Gary Player: Rory is going to win The Masters

When I walk down Magnolia Lane at Augusta National my pulse begins to quicken and this month I anticipate it will be going faster than usual. There are so many fascinating possibilities to look forward to, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting Masters for a long time. It’s also time to reflect as 40 years ago I won my third Green Jacket with a seven-shot Sunday comeback.

There’s something special about The Masters for all golfers. It’s unique as the only Major that is played on the same course, Augusta National, every year. I was fortunate to have won The Masters three times and sharing the honour of being in the select band of only five players to have won the Grand Slam of all four Majors – alongside Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods.

Tiger has progressed steadily over recent months and seems to be playing without pain. His swing has improved so much during his last few events that he is now a serious contender. That famous smile has got wider and wider and he demonstrated at the Valspar Championship and then at Bay Hill that he was ready to challenge the best.
What an enormous boost it would be for the game of golf if Tiger were to win The Masters. With four Masters titles to his credit he’s shown he certainly likes Augusta National. What better place than Augusta National for him to announce that he’s truly back on top of the world?

Having said that, my favourite to win The Masters is Rory McIlroy. You don’t need any extra motivation than to win at Augusta but Rory is a player who can reproduce his best golf for the big occasion as he demonstrated his prowess in winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month by three shots with Tiger tied fifth. Apart from the Green Jacket, victory would also earn him a place on that elite list of five players who have won the Grand Slam of all four Majors. That feat will always be at the back of Rory’s mind.

But it’s not just the oddsmakers’ favourite, Woods, that Rory has to beat. Phil Mickelson is a three-time Masters champion and his recent win at the WGC-Mexico Championship shows he’s running into form. Rory also has to consider the threat of World No.1 Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and defending champion Sergio Garcia. Whoever wins, it’s going to be a memorable Masters.

It was so nice to hear that the European Senior Tour now has an overall title sponsor for the first time since its formation and the newly-named Staysure Tour certainly seems to have elevated its stature with more tournaments and more prizemoney. It really is great news. Andy Stubbs did a magnificent job as Managing Director of the European Senior Tour for many years and his successor, David MacLaren, has helped ensure the Staysure Tour has a new lease of life. I am very proud to have won five times on the European Senior Tour, including three Senior Open Championships for a total of nine Senior Majors and 20 wins on the US Champions Tour, and my nine Senior Majors equals the nine Major Championships I won throughout my career.

The quality of the Senior Tours improves year-on-year and I wish the Staysure Tour every success for the future. It got off to a fine start last month with its first tournament at the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq and it was fitting for a worldwide tour that the winner was Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant.

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