TIMING IN THIS life is often vital. In Golf World magazine’s latest edition a feature asks, beneath the banner headline, ‘Has anyone seen Adam?’ if the Australian, Adam Scott, can still fulfil his potential ‘or if he has already been left behind by a new breed of champions.’
Since the article went to press Scott has won back to back victories, earning $1.098m by beating a star-studded field at the Honda Classic, another $1.62m by coming from six shots back to win the equally competitive WGC Cadillac in Doral, Florida and looks the outstanding form bet at next month’s Masters tournament at Augusta.
So apart from the tall Australian, where else should we be looking to have a flutter? The ability to hit a long draw is vital at Augusta, just one more reason why Scott has dropped from 18-1 to 12-1in the betting, as well as his rediscovered usage of a short putter. Of the favourites both Spieth and McIlroy, despite the latter’s collapse at Doral, are offered at the same preposterously short odds that Tiger Woods received in his pomp.
Since putting the field to the sword at the Hyundai tournament in Hawaii in January, Spieth has looked decidedly un-Spieth-like. He missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open and failed to mount any kind of challenge at the WGC-Cadillac. Although any player with his precocious talent can never be discounted it seems unlikely that he will be pulling on a second successive winner’s green jacket come April.
McIlroy is far more of a conundrum. Pegged with some bookmakers as joint favourite with Spieth, the Irishman is either blowing winning opportunities when superbly well placed or not showing at all. He was going along serenely in Doral, four shots clear of the field and six ahead of the eventual winner, when his usual laser like accuracy with his irons deserted him.
Before the tournament all the talk had been about his putting problems with him responding, ‘I guess I haven’t dwelt on it that much. I’ve almost accepted the fact that I’m probably going to be a streaky putter, which is fine. It’s served me well up until this point; when I’m on, I hole putts and it’s good. And when I don’t – some weeks I struggle to hole putts – I still feel like I’ve got a good chance to win.’ And you could not imagine Tiger Woods saying that.
Having failed to get the job done at the Northern Trust Open, where he eagled the opening hole on the last day before hitting seven bogeys, McIlroy dropped three shots on the back nine at the WGC-Cadillac to finish joint third. Three good rounds will not secure a winner’s place at Augusta.
The last two occasions Bubba Watson finished runner-up at Doral he went on to win the Masters. He finished runner-up again this year and looks in very good form. Expect a strong performance from him at Augusta.
Of those worth an each way bet, Englishman Danny Willett, appears comfortable in the company of the world’s finest provided that he actually appears at Augusta. With his wife expecting their first baby he has said that he will scratch to be at home for the birth. A top five finish is certainly within his powers and is currently available at 60-1.
Despite questions being asked constantly about his temperament on the biggest stage, Dustin Johnson remains an immensely talented player who hits the ball miles. Butch Harmon reckons he is ‘The most talented guy in the game’ and surely he will lift a major soon. With the weather at Augusta expected to be cool and wet Johnson’s long bombs could finally deliver.
Jason Day, Adam Scott’s likely partner in what will be a formidable Australian entry in the Olympics later this year, may not have done enough to triumph so early in the year although expect South African, Louis Oosthuizen to figure. Rickie Fowler would be an enormously popular home-bred winner although, given that it is 30 years since Jack Nicklaus won his final major aged 46, the real fairytale winner would be Phil Mickelson, once accused of having the same lack of steel as Johnson when it came to the closing stretch.
Having taken 12 years to win his first major despite his massive talent, Mickelson is twice the age of Jordan Spieth and the same age as Nicklaus when he triumphed in 1986. But, as he sagely points out, ‘The ball, the scorecard, they don’t know the difference in age.’ A few pounds each way at 20-1 could be a particularly sound wager.