It’s that magical time of year again. That time of year when the azaleas are blooming and Augusta National Golf Club is in perfect condition. 88 players will be in Augusta, Georgia for the first major of the season. The crown jewel of the professional golf calendar is always electric, but there’s even more at stake this season.
Who are the favorites?
Augusta National is as tricky of a golf course as it is beautiful. There are birdies to be had but missing in the wrong spots can lead to big numbers. The cream tends to rise to the top here as unexpected champions are rare. With that said, I want to focus on a few of the favorites along with some players that may be overlooked a bit.
The defending champ is in great form heading into the first major of the year. He already has two wins this season along with four other top 5’s. He has no holes in his game and is very comfortable on this course. He hasn’t finished worse than T19 in his three appearances.
Rory is still searching for the final piece for the career grand slam (a win in all 4 majors). He’s been close so many times as he has seven top 10’s in this event. He has two wins and a T2 under his belt so far this season so the game is there. The last couple of years he’s had to make late charges on the weekend to get into contention. He needs a better start if he’s going to pick up another major.
In six attempts, Rahm has never finished worse than T27 with four top 10’s. He has the game and the mental strength to win this tournament. He has fallen into a similar trend as Rory where he’s used big Sunday’s to get his name on the Augusta leaderboard. He has 3 wins under his belt so far this season but had to withdraw in his last stroke play event. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a threat.
Who is flying under the radar?
Being a great iron player is a huge part of finding success at the Masters. With that being said, we can’t overlook how key course knowledge is. Those that have had success in the past tend to find it consistently, regardless of how they are playing leading up to the event.
The move to the LIV tour may have changed how people perceive his game, but he is always a threat at Augusta. In six appearances, he has three top 5’s. He hasn’t been hitting it great on his new tour but he has confidence here and is one of the best iron players on the planet.
The second Australian on this list isn’t flying under the radar according to those that follow the game closely. To the casual fan, Jason Day may not be a name you recognize. He’s had success here in the past with three top 5’s and and hasn’t finished worse than T19 this season since November of last year. He’s hitting the ball well and has more than enough course knowledge to be a threat.
Conners is far from a betting favorite this week as he has the 31st best odds to be victorious come Sunday afternoon. He is coming off of a win last week which doesn’t bode well for him this week. Players that won the week before have never ended Masters week wearing the green jacket, at least with this current field. That doesn’t mean he won’t contend as he has three top 10’s in his last three appearances. Conners is a great ball striker and is coming in with confidence.
What can we expect from Tiger?
Tiger is in the field this week in what will be his second tournament of the year. It’s hard to know what to expect from him anytime he tee’s it up now days but he has been impressive the few times he’s played since coming back from a devastating leg injury. The Masters was his first tournament after a car crash last season and he made the cut. He is in better physical shape now and his game is reportedly in a better spot.
He also made the cut in his only other event this season. Course knowledge is a huge part of this event and it’s easy to argue that no one has more of that than Tiger. He hasn’t missed a cut here since 1996 and has won the event 4 times. He’s far from a betting favorite but it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see him in contention the first two days before tiring over the weekend.
Will LIV golfers make some noise?
A lack of serious competition has been a main talking point from PGA Tour supporters. Even though it may hold some merit, many of those now competing in LIV have won the Masters before. That list includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson. Although only Johnson is still in his prime, there are others that could be threats this week.
Cameron Smith was someone I mentioned earlier who has a great track record here. Brooks Koepka has won multiple majors and is coming off a win in his most recent LIV event. Joaquin Niemann is also someone to keep an eye on as he played with Tiger the first two days last year and played well despite the distraction of huge crowds.
This will be the first event of the year with a cut for these players and the first event with a lot at stake. It’ll be interesting to see how they adapt to the huge crowds and if their games are sharp. I expect the top players to make the cut but it’s the middle of the road LIV players that have the most to prove on the biggest stage.
Where to watch and tee times
The Masters is amazing for coverage as their website allows you to watch for free along with having multiple viewing options. They also have phone and smart TV apps to make viewing easier. Here is the official coverage schedule: (All times in EST)
Wednesday: Masters par 3 contest
Streaming: Noon to 3 PM on ESPN +
Streaming: Noon to 5 PM on Masters.com
TV: 3 PM to 5 PM on ESPN
Thursday & Friday: First and Second Round
Streaming: 8:45 AM to 7 PM on Masters.com, Masters app, CBSSports,com, CBS sports app, Paramount + and ESPN +
TV: 3 PM to 7:30 PM on ESPN
Saturday: Third Round
Streaming: 10:15 AM to 6:30 PM on previously listed options
TV: 3 PM to 7 PM on CBS
Sunday: Final Round
Streaming: 10:15 AM to 6:30 PM on previously listed options
TV: 2 PM to 7 PM on CBS
Tee times and pairings
Tee times and pairings for the first and second round can be found here.
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