Golf

Rory McIlroy is widely considered the man to beat as the Northern irish golfer aims to add more majors to his record in 2015

Golf is a hugely popular sport in terms of participation, spectating and betting. Everyone has an opinion as to who is going to win a tournament, whether it be down to current form or past performance at a course, and online bookmakers will welcome you with a free bet for using their website for your golf punting.

The Majors

Contesting and winning golf tournaments is a lucritive business for the top players in the game, but winning one of the four major competitions is a sure-fire way to be remembered as one of the sport's greats.

The Masters has been held annually at Augusta National Golf Club, a private golf club in the city of Augusta, Georgia, USA, since the tournaments inception in 1934. Since 1949, a green jacket has been awarded to the champion, who must return it to the clubhouse one year after his victory, although it remains his personal property and is stored with other champions' jackets in a specially designated cloakroom.

Jack Nicklaus has the most Masters wins, with six between 1963 and 1986. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods won four each, and five have won three titles at Augusta: Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson. Gary Player, from South Africa, was the first non-American player to win the tournament in 1961; the second was Seve Ballesteros of Spain who has won it twice in both 1980 and 1983.

Jordan Spieth equalled Tiger Woods' 1997 course record of 18-under par when landing his first career major with victory in the 2015 Masters and will be looking to claim a second green jacket in 2016.

The US Open is the second major of the season and is another tournament that has been dominated by American golfers over the years. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are both multiple champions that 2015 winner Jordan Spieth will hope to emulate in the coming years It is played at various courses State-side and was last contested at Chambers Bay in Washington, the 2016 tournament will take place  for the ninth time in Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania.

The Open Championship is the only major to be played outside the US and is the third to take place in a calendar year. The current champion is Zach Johnson, who won the 144th Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews in 2015. Johnson defeated Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a 4-hole playoff to join the likes of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods on the honour role. The 2016 Open is due to take place at Royal Troon Golf Club in Ayrshire, Scotland, for the first time since 2004 when American Todd Hamilton defeated Ernie Els in a playoff.

The final major of the season is the PGA Championship, which was won in style by Australian Jason Day who set a new record of 20-under at Whistling Straits, Kohler, Wisconsin to finish 3 strokes ahead of Jordan Spieth in 2015. Rory McIlroy is a 2 time champion that is sure to be among the leading contenders in 2016 when it's hosted by Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey, while the likes of Spieth, Day and Justin Rose are sure to give a good account.

Tiger Woods has struggled to recapture his old form, but is still feared by online bookmakers

Top 5 Major Champions
1. Jack Nicklaus - 18 Majors
2. Tiger Woods - 14 Majors
3. Walter Hagen - 11 Majors
4. Ben Hogan & Gary Player - 9 Majors
5. Tom Watson - 8 Majors

Since the 1920's each decade has been dominated by USA major champions with only a few other countries accounting for tournament wins, but there are signs that other nations are becoming more competitive. The decline of Tiger Woods combined with Rory McIlroy's 4 major wins see Northern Ireland just one major behind the states so far in this decade.

England accounted for no major winners in the 2000's (the first decade with no English major winners since 1880's) but Justin Rose's 2013 US Open victory ensures that there will at least be no blank in this decade. Scotland have not produced a major winner since the 1990's, while Martin Kaymer's 2010 PGA Championship and 2014 US Open triumphs take Germany on to 2 for this decade so far.

Ryder Cup

Aside from the majors, the Ryder Cup is a golf tournament which tends to bring huge media focus with punters also keen to have their say. Team USA and Team Europe go head to head in a series of fourballs, foursomes and singles matches for a share of 28 points over the three day event.

In 2014 Europe successfully defended their title at the PGA Centenary Course at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. The 40th Edition of the event went to Paul McGinley's European side who beat Tom Watson's USA players by 16½ points to 11½ to record a hat-trick of successive victories.

Since 1979 the Ryder Cup has been contested 17 times, 9 have been won by Europe and 7 by USA. Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota is the venue for the 2016 Ryder Cup where the Americans will be hoping to end their barran spell.

Most Ryder Cup Singles Points Won

5 players have acheived 7 singles points in Ryder Cup history, their records are detailed below with holes that were won-lost-halved in brackets.

1. Colin Montgomerie (Eur) (6–0–2)
2. Billy Casper (USA) (6–2–2)
3. Lee Trevino (USA) (6–2–2)
4. Arnold Palmer (USA) (6–3–2)
5. Neil Coles (GB&I) (5–6–4)