Ahead of the first golf major of 2018, prostate cancer survivor and editor at large of Golf Monthly magazine, Bill Elliott, tells us that the US Masters will be the most open competition in years, and explains why he’s hosting our annual golf day at The Berkshire this April.
We're almost there. You can feel it coming; there's something in the air. Thankfully, we're not talking about Brexit here. We're focusing instead on the Masters, on Augusta National and the technicolour dreamscape that is the year's first golf Major.
Golf ambassador Bill Elliott representing Prostate Cancer UK at the Scottish Senior Open
Even non-golf fans show some interest when it comes to Masters time. It's partly the timing, the arrival of spring and the promise of better times ahead – even if these only include one, maybe two, glasses of something long, cold and refreshing. The Masters trumpets all this and more.
This anticipation is, if anything, even more acute this year. The revival of Tiger Woods; the form displayed by Rory McIlroy with his first win a fortnight ago after a confusing, injury-strewn 18 months towards the old game's periphery; and of course the re-emergence of a fit-again, healthy and still quite reassuringly mad Bubba Watson.
Throw in the continued relevance of a posse of top quality men like World No.1 Dustin Johnson, No.2 Justin Thomas, No.3 Jon Rahm, No.4 Jordan Spieth and No.5 Justin Rose and you have a menu fit to set before a king's table.
I can't recall a more compelling, more open competition than this 2018 version
I've had the fun of going to the Masters thirty-five times but I can't recall a more compelling, more open competition than this 2018 version. Of course, Dustin Johnson may slip on the stairs again and exit the rumble prematurely as he did last year. Rory might start hiccuping on greens again while the other potential front-runners might be upstaged by a chorus-line player – just as England's Danny Willet did in 2016 when he seized his unexpected moment with nerve and conviction.
He'll be back this time – past champions may compete until at least their sixties – but winning the Masters turned out to be a double-edged sword for the Yorkshireman who has struggled to cope with his elevated status within a game that scrutinises participants more than most. He left Augusta two years ago ranked the ninth best golfer on the planet. He returns this time ranked 258th.
As some wise Chinese philosopher once said: "be careful what you wish for, lest it come true". It's a fair point but on the other hand, most of us would accept the winner's Augusta Green Jacket and to hell with the consequences. After all, most of these consequences consist of a lot of glory and even more money.
And the Masters is not the only compelling competition set to delight us in April. The fifth Prostate Cancer UK Golf Day is set to take place over the Red Course at the charmingly brilliant Berkshire Club, near Ascot, on Wednesday 11 April.
I've got the pleasure of hosting the day on behalf of the charity as we aim for another stellar-fun day of golf, top tips from top professionals and the rare thrill of playing the Red Course. Embraced by pine trees and heather, the Red uniquely consists of six short holes, six par fours and six par fives. And this year we're joined by footballing greats Ray Clemence and Trevor Brooking too.
It would be great to see you there. Bring a Green Jacket if you've got one. Sadly, I haven't. Not yet anyway.