The US Masters is the start of the golf major championship season and of all the four championships that matter most has produced most multiple winners over the last 20 years. Augusta National takes some knowing and debutants have a poor record. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have won more than one Masters Tournament this century and Jordan Spieth can join that select group.
Spieth has played in the first major of the year four times and his worst effort is joint 11th last year. He won the event in 2015 and was second on his other two starts. Over the last four years Spieth has by far the best form in the field. He has a game suited to Augusta National which has hosted every renewal since the Masters was first played in 1934. The other majors move around but the Masters has a fixed home.
One of the key factors in identifying winners of golf tournaments is course form. Some players are suited to long courses while others are a good fit on tracks that put a premium on accuracy over distance. Augusta is average in length but long hitting can set up plenty of eagle and birdies chances on the par 5s. The greens are fast and undulating so accuracy from the fairways is also important.
Therefore, there is no one overriding skill for good scoring in the Masters. It is important to minimise errors and not let a mistake be compounded. A potential bogey can soon become much worse so players must accept their medicine and limit the damage. Par breakers can be achieved on the four long holes but its more about bogey avoidance than birdie conversion over the rest of the course.
At the start of last year Spieth targeted the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale and he duly obliged despite some scares in the last round. Even though he only requires the USPGA Championship to complete a career Grand Slam he may feel he is owed another Masters. He looked like becoming just the fourth player to win back-to-back Green Jackets (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods are the others) in 2016 but he made a mess of the back nine and Danny Willett took advantage.
Spieth was off the pace ahead of the fourth round of the Houston Open on Sunday but stormed up the field with a final round of 66. At his best he is the best player of the younger generation at Augusta and he looked in good nick last weekend. Spieth would be a popular winner but two other players would make for a bigger story if they won the US Masters this year.
Rory McIlroy has won three of the four majors at least once and the missing event on his CV is the Masters. Only five players have achieved the career Grand Slam and McIlroy should join that group at some stage. He was at his imperious best over the back nine to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational on his last start. McIlroy has never really delivered at Augusta and it could be the case that the Masters remains elusive for another year.
Woods has won the tournament four times but not since 2005. In fact he won the last of his 14 majors in 2008 when he was just 32. At the time it would have been ridiculous to suggest that Woods would not win a major during his mid and late-thirties which is when a golfer is in his prime. Woods has been cut from 80/1 to 12/1 for the Masters but mentally he could come up short.
The media would love a win for Woods or McIlroy and they could get in the mix. However, a less newsworthy victory for Jordan Spieth is the more likely outcome and he can win the Masters for the second time in four years.