April Golf – The Masters Major Has Arrived
April sees the first major of the season the US Masters take centre stage. You can check out our picks for Augusta, as well as round-ups of the best of the action from March on the PGA Tour and European Tour, and the other events you can look forward to in April.
2018 US Masters
The 2018 US Masters is nearly upon us and, if it was to be accompanied by a theme tune this year, it would probably be The Boys are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy. That’s because some of the old stars of golf seem to be back in form as golf’s first major of the season looms. Dual Masters winner Bubba Watson found his confidence in Riviera a few weeks ago and doubled-up for the season by playing some great golf to win the WGC Dell Matchplay. Meanwhile, three-time Green Jacket winner Phil Mickelson broke a four-year winless stream with victory in the WGC Mexico Championship.
However, it’s the money that keeps pouring in for Tiger Woods that is catching the imagination of punters. The fourteen-time major winner will bid to end a ten-year major drought by making what will surely be the greatest comeback of all-time if he should win a fifth Green Jacket 13-years after he won his fourth one.
The fact that many of the world’s current and former best players looks sure to arrive at Augusta in peak form has made the bookies sit up and take notice. The likes of Sky Bet and Coral are already offering each-way terms of 1/5 odds 10 places. This may well be the bookies using the US Masters as a promotional stunt to attract new business, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and take advantage.
10 Players to Follow at The US Masters
All golf fans know the story that Rory should have won the US Master in 2011 and it took him a few years to get over that. However, though he’s never looked like winning since, he’s finished 8/4/10/7 on his last four visits. Having won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in scintillating fashion in March, it’s hard to resist the offer of 10 places each-way.
No wins and a few short missed-putts have seen Spieth drift in recent weeks. However, it could just be the current Open Champion doesn’t get the same adrenaline buzz in anything but the majors. He’ll have been practising hard for his favourite event and his form figures of 1/2/1/11 suggest he’ll never be far away at a course where his chipping and putting keep him in the hunt.
Been dubbed the gentleman of golf after the sporting way he responded when Sergio Garcia ended his Green Jacket dream last year and nobody would begrudge him a win this year. Finished 2/10/2 the last three years and, with two more top-10s, he’s another to have on your side with 10 places up for grabs.
I hope a few of you have a bit of 66/1 about Bubba if you took our ante-post US Masters 2018 advice back in December (okay only the 5 places each-way). He’s now down to 16/1 after two wins this season and August is made for this powerhouse who can shape shots to order. Putted and chipped well to win the matchplay and hopefully will win a third Green Jacket.
Phil can thrill at Augusta and, now he’s back in winning form, he’s no forlorn hope to win a fourth Green Jacket even if he is approaching 50. Had a further 12 top-10s on top of those wins so looks another worthy each-way investment.
Despite his recent win, which came by posting a great last round from well off the pace, I’m still not convinced that Casey will have what it takes to win a major. However, having finished 6/4/6 on his last three visits, it’s easy to see him landing some each-way money.
Young Belgian who defied the stats to finish fourth here on debut last year and has the power to contend again.
Another who finds winning tough but is rarely far away when in the sort of form he’s in right now. An absolute top-10 machine, he would have landed top-10 money on four of his last six appearances at Augusta.
Young American who has finished 10th and 27th here so far and he has the power to hit the top-10 again if on a going week.
Debutant who looks massively overpriced considering he was placed in last year’s Open Championship and won the same tournament this year as the past two winners of the Masters.
European Tour Round-Up March
March was a relatively quiet month on the European Tour, with George Coetzee justifying favouritism when winning his second Tshwane Open. Meanwhile, Matt Wallace won his second European Tour event by winning the Hero Indian Open in a play-off, denying Andrew Johnston.
PGA Tour Round-Up March
March really was the month of the comeback kings as the first three events were won by players who hadn’t visited the winners’ circle for much longer than their talents should have allowed. First it was Phil Mickelson who rolled-back the years to win the WGA Mexico Championship. It was then the turn of Paul Casey, who had been earning a reputation as a cash-machine who couldn’t win, to silence the doubters with victory in the Valspar. Last, but not least, it was Rory McIlroy’s turn as he fired six birdies in his last eight holes to take the Arnold Palmer Invitational and remind the world just how good he can be. All three will be looking forward to Augusta.
European Tour Events in April
The US Masters kicks-off April, but there are three more important events. These are the Open de Espana, The Trophee Hassan, and the Volvo China Open.
Open de Espana (12-15 April)
The Open de Espana took a break in 2017 but returns to the European Tour at a different venue in 2018. The last four renewals were played at Valderama, but the 2018 renewal will be played at the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid. The last three winners have been Andrew Johnston, James Morrison and Miguel Angel Jimenez but past form may be irrelevant on this new layout. Andrew Johnston will be hoping to defend after his play-off defeat in India, but Spanish players Rafa Cabrero-Bello and Pablo Larrazabal will be hoping to please their home fans.
Trophee Hassan (19-22 April)
Winners of the Trophee Hassan aren’t always easy to find, including the last three winners Eduoardo Molinari, Jeung-hun Wang, and Richie Ramsay. The Royal Golf Dar Es Salam Red Course in Morocco is usually firm and fast and places a demand on accuracy. The course has undertaken some renovations before this season’s event so the winner could be even harder to predict. The improving Paul Dunne could be a name to note as she finished second last season and is one of the best putters around on his day.
Volvo China Open (26-29 April)
The Volvo China Open returns to the Topwin Golf and Country Club in Beijing for the third consecutive time, with the last two winners being local hero Haotong Li and Alex Levy. Li has been a big-improver since that win and could easily delight home fans again. However, Levy has actually won two of the last four renewals of this tournament and will see this as the perfect opportunity to try and get a big win which could earn him a prized Ryder Cup spot in a year when the Ryder Cup is being played in France.
PGA Tour Events in April
The US Masters at Augusta may take centre stage this month but after the big show there is also the RBC Heritage, the Valero Texas Open, and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
RBC Heritage (12-15 April)
The Harbour Town Golf Links is a complete contrast to Augusta in that its demands are accuracy and precision, but it still attracts a great field despite its proximity to the first major of the season. Wesley Bryan won his first PGA Tour event here last season but its more synonymous with Luke Donald who often springs back to form here to win enough to keep his tour card.
Valero Texas Open (19-22 April)
TPC Antonio continues its association with a tournament that has been played there since 2002. Since then, Americans have won 13 of the 16 renewals with two Australians and a Scotsman taking the other three titles. Kevin Chappell won his first PGA Tour event here last year.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans (26-29 April)
Last year’s event was the first time it had been played as a team event and Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith teamed up to take the inaugural title. The teams for this year are, as yet, unknown.