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US Masters big guns ready to fire

Jason Day is partnered with some lesser lights at the British Open. (Photo: AP)
Roar Rookie
6th April, 2016
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The stage is set for one of the most anticipated Masters in years, with Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott ready to play big roles.

With so many of the world’s best and previous champions in good form, title favouritism has been the hot topic ahead of Thursday’s opening round at Augusta National.

No one comes in hotter that world No.1 Day, having won his last two starts and six of his last 13 including last year’s US PGA Championship.

But even the confident Queenslander preferred to defer to others to ease pressure as he chases the title he covets most.

“To be honest, I don’t think I’m the favourite this week. There’s a lot of people out there that can play well this week and win,” Day said.

“Jordan (Spieth) and Rory (McIlroy) and Henrik (Stenson), how he’s playing lately, and even Phil (Mickelson) is a favourite here.”

Day’s point is valid. The list of other big guns with serious form on the board is long.

Scott, the 2013 champion, burst out of a 21-month win drought earlier this year with back-to-back wins of his own.

Defending champion and world No.2 Spieth won in Hawaii in January, and has finished second and first in his only two Masters starts.

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World No.3 McIlroy is chasing the career grand slam, a feat only attained by five players in history, and impressed when fourth at the recent WGC-Match Play.

Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson has a win this year, as does 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel.

Veteran Mickelson leads the US PGA Tour in scoring average this season as he looks for a fourth green jacket.

Rickie Fowler has a win this year, Stenson has nine top-five finishes on the US tour in the last two seasons, six of them runner-ups.

Louis Oosthuizen, a runner up at Augusta in 2012, made a run to the match-play final.

The list goes on.

Spieth, who set scoring records on the way to his dominant win last year, tried to put the pressure right back onto Day.

“Jason is the favourite in my mind,” Spieth claimed.

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“So nice. He can be the favourite. I’ll go ahead and we’ll just do our thing.

“I’m going to keep an eye on whoever’s at the top.

“We all know who is capable of having firepower in a major, and certainly the firepower that’s been produced over the last few months.

“There’s a lot of guys who have a lot of success here that have really brought some strong finishes and motivation and some momentum into this week.

“So I know that the people that are down maybe a few, three, four, five shots after the first couple rounds are capable of making up a lot of ground here.”

McIlroy was gung-ho when asked if he expected to win the tournament in his career.

“Yeah, definitely. I feel like I’m a good enough player. I feel like I’ve got everything I need to become a Masters champion,” the four-time major winner said.

“But I think each and every year that passes that I don’t, it will become increasingly more difficult. So there’s no time like the present to get it done.”

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Marc Leishman, Steven Bowditch and Cameron Smith make up the rest of the smallish but talented Australian tilt.

Leishman, who led after the opening round in 2013 and finished tied fourth, is making an emotional return with his wife Audrey after missing last year’s Masters as she fought for her life in a coma.

Bowditch is in the midst of a form slump bought on by a wrist injury while youngster Smith is quietly confident at putting the cat amongst the pigeons in his Masters debut.

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