by Tom Young
THE first major of the PGA tour gets underway this weekend, with 11 Brits in action, all hoping to be crowned Masters champion.
Englishmen Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Matt Wallace join Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Wales’ Ian Woosnam.
Which of the UK’s representatives have the best chance of being awarded the famous green jacket on Sunday?
Freelance golf writer Kiel Christianson gives his views on what is set to be a tricky four days for golf’s finest.
Rory McIlroy goes into the tournament as the bookmaker’s favourite, starting 2019 in impressive form. The Northern Irishman claimed his first title of the calendar year last month as he hit 16 under to claim the Players Championship.
McIlroy told the BBC that he believes he has started this season better than ever before.
“I don’t think I’ve ever started a season this well, it’s focusing on the small things and not living or dying by the results.”
A win in Augusta would see McIlroy become the sixth player in tour history to complete a career Grand Slam.
Christianson believes that McIlroy is in the right frame of mind to finally claim the Masters.
“McIlroy has been playing remarkably consistent golf this year, and his record at AGNC is solid, just lacking a win. My guess is he feels more ready to don the green jacket than he has ever felt.”
Another favourite, Justin Rose, takes to the green at Augusta as the new world number one, having leapfrogged American Dustin Johnson when the new rankings were announced on Sunday.
It will be the 14th time the 39-year-old has participated in the tournament. Despite finishing as runner up in 2017 and 2015, the veteran golfer is yet to come out victorious at Augusta National.
Rose will be boosted by the return of long-term caddie Mark ‘Fooch’ Fulcher, having missed the first three months of the season after heart surgery in January.
Christianson pointed to the wet conditions forecast maybe favouring Rose, referencing his 2013 win at the US Open at Merion.
“Rose won the US Open at Merion on a wet, sloppy course – and ANGC is going to be very wet this week. Merion was a lot shorter, though; but Rose doesn’t lack length, so he’s certainly a favourite.”
As for the rest of the Brits, Christianson thinks Paul Casey is a dark horse going into the tournament:
“As far as Brit dark horses go, I’m looking at Paul Casey, who’s resurgent this season, and long enough and accurate enough to take advantage of the soft conditions.”
However, Christianson believes it will be another American awarded the green jacket come Sunday, with former world number one Brooks Koepka his pick.
“I think I am one of the few people who really likes Brooks Koepka. I like how he puts his head down and doesn’t get distracted or feel like he needs to answer to anyone. He’s tough, and I think it’ll be a grind this week.”