Augusta National is all set for an enthralling four days of Masters action. Compleat Golfer‘s GARY LEMKE and ANDRE HUISAMEN provide their picks for the week.
Winner – Xander Schauffele
A rather unscientific approach, I’m afraid, but based on the tee sheets and the weather forecast, where late afternoon rain is expected on Thursday and Friday. The grouping of Jon Rahm (world No 3), Xander Schauffele (No 8) and Rory McIlroy (No 12) adds up to a world ranking of 23, the lowest in the field. You have to expect, given the calibre of the group, that whoever performs best in the opening two rounds will go close to winning. I’m going for Schauffele, if only because he might be under less pressure than his two playing partners.
Challenger – Justin Thomas
Similar thinking to the above – his partners for the first two days are Louis Oosthuizen and Tony Finau – and that’s also a hot group. Thomas won the Players Championship and is No 2 in the world. He will be right there.
Dark horse – Patrick Cantlay
Always seems to fly under the radar although the obvious worry is that he doesn’t win often, and last won a tournament in 2019. But a second-round 66 last November shows that he knows his way around Augusta.
Big name to crash – Bryson DeChambeau
I actually love watching Bryson play but tend to hold my breath for different reasons when he stands on the tee. He’s one of those players who looks like he could self-implode at any given moment. He might well go on and win the Masters, but he might also go on to find trouble around Augusta and miss the cut.
Winner – Jordan Spieth
Spieth is riding high at a very crucial time of his career. It feels like a distant memory when he headed into last year’s Masters in a completely different space where a win seemed almost impossible for him. Victory in Texas over the past weekend was rich reward for the important form he found since the beginning of the year. A past champion at Augusta, Spieth’s battle with Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith should also make for decent viewing.
Challenger – Collin Morikawa
Backing two players from the same starting group to go all the way this week. Despite being a Major winner, Morikawa’s temperament in the big moments often gets overlooked. It’s hard to think he is only 24 years old, but Morikawa has all the makings of winning the Green Jacket. Last year’s Masters test would’ve provided him a lot of experience on what to expect this week.
Dark horse – Viktor Hovland
Mr Lemke’s shout of Cantlay is a pretty valid one. Loads of people are viewing him as an outsider but, similarly, I feel Hovland possesses the same qualities to cause a few upsets this week. I doubt he will have it in him to be consistent for four rounds straight, but he certainly has the means to make a valiant push up the leaderboard.
Big name to crash – Brooks Koepka
The poor man is almost forcing his participation at Augusta this week. Up until Sunday it wasn’t even clear if he would be competing at all, until he rocked up at the driving range and felt fine. Koepka is coming off further knee work, an injury that has hassled him for a while now. I doubt he will be fit enough to see through the weekend.