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Masters 2021: The entire field at Augusta National, ranked

April 03, 2021

Smile, friends, for major season is upon us.

Five months after a one-off autumnal Masters, the world’s best are back in Augusta for our favorite rite of spring. We’re not quite all the way back to normal—players will still take COVID-19 tests and patron attendance will be limited—but there is something so comforting about returning to Augusta in April. The weather is warming, the azaleas are blooming and the dream of the Grand Slam is alive and well.

Golf Digest has ranked all 88 players in the field—from the contenders to the amateurs, from the defending champion to champions of eras past—to help you make better wagers, win your pool or simply be a more educated fan. Happy reading, and happy Masters viewing.

88. IAN WOOSNAM
Age:
63 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 31
Best Masters finish: Win, 1991
Missed the cut in eight straight Masters before saying that the 2016 edition would be his last. But there he was, on the first tee again on the second Thursday in April 2017. Missed the cut in the next three before saying the 2019 edition would be his last. This time, he honored his word … for one year, sitting out last November before vowing to return this year after a back procedure has him feeling better. No judgments here—if we had a lifetime exemption to play the Masters, we’d have a hard time quitting, too.

• • •

87. LARRY MIZE
Age: 62 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 37
Best Masters finish: Win, 1987
The Augusta natives chip-in to beat Greg Norman in a playoff 34 years ago remains an all-time Masters memory. Still plays a full schedule on the PGA Tour Champions but has just one top-10 finish in 16 starts on that circuit since 2020. Shot an opening-round 70 last November but missed the cut, making it eight MCs in his last 11 Masters.

• • •

86. SANDY LYLE
Age:
63 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 39
Best Masters finish: Win, 1988
Two-time major winner won his green jacket in 1988, six years before this writer was born, but that’s neither here nor there. This will make an even 40 starts at Augusta, and he’s missed the cut six years in a row, so you have to wonder how many more times he’ll give it a go.

• • •

85. JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
Age:
55 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 31
Best Masters finish: Win, 1994, 1999
Short-game legend loves him some Augusta National—he’s has eight top-10s at the Masters, including his two wins. That was then, however, and this is now: He’s missed the cut in each of his last five and is a combined 48 over par in those 10 rounds.

• • •

84. CHARLES OSBORNE (a)
Age:
20 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: First
Known as Ollie, he’s a junior at SMU and finished runner-up to Tyler Strafaci in the 2020 U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes. Swings the club beautifully but ranks outside the top 200 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

• • •

83. VIJAY SINGH
Age:
58 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 27
Best Masters finish:
Win, 2000
One of the fitter 58-year-olds on Planet Earth, the Big Fijian seems wholly unwilling to cower in the face of his advancing years. In addition to full-time PGA Tour Champions life, he still plays quite a few tour events via his past champion/money-list status—he’s fifth all-time in earnings with more than $71 million—and Google his workout routines if you want a reason to feel worse about yourself. While he’s still competitive on the senior circuit, he’s missed the cut in 12 of his last 13 tries against the youngsters and withdrew from last year’s Masters due to illness.

• • •

82. TYLER STRAFACI (a)
Age:
22 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: First
Another in the long line of Georgia Tech stars competing as amateurs at Augusta. Strafaci won the North & South Amateur last summer then followed it up with a U.S. Amateur victory at Bandon Dunes. Has played in two PGA Tour events since that huge week, shooting 77-75 at Torrey Pines and 78 at Riviera before withdrawing. With only three amateurs in the field, he still has a reasonable shot at following in former roommate Andy Ogletree's footsteps and earning low-amateur honors—if he can make the cut. Grandfather Frank played in the Masters twice (1938, 1950).

Steve Dykes

• • •

81. JOE LONG (a)
Age:
23 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: First
Englishman beat his longtime buddy Joe Harvey to win the 2020 British Amateur at Royal Birkdale. Currently ranked No. 48 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and was recently named to the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team. Will stay amateur through the Open Championship, at least, so he can preserve his exemption before considering turning pro.

• • •

80. MIKE WEIR
Age:
50 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 21
Best Masters finish: Win, 2003
Now PGA Tour Champions-age—where did the time go?!—he played a full slate of events on the 50-and-older circuit and posted two solo seconds in 12 starts. Contending for tournaments (even against the old guys) is better for your confidence than grinding on the cutline of Korn Ferry events, which is how he spent the few years prior to turning the big five-oh. Made the cut in last year’s Masters for the first time since 2014, but he’s simply not long enough to have much of a chance.

• • •

79. JIMMY WALKER
Age:
42 World Ranking: 528 Masters appearances: 7
Best Masters finish: T-8, 2014
The 2016 PGA Championship winner is in his last year of being exempt on tour and into all the majors, and something’s going to need to change if he’s going to keep his privileges for 2022. He’s made just four cuts in his last 19 starts with a best finish of T-46 at the Sanderson Farms last fall. Apart from his putting, the entire game is in need of significant improvement.

• • •

78. JIM HERMAN
Age:
43 World Ranking: 132 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2016
Was a shock winner at the final event of the 2019-20 regular season, the Wyndham Championship, where he shot 124 (!) on the weekend for his third PGA Tour title. That just underscores how anyone can get hot any week, because Herman has missed seven of 12 cuts this year and has exactly two top-10s since 2017—both being victories. Talk about a big-game hunter. Best finish in 10 career major starts is a T-43 at the 2016 Open Championship. So yeah, stay away.

• • •

77. BRIAN GAY
Age:
49 World Ranking: 209 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: T-38, 2013
Broke a seven-plus-year win drought last fall at the Bermuda Championship, so he’s back at the Masters for the first time since 2013 as the oldest non-past champion in the field. Came back down to earth since that island fever dream with no top-25s in his last nine starts. Ranks outside the top 90 in all major strokes-gained categories except SG/frosted tips, which he still leads despite rapidly approaching PGA Tour Champions eligibility.

• • •

76. FRED COUPLES
Age:
61 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 35
Best Masters finish:
Win, 1992
The ageless wonder is, as hard as it is to say, beginning to show some signs of age. He’s missed just five cuts in his 35 starts at Augusta but two of those came in the past two Masters. It’s a lot of golf course for a 61-year-old—even one as cool as Freddy. All that said, he finished in the top 25 in each of his last 11 starts on the PGA Tour Champions.

• • •

75. HUDSON SWAFFORD
Age:
33 World Ranking: 175 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2017
One of a healthy handful of Georgia Bulldogs in the field. Won in the Dominican Republic last fall but has missed the cut in nine of his 13 starts since, and he ranks outside the top 200 in strokes gained/overall this season. Yet to make the weekend in four career major starts.

• • •

74. MARTIN LAIRD
Age:
38 World Ranking: 100 Masters appearances: 3
Best Masters finish:
T-20, 2011
Came out of nowhere to win in Las Vegas last fall—needed a sponsor’s invite to get into the field, then was victorious as the No. 351 player in the world. That secured status for basically three years and got him into his first major championship since 2017. Has five missed cuts and no top-10s in his nine starts since, so that’s looking increasingly like lightning in a bottle rather than a late-career resurgence for the Scotsman.

• • •

73. HENRIK STENSON
Age:
44 World Ranking: 117 Masters appearances: 15
Best Masters finish: T-5, 2018
We wish we had better news here, because he’s really a lovely guy. But he’s moving the wrong way, quickly, with six missed cuts in his last seven starts and some brutally poor ball-striking statistics—particularly depressing because he’s buttered his bread with his tee-to-green play for two decades. He’s a combined 34 over par in his last six rounds, and stretches like those always look worse when a guy is north of 40. He’ll turn 45 on the Monday of Masters week and you wonder if his days as a Ryder Cupper are over. Missed the cut in all three majors last year and has just one top-10 in his 15 starts at Augusta.

Andrew Redington

• • •

72. ROBERT STREB
Age:
33 World Ranking: 110 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2015, 2016
Won seemingly the week after last November’s Masters at the RSM Classic, which ensured him a return to Augusta for the first time in five years. Has missed the cut in both previous Masters starts and missed five in a row on the PGA Tour before a T-13 at the Honda against a weak field.

• • •

71. GARY WOODLAND
Age:
36 World Ranking: 53 Masters appearances: 8
Best Masters finish: T-24, 2011
He’s faded a bit since winning the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Had missed the cut in three of four starts before withdrawing from the Honda Classic after a positive COVID-19 test. Was a relief, then, to see him put a solid week together at Valero, where he finished T-6. Big picture, the issues this season have been broad: Came into Valero 197th in SG/off the tee, 95th in SG/approach, 147th in SG/around the green and 173rd in SG/putting. He said in January that he’d been playing with pain for the six months prior and needed four cortisone shots to finish the year, which sounds awful. But he also said he’s finally pain free and the results have not followed until last week. And his record at Augusta is quite poor: in eight starts, he has four missed cuts, a withdrawal and zero top-20s.

• • •

70. C.T. PAN
Age:
29 World Ranking: 155 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish:
T-7, 2020
Former World No. 1 amateur won his lone PGA Tour title the week after Tiger’s Masters victory in 2019 then had to wait 19 months to reap the ultimate reward for the win, a spot in the Masters last November. Made it well worth the wait, though, with a T-7 finish to guarantee a return trip in April. Missed six of his next eight cuts after last fall’s Masters but comes in off a T-3 at the Honda Classic, so that’ll give him some good vibes as he heads back to Magnolia Lane.

• • •

69. MICHAEL THOMPSON
Age:
35 World Ranking: 105 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: T-25, 2013
Won the 3M Open last July with an amazing putting week and is making his first Masters appearance since 2013. Played in the 2008 Masters after finishing runner-up to Colt Knost in the U.S. Amateur the previous summer. Nothing really jumps out statistically to suggest he has a chance to contend, but that’s why they play the games on the field.

• • •

68. ZACH JOHNSON
Age:
45 World Ranking: 107 Masters appearances: 16
Best Masters finish: Win, 2007
Became the first to win the Masters with an over-par score since 1956 when he grinded it out on a windy, wet week 14 years ago. Was a surprise winner then but has put together a borderline Hall of Fame career with 12 PGA Tour wins and a second major at St. Andrews. Fell outside the top 200 in the World Ranking last summer but has quietly played some really steady golf since, making 14 straight cuts until this week's Valero Texas Open and posting a T-8 at Honda. Still can contend on his style of golf course, but Augusta is a big ask these days with his last five Masters starts resulting in MC/MC/T-36/T-58/T-51.

• • •

67. STEWART CINK
Age:
47 World Ranking: 149 Masters appearances: 18
Best Masters finish: T-3, 2008
A late-40s resurgence—and, more specifically, a win at the Safeway Open last fall—has him back at the Masters for just the second time since 2014. That win came when his son, Reagan, was filling in for his full-time caddie, but Team Cink is now a permanent arrangement. Missed three straight cuts before a T-19 at Honda. Has two top-10s in 18 starts at Augusta but none since 2008.

• • •

66. CHARL SCHWARTZEL
Age:
36 World Ranking: 211 Masters appearances: 11
Best Masters finish: Win, 2011
The only Masters champ to birdie his final four holes to win has been in the wilderness for three-plus years. Has missed the FedEx Cup playoffs the past two seasons and has work to do if he’s to make it this August. Playing on a major medical extension, he’s missed six cuts in 13 starts this year and three of his last five. Tied for 25th at last year’s Masters, his best finish in a major since 2017.

• • •

65. SEBASTIAN MUNOZ
Age:
28 World Ranking: 63 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-19, 2020
Won his first and only PGA Tour event in the fall of 2019, then played nicely in the FedEx Cup playoffs to get to the Tour Championship, which is how he’s qualified for the majors. A bit of a fall-season specialist, he started 2020-21 strong again but has no top-10s in his last 12 starts. That’s mostly due to an ice cold putter; he ranks 142nd on tour in strokes gained/putting this season. Started his first Masters last fall 70-68-69 only to shoot 75 on Sunday and drop to T-19. Still an encouraging debut, but that was an entirely different golf course, and he comes in off a missed cut at the Players and an 0-3 week at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

• • •

64. BERNHARD LANGER
Age:
63 World Ranking: N/A Masters appearances: 37
Best Masters finish: Win, 1985, 1993
Delivered one of the interesting stories of last November’s Masters when he got paired with reigning U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau on Sunday, then beat him head-to-head (71-73). Take that, kids! Finished T-29, which should be extremely impressive for a 63-year-old man, but we’ve kind of come to expect that from the ageless German wonder. He’s going to shoot his age at Augusta one of the years. Count on it.

Ben Walton

• • •

63. MARC LEISHMAN
Age:
37 World Ranking: 39 Masters appearances: 8
Best Masters finish: T-4, 2013
Trudged through an absolutely abysmal stretch last summer but looks to have come out the other side, although he’s still moving the wrong way in the World Ranking. Just one top-10 in his last 21 starts but did finish T-13 at the Masters in November and has two top-10s at Augusta. Simply hasn’t been the same caliber of player since the post COVID-hiatus restart, and there isn’t one part of his game to point to—over his last 50 rounds, he’s not gaining ground in a single strokes-gained category. Comes in off back-to-back missed cuts at Bay Hill and the Players.

• • •

62. DANNY WILLETT
Age:
33 World Ranking: 77 Masters appearances: 6
Best Masters finish: Win, 2016
Fell off the golf planet after a rock-solid victory at the 2016 Masters—he dropped outside the top 450 briefly in 2018. Got back inside the top 30 in 2019 but has hit a semi-lull since. We say “semi” because he’s made seven cuts in a row, but his lone top-10 since July 2020 came at the opposite-field Corales event in the Dominican Republic. Missed the cut in the three Masters following his win before a T-25 last November.

• • •

61. BERND WIESBERGER
Age:
35 World Ranking: 54 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish: T-22, 2015
Austrian player won three times in Europe in 2019 and thus still sits high in the Ryder Cup standings, but he hasn’t been able to post any finishes of note in big events on this side of the pond. Finished T-59 (out of 72) at the WGC-Workday, T-31 at Bay Hill and missed the cut at the Players. That said, he has made the cut in all five Masters starts and in each of his last six major appearances, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make the weekend. Anything past that, though, is getting greedy.

• • •

60. KEVIN KISNER
Age:
37 World Ranking: 36 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish: T-21, 2019
Georgia Bulldog grew up and resides just across the South Carolina border in Aiken, so this is a home game. You get the sense he might be a major champion if one of them were match play, but he’s failed to post a top-20 in any of his previous five Masters starts. MC at Augusta last year then lost a playoff at the RSM Classic the week after, but has no top-20s in his five stroke-play starts since. One of the tour’s straightest hitters (he’s third in fairway percentage) but also one of the shortest, which is how he ranks 153rd in SG/off the tee. His game would seem to fit the Open Championship or U.S. Open better, but he putts quite well on bentgrass greens and he’s comfortable in the neighborhood surrounds.

• • •

59. CAMERON CHAMP
Age:
25 World Ranking: 86 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-19, 2020
Already has two PGA Tour victories but you get the sense he’s underachieving given his extraordinary physical gifts. No one makes swinging the club 130 mph look easier, but he’s failed to improve his putting, and it’s costing him week after week. Seriously—coming into the Texas Open, he’d lost strokes to the field on the greens in 13 of his last 14 events. Looks a bit joyless on the golf course of late. All that said, he picked up a top-20 in his first Masters in November and has the length to turn the par 5s into mid-length par 4s. Plus, he hung near the lead at last year’s PGA Championship, so it’s not crazy to think he could find a hot putter somewhere (he gained 1.9 strokes putting that week at Harding Park) and contend again.

Patrick Smith

• • •

58. LANTO GRIFFIN
Age:
32 World Ranking: 57 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2020
Only recently has he become a regular in golf’s biggest events after spending the better part of a decade toiling on the mini-tours. VCU grad lives in Jacksonville and has become close with Vijay Singh, interestingly enough. He’s a very good iron player (17th in SG/approach on the season) and thus makes a bunch of cuts, racking up finishes in the T-20 range. And yet he was quite listless last year in his Masters debut, shooting 74-73 to miss the cut by three.

• • •

57. MACKENZIE HUGHES
Age:
30 World Ranking: 51 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2017
Canadian caught a bit of a heater at the end of the 2019-20 season to get to the Tour Championship, and he’s rewarded with his second trip to Augusta and first since 2017. Posted two top-10s in his first five starts of this campaign but does not have one in a stroke-play event in the new year, and he ranks outside the top 100 in every strokes-gained category except putting, his strength (12th a year after ranking eighth). You don’t want to rely on the flatstick to bail you out in majors, though. In related news, his six starts in majors have yielded five MC Hammers and a T-58.

• • •

56. SI WOO KIM
Age:
25 World Ranking: 49 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-21, 2019
There’s no question he possesses a top-level gear. You don’t win the Players and two other PGA Tour events before your 26th birthday, and look as good swinging it as he does, without ample talent. But he’s struggled to find week-in, week-out consistency. Had three missed cuts and a withdraw in a five-event stretch before finishing T-9 at the Players. Lovely ball-striker who struggles with his short putting, and he’s missed the cut in 10 of his 16 major starts, but he has made the weekend in three of four Masters appearances.

• • •

55. MATT WALLACE
Age:
30 World Ranking: 48 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: T-46, 2020
Got as high as World No. 23 on the strength of his three European Tour wins in 2018. That got him into all the big events, which he parlayed into a PGA Tour card. But he missed the playoffs in his first full season and was off to another slow start before a solo third last week at the Valero Texas Open. That was a much-needed jolt as he’s been in a bit of no-man’s land—not currently in the Ryder Cup conversation, not winning in Europe and treading water in the U.S. Does rank top 25 in SG/approach, which has allowed him to make the cut in six straight major championships, and he plays demanding setups well.

• • •

54. CARLOS ORTIZ
Age:
29 World Ranking: 47 Masters appearances: First
Mexican native who lives Dallas after playing college golf at North Texas won his first PGA Tour event in the last tournament before the Masters last fall, the Vivint Houston Open, but didn’t get a spot into the field given the one-time COVID rules. Having a nice season as he followed up the victory with a T-8 in Mexico, played in the final threesome at the Farmers (it didn’t go so well) and took T-4 at the Waste Management. Concerningly, he comes in off two of three missed cuts and a clunker at the WGC-Match Play, and he’s lost ground in the all-important strokes gained/approach stat in six of his last seven starts. Younger brother Alvaro played in the 2019 Masters after winning the Latin American Amateur.

• • •

53. FRANCESCO MOLINARI
Age:
38 World Ranking: 108 Masters appearances: 9
Best Masters finish:
T-5, 2019
Led heading to 12th tee on Sunday of the 2019 Masters before disaster struck—he rinsed two balls and made two doubles coming home as Tiger triumphed. That day sent the Italian into a tailspin; he said there were already mechanical problems creeping into his move, and he decided to take some time away as he moved his family from London to Southern California, but surely the collapse also had an effect. He didn’t post another top-10 finish for 13 months. He followed up that T-8 at the American Express in January with a T-10 at the Farmers Insurance Open and a T-8 at the Genesis Invitational—held at his new home course of Riviera—before badly missing back-to-back cuts at Bay Hill and the Players. Those results are semi-concerning given his last two years (as is missing the Masters cut by six last fall), but we’re going to stay positive and focus on the encouraging stretch before that.

Augusta National

• • •

52. MATT JONES
Age:
40 World Ranking: 55 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2014
Arizona State graduate out of Australia opened with a hugely impressive 61 at the Honda and wound up winning easily. It was his first win on the PGA Tour in seven years and got him to the Masters for just the second time and first since 2014. One of the fastest players on tour; will pick his club, choose his target and hit in the time it takes some of his peers to find the nearest sprinkler head. Has no top-20 finishes in his 16 career starts in majors but he’s almost at his career-high World Ranking, so reason for optimism.

• • •

51. BRENDON TODD
Age:
35 World Ranking: 56 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2015, 2020
Another former Georgia Bulldog, he sunk about as low as a professional golfer can get, dropping outside the top 2,000 in the World Ranking as he dealt with the “full-swing yips” before a full teardown and re-make with Bradley Hughes. Won back-to-back starts in the fall of 2019 to get back into the big events, and he’s been solid if unspectacular since. He’s one of the five shortest hitters on the PGA Tour, which leaves him no margin of error if he wants to contend. Posted top-25s in the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open last year but missed the cut at Augusta, which forces him to hit a bunch of long irons, hybrids and fairway woods.

• • •

50. DYLAN FRITTELLI
Age:
30 World Ranking: 68 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: T-5, 2020
Texas grad has missed the cut in seven of his 13 stroke-play starts this year and ranks 148th in strokes gained/overall, which makes his T-5 at last year’s Masters a bit of a head-scratcher. He opened with 65 to share the lead and posted 67 on Saturday to get into the penultimate group on Sunday, so it's not like it was a backdoor top-10, either. Augusta will be a much firmer golf course this time around and should play more like a major test than last year, when 6-irons held the back shelf on No. 5 (blasphemy!) As such, Frittelli’s results in his other major starts—nine starts, five missed cuts and a best finish of T-31—are probably a better indicator for what’s ahead.

• • •

49. IAN POULTER
Age:
45 World Ranking: 64 Masters appearances: 15
Best Masters finish: T-6, 2015
He’s been sliding down the World Ranking and is closer to age 50 than 40, so you’d think his days as a world-class player are numbered, but his countryman Lee Westwood has re-set the age clock and Poults showed plenty of fire in waxing Rory McIlroy on the first day of the WGC-Match Play. Has a solid record at Augusta with three top-10s and 14 made cuts in 15 starts, and he was in semi-contention in 2019 before joining the misery in Rae’s Creek on Sunday. A major would be an incredible punctuation mark on an already-stellar career, but it would mean becoming the fifth-oldest major winner ever.

• • •

48. MATTHEW WOLFF
Age:
21 World Ranking: 23 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2020
Began wrap-around season with back-to-back runner-ups, including at the U.S. Open where a preposterously good Saturday 65 gave him a three-shot lead in just his second career major. Bryson beat him pretty good that Sunday, and Wolff lost in a playoff in his next start in Las Vegas. Since then, it’s been a slog—no finishes better than T-36 in nine starts, and he withdrew from the WGC-Workday after an opening-round 83. There’s been wrist trouble but also a bit of a mental issue; he’s a 21-year-old who misses his friends, and life on tour (during a pandemic) becomes shockingly lonely when you’re grinding to make cuts rather than contending for trophies. Returned at the WGC-Match Play but struggled with a pretty violent two-way miss. When he’s on, he does a good chunk of his damage with the driver and he ranked 12th on tour in SG/off the tee last year. This season, he’s 199th. Again, he’s 21, and there is no reason for any long-term concern here. Plus, the guy finished T-4 and solo second in his first two major championship starts, so he’s not one to shy away from the moment. But it’s hard to contend anywhere with a hard left ball in your bag, and it’s there right now.

• • •

47. KEVIN NA
Age:
37 World Ranking: 34 Masters appearances: 9
Best Masters finish: T-12, 2012
His last two starts have ended in controversy. At the Players, he was going along fine until making a quintuple-bogey 8 on 17 on Thursday, then promptly withdrew with a “back injury.” In his next start at the Match Play, he made a show in reprimanding Dustin Johnson for raking away a six-inch putt without it being given. The noise obscures a late-career resurgence with Na collecting four wins since July 2018 after closing out the Sony Open in January. Not to be a buzzkill, but he does the majority of his damage on shorter, easier courses­—the average winning score of his five PGA Tour wins is 19.8 under par—and the majors aren’t typically set up like that. As such, he has just two top-10s to go with 16 missed cuts in 38 career major starts.

• • •

46. PHIL MICKELSON
Age:
50 World Ranking: 115 Masters appearances: 28
Best Masters finish: Win, 2004, 2006, 2010
He made the cut at the Players and the Honda Classic, which feels like legitimate progress, before his MC at the Valero Texas Open. That sentence you read tells you quite a bit about the current state of Lefty’s game—he has just one finish better than T-24 in his last 20 starts on the PGA and European tours, and his World Ranking is so depressingly low that I choose not to look at it, thus forcing my editor to fill in the spot above. He’ll be 51 in June and Father Time remains undefeated, so the writing is on the wall here. But Phil is an all-time great and he remains as committed as ever, often heading straight to the range after disappointing rounds like a player 20 years his junior. Gun to my head, he wins one more PGA Tour event. Another major, though? His last top-10 in one came at the 2016 Open Championship. Augusta probably presents him his best chance, with its generous fairways and right-to-left bias, and his history at the course is among the best ever: three wins, a runner-up and five third-place finishes. Stranger things have happened, but it’d be pretty strange.

Patrick Smith

• • •

45. SHANE LOWRY
Age:
33 World Ranking: 44 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish: T-25
Loved what he said last year after barely making the cut: “I want to get two more rounds here just to keep learning how to play this place because I don’t quite have it figured out yet. I’m going to get a few more chances to come back here. This weekend is all about learning for me.” Wound up playing last two days in three under to finish T-25, his best showing in five starts at Augusta. Has just two top-10s on the PGA Tour since that magical week at Royal Portrush in 2019—but one came a few weeks ago at the Players. The Irishman’s been striking the ball nicely but the putter hasn’t cooperated. He’s a feel-orientied, artist-type player who loves to play a bunch of different shots around the greens, so it’s a little surprising that this is the only major where he doesn’t have a top-10.

• • •

44. VICTOR PEREZ
Age:
28 World Ranking: 29 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-46, 2020
Lanky Frenchman is the highest-ranked player without a PGA Tour card. Would’ve qualified for special temporary membership had he won the consolation match at WGC-Dell Match Play, but Matt Kuchar would not budge. Still, Perez is in good shape to get his card for next season through non-member points. Finally put together some big finishes against top-level fields in his last two starts, a solo fourth in Austin and a T-9 at the Players despite needing to hole a 24-footer at the crack of dawn Saturday morning just to make the cut. Played his college ball at New Mexico and has J.P. Fitzgerald, Rory McIlroy’s longtime ex-caddie, on his bag.

• • •

43. BUBBA WATSON
Age:
42 World Ranking: 58 Masters appearances: 12
Best Masters finish: Win, 2012, 2014
He’s the ultimate horses-for-courses player, with eight of his 12 PGA Tour wins coming on three tracks. One is Augusta National. The two-time champ’s preferred right-to-left ball flight—and we mean, way right-to-left—gives him an advantage on so many holes. If you’re betting on him, you’re essentially subscribing to the belief that current form (see that World Ranking) and season-long statistics matter little at a course as particular as Augusta. Plenty of players believe that axiom as well, though in recent years, the winners have been guys who came in playing great. Bubba doesn’t qualify there—his last top 10 in a stroke-play event came last October—and he’ll need to improve on his approach play, which has cost him shots in four of his last five starts, to have a chance.

• • •

42. ROBERT MACINTYRE
Age:
24 World Ranking: 45 Masters appearances: First
Scottish lefty has long maintained the goal of getting into the top 50 in the World Rankings, which would get him into all the big events on both sides of the pond. He’s accomplished it thanks to a solo third in Dubai earlier this year and a T-9 at the WGC-Match Play, where he advanced from World No. 1 Dustin Johnson’s group despite winning only one of his three matches. Has made the cut in his first three major appearances, highlighted by a dream debut T-6 at the Open Championship in 2019. Will factor into the European Ryder Cup discussions as he’s considered one of the continent’s top young talents.

• • •

41. JUSTIN ROSE
Age:
40 World Ranking: 41 Masters appearances: 15
Best Masters finish: 2, 2017
Playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in the 2017 Masters was the toughest defeat of his career, and he’s been open about how badly he wants to win this tournament. Unfortunately, his game and his body are not where he’d like it—ranks outside the top 100 in SG/off the tee, SG/approach and SG/overall. He withdrew from the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with back spasms and did not play in either the Players or WGC-Match Play to get healthy for majors season. There had been some positive signs early in 2021, mainly a T-2 in Saudi Arabia, but he’s got serious work to do to get back in the Ryder Cup picture and is nowhere near the ruthlessly consistent performer he was just a few years ago. Good news is he has five top-10s in 15 career Masters starts with just one missed cut.

Jamie Squire

• • •

40. HARRIS ENGLISH
Age:
31 World Ranking: 21 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish:
T-42, 2016
This is just English’s third Masters start and first since 2016, which underscores the depths he saw as he dropped as low as World No. 369 just two years ago. Has got his game back since then and played some really consistent golf toward the latter half of 2020, including a T-19 at the PGA Championship and a solo fourth at the U.S. Open. Got into the Tour Championship last August, which got him into the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January despite not being a champion (thanks to one-time COVID rules). Parlayed that into a victory, the third of his career but first in seven years. Cooled off since and was a late withdrawal from the Players, but he looked fine at the WGC-Match Play. Grew up in Valdosta and played at the University of Georgia, so you have to think this tournament means quite a bit to him.

• • •

39. MATT KUCHAR
Age:
42 World Ranking: 42 Masters appearances: 14
Best Masters finish: T-3, 2012
Doesn’t get the same press as Spieth, Fowler or McIlroy, but Kuch had been struggling for more than a year until a much-needed third-place showing at WGC-Match Play. His last stroke-play finish better than T-18 on the PGA Tour came 20 starts ago at the 2020 Genesis Invitational. Rose to No. 15 in the World Ranking that week but had dropped outside the top 50 before Austin. Ranks outside the top 100 in the six key strokes-gained categories for the season but remains relentlessly optimistic and insists he and his coach, Chris O’Connell, have turned a corner. Georgia Tech roots and solid career at Augusta (low amateur in 1998, eight top-25s and four top-eights in his 14 career starts) means it’s a comfortable week for him.

• • •

38. BILLY HORSCHEL
Age:
34 World Ranking: 17 Masters appearances: 6
Best Masters finish: T-17, 2016
For as long as he’s hung inside the top 50 in the world, his record in the majors is quite poor: just one top-15 finish in 28 career starts. One likely explanation is his poor iron play; ranks 169th in SG/approach this year and 114th last year. But he’s done plenty of damage on gentler set-ups and is coming off a huge win at the WGC-Match Play … at least for his World Ranking and bank account. How much you want to extrapolate from that result going forward is a matter of debate, especially given the ragged play in the final match. Also finished runner-up at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession, but missed the cut at Bay Hill and finished T-58 at the Players. He’s feeds off the crowd’s energy—and, occasionally, claps back to a heckler—so he’ll definitely be glad they’re back at Augusta.

• • •

37. CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT
Age:
26 World Ranking: 35 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-38, 2020
First and foremost, so you can correct your friends: it’s pronounced Buh-ZAY-din-hote. And Google his backstory, because it’s as wild as it gets. South African has proven he can hang in the biggest events and should have a chance to get his PGA Tour card through non-member points this season. Made the cut in his Masters debut last fall, then won each of his next two starts on the European Tour, both on home soil in South Africa, which is how he’s flying so high in the World Ranking. Has played in just three stroke-play events in the U.S. in 2021 and made the weekend in all, highlighted by a solo seventh at Bay Hill.

• • •

36. HIDEKI MATSUYAMA
Age:
29 World Ranking: 25 Masters appearances: 9
Best Masters finish: 5, 2015
This will be his 10th Masters, which by rule makes him a veteran even at 29. His lone top-10 on the wrap-around season came in a runner-up in Houston the week before the Masters in November, then he finished a solid T-13 at Augusta. Has not won a golf tournament in nearly four years, a difficult-to-believe stretch for a player of his ball-striking caliber. That ball-striking is the main reason he’s made the cut in 27 of 32 career major starts, but an uncooperative putter—he ranks 170th in SG/putting this year and has never finished inside the top 75 in that stat on tour—continues to hold him back. Does have top-20s in five of his last six starts at Augusta, so he’s always a good top-10 or top-20 bet, but doesn’t strike you as the guy to hole the necessary putts down the stretch to win.

• • •

35. ABRAHAM ANCER
Age:
30 World Ranking: 31 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-13, 2020
We try to resist the small-dog/big-fight motif, but sometimes it fits just right. Listed at 5’7” but perhaps even shorter, the Mexican relishes the big stage. Going back to the start of 2019, he has made the cut in seven of eight starts in majors/Players, and played in the final threesome on Sunday in his Masters debut last fall, only to post 76 and tumble to T-13. Still, he took heaps of positives and a firmer, faster Augusta this April should play more to his liking—he ranks 159th in driving distance but second in driving accuracy, so he’s always going to be a fan of fairways that roll out. One of the better and more creative wedge players on tour, which bodes well at Augusta. Four top-25s in seven stroke-play starts in 2021 thus far suggest the game is in a good place.

• • •

34. MAX HOMA
Age:
30 World Ranking: 37 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2020
No longer just the Twitter Guy. Made certain of that with torrid stretch of play starring at The American Express straight through the Players. And we do mean straight through—he played eight consecutive weeks until the gas tank ran low in missing the cut at TPC Sawgrass. Rest, shmest. Still, he made more than $2.3 million during that stretch, more than half of which came with a dream win at Riviera, an event he grew up attending as a kid. His season-long stats are hamstrung by a pretty slow start, but he’s been a top-20 player by virtually every metric since the new year. Shot 75 on Friday in his Masters debut last year, then resolved to bring a new “happy guy” outlook to the PGA Tour, so perhaps that’s behind the turn-around.

• • •

33. BRIAN HARMAN
Age:
34 World Ranking: 50 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish: T-44, 2018
How’s this for getting hot at the right time? The Georgia alum finished T-3 at the Players then T-5 at the WGC-Match Play to jump from 92th to 49th in the World Ranking, getting one of the last spots in the Masters field by being in the top 50 by the cutoff date. Those finishes were a surprise but not a total shock, as he’s made 19 of his last 20 cuts and ranks 32nd in SG/overall. Doesn’t have a particularly big game (ranks 141st in driving distance) and has one top-25 in 18 career major start—but hey, Zach Johnson won the Masters, and Harman looks like a lefty ZJ if you squint tightly enough.

• • •

32. WILL ZALATORIS
Age:
24 World Ranking: 46 Masters appearances: First
Golf’s new kid on the block makes much anticipated Masters debut after playing Canadian Tour Q-School only two years ago. It’s been a meteoric rise since—the Wake Forest grad won two Korn Ferry events in 2020, which got him a spot in the U.S. Open. He finished T-6 that week, which got him into the Corales. He finished T-8 that week, which got him into the Sanderson. Are you sensing a pattern? Still not a full member of the PGA Tour, he’s on special temporary status, which allows him to take unlimited sponsor’s invites (won’t be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs unless he wins, though). Has five top-10s and 10 top-25s in his 14 starts this season and is already considered one of the tour’s best ball-strikers—ranks fourth in SG/approach and SG/tee to green.

• • •

31. TYRRELL HATTON
Age:
29 World Ranking: 8 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-44, 2018
Fiery Brit has three big wins over the last 13 months to get into the World top-10. Ranks eighth on the PGA Tour in SG/approach but he struggles with his chipping, having lost shots to the field around the greens in seven of his last eight starts. And how’s this for a stat: he has missed the cut just four times in his last 29 starts, and those have come in the PGA Championship, U.S. Open, Masters, and Players Championship. In other words, the four biggest tournaments he’s played in his last 29. A reverse Brooks Koepka, so to speak. Whether that’s a psychological thing or an unfortunate coincidence, it’s a frustrating run of results for a player of his caliber. Unfortunately, he does not have many good memories at Augusta to draw from, with two missed cuts, a T-44 and a T-56 in his four Masters appearances.

• • •

30. BROOKS KOEPKA
Age:
30 World Ranking: 11 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish: T-2, 2019
The knee, the knee, the knee. All eyes are on the knee. After a year-plus of his left knee giving him issues, Koepka recently dislocated his right knee cap and suffered ligament damage during a fall. The injury kept him out of the Players and required surgery, which he had March 16. That’d leave less than a month to heal for the opening round at Augusta. The injury comes at a brutal time for the 30-year-old, who seemed to be healthy and playing well again after his Waste Management victory and a T-2 at the WGC-Workday Championship. He has top-10s in each of the last two Masters, including finishing one shot behind Tiger Woods in 2019, but is in danger of missing the tournament for the second time in four years. Koepka was at Augusta National on Sunday, practicing and playing a few holes and says he intends to play this week. Even if he does play, who knows what kind of pain he’ll be in.

Jamie Squire

• • •

29. JASON DAY
Age:
33 World Ranking: 52 Masters appearances: 10
Best Masters finish: T-2, 2011
Probably should have won his Masters debut a decade ago and has a fantastic record at Augusta, with four top-10s and top-30s in all eight of the Masters he finished (withdrew in 2012) … until last year, when he missed the cut in what felt like a low point for the former World No. 1. Has since started working with Chris Como to develop a swing that doesn’t ravage his back. Hard to believe he’s only 33 given how long he’s been a force in world golf and how difficult the last couple years have been for him injury-wise, with ever-present back issues making it impossible to find any rhythm. There have been some positives lately—he finished tied for second in SG/tee to green at the Players but last among those to make the cut in putting, which explains the T-35. He’s been a tremendous putter throughout his career, so smart money says that’s an aberration rather than anything seriously concerning. He’ll offer good value at his odds/pricing.

• • •

28. COREY CONNERS
Age:
29 World Ranking: 43 Masters appearances: 2
Best Masters finish:
T-10, 2020
Canadian had to Monday qualify into the Valero Texas Open, then win the Valero Texas Open, just to get into the Masters two years ago. Since then, he’s risen to Presidents Cup-level player. That’s mainly thanks to his terrific ball-striking—you won’t find a better rhythm in golf, and he’s picked up an average of 5.75 shots tee-to green over his last eight starts where Shotlink was in place. Played wonderfully in his two starts on the Florida swing; he made a run on Sunday at Bay Hill before getting ice cold with the putter (he finished solo third), and then did basically the same thing the following week at the Players (seventh). Had one of the quietest top-10s in Masters history in November, as he somehow avoided the broadcast entirely. A player firmly on the rise.

• • •

27. JASON KOKRAK
Age:
35 World Ranking: 33 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2020
The big graduate of Xavier won for the first time in 200-plus PGA Tour starts last fall at Shadow Creek but missed the cut just a few weeks after in his Masters debut. You’d think his homemade, timing-dependent swing would produce a bunch of missed cuts, but it doesn’t, and he comes in off three straight stroke-play top-10s at the WGC-Workday, Arnold Palmer and the Players. He drives it well (22nd in SG) and putts it well, too, which is always a strong combo. A deep sleeper whose odds will be reasonable given his relative anonymity among the general sporting public.

• • •

26. TOMMY FLEETWOOD
Age:
30 World Ranking: 24 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-17, 2018
Sliding in the World Ranking a bit—his T-10 at Bay Hill was his first top-10 on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Honda Classic. Once considered one of the best drivers of the ball in the world, he ranks an astonishing 177th on tour in SG/off the tee and 91st in SG/tee to green, a brutal development for a player who hangs his hat on his ball-striking … and his luscious locks. Been a different story in Europe, to be fair, as he started the year going T-10/T-7/T-17 in the Middle East. Has three top-fives in majors but his best go ‘round at Augusta was a T-17 in 2018. Not quite slumping but not playing to the standard he set in the 2018-19 range.

• • •

25. ADAM SCOTT
Age:
40 World Ranking: 32 Masters appearances: 19
Best Masters finish: Win, 2013
Crowning career moment came in 2013 when he sank a 15-footer in the pouring rain to become Australia’s first Masters winner. Won back-to-back starts at the beginning of 2020 and got as high as World No. 6 before the pandemic hit. Went back to Australia to ride things out, and remained a few extra months even after the PGA Tour resumed. He has not missed a cut in his 13 starts since but has just one top-10, and as a result he’s slipped considerably in the World Ranking. Dropped more than five shots to the field off the tee in both the WGC-Workday and the Players, which is legitimately difficult to believe if you’ve ever been seen him swing a golf club. Then he struck it great at the Honda but putted poorly, and that’s kind of been the story over the past year: one part of the game is firing, the other isn’t. Opted against playing the Match Play or Valero, so he’ll come in with a few weeks of rest. Would be a shame for his career to end with just the lone major, and he has memories of that win and four other top-10s at Augusta to draw from. Certainly not impossible, but he’d need to put everything together in a way he hasn’t for more than a year.

• • •

24. RYAN PALMER
Age:
44 World Ranking: 27 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish: 10, 2011
Hasn’t won an individual event in 11 years but is playing maybe the best golf of his career at 44, with three top-four finishes on the wrap-around season and 11 straight made cuts. Ranks an impressive 30th in SG/overall and sits on the fringe of Ryder Cup contention. No one part of his game will wow you, but he’s a pro’s pro who’s been doing this for 20-plus years—he knows his game and his limitations, and he stays within himself as well as anyone. He’ll be stoked to be back at the Masters for the first time since 2012 and eager to improve on his recent major record, where he’s missed the cut in four of his last five attempts.

• • •

23. RORY MCILROY
Age:
31 World Ranking: 12 Masters appearances: 12
Best Masters finish: 4, 2015
So long as McIlroy arrives at the Masters without having previously won a green jacket, the can-he-complete-the-career-grand-slam storyline will be discussed. In some years, it will be discussed ad nauseum; in others, it’s confined to sidebar territory. This year is more the latter, simply because Rory is not in very good form at the moment. Honestly, he hasn’t been his old self since the COVID restart last June. Yes, there have been a number of solid finishes, but he has not won in 18 months and he’s dropped out of the top 10 in the world for the first time in three years. X’s and O’s wise, the issue has been his short irons/wedges. It reached a breaking point at the Players, where he opened with 79 and was then seen grinding on the range with instructor Pete Cowen­—a notable development given McIlroy’s longtime work with his childhood coach, Michael Bannon. When a guy changes coaches there’s almost always an initial lull before the tweaks settle in. Rory is so talented that he could absolutely contend despite having new thoughts in his head, and he has top-10s at six of the last seven Masters. That includes last year, where he was done in by a Thursday 75 only to shoot 14 under the last three days to finish T-5. At 16-1, these are the highest odds you’ll ever see McIlroy have at the Masters, but betting on him these days is a very brave proposition indeed.

Jamie Squire

• • •

22. COLLIN MORIKAWA
Age:
24 World Ranking: 4 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-44, 2020
With his three-shot win at the WGC-Workday, he joined Tiger Woods as the only players with a major and a WGC before their 25th birthdays. Now Morikawa has four PGA Tour victories in less than 50 starts, a remarkable win rate to start his career—and yet, do we dare acknowledge that he’s not playing as consistently as you’d want from a player who profiles as a future World No. 1? In his two starts before the Workday win, he squeaked by the cut at the Dubai Desert Classic and the Genesis Invitational. In his two starts after, he squeaked by the cut at the Players and failed to win a match in Austin. Might be the best iron player in the world and has picked up strokes on his approach play in 14 of his last 15 starts, but whether he contends seemingly always comes down to his putting—he recently switched to the “saw” grip and putted nicely at the Concession with it, but he lost an average of 4.85 shots putting in his other two starts with the new technique. Looked out of his sorts in his Masters debut last fall but should benefit from the firmer conditions this time around. Again, it’ll come down his putting.

• • •

21. SERGIO GARCIA
Age:
41 World Ranking: 40 Masters appearances: 21
Best Masters finish: Win, 2017
The pinnacle of Garcia’s career came at Augusta, when he holed that birdie putt to beat Justin Rose in a playoff and emphatically remove himself from the best-to-never-win-a-major conversation. In the four years since, he’s been, and this not an exaggeration, nightmarish in the majors. Garcia has missed the cut in nine of his last 11 starts, including his last two at Augusta. But that doesn’t include the 2020 Masters, which Garcia missed after testing positive for COVID-19. Picked up his first PGA Tour win since the ’17 Masters last fall, when he stuck an 8-iron on the 72nd hole to within three feet … then brushed it in with his eyes closed. No, seriously. That’s how he putts these days. It hasn’t made much of a difference statistically, as the story there is the same as always—second in SG/off the tee, 10th in SG/tee to green, 190th in SG/putting. But he comes in off back-to-back top-10s and his iron play remains elite. Not sure he’s putting well enough to win, but we like his odds of a top-10.

• • •

20. PAUL CASEY
Age:
43 World Ranking: 18 Masters appearances: 14
Best Masters finish: T-4, 2016
With each passing year it becomes more likely he’ll finish a fantastic career without a major. He’s not bothered by that, though, and speaks frequently about how his attitude toward the game has softened in recent years. And it’s working­—he won in Dubai earlier this year and has finished T-12 or better in each of his six stroke-play starts this year, including a T-5 at the Players. Has a sneaky good Augusta history, with five top-10s and eight top-25s in 14 starts, but he missed the cut in 2019 and faded considerably after an opening-round 65 last fall. His ball-striking has given him chances in majors—he finished joint second at the PGA last August—but he’s failed to hole necessary putts toward the business end of Sundays.

• • •

19. DANIEL BERGER
Age:
27 World Ranking: 15 Masters appearances: 3
Best Masters finish: T-10, 2016
Was the highest ranked player not in the Masters field last November, as he was outside the top 100 in the World Ranking when the field locked in April 2020. Since then, he’s elbowed his way inside the top 15 with seven top-five finishes in the last 12 months, including victories at Colonial last summer and Pebble Beach in February. Withdrew from the Genesis Invitational and the Honda Classic, which on the surface is concerning, but context is key: the Genesis was the week after he won, and the Honda was at the tail end of a three-in-a-row stretch. Quietly has four top-10s in his last six stroke-play starts, including an under-the-radar T-9 at the Players. Has finished T-32 or better in all three of his Masters appearances, though he hasn’t made the cruise up Magnolia Lane since 2018.

• • •

18. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN
Age:
38 World Ranking: 28 Masters appearances: 12
Best Masters finish: 2, 2012
It might not be fair, but his career thus far will be remembered for what it wasn’t as much as what it was. A jaw-dropping talent who has been unlucky to have won just one major, as he’s finished second at least once in all four—including Augusta in 2012. Comes in on a run of fine if unspectacular form, with five straight made cuts and a T-6 at the WGC-Workday. His recent putting stats jump off the page, as he’s averaging four strokes gained on the greens over his last five tournaments. His ball-striking hasn’t quite been up to that standard, which helps explain recent so-so results, but given how well he swings it things can’t possibly be far off. Seems to always fly under the radar until he pops up on the leader board and we’re all like, oh yeah.

• • •

17. TONY FINAU
Age:
31 World Ranking: 13 Masters appearances: 3
Best Masters finish: T-5, 2019
Continues to print money at an ATM-like pace … and continues to search for his first PGA Tour victory in five years. Five years! It’s incredible, really, given he has 37 top-10s and 20 top-fives on the tour since the lone 2016 Puerto Rico Open win. One of those came at the 2019 Masters, where he played in the final group alongside Tiger and joined the party that rinsed their tee shots on the 12th. Still finished fifth that week and T-10 the year before in his Masters debut. He’s a proper ball-striker and tends to rise to the top on difficult courses, so it’s no surprise he has eight top-10s in his 18 career starts in majors. Had chances to win each of the three events he played in California, including a final-round 64 at Riviera that got him into a playoff. Missed the cut at the Players, which will see his odds drop a little bit, but we’d caution against reading into it too much. Always a great top-10 bet and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the breakthrough is coming soon. It has to. Right?

Jamie Squire

• • •

16. CAMERON SMITH
Age:
27 World Ranking: 30 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-2, 2020
Became the first player in Masters history to shoot four rounds in the 60s last year—and still lost by five shots to Dustin Johnson. Smith continued the strong play into this year, with a solo fourth at the Genesis and back-to-back top-20s at the WGC-Workday and Players. And then there’s his history at Augusta, where his world-class short game seems to pop—in addition to the runner-up last year, he finished T-5 in 2018. The course really does suit his game; he’s not the straightest nor longest hitter, but Augusta isn’t so demanding off the tee. And he relishes the chance to shape approaches into greens, a necessity during Masters week. The Aussie will want the course as firm as possible to help negate some of his distance issues and place an even steeper premium on spin control. He’s shown a taste for the big moment, and we selfishly wouldn’t hate the image of his gnarly mullet cascading down the collar of a green jacket.

• • •

15. MATT FITZPATRICK
Age:
26. World Ranking: 16 Masters appearances: 6
Best Masters finish: T-7, 2016
Having his most consistent stretch yet of good play on this side of the pond, going T-5/T-11/T-10/T-9 from Riviera through the Players, all against elite fields, and won two of his three matches in Austin. Was near the lead in each of those stroke-play events after 36 holes but played the Sundays in a combined two over par, uncharacteristic displays given his track record in Europe. As a result, he’s still searching for that maiden PGA Tour win to go along with six on the Euro Tour. Leaves no stone unturned in his quest to maximize his performance—he’s added considerable muscle and distance in the last 18 months and there’s perhaps no one more fastidious in their stat collection than the one-time, short-time Northwestern student. Getting harder and harder to ignore his relatively poor record in the majors, though, as he has just one top-10 in 22 career starts (T-7 at the 2016 Masters). Made the cut at Augusta on the number in November to avoid MCs in all three majors in 2020. He’s not going to overpower any course with length, but he’s long enough to reach three of the four par 5s at Augusta without doing anything special, and he can get red-hot with the putter—he ranks 27th in SG/putting this season. Wouldn’t bet against him finishing inside the top 10 when the dust settles.

• • •

14. WEBB SIMPSON
Age:
35 World Ranking: 9 Masters appearances: 9
Best Masters finish: T-5, 2019
Pound for pound, no one gets more out of their natural ability than Simpson, who continues to hang in the top 10 of the World Ranking. After struggling for years post-anchoring ban, he remade himself with the armbar method into one of the game’s best putters. Hardly misses a cut—though he did just that in his last stroke-play start (Players). No finishes better than T-20 in his first six Masters starts but something has clicked, as he’s been in the top 10 in each of the past two. Or maybe that’s just him becoming an all-around better, more consistent player over the past couple years.

• • •

13. VIKTOR HOVLAND
Age:
23 World Ranking: 14 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-32, 2019
One of the game’s best young players gets his first crack at Augusta as a pro—he finished low amateur in 2019 and sat next to Tiger as he slipped on a fifth green jacket. Hovland picked up a second PGA Tour win in Mexico to end 2020 and followed it up with two runner-ups and a T-5 in his next four starts, all against elite fields. On the strength of that run, he crashed on the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T-49), then missed the cut at the Players, then lost his first two matches at the WGC-Match Play. Not what you’d call momentum. Ranks fifth on tour in SG/off the tee and 11th in SG/tee to green. Indeed, with Hovland, it tends to come down to his chipping and putting, which has improved since last year but still leaves much to be desired. Finished T-33 or better in all four of his major starts—two of which came as an amateur—and has proven multiple times that he can hang on loaded leader boards.

• • •

12. JOAQUIN NIEMANN
Age:
22 World Ranking: 26 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: CUT, 2018
Caught a brutal break when he tested positive for COVID before the November Masters, so his only start at Augusta came as a 19-year-old amateur in 2018. He’s since blossomed into one of the tour’s best young players. Made huge leaps to start the year in Hawaii, where he finished second in back-to-back weeks, and he’s second on tour in consecutive cuts made with 15. Always been a fantastic ball-striker but he’s become more comfortable hitting it high, and he’s averaging 4.9 SG/tee to green in his last 10 measured events. Went T-28/T-29/T-25 in his three starts in Florida and that seems to be his floor these days. His putting has been his weakness throughout his still young career, but he fares best on bentgrass greens and picked up at least three shots on the greens in each of his last two starts. He’s a shotmaker who should relish answering Augusta’s many questions, and his lack of Masters experience should keep his odds very reasonable. A sleeper indeed.

• • •

11. LEE WESTWOOD
Age:
47 World Ranking: 20 Masters appearances: 19
Best Masters finish: 2, 2010
His resurgence has been one of the biggest stories in golf this year. Held the 54-hole lead in back-to-back weeks at Bay Hill and the Players, a remarkable run for a man who turns 48 this month, and came up one shot short both weeks. Credits the strong play with a newfound easygoing attitude—he says he took the game too seriously in his 30s, and that now the bad shots don’t sting quite as much. Comes in off a much-needed week of rest, as he played five in a row culminating with the WGC-Match Play. Three of his 12 top-five finishes in majors have come at Augusta, and he has six top-10s total in the Masters. He’s hasn’t lost any distance and the Masters has proven fertile ground for the 40-somethings. It’d be a shame if he finished his career without a major, so perhaps the golf gods owe him one for all the near-misses—the long-ago ones and the recent ones.

Rob Carr

• • •

10. XANDER SCHAUFFELE
Age:
27 World Ranking: 6 Masters appearances: 3
Best Masters finish: T-2, 2019
The word “slump” is relative in nature, so forgive the tough critique here. But after a stretch in which he posted six top-10s in eight starts, the X-man has zero in his last four—including a Friday trunk slam at the Players to break a tour-leading streak of 23 consecutive cuts made. What gives? He’s not giving away strokes in one particular area, so it’s unlikely to be anything structurally wrong. He’s yet to win a major, of course, but he’s done everything but, posting seven top-10s and 10 top-25s in the first 14 major starts of career. Finished tied second at the 2019 Masters and could have easily snuck into a playoff had he birdied the par-5 15th. He’s something of a Tony Finau-light in that he seems to always be in contention but struggles to kick down the door, and while he has three runners-up already this season, he’s spoken candidly about his frustration not to have won since January 2019. That’s the caliber of player he is: second-place finishes don’t move the needle. Feels like it’s only a matter of time until he gets his major tally started, but you just wish his form was a bit better coming in.

• • •

9. SUNGJAE IM
Age:
22 World Ranking: 19 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-2, 2020
Won the non-DJ division at last year’s Masters, where he shot 15 under and tied for second. The tour’s road warrior has already played 17 events on the wrap-around season and we’ve only just hit April. Why wouldn’t you, when you’re 22, single and keep making cuts—and, thus, cashing checks—every single week? He’s made the weekend in all nine of his stroke-play starts in 2021 and is coming off a more-than-solid Florida Swing, where he went T-28/T-21/T-17/T-8. Blessed with a beautiful (if rather languid) swing but he’s actually been doing the majority of his recent damage with his putter, having picked up at least 2.8 strokes on the greens in each of his last seven starts. In fact, he leads the tour in that statistic over his past 24 rounds. That certainly bodes well heading into some of the trickiest greens these guys see all year.

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8. PATRICK CANTLAY
Age:
29 World Ranking: 10 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-9, 2019
Was on quite a heater heading into the Players, with six straight finishes of T-17 or better including a win, a runner-up and a T-3. Curiously missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass, which will take some of the shine off, but few have played better over the past six months. Actually held the solo lead for a hot-second during that crazy 2019 final round and opened 70-66 to put himself in position again last fall before a one-over weekend left him T-17. Ranks inside the top 50 in all strokes-gained categories and sixth in SG/overall, and the eye test backs it up—he makes the game look rather simple when he’s at his steely eyed best. Just two top-10s in 15 major starts but he clearly plays Augusta well, and he’s a semi-sleeper should he avoid the short-putting woes that have reared their head at inopportune times.

• • •

7. SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER
Age:
24 World Ranking: 22 Masters appearances: 1
Best Masters finish: T-19, 2020
The Texan has risen to a career-best 22nd on the World Ranking after a runner-up at the WGC-Match Play, where he played solidly until the finals, when an ugly left miss doomed him against Billy Horschel. That was his seventh match of the week, though, so certainly fatigue played something of a role. Shot 59 last year in the FedEx Cup playoffs and makes plenty of birdies (4.48 per round), so he’s patently unafraid of low scores, and he shot par or better in all four rounds in November to nab a top 20 in his Masters debut. “Debut” has a bit of an asterisk, though, as he sheepishly told reporters he’d played the course five-ish times while in college. Must be nice. Despite his funky swing there is nothing funky about his game—he drives it beautifully (33rd in distance and 25th in accuracy) and that always plays well in the big events. Got a taste of Sunday-at-a-major pressure when he contended at last year’s PGA. Still chasing win No. 1 on the PGA Tour.

Rob Carr

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6. PATRICK REED
Age:
30 World Ranking: 7 Masters appearances: 7
Best Masters finish:
Win, 2018
Controversies aside—and they are very much plural—he’s a major champion with nine PGA Tour victories at age 30. The most recent win came in January at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he put forth a disgustingly good short-game display to win by five. Still, the enduring memory from Torrey will be his active fingers during “Embedgate.” That’s a theme with Reed; his imbroglios, which are more often than not his own doing, overshadow his golf. Recently began working with David Leadbetter and is hitting way more cuts now, a swing change he’s obviously committed to, but he’s lost about 10 yards of distance and ranks 81st in SG/off the tee and 73rd in SG/approach. Making up for it with that short game and his putting, which is the best on tour this season, and he eats up bentgrass greens. Tied for 10th at the Masters in November. He’s a proven winner and knows how to close the deal, and he’s well on his way to putting together a Hall of Fame résumé. He’s going to win another major (or two), and it could certainly happen this week.

• • •

5 JON RAHM
Age:
26 World Ranking: 3 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: 4, 2018
Sits at No. 3 in the World Ranking but by many metrics—such as strokes-gained/overall since June 1, 2019—he’s golf’s best player. Or, put differently, he’s the most consistent presence on the first page of leader boards. Leads the tour in consecutive cuts made at 20 and hardly ever has a bad week, with seven top-10s in his last nine starts. The same is true for Augusta, where he has top-10s in his last three appearances. The only thing left for him to do is get his major tally started—it’s not yet a crisis, but it’s about time. Switched from TaylorMade to Callaway at the beginning of the year, which is always something to keep an eye on, but his ball-striking numbers have been terrific (second in SG/tee to green). The only weakness, if you’d call it that, is he’s putting right at tour average over his last 10 events. Meanwhile, anyone nervous taking Rahm this week because he might have to leave with his wife Kelley going into labor can rest a little easy. She had the baby early Sunday morning so he should be good to go.

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4. DUSTIN JOHNSON
Age:
36 World Ranking: 1 Masters appearances: 10
Best Masters finish: Win, 2020
The defending champ won a long-overdue second major in dominant fashion last November, breaking the Masters’ 72-hole scoring record by two in a five-shot victory. Whether or not you think the records need an asterisk, given the gentler fall conditions, the sheer excellence he showed that week—and the ones before and after—is beyond debate. That came amid a nine-event stretch where he won three times, finished second three times, third once and was never worse than T-11. He has since come back to earth during his two starts in his adopted home state of Florida, where he finished T-54 at the WGC-Workday and T-48 at the Players. Birdies haven’t been the issue; he made 14 and two eagles at The Concession and 17 birdies and an eagle at TPC Sawgrass. He’s simply making too many mistakes, mostly off the tee—DJ has lost shots to the field driving in two of his last four events, after not losing strokes driving in any of his prior 17 starts. Yet, if there’s one player capable of flipping the switch, it’s the man with the quietest mind on tour. We mean that as a compliment, of course. Has top-10s in each of his last five Masters starts, and Augusta is generous enough off the tee to allow him to get away with some level of looseness. Don’t look too much into the recent so-so play.

JD Cuban

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3. JORDAN SPIETH
Age:
27 World Ranking: 38 Masters appearances: 7
Best Masters finish:
Win, 2015
For the first time in three years, Spieth’s insistence that he’s feeling confident ahead of the Masters does not ring hollow. Finally comfortable swing wise—he’s been working on being less steep in the transition—and had top-10s in four of his last six starts before winning the Valero Texas Open on Sunday. That ended a much publicized winless streak dating back to the 2017 Open Championship. Particularly impressive has been his iron play, which was always the true driver of his greatness even if it was largely overshadowed by his putting. He’s picked up at least four shots on the field with his approaches in four of his last five starts before Valero. More importantly, he has his swagger back. No longer with the victory drought hanging over his head, winning a fourth career major championship this coming week looks more and more realistic.

• • •

2. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU
Age:
27 World Ranking: 5 Masters appearances: 4
Best Masters finish: T-21, 2016
He was all the talk ahead of last year’s Masters. Would Bryson be able to repeat his U.S. Open dominance at Augusta National? Would he drive the third green? Would he turn golf’s most storied venue into a pitch-and-putt? No, no, and no—he squeaked by the cut on the number and was never a factor in finishing T-34. He complained that week about dizziness and discomfort, which in hindsight looks like the result of letting the protein shakes and speed sessions go a little too far. He since lost some weight, and he’s been fantastic of late, winning at Bay Hill and finishing T-3 at the Players. That week at TPC Sawgrass proved he can play to spots when needed and contend on courses that, in theory, do not suit him. This course does suit him; if he drives it well—which he tends to do (he leads the tour in SG/off the tee), the course really is a par 67 for him. And something has clicked with his putting, as he’s picked up at least 2.5 shots on the field in each of his last three starts. It’s a lethal combination, and one that’s seen him live near the top of leader boards over the past month. He’s still yet to better the T-21 he posted as an amateur in his first Masters, but it’s hard to imagine him putting up another stinker at Augusta. He’s only improved since November.

• • •

1. JUSTIN THOMAS
Age:
27 World Ranking: 2 Masters appearances: 5
Best Masters finish:
4, 2020
Turned the page from a turbulent start to 2021 in huge fashion at the Players, where he went low on the weekend (64-68) to chase down Lee Westwood for a one-shot victory. With 14 wins, a major and a Players, he’s already a Hall of Famer before turning 28, and his hibachi-hot weekend at TPC Sawgrass was a reminder of the top-level gear that he, and very few others, have. His finishes at Augusta have gotten progressively better since his T-39 debut in 2016, and he shared the lead after Friday last November before a disappointing weekend. If there’s one area that’s been loose recently it’s his driving—he’s lost an average of half a shot to the field off the tee in his last five starts—but Augusta is wide enough to where the odd wayward tee ball won’t kill him. He leads the tour in SG/approach over the last 50 rounds and looked in complete control of his ball at the Players. Drew an all-time rough draw at the WGC-Match Play and lost to both Kevin Kisner and Matt Kuchar, but we see no reason to give that even an ounce of thought given the format and how different the courses are. He’s won nine times since his lone major victory at the 2017 PGA, so he has not had any issues in normal events, but the solo fourth last year at Augusta is his best finish in one of the big four since Quail Hollow, and he hasn’t really been in contention to win a second major. That’s slightly disappointing, but it’s going to change this week.

Rob Carr