THIS week heralds probably the most eagerly anticipated Masters for 20 years. Tiger Woods looks like he is back to his best form, and the top players – including Britons Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Luke Donald – are all playing great.
For me, though, Woods is the man to beat. He was incredibly impressive on his way to winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill last month, where he was under a lot of pressure.
Pressure can rear its ugly head in many ways, even for a man as great as Woods, who in this case was battling to end a two and a half year wait for a PGA Tour title, having previously won more than 70 of them. The way he did it was fantastic. He rolled back the years and brushed his rivals aside like he used to do in the 90s. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he performs in Augusta this week.
The former world No1 looks to be over his injury worries. He won the Arnold Palmer playing 10 days on the trot, having taken part in the Tavistock Cup immediately before, so his Achilles seems to be fine.
The American’s biggest obstacle is himself, but he’s not even fighting that as much at the moment because his swing is really good and very much in control. At Bay Hill Woods wasn’t just winning, but leading all of the statistics – and that’s the Tiger of old.
If he can play in that form he will be very difficult to beat, but my other two tips are Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy.
Westwood has seen many of his European contemporaries win Majors and that will only have made him more determined to claim that elusive first.
McIlroy obviously knows how to do it at Augusta, having been four ahead going into the last round 12 months ago. The way the young Northern Irishman went back to the States and won the US Open later in the year speaks volumes about him, his temperament and his ability. I think he will be a huge contender this week.
Of the others, I’d definitely put Phil Mickelson in the reckoning, because of his love for the course and his performances over the years. The American has very rarely been out of the top 10.
His compatriot Hunter Mahan, who played beautifully to win the Houston Open at the weekend, has got a great game and should be contending. He’s another pupil of coach Sean Foley, like Woods and Rose. It’s quite an impressive list and this year could end up being the Foley Masters.
Finally, I would definitely give Alvaro Quiros a shout. The Spaniard is a fantastic player and immensely long – maybe the longest in the world – and when he gets on a roll he can be tough to beat. If Martin Kaymer can find his game there he could be a threat too.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. He has won 21 European Tour titles in a career spanning 40 years and famously sank the putt that clinched victory for Europe in the 1985 Ryder Cup.