The Masters is looking more difficult to predict than ever this year. I can see Jordan Spieth having a really good tournament and he must be one of the favourites. He’s in good form and he’ll feel he’s got something to prove. He didn’t play particularly well at Austin but match play golf is a totally different cup of tea to stroke play.
Oosthuizen could be the man
Louis Oosthuizen is looking good. I’m back working with him again and he’s swinging it well. He’s another player who believes he’s got something to prove, having come so close to winning it on two occasions. He’s as good as gold and he loves Augusta National. He’s keeping himself fit and there are no signs of his back problems recurring.
There are not that many big names in the Masters field this time and many of the former Ryder Cup stars from both teams are not in there. Nevertheless, it will still be a great event that everyone wants to watch.
There are so many serious contenders. Tom Pieters had a tied fifth finish in the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship to secure his American Tour card. He should be happy with his progress but he’s hungry for more success.
Danny Willett is swinging all right but he’s mentally not in the right place. When Mike Walker and I were at The Ryder Cup we thought Danny would be up there with the best but it didn’t happen. It can happen to players when they win a Major. They can slip backwards. But they can’t lose their talent – it doesn’t just disappear.
First tee nerves
It will be interesting to see how he handles his first drive off the tee at Augusta. I think he could either hit it straight down the middle or miss it all together. When the Masters is over we might see a different Willett, hopefully the Danny who won the 2016 Masters. We all thought he was bullet-proof but events have proved us wrong.
Stenson battling pollen
I’m hoping Henrik Stenson will take a different approach to the Masters this time. It’s unfortunate that he seems to pick up illnesses so easily. He’s a big strong guy but he seems that he’s invariably got some illness or another. He’s always suffered from Pollen and Augusta is full of pollen. It might be one of the most colourful courses in the game but it must be the worst place to be if you suffer from pollen
When he played in the WGC-Mexico Championship he had altitude sickness which affected his game. He always says he doing too much but he doesn’t cut back on his schedule. We’ve talked about that many times. Henrik also likes to play an event, the week before he plays a Major, which is why he’s playing Huston.
Our 24 birdie Masters tactic
We’ve sat down and worked out what he has to do to win the Masters. He’s got to get 24 birdies so we need to work out which holes he can do that. He’s going to have eight bogeys. He certainly can’t win it by playing defensively. He’s got to take the bull by the horns. He’s never gone into the Masters when he’s been playing well. He’s got to tell himself, ‘I haven’t done so well playing it as I did it before, so I’ve got to change something.’
He’s got the game to win it, as he’s proved so often, but he’s got to change his approach. If he can overcome the pollen problem he could be a contender.
Ian Poulter needs to get back into the top 50
Ian Poulter is on the verge of losing his US Tour playing card and he’s got just two weeks to save it. He’ll probably return to the European Tour but it’s likely that he can get back into the world top 50 quickly so it’s not the be all and end all of things. He’ll just have to get used to travelling a bit more, like the rest of us. He’d be better focussing on the big money Rolex series events towards the end of the year.
It’s unfortunate that Graeme McDowell is not in the Masters. He’s playing all the events he can in the US to try and get back into the top 50, which isn’t easy. You can play well on the US PGA Tour and miss the cut. The competition is high but he’s still exempt for another two years.
Matt Fitzpatrick making it State side
It’s also unfortunate that many of our European Tour stars are setting their sights on success in the United States. Matt Fitzpatrick is trying to earn his card for the US and he’s playing well. Hopefully, though, Matt will play Wentworth.
Fitz’s brother, Alex, is an up-and-coming youngster to watch for the future. He’s aiming to play college golf in the US next year and he’s an explosive talent. With a 127mph TrackMan swing speed he can certainly get it out there and is strong as an ox. He knocks it 40 yards past Matt and is four years younger, though he doesn’t have Matt’s mind-set but is confident all the same. Definitely one to watch out for.