Augusta might not be the most troublesome course that members of the PGA Tour will tackle this year, but it certainly is one of the most characteristic.
The atmosphere completely shifts on the Sunday, and as the players make the turn, things really start to get interesting.
The key element for the winner will be to navigate Amen Corner well. Four visits might seem like sufficient experience, but the deviating wind rarely emulates itself.
We have unearthed four potential story lines that should make this year’s Masters juicy – make sure you keep an eye on these golfers across the weekend.
Victory for Jon Rahm would return him to the summit of the world rankings. He may have been below his usually-brilliant best so far this season, but a second major title should ignite the powerhouse that is Jon Rahm. It’s evident that players don’t necessarily play for ranking points, but only one golfer can call themselves the greatest in the world – and he’ll be desperate to gain ownership of that title again.
The Spaniard has competed at Augusta on five occasions and made every cut. Away from his T27 finish during his debut year in 2017, Rahm has racked up four consecutive top 10s and he will now be ready for a green jacket of his own. The U.S. Open took all the pressure off the 27-year-old and he can now start to hunt down those above him in major victories. He heads in as the favorite and if he’s hot, then surely no-one has a chance. Well, maybe Tiger.
Collin Morikawa has the opportunity to win back-to-back major championships for the first time since 2015, when Jordan Spieth blitzed his way to Masters champion before triumphing in the successive U.S. Open. If there’s one golfer who could match that feat in the contemporary game, it’s certainly Morikawa – who possesses bags of talent. At the age of 25, the young American has won two major championships and a World Golf Championship.
Remarkably, he is without a win so far this season, although he did finish runner-up to Rory McIlroy at The CJ Cup, before falling short at The Genesis Invitational with a T2 result. The last major feels like a lifetime ago but you should be able to remember Morikawa’s impressive stability as the pressure continued to pile on playing partner Louis Oosthuizen. He, like Brooks Koepka, was born for major championship golf – we should see a lot more titles in the future from the pair of them.
Rory McIlroy has one opportunity a year to join the grand slam club; this is the week that McIlroy pins his entire season on. He might not openly admit that, but this is the one that is potentially holding the Northern Irishman back from unleashing his raw potential. How often have we seen a positive start, only to be followed by a faltering finish? Ironically, his record in major championships typically begins with a poor round before he recovers – there is no-one quite like him.
Whilst the 32-year-old has never finished within the top 3 at Augusta, he has placed inside the top 10 on six occasions. Last year marked the second time he missed the cut in his career, which previously took place during his inaugural visit. His form at the Texas Open would indicate his chances being slim, but if we can see a prime-time McIlroy for four rounds, the grand slam could be complete.
Cameron Smith will look to become the second man in history to win both The Masters and The Players Championship within the same season. If the Australian can pull this off, he would have had quite the month – which would see him surge up the world rankings. Smith has been threatening this form for quite some time and it was great to see him win a big tournament like The Players.
Performing like that, during the most important round of his career, should give him much delight heading into Augusta.
He is yet to win a major but considering he has only been involved with them since 2015, there’s plenty of time for him to gain the experience that he needs. He has finished within the top 10 on four occasions and twice at The Masters, A T2 finish in 2020 followed by a T10 result last year. The 28-year-old has also never missed a cut in Georgia, so we think it’s safe to say he might enjoy his annual visit.
Although these four potential story lines could result in fascinating entertainment, each player will have their own story to tell this week.
The field hasn’t reached 100 players and normally we don’t see a highly ranked player win The Masters.
Amen Corner awaits…