Golf

No shortage of favourites for the Masters

Tiger Woods says there is no clear-cut favourite, Rory McIlroy hopes to grab the Green Jacket with both hands and Justin Thomas plans to wait for his rivals to self-destruct at the US Masters at Augusta National.

Several blockbuster storylines are possible, not least the quest of Woods to defy long odds and collect a fifth Masters title after an astonishingly successful spinal fusion less than a year ago.

"I feel fantastic," said Woods, 42, who despite multiple back and knee surgeries, has lost little of his dynamic swing speed and power.

Others may disagree, but Woods said victory on Monday morning (Singapore time) would not constitute the greatest comeback in golf, an honour he bestowed on Ben Hogan, who recovered from a near-fatal car crash to win three consecutive Majors in 1953.

But a Woods win would be nothing less than stunning, so soon after his career seemed on the scrap heap as he endured searing pain in his back and legs, with a cure seemingly out-of-reach until he took the surgical equivalent of a Hail Mary.

A major obstacle blocking his route to a 15th Major title is McIlroy, who is four great rounds from completing the career Grand Slam and joining Woods, Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Gary Player in that super-elite club.

McIlroy is ready to seize the moment. "I have gotten in my way before... but I don't think that will happen this week,"said the Northern Irishman, signalling an aggressive game plan.

Thomas has not yet achieved the fame of Woods or McIlroy, but his career arc suggests it might be only a matter of time.

The American world No. 2, and winner of his first Major at the PGA Championship last August, is making only his third appearance at the Masters.

The favourites in a field where everybody is 10/1 or longer odds include 2015 champion Jordan Spieth, 2017 runner-up Justin Rose, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and two-time champion Bubba Watson.

But the list of potential winners goes on and on - including, but not limited to, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson.

And occasionally the Masters throws up an unlikely winner, most recently Danny Willett in 2016.

So is this the year for Sweden's Alex Noren?

Probably not, but stranger things have happened. - REUTERS

Golf