Arguably the best week of every golfing year is just around the corner. That's right... it's Masters time again!
We've been trying to keep a lid on our excitement, but enough is enough! We're getting our proverbial teeth into the first major championship of 2022.
It promises to be a real humdinger this year at Augusta National, with many potential storylines to ponder...
Can Hideki Matsuyama defend his Masters title? Will Rory McIlroy (finally) close out his career grand slam? Will we see Tiger Woods miraculously tee it up after his golf career looked all but over just 12 months ago?
While we await the official answers to these burning questions (and many more besides), we've decided to flag up a few golfers we expect big things from next week.
Check out our trio of headline picks, as well as three outsiders worth a look at longer odds.
Our 3 Headline Picks
Pretty much every single bookmaker has Jon Rahm priced up as the clear favourite for the first major of 2022 - and we can see why.
It seems only a matter of time before Rahm joins compatriots Garcia, Olazabal, and Ballesteros in donning the famous Green Jacket in Butler Cabin.
Despite being dethroned as world number one after Scottie Scheffler's win at the Dell Technologies Match Play, the Spaniard possesses every weapon in his armoury to finish top of the pile come Masters Sunday.
In four 2021 major appearances, he finished no lower than T-8. He also claimed a spot inside the top-10 in each of his last four appearances at Augusta National. That's the sort of consistency we can't ignore.
JT's best performance came at 2020's November Masters (T4) and, in fact, this was his first ever top-10 finish at the event. It could be argued that the softer Autumnal conditions played their part, but it's plausible that the former PGA Champion is slowly getting to grips with the challenge.
Thomas' form since the tail end of 2021 has been impressive, without yielding a victory. He's been getting his game Augusta-ready too by playing shots he will need next week in his past few tournaments.
The pre-tournament confidence is there too:
“I feel very confident that I know how to get around that place and I know what pins, where to hit it, where to go off the tees, and how holes play with certain winds, et cetera, but I just, I’ve yet to catch a remotely hot putter that week...” JUSTIN THOMAS
It's been a meteoric rise for Viktor Hovland over the past year or two. Just a few weeks ago he reached world number three thanks to three PGA Tour wins in the space of 2 and a half months.
The young Norweigan has already made his mark at the Masters in 2019 when he was the low amateur and picked up the Silver Cup. Now he comes into the 2022 edition as one of the bookmakers' favourites.
We're calling it early: Hovland will be a major champion within the next year or two. Here's hoping it comes next week so we can sport that smug 'we told you so face' for a day or two.
Our 3 Value Picks
It often pays to take a look further down the betting when it comes to the Masters. Four of the last six winners had pre-tournament odds of 30/1 or higher - only Dustin Johnson (2020) and Tiger Woods (2019) bucked that particular trend.
With that in mind, here are a few 'longshot' picks to mull over.
Last year Will Zalatoris looked like achieving the unthinkable and winning on his Masters debut, shooting four sub-par rounds in the process.
In fact, in the four major championships he has started (and finished) as a professional to date, he has finished inside the top-10 on three separate occasions. Then just last week, it took the steely grit and match play know-how of Kevin Kisner to halt Zalatoris at the quarter-final stage of the Dell Technologies Match Play in Arizona.
We think this all adds up to a golfer who is worth a shot at longer odds.
Three Tour wins in the past 10 months has been enough to convince most golf fans of Sam Burns' position as a serious golfer who demands attention. We've been so impressed that he's one of our sneaky outside bets to bag a Green Jacket next week.
OK, so the field strength may have been weaker than he'll face next week, but forming a winning habit so early in his professional career is impressive.
Though he's making his Masters debut, and no debutant has won since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979, we think he's worth a second look next week.
There's one simple rule we stick to when it comes to major season: rule Louis Oosthuizen out at your peril.
Last year his major performances yielded two runner-ups and one T-3. He now has a six-pack of runner up spots since he won his solitary major title at the 2010 Open Championship.
It's fair to say that, of the four annual major championships, the Masters is the one he has failed to make any real impression at recently.
We remain undeterred by the sketchy form at Augusta, though.
It's easily possible that the South African could be in the mix come Sunday's final round.