As the countdown to the US Masters continues, we’re looking at some of the storylines to follow throughout the week.
Will we see a first-time winner? Will Jon Rahm or Scottie Scheffler notch up another win this season? Will Rory McIlroy finally get his Green Jacket?
Whatever happens, it promises to be an unforgettable week.
All eyes will be on the big three of Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy this week.
Rahm is still young enough so that no one wonders if he might be running out of time, and while the Spaniard is only five years younger than McIlroy, people are certainly wondering if McIlroy’s chance has been and gone.
He’s still at the top of his game and could be for another few years, but it’s been more than a decade since his agonising collapse in 2011, and he’s never been as close since despite a number of top-10s.
Scheffler will hope to again capitalise on the spotlight being away from him as he did at THE PLAYERS, but he’ll have a harder time going under the radar entering the tournament as last year’s winner.
There’s no weakness to his game, and there's every chance he goes back-to-back.
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Outside of the big three, there would be few more popular winners than Jordan Spieth.
When stood on 10 tee on Sunday in 2016 having lapped the field, it was hard to see anyone else winning a Green Jacket while Spieth was a professional golfer.
Despite his blow-up, his finishes at Augusta were still T2-1-T2, and he entered the final round the following year just two off the pace, before another disappointing Sunday saw him card a 75.
He finished third the following year, as he did in 2021, but he seems to have lost the touch at Augusta slightly. When in the doldrums, he wasn’t able to muster a top-20 finish, and missed the cut last season, but Spieth’s wilderness years of 2018-2021 appear to behind him, and while he’s not at his dominant best – and may never be again – he’s competing for tournaments, and could compete again at Augusta this April.
A lot of the defectors have ostracised themselves from former colleagues and certainly some – if not all – of their fans, but it will be fascinating to see them lock horns with the best players in the world once again.
Bryson DeChambeau’s form has been wretched and there are whispers that old foe Brooks Koepka is open to a PGA TOUR return, but there are a couple of other players who’ll be worth watching.
Firstly is 2020 champion Dustin Johnson, still playing at a high level on the LIV Tour and has a terrific record at Augusta. Say what you will about LIV and its players, but it’ll be good for golf fans to get to watch DJ competing with the best once again.
Secondly is Cam Smith. Another player with a solid Masters record, he also enters the tournament as the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year and 2022 PLAYERS champion.
There aren’t many other likely contenders, but the likes of Joaquin Niemann, Mito Pereira, Abraham Ancer and Masters nearly-man Louis Oosthuizen should all be teeing it up at Augusta.
So competitive is the top end of golf these days that there are a number of players without majors, and they’re not just handed out. If they were, Jon Rahm would be on more than one and Rory McIlroy would have the Grand Slam by now.
Beneath them are a number of elite golfers looking to win their first. Xander Schauffele has threatened in several majors – including this one – and has the all-round game to be able to compete anywhere.
Patrick Cantlay has been one of the world’s best golfers for a number of years, yet so often disappears in the majors. Will Zalatoris went through a spell where he seemingly found the majors easier than standard PGA TOUR events; up to August last year, he’d managed four runner-up finishes, three of which came in three different majors.
Viktor Hovland has shown all the talent to win a major, but is yet to really show it on the biggest stage, and it may be that Augusta doesn’t suit his skill-set at the moment. The same applies to Max Homa, who’s joined the elite, but is yet to present himself at majors.