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The Masters 2018 Preview: Early Talking Points

It's now little more than three weeks until the world's best golfers descend upon Augusta National for the long-anticipated commencement of The Masters 2018.

The first major championship of the year regularly propels golf to the forefront of sporting entertainment. It fills many thousand column inches and draws stratospheric viewing figures each and every year, while it easily dwarfs the other majors in terms of global interest.

It never really feels like the golfing year has started until we see Augusta's hallowed fairways and stunningly vibrant colours. Therefore, to help whet the appetite for what promises to be a pure golfing treat here's our early look at what The Masters 2018 has in store.

Sergio Defends

Sergio Garcia will proudly drive along Magnolia Lane this year as defending champion and freed from the burdensome questions surrounding his inability to win a major.

What are the chances of a second win in as many years? Well, only three men have managed the feat in Masters history. Both Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo successfully defended their title, while the last golfer to go back-to-back in defending their Green Jacket was Garcia's old adversary Tiger Woods - back in 2002.

Few would be disappointed if he managed to pull it off - least of all us! Catch a reminder of Sergio's 2017 win below:

Tiger Back at Augusta

Tiger Woods will enter the field for the 2018 Masters tournament on the back of some truly impressive performances already this year.

Finishing T-2 at the Valspar Championship and only one shot off the lead was an undoubted highlight, but solid performances at both the Honda Classic and the Farmer's Insurance Open have also provided evidence of a Tiger who is edging ever closer to consistently challenging on Tour.

He will know more than most that mistakes will be punished heavily at Augusta National. Whether he can keep them to a minimum and ultimately challenge, only time will tell.

Tiger's last Green Jacket was back in 2005. Remember 'THAT' chip?

Sharma Reward For Fine Form

21-year-old Indian golfing sensation Shubhankar Sharma has been handed an invite for this year's Masters tournament after enjoying a stand-out 2018 so far.

With two wins on the European Tour already this year and a creditable 9th place at the most recent World Golf Championship he is undoubtedly deserving of a starting berth at Augusta National in three weeks time.

It remains possible that Sharma could climb into the world top 50 and qualify by right for the major season opener, but he has the fallback option of a special invitation should he need it.

Sharma also set a new course record at the Hero Indian Open last week:

Will Dustin Johnson justify favouritism?

As current world number one, Dustin Johnson may seem a worthy favourite to land the spoils in Georgia on Masters Sunday.

Truth is, the 2016 US Open champion failed to make his mark in any of last season's major championships and we could argue that a few other golfers fit the bill a little better when trying to select a possible winner this time around.

With that said, DJ was a late withdrawal at last year's event and has a T-4 and T-6 in the two years previous. It will be interesting to see how he fares this time around.

Catch the interview pre-Masters 2017 when he informed the world of the freak accident which would keep him out of the tournament:

Who are you looking forward to seeing at this year's Masters? Will Tiger challenge? Let us know below.

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