Wide-open US Masters gets underway; Chelsea gain Porto advantage

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

A view of the 12th green ahead of the start of the 2021 US Masters. Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty

A view of the 12th green ahead of the start of the 2021 US Masters. Photograph: Jared C Tilton/Getty

The 2021 US Masters gets underway later today, and the year’s opening Major looks as competitive as ever, with a number of the game’s heavyweights dominating the top of the betting. Dustin Johnson is favourite to retain the title he won for the first time last November - however five months on Augusta is set to provide an entirely different, more familiar challenge, as springtime brings with it firmer, faster greens. Rory McIlroy is bidding to end his long wait for a Green Jacket and complete the full set of Majors, and as Philip Reid writes this morning he has been willing to adapt in a bid to regain some form: “Winning is a habit and it is one that has escaped McIlroy since lifting the HSBC Champions in 2019, although the addition of Pete Cowen to his team - providing an on-site presence to go hand-in-hand with longtime coach Michael Bannon, or as McIlroy put it, “an extra set of eyes” - may provide the Midas touch in that quest to complete the career Grand Slam.” Philip Reid has also analysed Augusta’s beastly beauties - the four par 3s the field must tame if they want to challenge this week. McIlroy tees off at 3.42pm this afternoon with Shane Lowry off at 5.48pm, and you can follow the action via the Irish Times liveblog through the afternoon and into the night.

It is advantage Chelsea in the Champions League last-16, after they beat FC Porto 2-0 in an away leg which was played at Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán last night. Thomas Tuchel’s side bounced back from last weekend’s heavy defeat to West Brom through Mason Mount’s first-half goal, with Ben Chilwell extending their advantage late on. In the night’s other game Kylian Mbappé scored a brace as PSG dished out a measure of revenge for last season’s final defeat with a 3-2 win over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Tonight the Europa league quarter-finals get underway with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United taking on La Liga side Granada in Andalusia (kick-off 8pm). Elsewhere Arsenal welcome Slavia Prague to the Emirates.

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