The Masters from Augusta April 6th – April 10th
For the first time since the event was first televised, primary coverage of the Masters, live from Augusta National has been handed to subscription television in the UK. This year Sky Sports will screen unprecedented 3D TV coverage of the Green Jacket event as well as extended live and exclusive action in HD over all five days of competition. That includes the live screening of the famous Wednesday Par 3 tournament for the first time in British TV history. So already the 2011 version of the most talked about major of the season has a fresh look to it and that’s before we even get to the golf.
The sport has arguably never seen a more exciting period with the dramatic victory of the European team over the Americans at Celtic Manor in October still very much in the forefront of the golfing public’s mind. Add to that the first all-European top four ranked players in the world and you can see why Sky Sports has invested so much money in delivering ground-breaking coverage of Georgia’s sporting show piece.
Masters Coverage on Sky Sports
Where a Sky Sports channel is stated it’s also available in HD.
Sky Sports 2 is available from Sky Digital, Virgin Media, BT Vision and on Freeview through Top Up TV (you need to buy a Top Up TV box and pay a monthly fee but you don’t need to be tied into a contract – you can just take one month).
- > Initial cost is £30 set-up fee – currently free on offer
- > Sky Sports 1 and 2 added to the Sky+ Starter package cost £12.25 each when the Sky Sports Pack (1, 2, 3, 4 and 24/7 Sky Sports News) is only £20.25, so you would go for that instead which makes it £39.75 a month plus £11.25 line rental – £51
- > No initial cost
- > Sky Sports 1 and 2 added to the Virgin TV M+ Starter package cost £14.50 each when the Sky Sports Pack (1, 2, 3, and 4) is only £22.50, so you would go for that instead which (including £12.99 line rental) makes it £38.74 a month for the 1st 6 months then £41.99 a month for the rest of the 18m contract
- > Initial cost £100 (£60 for the box, £30 one-off activation and £10 for a viewing card)
- > Sky Sports 1 and 2 added to the BT TV, Broadband and Calls package makes it £45.40 a month
- > Initial cost is £49.99 – £29.99 for the basic Top Up TV Freeview box and £20 set-up fee
- > Sky Sports 1 and 2 with no contract then £19.99 a month
If you want to watch in 3D – golf is probably one of the sports that lends itself best to 3D – you need the Sky Plus HD with Sky World package. This is the whole works, with all movies and sports channels as well as Sky 3D.
Who can win?
As if only to illustrate the great strength in the sport at the moment, the contenders are many. Starting with the European challenge, there are the four stand-outs currently sitting at the top of the rankings tree. New world number one Martin Kaymer will be looking to continue his imperious and not to mention consistent form and he’ll hope that he can emulate his countryman and mentor, Bernhard Langer’s successes at the event in 1985 and 1993. Kaymer is the first golfer of genuine top level ability to come out of Germany since Langer himself and there is no reason why Kaymer can’t be the man to don the famous green jacket on Sunday 11th. His long and accurate hitting gives him an excellent chance as does his temperament which, like Bernhard’s, is unflappable when on song.
Lee Westwood is another obvious candidate having only been dislodged from the summit of world golf by Kaymer recently. He is still in a superbly rich vein of form and if his putting is as good as it can be over the week, he could well be the man to beat. No one in golf strikes his irons more purely than Westwood and with tricky pin positions and rapid greens, the premium on accurate iron play couldn’t be higher than at Augusta. What could be more vital than this great skill is the belief and desire that has become more and more apparent since the Worksop man began his meteoric rise up the world rankings a few years ago. This transition came after a period of quite abysmal form which nearly saw Westwood leave his clubs in the garage for good. The romance that would ensue following a victory for the Nottinghamshire star would outdo his regaining the Number 1 position and adding the green jacket to his growing list of accolades.
Luke Donald is another accurate hitter, though there are claims that the former Ellesborough Golf Club junior, does not have the length required at the modified Augusta National to threaten. In previous years, excellent rounds at the Masters have been undone by careless and costly errors later in the piece but if he can demonstrate the consistency that has seen his own upwardly mobile progress of late then there is a chance he can figure.
Graeme McDowell, like Donald, grew up in the US collegiate golf system and for that reason the world numbers 3 and 4 will have a more vociferous backing than their fellow Europeans. McDowell will be hoping he can repeat his major win on US soil last term, this time at Augusta. He will have to control his game better than erstwhile attempts on the course though, especially around the infamous Amen Corner, where has struggled badly before.
Other European challenges could be mounted from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and even Padraig Harrington who is starting to show some signs of form and he certainly has the major pedigree required to hold his nerve at the business end of the tournament. He would be my outside bet for victory as he is swinging the club better than he has done for the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, since Langer’s triumph in 1993, there have been just two players from Europe to have the honour of dressing in the baize blazer and neither Faldo nor Olazabal are likely to repeat the feat this time. In that case, American fingers will be pointing towards various home-grown contenders for the Masters title. Crowd favourite Phil Mickelson will be amongst the challengers if he plays anything like he can and form Americans Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson will give anyone a good run for their money on their day.
Oh and there’s another chap who could do something I suppose. He’s currently 6/1 favourite with William Hill even though he’s not won a tournament since 2009. You may have heard of him as he does tend to be in the news, well, pretty much every day. That’s right, Tiger Woods is back in major action at his most favourite of favourite venues and if he can improve on bettering form of recent times during Augusta week he will be a force to be reckoned with once again.
This is a crucial season for Woods. If he is to regain his unbeatable form, attitude around the golf course, his demeanour in general, then it is this year that he must do it. His putting is not as invincible as it once was and we have seen that uncommon frustration has riddled his game since he came back from his sabbatical following his well-documented personal problems. Having said that, there is still not a golfer on the planet who I would back more heavily to sink a 15 footer to win the Masters at the last. If the great Jack Nicklaus had putted like Tiger he’d have won double the Masters titles he did, and he still pulled on the jacket an amazing 6 times!
Time will only tell as to who will be given the honour of the famous green jacket in this edition, traditionally bestowed upon the winner by the previous champion. Unless he wins it himself for the second year running, that honour will fall to the mercurial Phil Mickelson, but I for one would not bet against a repeat of last year’s result such is big Phil’s talent, in spite of shaky form of late. Experience counts for a lot at Augusta, especially when you get to the 11th and beyond in the final round. It is not a rarity to see a great golfer collapse down the straight. Just ask Greg Norman, or for that matter, Nick Faldo who so greatly benefited from the ‘Great White’s’ spectacular demise in the final round shoot-out.
What we do know for sure is that for the first time ever, the Masters will be available in full and glorious 3D from Sky Sports and an unrivalled and unprecedented coverage of, what is for many; the greatest golf tournament on Earth will be screened over those five steamy, April days in North East Georgia.