With 2019’s first major only a few days away, anticipation is growing immensely for The Masters.

With the new golf season implemented this year, next week sees the start of an intense few months for all golfers as the Major championships are to be run off inside 4 months. The Masters in April, The PGA Championship in May, US Open in June and then The Open returning to Royal Portrush in July.

This year’s masters is shaping up to have one of the smallest fields since 1997 when Tiger Woods outlasted 86 others to claim the green jacket. The current field stands at 86 competitors with one more spot available for the winner of this week’s Valero Texas Open. If the winner of the Texas Open is already guaranteed his spot at Augusta, then the field will remain at 86. Shane Lowry narrowly qualified for Augusta earlier this week by staying barely inside the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

The favorite for this years event is Rory McIlroy who has been in stellar form since the 2019 season began. The Masters ,infamously, is the one major that has eluded him so far in his career and has denied him completing the grand-slam. McIlroy won the Players Championship only a few weeks ago and has been challenging in every PGA event he has competed in thus far. McIlroy has been one of the Masters favorites annually ever since he blew a huge lead in the final round of the 2011 Masters. He finished T5 last year at Augusta, his fifth consecutive top 10 there. Thanks to that history and his recent solid play, McIlroy sits at the top of the Masters odds heap.

Just behind McIlroy then are a group of players all well capable of claiming the green jacket Sunday week. Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose are narrowly behind Rory. Tiger, of course, is looking to win his fifth green jacket and his first major since 2008. Woods finished T32 at the 2018 Masters, his first appearance in the event in three years. For many years, Woods seemed to be permanent fixture atop the Masters odds, and for good reason. From 2005-2001, his worst Masters finish was T6.

Behind the top 4 there is an abundance of talent looking for their first Masters title. Thomas, Rahm, Fleetwood, Koepka, Fowler and so on. Spieth has dropped to 32nd in world rankings and his start to 2019 does not instill any confidence in his form leading into the event but you would be a fool to rule him out. With already one green jacket to his name, while also challenging for another 2 or 3, Spieth always seems to favor this course and relish the challenge that comes with it.

Valero Texas Open

This week’s Valero Texas Open is the last chance for one lucky golfer to add their name to the field at The Masters next week. With 144 entrants into the event and only 17 of the competitors guaranteed their spot at Augusta, the opportunity is there, albeit a testing one. TPC San Antonio stands at a blistering 7,435 yrds so it will be favored by the big hitters. Jordan Spieth is looking to revitalize some form before what has become his best performing event on tour, The Masters. He has had a less than impressive start to 2019 which similarly mirrors his start to 2018. Which notably led him to a Sunday charge to narrowly lose out to Patrick Reed for his second Green Jacket.

Graeme McDowell, hot off his first tour win in 3 years, will also be teeing it up this week in the hopes of challenging for a spot at Augusta. Rickie Fowler will also be competing in San Antonio this week. Quickly becoming one the best golfers on tour to never win a major, he will be hoping that he can change all that next week. Rickie made a big final day push to come within 1 of eventual winner Patrick Reed but he has yet to break through on the Major front.