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The Masters - Golf: Mixed Augusta hopes for elite names after Sawgrass outing

After Cameron Smith's victory at the Players Championship on Monday, just how are the elite names in the sport shaping up ahead of the 2022 US Masters?

It was a turbulent tournament at TPC Sawgrass as heavy rain and strong winds played havoc over the first three days, forcing the event to be taken into a fifth day.

After an action-packed final day, it was Australian Smith who managed to hold his nerve to claim a one-shot victory on -13, although he did it the hard way after finding the water on the 18th hole before managing to make a bogey.

Indian Anirban Lahiri couldn't find the birdie required coming down the last to force a playoff, his chip from the fringe coming up just short of the cup, while England's Paul Casey was left to rue a bad lie on the par-5 16th and ended up two strokes back on -11.

With the 2022 US Masters, which you can follow on bet365's Live Golf Tracker, getting started on 7th April, we have taken a look at some of the big names ahead of the first major of the year.

Smith boosts Masters chances

Monday's victory at TPC Sawgrass has lifted Smith to sixth in the world rankings, his highest ever position, and he is 16/1 to break his major duck at Augusta National next month.

The Australian has triumphed five times on the PGA Tour but, more importantly, two of those wins have come in 2022 and he is a man in form right now.

It will come as great satisfaction that he managed to overcome a couple of wobbles during his final round at The Players Championship, the unofficial fifth major, and his record at the Masters makes for good reading.

Smith has three top-10 finishes at Augusta from five appearances, with his best result a tie for second in 2020 when the tournament was played in November.

That doesn't mean he can't perform at the course when it is staged in its usual April slot, with the 28-year-old T5 in 2018 and T10 in 2021. Expect him to be mixing it at the top of the leaderboard once again.

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Spaniard's dip a worry

Jon Rahm has been one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour this season, recording three top-10 finishes and a further two top-20 results, but his display at TPC Sawgrass is a worry.

The world number one ended up in a tie for 55th and his disastrous nine at the par-four fourth hole during his final round left a lot of people scratching their heads as to what was going wrong.

Rahm's last victory was his US Open triumph in June last year, so this drought may be of concern, but he can never be ruled out when it comes to the Masters.

The 27-year-old has recorded four consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta and he can be backed at 8/1 to become just the fourth Spanish player to win the coveted Green Jacket.

McIlroy hard to predict

Rory McIlroy is tough to read sometimes and you are never quite sure what you are going to get from the talented Northern Irishman, who is 12/1 to win the 2022 US Masters and join the elite list of players to have completed the Grand Slam.

Before the Players Championship, the world number seven's last nine results read 4-14-1-T6-18-T12-3-T10-T13, sparking form by any standard.

However, the 32-year-old only just made the cut at TPC Sawgrass and he failed to spark into life over the remaining 36 holes, eventually settling for a share of 33rd.

After fading away in the Arnold Palmer Invitational the previous week, there was maybe a sense of burnout for McIlroy and his showing at The Players Championship can be excused.

McIlroy has six top-10 finishes at the Masters, highlighting his affection for the course, but there are still question marks over whether he will ever be able to forget that 2011 final-round collapse and that could play on his mind in future scenarios when he is contending.

Rare blip from Open champ

Collin Morikawa did something he hadn't done since the Northern Trust Open at the back end of last season at The Players Championship, and that was miss the cut.

It just wasn't to be for the American, although a large proportion of the blame can be put down to the fact he played in the treacherous conditions during his second round.

The world number two has gone T44 and T18 on his two Masters appearances, performances which appear to be trending in the right direction, and he is 12/1 to win the Green Jacket next month.

Weather catches Spieth

Jordan Spieth was another player that was forced to play in tough conditions in Florida and it was no surprise to see him miss the cut.

The American's two outings before The Players heralded finishes of T60 and T26, nothing much to shout about, but he can't be ignored when it comes to the Masters.

Champion at Augusta in 2015, the 28-year-old has a further four top-three finishes, one of which came last year, and he is currently 12/1 to have that Green Jacket put around his shoulders for the second time.

DJ finishes well

The Players Championship has never been a great tournament for Dustin Johnson and he looked on course for another average showing heading into the final round on Monday.

However, the American sparked into life over his remaining 18 holes as he shot a joint course-record 63 to finish in a tie for ninth - his best result at the tournament.

Johnson blitzed the Masters field in 2020 to win the title with a record score of -20 and, if his final round at TPC Sawgrass is anything to go by, another bold showing could be coming in Georgia.

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