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The first major of the year is upon us. Golf fans around the world are coming out of their winter hibernation and setting their gaze on sunny and beautiful Georgia. Augusta is playing host to an exceptionally exciting tournament this year with three big contenders, all with something particular to play for. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and defending champ Jordan Spieth will lock horns on the famous course. They represent the new class, and with Tiger Woods missing out again after a third back operation, it is safe to say that his era of dominance (and horniness) is over.
News came out recently that Rio 2016 medal winners will be given entry into all majors, a move which shows the changes that golf is currently undertaking this year. 2016 is certainly stepping up to be a milestone in the sport, and joining in the celebration of the new golfing calendar is a new professional class. Young exciting golfers are popping up and changing the image from the middle aged men who have dominated in the past. The three names who are particularly of note at Augusta this month will be Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
Spieth is last year’s winner of the green jacket and has the opportunity to join an illustrious few who have won back to back. The last person to do this was Tiger Woods in 2002. Spieth looks to be currently out of form and has even been in verbal battles with online trolls about his recent performances being ‘garbage’. He recently missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open and two weeks later barely survived again. The missed cut was only his 8th since the start of 2014. That shows the consistency we have come to expect from the American star.
Jason Day comes in to this tournament in the form of his life. He is the current World Number 1 and will be looking to add to his 2015 PGA Championship. He is unbelievably consistent and always seems to be top of any leader board in the past few seasons. While McIlroy and Spieth have both had implosions in the past, it is unlikely that Jason Day will follow suit. Despite taking three months off at the end of last year to care for a new child, he has hit the ground running in 2016. He has won back to back tournaments already and for me will be the most likely to tame Augusta and indeed is the current favourite.
McIlroy’s motivation for the 2016 Masters will surely be the opportunity to get the career grand slam. Despite still only being 26 the Ulsterman is looking to achieve what most golfers can only dream about. Augusta however, has always seemed to be his bogie major. His collapse in 2011 was a shock to himself and gave him the kick he needed to set his sights on surpassing Tiger Woods. This time he won’t have Angel Cabrera breathing down his neck either! If he wins he will be only the sixth man to win all majors. To prove how serious he is taking it this year, he has pulled out of the Par 3 competition to make sure his full focus is on the tournament.
Whatever happens in the next week, the 2016 Masters will be a milestone in my opinion in showcasing the next generation of superstars. Yes, there is still plenty of golfers behind these three waiting for them to slip up. Mickleson, Bubba and Adam Scott to name but a few, but I hope one of these Three Musketeers can pull on the famous green jacket ahead of the Olympics, and we will be able to look back at this year as a new period of Professional Golf.