Traditionally played in the spring, this year’s Masters Tournament has an extra air of unpredictability because of it’s November date.
The Masters is an invitational event, and this year 92 golfers will be teeing it up at Augusta National on Thursday in the hope of winning the famous green jacket. Play gets under way at 7.00am local time (12noon, GMT), with groups starting from both the 1st and 10th tees.
With the draw having been made for the opening two rounds, here is our take on who could dominate the groupings on Thursday.
Masters 2020 first-round three-balls predictions and betting tips
Odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.
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McIlroy can start fast in grand-slam aim
Rory McIlroy has been coy about his chances this week and has admitted that he has enjoyed being left out of the pre-Augusta hype.
Usually his aim to become just the sixth man to complete the career grand slam of winning all four majors places him front and centre in the media spotlight but his build-up to this year’s event has been far more relaxed.
McIlroy goes up against world No 1 Dustin Johnson and recent ZOZO Championship winner Patrick Cantlay in his three-ball.
Johnson came back from a spell out with Covid-19 to finish second at last week’s Houston Open and has terrific Masters form of T6-T4-T10-T2 in his last four appearances (he missed the event in 2017).
Fellow American Cantlay was on the Sunday charge at the 2019 Masters before slipping away but his win at Sherwood shows he is in good form.
That said, McIlroy’s current demeanour suggests he is expecting good things from his latest bid to complete the career grand slam. The pressure sometimes gets to him but the 31-year-old’s ability to carry the ball so far through the air could allow him to take advantage of the conditions from the off.
Progressive Thomas looks set to go well
On his fifth appearance, Justin Thomas may be looking at this Masters as the one in which he starts to properly contend.
Thomas’s Augusta record reads T39-T22-T17-T12 but this is a course that should suit his ability to smash it off the tee, plot his approaches and steadily pick up birdies when most readily available.
On Thursday he tees it up alongside Matthew Fitzpatrick and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.
Fitzpatrick’s relative lack of length means it could be a tough week but Koepka is always a danger at the majors and his pair of 65s to close last week’s Houston Open helped him finish fifth.
Injuries may be a worry around the gorgeous but gruelling Augusta layout and despite his usually bullish nature, the Floridian may be looking to bed himself in early on.
Thomas is twice a winner and three times a runner-up in 2020 and if his putter is hot on Thursday, the 27-year-old could make an early statement by dominating his three-ball.
Spieth can rekindle Masters memories
It seems strange to talk about Jordan Spieth as if his best days are behind him, but the 27-year-old’s current form is a far cry from that of the player who won the Masters in 2015.
The Texan recorded T2s at Augusta either side of that and his worst finish at the tournament came last year when he was T21.
Spieth is joined on the opening couple of days by 2019 US Open champion Gary Woodland and England’s Ian Poulter, himself a three-time top-10 finisher in Georgia.
Woodland’s Masters best is a T24 in 2011 and he has carded 75 or better in just eight of his 21 rounds at Augusta.
Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over Poulter’s fitness after he missed last week’s Houston Open with a back problem. Spieth missed the cut at Humble but his Masters record means he is worth backing on the right side of evens.
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