Weekend Sporting Outlook: Masters & Grand National

Weekend Sporting Outlook: Masters & Grand National

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Augusta National, home to the US Masters and a golf course where the grass literally seems that little bit greener, and the reflections in the water features slightly crisper.

Some people may argue that the Open Championship – or British Open as the Americans call it – has the edge in prestige, but for me it’s always been about the Masters.

From Seve Ballesteros’s two glorious wins in golf’s golden era of the early 80s, to Nick Faldo’s famous 11-shot overhaul of the ‘Great White Shark’ Greg Norman in 1996, Augusta has seen it all. Until this week, when the world number one and red-hot favourite for the famous green jacket, Dustin Johnson, slipped on wooden stairs in a rental home the night before the tournament began.

With an injured lower back, Johnson gingerly hit a few balls on the practice range but grimaced in pain whenever he swung the club with any gusto. He was left with no choice but to withdraw from the Masters and think about what might have been. Yes he’ll be back next year, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be in such incredible form again. The 32-year-old American had won his three previous tournaments.

Johnson’s injury leave the door nicely ajar for the large British contingent of players, most of whom are now so desperate to win a major that they’d probably sell their own grandmothers. Lee Westwood for example, such a talented golfer and one of the nicest guys on the tour by all accounts, but you can put your mortgage on him crumbling on day four should he get a sniff of the lead.

Rory McIlroy however is made from sterner stuff. Northern Irish golfers just seem to be cut from a more rugged cloth. Despite being seven shots behind first round leader Charley Hoffman, the bookmakers still made McIlroy the overnight favourite to win the 2017 Masters. He holed some key putts and made excellent saves around Amen Corner, before kicking on purposefully to stay well in the hunt. If he can keep his putter hot, McIlroy has a great chance to wear the green jacket for the first time.

The Grand National will dominate the sporting airwaves on Saturday afternoon as it does once a year. Traditionally the biggest race of the year, offices around the country will be partaking in the annual sweepstake, when no-one really know which horse has a cat-in-hell’s chance of winning. But that doesn’t matter! Unless you’re a hardcore steeplechase fanatic, who are few and far between these days, Aintree on Saturday is all about having a small wager and watching the horses hopefully make it over all 30 fences.

A family have cashed in a bet on Red Rum winning the Grand National 43 years ago – after discovering an unclaimed betting slip. Bob Holmes found evidence of the £1 bet while going through his late father-in-law’s paperwork. Through a shop code, William Hill found that the bet had been placed at odds of 11-1, meaning a payout of £12. But the firm decided to add inflation, making it £130. They also gave out £130 in bets and donated £130 to Water Aid.

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