Dustin Johnson the man to beat

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The New Year was barely a few days old before world number one Dustin Johnson signaled his intent with victory in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

The American ace moved to the top of the rankings after winning last year’s Genesis Open and, having slaughtered the field by eight strokes on the island of Maui, shows no signs of shifting any time soon.

With just one major to his name to date, there is a sense that he has not yet fulfilled his potential and the Masters at Augusta in April is clearly a huge priority for the 33-year-old.

He is favourite at 7/1 to claim a Green Jacket for the first time but will have to get past Jordan Spieth, who is clearly at home on the Georgia course.

The Texan’s 2015 victory is sandwiched in between two second-place finishes, and but for a back-nine meltdown on the final day in 2016, he would have gone back-to-back.

Justin Spieth’s major success is not restricted to just the Masters, however, as the 24-year-old won the 2015 US Open and the 2017 Open Championship to prove that he can shine in all conditions.

Consistency is his watchword and a run of six top-eight finishes last year put the gloss on a campaign that included three wins worldwide.

The Ryder Cup ace needs only the US PGA Championship to compete his set of majors and is a 9/1 favourite to win at Bellerive Country Club in August.

Justin Thomas joined the elite last year and emerged from Spieth’s shadow to win five tournaments, including his maiden major at the US PGA Championship.

Now firmly established as a top-five player, the 24-year-old looks set to go from strength-to-strength in the coming years and it would surprise nobody to see him win another major in 2018.

Despite his rise to the top of the sport, Thomas can be backed at around 18/1 to win the Masters while Rory McIlroy is on offer at 10/1.

The Northern Irishman failed to win a tournament in 2017 and has slipped to 11th in the world rankings but that will not bother him as it is trophies that he craves.

Despite the emergence of a number of talented US players, most pundits believe that, on his day, McIlroy is the man they all have to beat and it seems as though he has a point to prove this year.

Like Spieth, the 28-year-old has just one major to complete a grand slam and will once again be looking for Masters glory in three months’ time.

He has tried to play down its significance in recent seasons but there is no question that he is desperate for a Green Jacket – let’s hope he has sorted out his problems on the greens.

Spain’s Jon Rahm is now third in the world and is one to follow over the next 12 months.

Without being too flamboyant, the 23-year-old just goes about his business in a workmanlike manner and always seems to be close to the top of the leaderboard.

He is yet to shine at the majors but won the European Tour’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last season and is ready for major glory.

Tiger Woods is back and hoping to play as much as possible but it would be unrealistic to think he could roll back the years and win any more majors.

At 42, his best years will be behind him but, despite a nightmare run of injuries, he still wants another shot at the biggest events.

He can be backed at 22/1 for the Masters – a price that would have been unseen during his heyday.


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