The 2018 Masters tees off on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club. The 82nd edition is one of the most anticipated Masters in years, with Tiger Woods returning to action and many other players arriving at Augusta National in top form.
The buildup to the men’s first major of the year always includes handicapping the small but elite international field. Who among the 87 professionals and amateurs will rise to the top of the Masters leaderboard?
The oddsmakers like 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, three-time major champion Rory McIlroy, world No. 2 Justin Thomas and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. A second tier of betting favorites is Justin Rose, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson. Meanwhile, defending champion Sergio Garcia is not getting as much respect.
There’s also a decent probability that the winner won’t come from this blue-chip group of players. The Masters is a tournament of first-time winners. Since 2007 nine men who slipped into the green jacket had two things in common: It was their first win at the Masters and their first major victory.
(Think Danny Willett, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson.)
A breakout performance has become a Masters tradition.
Players to Watch
I made my list before studying the oddsmakers’ choices and discovered many of the same names. That’s not surprising.
Two things are fairly obvious: 1) Players who love and excel at Augusta; and 2) players who are in top form and possess the talent and determination to win anywhere. Some players fit into both categories.
Why? Bubba has won twice at Augusta and has bagged two early wins this season. Great shot-making and imagination.
Why? The 2015 Masters champion loves this place and may be coming out of his putting slump after a strong finish in Houston last week.
Why? Rory needs a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam. His recent win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational signaled that his game is back.
Why? This confident young player has won more tournaments than anyone in recent months. He’s ready to slip into a green jacket.
Why? Last year’s favorite had a freak accident that knocked him out of the Masters. Top-ranked DJ has all the shots, and, with his win at the 2016 U.S. Open, has proven he can close out a major.
Why? The world No. 5 golfer is easy to overlook but has two runner-up finishes at Augusta in the last three years. He’s ready.
Why? If I’ve learned anything through the years, it’s to never rule out Phil Mickelson. Soon to be 48, Lefty is a three-time Masters champion and a recent PGA Tour winner.
Why? He’s back, really back. No one in the field has won more Masters or more anything.
The Spaniards: Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm.
The Englishmen: Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter.
The Australians: Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman.
The Americans: Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed.
The Masters Tournament Info
Dates: April 5-8
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Purse: $11 million
Field: 87 players including six amateurs
Defending Champion: Sergio Garcia
Tournament Weather: Clear to partly cloudy, with highs from 59 to 70. Mostly light winds. There’s a chance of a thunderstorm on Saturday.
Thursday, April 5: ESPN 3-7:30 ET
Friday, April 6: ESPN 3-7:30 ET
Saturday, April 7: CBS 3-7 ET
Sunday, April 8: CBS 2-7 ET
Masters.com from Thursday through Sunday
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