highlight is Argentinian Emiliano Grillo.
Ranked at number 35 in the world, Grillo is a member of the famed amateur class of 2011 that includes the likes of Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Last October, Grillo won his first PGA Tour title with a play-off victory over America’s Kevin Na at the Frys.com Open in California which subsequently earnt him a place at the Masters.
If you are unfamiliar with Grillo, you can check out his playing stats here.
Henrick Stenson: The outside bet
Last but certainly not least, the fifth golfer we have chosen to keep a keen eye on is Henrik Stenson.
The Swede, who turns 40 just two days before the Masters starts, is still hungry for his first major championship and he is considered a great outside bet this year by the bookmakers.
Currently ranked at number seven in the world, Stenson has an impressive CV, boasting 10 European Tour, five PGA and three Challenge Tour victories.
Arguably one of the greatest Scandinavian golfers, Stenson sank the winning putt in 2006 to see Europe win the Ryder Cup at County Kildare, Ireland.