Football has the World Cup, cricket has the Ashes, tennis has Wimbledon and golf has the Masters. Yes, the four days in the calendar in which golf takes centre stage have arrived as the iconic Augusta National hosts another enthralling edition of the Masters.

It promises to be quite a four days and here is our preview ahead of Thursday’s opening round.

Thomas a Masters winner in-waiting

The top of the market for this year’s Masters is incredibly bunched with three points separating the top five in the betting. Last year’s runaway winner Dustin Johnson (9/1), last week’s Valero Texas Open winner and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth (11/1), big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau (11/1) and new father Jon Rahm (12/1) are all respected and strong cases can be made for all. However, the claims of JUSTIN THOMAS simply can’t be ignored and the American, who has looked a Masters winner in-waiting for some time now, is fancied to claim a second Major triumph this week.

JT was fourth here in November and many pointed to the fact that he finished better than he had in four previous visits due to his putter finally warming up. And you feel the flat-stick is the real reason why Thomas doesn’t already own a Green Jacket. As we all know, Augusta is a course that takes time to get your head around as finishes of 39-22-17-12-4 are evidence of. Each time he has played here, the 27-year-old has improved his finishing position – demonstrating his knowledge of the course is developing hand over fist. Interestingly, he even admits he should have won in 2019 given the way he struck the ball and that’s quite some statement given he finished 12th. There is, however, reason to agree with him.

While accuracy off the tee helps around Augusta, it is not essential and this is very much a second-shot golf course as the stats back up. Three of the last six winners led in strokes-gained approach, with all six ranking inside the top five, which further backs up Thomas’ case. The American is one of the games’ great iron players, as shown by the fact he led the PGA Tour in SG: Approach last season, was second in 2019 and is third this season. He showed at Sawgrass that he’s not only maturing as a golfer, but mentally he’s a better player too. He peppered the pins for the first few holes, but failed to convert any of the chances he gave himself. Many would have got frustrated, but Thomas bided his time and when the first putt dropped he showed all the signs of the player we know he is.

It’s the Masters and it’s one of the hardest tournaments to predict, but everything really does seem to suggest Thomas is poised to have a huge week at 11/1.

Reed all about it

Given he won this event in 2018, it seems bizarre to say, but until last year’s event, PATRICK REED had a pretty ordinary Augusta National record. Not only had be only managed just one top-20 finish, but he’d only carded four sub-70 rounds – and three of them came during his 2018 triumph. As previously mentioned, though, this is a course that takes time to acclimatise to and Reed opened up with back-to-back 68s in November and although he never really contended, he still finished inside the top 10 – further evidence this is a course he likes and is beginning to feel more and more comfortable at.

The American seems to save his best for the big days, as shown by a tie for 13th at the PGA Championship and US Open, for which he led at halfway, last year as well as the aforementioned tenth here. Short game is so important around Augusta and no-one is better around the greens than Reed, so given he was a runaway winner at Torrey Pines earlier this year as well as the fact he’s a former winner here, odds of 30/1 might underestimate his chances.

Check out all the latest golf betting odds at William Hill