Tonight the finest golf tournament on the annual calendar kicks off with the awesome Par-3 Challenge at Augusta. The Masters is a tournament that many golfers measure themselves on and one that has eluded some of the greatest players on Earth including Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els and Bobby Locke. This year also is shaping up to be one of the best with Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy all entering in pretty good form, while former winners Adam Scott and Charl Schwartzel have also started the year ablaze.
South Africa will once again have fine representation at Augusta with five players, four of whom are major champions, lining up to take on the old course (Yes that excludes the great Gary Player). Here is all you need to know about the South African Challenge at this years Masters as we aim to add a fourth green jacket winner to the honours board!
Charl Schwartzel (World No. 20)
Charl is slowly but surely closing back in on his best form again. After winning the Masters back in 2011 with a scintillating final round of 66 he hasn’t come close to challenging again. But he enters the Masters on the back of one of his best ever starts to the season with three victories including his first win in America since that great win in 2011. Charl has also climbed back up the rankings from a low of 54th last year to 20th and is breathing down Branden Grace’s neck for an Olympic spot for South Africa. Come on Charl, bring the magic!
Betting Odds per Paddy Power: 35-1
Opening Rounds pairing: 18:22 SAT – Charl Schwartzel, Davis Love III and Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Louis Oosthuizen (World No. 11)
In my view the man who has the most level head and is able to move on from a disappointing shot the quickest in golf is our very own Shrek. Louis appears to have shaken off the back problems (also heard that he travels with his mattress to assist with this!) and is back to close to his best. He has been a near miss man already too often in his career with two major playoff losses including to Bubba at Augusta to THAT shot. The 2016 year has been good for Louis who won outside of Europe or Africa for the first time (Australia) and he has 7 top 15 finishes from 9 starts. He will look fondly towards his run to the final of the World Matchplay championships two weeks ago rather than the missed cut at Houston last week. Something tells me that Louis, if he makes the cut, will be lurking somewhere near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Betting Odds per Paddy Power: 33-1
Opening Rounds pairing: 15:37 SAT – Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Dufner and Patrick Reed
Branden Grace (World No. 13)
Branden is the third South African to feature on the list and will be taking part in his fourth Masters. His debut year saw him finish in the top 20, but he has failed to make the cut in the following two years. 2015 however became a breakout year for Branden in major golf when he finished 4th at the US Open and 3rd at the PGA Championships. He also started 2016 on fire with five consecutive Top 10’s culminating in a win in Qatar. He has been solid since that but his record in the US is not even close to his European Tour form. South Africa’s only player in this field without a major, but surely with his ability that wait wont be too long!
Betting Odds per Paddy Power: 66-1
Opening Rounds pairing: 18:44 SAT – Bubba Watson, Branden Grace and Ian Poulter
Ernie Els (World No. 218)
It seems weird going into the first major of the year that Ernie Els, South Africa’s favourite golfer, finds himself outside the South African top 10 (15th place). It is hard to forget that the unfancied Els actually led the Masters in Round 1 last year for a while, before Jordan Spieth ran away with the tournament. Els would go on and finish in 22nd place after a 75 third round killed his challenge. Of course the Masters is the scenes of his most unfortunate finishes in Majors where he finished second by 1 stroke to Mickelson (2004) and by 3 strokes to Vijay Singh (2000). Els has played 10 tournaments in 2016 and only finished in the top 25 once. It is unlikely that he will get close to challenging, however how great would it be if he did.
Betting Odds per Paddy Power: 300-1
Opening Rounds pairing: 19:06 SAT – Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Ernie Els
Trevor Immelman (World No. 1669)
Even less likely to win than Ernie Els is our second ever South African Champion, Trevor Immelman. Immelman caused one of the biggest surprises in Masters history when he led every round to win the 2008 tournament by 3 strokes over Tiger Woods, even with shooting a 75 in the final round. Instead of being the catapult into World domination, lack of form and fitness meant Trevor began a slide down the rankings, he sits 103rd in South Africa!!! Trevor has played eight events in 2016 and only made two cuts. Best hope is that he gets to see out the weekend.
Betting Odds per Paddy Power: 1000-1
Opening Rounds pairing: 14:31 SAT – Trevor Immelman, Robert Streb and Derek Bard (A)
Who are you backing for the Masters? Will it be Jason, Jordan, Rory or one of our local boys???