AUSSIE golf fans have good reason to be full of hopeful anticipation ahead of what threatens to be one of the best US Masters ever.
For the first time since 1996 Australia has a world No.1 golfer as a big favourite to take the title (though we certainly don’t want Jason Day to emulate Greg Norman’s final round capitulation that year) and we also have the 2013 Champion, Adam Scott, in great form.
But while Day and Scott are both back to back winners on the US PGA TOUR this year the reason it should be such a great show at Augusta National this year is that so many of the other top names are also peaking.
Ahead of the big event Day, who tied second at his first Master in 2011 and was third behind Scott in 2013, was certainly saying all the right things.
What he wants out of the Masters this year, he reckons, is a “Spieth-McIlroy-Fowler-Scott-Watson-Mickelson Sunday”.
Then if he ends up “not wearing the Green Jacket but I have a fantastic competitive match on Sunday against the best players in the world, that’s what I’m there for”.
The 28 year old recently revealed he was so down on his game just prior to his Masters debut in 2011 that he was going to quit golf altogether.
He said that mindset suddenly gave him a lot of freedom going into the event, thinking it could be his first and last. That freedom is what he wants to recapture this year.
Instead of “trying too hard, trying to force and will it in”, he’s going to relax and “play the way I have been (lately) and hopefully I’ll give it a good run at the end of the week”.
Day is also trying to take the pressure off by promoting the credentials of others.
“To be honest, I don’t think I’m the favourite this week. There’s a lot of people out there that can play well this week and win,” he said.
“Jordan (Spieth) and Rory (McIlroy) and Henrik (Stenson), how he’s playing lately, and even Phil (Mickelson) is a favourite here.”
Video: Day and Scott on fire heading into Augusta … with comments by Greg Norman
Adam Scott: “…I have to make the most of my time … and show the kids on tour that the old dog has still got something.”
For the first time since his famous victory in 2013, Scott will go into a major without his long putter.
He’s proven with his back to back wins this year he has the short putter under control and is also a strong contender.
“You build a knack for playing Augusta,” said Scott, who originally took 29 rounds to break 70 at Augusta.
“There are now so many good memories for me, I know I can win around there which not everyone goes in with and I don’t feel I have anything to prove to myself.”
But at the grand old age of 35, he wants to get cracking.
“It’s seriously important for me to play well the next few years because it’s probably only going to get tougher after 40,” Scott said.
“Having won at Augusta a few years ago, I feel I should have an amazing career there like a Phil Mickelson and win three green jackets, which would be amazing.
“I’ve got a window to play well and I’ve got to make the most of it.”
The other Aussies teeing it up this week are serial major performer Marc Leishman, Steven Bowditch, whose poor form of late has only just been revealed as being mostly due to wrist and dental issues, and 22 year old debutante Cameron Smith, who already has an enviable majors record. Smith obviously enjoys the big stage, finishing T4 at the US Open last year and following it up with a T25 at the US PGA Championship.
Of course there are a few other handy golfers playing at Augusta this week (all with their own compelling storylines): defending champion Jordan Spieth has never finished worse than 2nd, Rory McIlroy is going for his career grand slam, lefties Bubba Watson (two wins) and Phil Mickelson (three wins) already have half a wardrobe of green jackets between them, then there’s Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Stenson, the South Africans …. It all starts for Aussie golf fans on Friday morning with live TV coverage from 4.45am.
Aussie Tee Times
Jason Day: 3.06am Friday morning (AEST) with Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar.
Adam Scott: 1.05am Friday morning with Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka.
Marc Leishman: 12.43am Friday morning with Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson.
Steve Bowditch: 10.20pm Thursday night with Jim Herman.
Cameron Smith: 1.16am Friday morning with Mike Weir and Sammy Schmitz (a).
Cameron Smith 10:20pm Friday
Jason Day 11:59pm Friday
Steven Bowditch 1:16am Saturday
Marc Leishman 3:39am Saturday
Adam Scott 4:01am Saturday
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