There is now a break in the golf season until the New Year so it seems a good time to look forward and identify the potential winners of the four major tournaments in 2017. This year all four major champions were winning for the first time at the highest level and no player other than Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth have won more than one major over the last four seasons. Professional golf is highly competitive and has depth which means any one of about fifty players can win a major playing at their very best.
Only five players have won all four majors at least once to achieve the Career Grand Slam. Phil Mickelson (US Open) and McIlroy (Us Masters) are missing one to complete the set. The pressure on both players will be immense and that is why winning four is so rare. Tiger Woods is the last player to do just that and he has won all four at least three times. Jack Nicklaus’s haul of 18 majors is a record that Woods still targets. The former world number one is healthy again and is planning a full schedule in 2017.
Here are our ante post selections for the four tournaments that matter most:
The US Masters is all about tradition and is the only major played on the same course each year. Augusta National is not above average in length but the devilishly quick greens protect the scores. It is a course that puts a premium on distance over accuracy, especially on the par fives. The 13th and 15th are both reachable long holes in two shots but are fraught with danger so it doesn’t take too much to turn a potential birdie into a bogey or worse. Amen Corner on Sunday is crucial and in 2016 Danny Willett took advantage when Spieth’s game fell apart over that stretch.
Augusta National is perfect for Bubba Watson and he has won two Masters tournaments in the last five years. However, he is badly out of form and will have to show some improvement early in the year to figure in the US Masters again. Justin Rose was a proud winner of the Gold Medal at the Olympics where he beat Open Champion, Henrik Stenson, down the stretch. Rose is a proven major champion with a game suited to Augusta. He has contended in the US Masters in the past and 2017 could be the year when he is presented with a Green Jacket.
Ante Post Tip: Justin Rose to win the US Masters at 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
The US Open is the toughest of the majors in terms of the mental and physical demands. The USPGA philosophy states, “A US Open course should test all forms of shot making, mental tenacity and physical endurance under conditions of extreme pressure found only at the highest levels of championship golf.” So the host course have narrow fairways, penal rough and fast greens. Erin Hills in Wisconsin has the honour in 2017 and will provide the most comprehensive test in golf. It will be the sixth public access course to stage the second major of the season.
The key attributes for contending in the US Open are a game more about accuracy than distance, an outstanding short game and the right temperament to handle the heat of competition. Mickelson’s chances look behind him though only Stenson beat him in the Open but a more likely winner is Adam Scott. The Aussie seems to have adjusted to going back to more conventional putting and he is a former major champion. David Graham and Geoff Ogilvy are US Open winners from Australia and Scott can become the third at Erin Hills in June.
Ante Post Tip: Adam Scott to win the US Open at 33/1 with William Hill.
The Open Championship is the oldest major on the schedule and is always played on a links course, so named because the area on which one is built links the inland and the sea. Weather can be a huge factor but ultimately the best player will prevail. Stenson was a worthy winner in 2016 when only Mickelson could keep near him. In 2017 the British Open returns to Royal Birkdale in Southport for the first time since 2008 when Padraig Harrington won the second of his two Opens.
Hideki Matsuyama would not be an obvious name on a short list of potential Open champions but he is a major winner in waiting. He has made 14 of 17 cuts in majors and finished in the top 10 five times. He won the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions at the end of 2016 and has won three times in total on the PGA Tour, as well as eight times in Japan where he was born. His game is more about accuracy than distance and he will be suited to Birkdale as long as the wind does not blow too strongly. Matsuyama can become the first Asian player to win the Open.
Ante Post Tip: Hideki Matsuyama to win the British Open at 25/1 with bet365.
The USPGA Championship is known as Glory’s Last Shot because it is the last major championship of the season. The field includes the top 25 American club pros who play on a different course each year. The venues are not as tough as the US Open tests but extreme heat in the middle of August adds to the degree of difficulty. The 2017 USPGA Championship will be played at Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina. The course has been used for regular tour events and is a superb examination for the best players. Few changes were required to make it ready for a major.
Jordan Spieth is too good not to win more majors and he can add to his tally in August of 2017. In 2015 he won the first two majors of the season and was just one shot away from making the playoff for the Open Championship at St Andrews. Spieth has a brilliant all-round game with few weaknesses. He has struggled mentally since wasting a great a chance to win a second Masters in 2016 but he has the temperament to get over that disappointment and add to his tally of majors.
Ante Post Tip: Jordan Spieth to win the USPGA Championship at 14/1 with Stan James.