The Masters Preview
As the players head to Augusta National Golf Club, the time for preparation is almost over as the first major of the golfing season is on the horizon.
A small proportion of the field were present for the Texas Open last week, hoping to play themselves into form before their trip to Georgia.
The absentees from this year’s Masters include Ian Poulter, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Englishman Richard Bland, who came so close to securing his tee time.
The Previous Edition
Hideki Matsuyama was crowned a major champion for the first time at Augusta last year, after he survived a nervy ending to his successful visit.
Starting the final round with a four-stroke lead over second-place Will Zalatoris, the Japanese superstar – who was the first major winner to come out of the country – pipped the American by one-stroke.
Justin Rose raced into the early lead, after his riveting 65 wasn’t match by anyone – with Matsuyama and Brian Harman in T2 after shooting 69.
Unfortunately for Rose, that opening round would be the highlight of his week as scores of 72-72-74 resulted in the Englishman finishing 7th.
Moving day lived up to its expectation as Matsuyama shot the lowest score of the day with 65, as Xander Schauffele and Corey Conners were three back after 68 each.
Despite the uncertain ending, Matsuyama clung on to win the first major championship of his career.
Augusta National Golf Club could very well be the most exclusive golf facility in the world, and it is rare to hear of any player unrest regarding this truly iconic venue.
Measuring 7,510 yards and boasting a par of 72, Augusta National has never played as long as it will this week, following changes to the par-4 11th and par-5 15th holes.
From the first tee to the final green, this is the pinnacle of golf with danger present at any given moment.
The eventual champion will have to navigate Amen Corner successfully on each occasion – and we have seen many dreams dashed by this nightmarish and entertaining stretch.
72-hole record: Dustin Johnson, 268
18-hole Record: Nick Price & Greg Norman, 63
Tiger Woods looks set to mark his return to the sport of golf on the grandest of stages, as the American has remarkably committed to the event – providing there are no injury concerns prior to the first tee.
Woods will be hoping to become a six-time champion of The Masters, and he would also capture his 16th major championship in the process.
Rory McIlroy’s missed cut at the Texas Open – which featured a weaker field – will undoubtedly concern him ahead of Augusta.
This is the only major missing from the Northern Irishman’s CV and he has failed to win a major championship since 2014.
Jordan Spieth narrowly made the cut in his home state of Texas before producing an excellent final round.
Spieth recorded his best Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green for the season but the putter had unfortunately let him down.
If he can correct his erratic performance with the flat stick, we may see the 28-year-old win his first major since the 2017 Open Championship.
Collin Morikawa will be looking to become the first man to win back-to-back majors since Spieth in 2015, following his triumph at last year’s Open Championship.
The 25-year-old has taken the golf world by storm since his introduction to the PGA Tour, winning two majors and a Golf World Championship.
Matsuyama may be excited for his Champion’s Dinner, but he’ll also be looking forward to defending his title across the weekend.
The Japanese golfer – who has won twice this season already – had to withdraw from the Texas Open due to a neck injury – the same injury that forced his withdrawal from The Players Championship.
Two golfers who have looked to turn a corner with their game are Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who have six majors combined.
Koepka has not been victorious in a major championship since the 2019 PGA Championship, and he has never won at Augusta.
Johnson, on the other hand, will be eager to secure his second green jacket and third major, as he currently trails countryman Koepka by two.
As always, The Masters brings out a very strong field and with less than 100 players involved, the chance of an upset is slim.
The dream of winning at one of the most exclusive locations in the world remains strong, as each player patiently awaits Sunday to see if their name will be etched into golfing folklore for eternity.