Masters Week is upon us. Here are my five players to watch for this week at Augusta National:
Phil Mickelson (current odds 28 to 1)
Mickelson is 46 and coming off only his third missed cut of his Masters career in 2016. He hasn’t won since the 2013 Open Championship. However, Mickelson had three second-place finishes in 2016 on the PGA Tour, a dominant performance at the Ryder Cup and already has three top-10 finishes this year. Phil also has the pop back in his bat, averaging over 290 yards off the tee this season. More importantly, he is putting well (currently 17th on tour in Strokes Gained: Putting). Phil is a different player at Augusta. In the last 21 Masters, he has three wins, 11 top fives and 14 top 10s. Tiger may have one more green jacket, but Augusta National is Phil’s house.
Jon Rahm (current odds 22 to 1)
Rahm is making his first appearance at the Masters. The fact that Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 is still the only Masters rookie to win the green jacket in the modern era should take Rahm off the list, but Rahm is no ordinary rookie. He already has a win this year at the Farmers Insurance Open, as well as a second place and five top-10 finishes in 2017. Rahm has quickly vaulted to No. 14 in the Official World Golf Rankings with just few starts under his belt. Statistically, he’ll need to improve his putting, which has been trending in the right direction of late. Rahm has a flare for the dramatic and is not afraid of the spotlight. He recently pushed Dustin Johnson to 18 holes in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play final. Sooner or later, a first-timer is going to win at Augusta and join the list with Zoeller. Rahm has the skill and demeanour to pull it off.
Jordan Spieth (current odds 15 to 2)
Spieth’s competitive spirit and ability to almost will the ball into the hole separates him from the rest of the field. Nobody hates losing more than Spieth. After losing a five-shot lead that would eventually hand the green jacket to Danny Willet last year, Spieth has had 12 months to prepare to avenge last year’s collapse on the back nine. He has never finished outside of the top two spots on the leaderboard at the Masters. He tied for second in 2014, won in 2015, and had a disappointing second-place finish last year. Collectively, he is 25 under par over a three-year Masters career. Enough said.
Dustin Johnson (current odds 11 to 2)
Johnson is the No. 1 player in the world and the favourite any time he puts the tee in the ground. He is the first player since Vijay Singh in 2004 to win their first two starts as world No. 1. Johnson is also the first player since Rory McIlroy in 2014 to win three starts in a row, and has six wins in the last 10 months. Those wins include three WGC events and his first major victory at last year’s U.S. Open. He sits atop the FedEx Cup points list and is No. 1 in scoring average on the PGA Tour. Johnson has finished tied for fourth and six in his last two Masters and now has the short game to match his dominant long game. With all his confidence, skill, and now a major championship under his belt, Johnson has the mindset to go out and win his first green jacket. He is almost impossible to bet against.
Rory McIlroy (current odds 8 to 1)
McIlroy has yet to win in 2017, but all signs are trending in the right direction. His last stroke-play event was the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he charged to the top of the leaderboard over the weekend, only to lose a close call late on Sunday and finishing at nine under. Rory has all the tools. He is a four-time major champion and is playing for something no other player in the field has: A chance to achieve golfing immortality. If Rory can win and slip on the green jacket, he’ll join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players in modern history to complete the career grand slam. McIlroy is playing for the chance to be considered on golf’s Mount Rushmore at a very young age. Rory had the chance at The Masters back in 2011, where he started out hot and built a four shot lead, but he eventually lost the lead for good with one of the worst tee shots in major championship history on the 10th tee on Sunday. Since then, he has won four majors, has reached world No.1 ranking and became one of the greatest players of his generation. There is rain in the forecast all week in Augusta and all four of Rory’s major wins came in soft and/or soggy conditions. Two of those majors he won by eight shots. This could be the year he finally adds that elusive green jacket.
Tomorrow I’ll give you five names that may have a rough week ahead of them at Augusta National.