What to know for the Masters

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The azaleas are in bloom, Tiger is on the prowl and the LIV barbarians are again contained in the gate. Sure, it is time for the Masters. This is what to know for the perfect golf match of the yr:

It is Scottie Scheffler’s to lose.

The world’s top-ranked participant is the crystal-clear favorite to win his second inexperienced jacket this week, and it is simple to see why. Statistically, Scheffler is head and shoulders above everybody else — particularly from tee to inexperienced, the place he is been referred to as the perfect ball striker since Tiger Woods in his heyday.

Not like peak Tiger, although, Scheffler will not be a terrific putter. He ranks 97th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained with the flat stick. That is an enormous motive why the 27-year-old Texan’s 2022 Masters victory stays his lone main title whereas Woods already owned eight on the similar age.

However, when Scheffler’s placing is on (and even simply above common) he is extraordinarily robust to beat. And that is been the case for the final month. In his three begins because the starting of March, Scheffler has two victories and a runner-up end. Each wins got here in opposition to top-notch competitors on the big-money Arnold Palmer Invitational and the even-bigger-money Gamers Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the place Scheffler turned the primary participant ever to repeat as champion of the Tour’s flagship occasion.

Different PGA Tour stars to observe embrace world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who nonetheless wants a inexperienced jacket to finish the profession Grand Slam; No. 4 Wyndham Clark, making his Masters debut after profitable his first main finally yr’s U.S. Open; No. 5 Xander Schauffele, nonetheless searching for his first main regardless of 4 top-three finishes; and Jordan Spieth, the three-time main winner and 2015 Masters champ who at all times appears to play his greatest at Augusta.

LIV Golf is attempting to find its first inexperienced jacket.

Final yr, everybody questioned how the primary wave of defectors would maintain up within the crucible of Augusta after a full season of bloated paycheques, comfortable competitors and shorter 54-hole occasions on their unserious-looking insurgent tour.

Seems, fairly good. Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka tied for second whereas Patrick Reed tied for fourth. Koepka went on to win the PGA Championship in Might, turning into the primary participant to seize a significant as an lively member of LIV.

A few weeks later, the Saudi-backed outfit and the PGA Tour shocked the world by asserting they’d reached a “framework settlement” on what seemed like a merger. Looking back, it was extra like a ceasefire, as a result of their supposed deal has nonetheless not been accomplished. So the golf struggle, annoyingly, drags on.

Late final yr, LIV dipped again into its bottomless pockets to poach world No. 3 Jon Rahm for a reported $350 million US. The Spaniard received the Masters final April earlier than leaping ship, that means LIV now boasts the highest three finishers from 2023.

In case you forgot how this works (or simply want you had), LIV gamers are banned from all PGA Tour occasions. However the 4 majors (plus this summer season’s Olympic match) are run by separate entities, so the Masters is among the few alternatives to see the entire greatest gamers on the earth compete in opposition to one another (sorry, Talor Gooch).

Together with Rahm, Koepka, Mickelson and Reed, LIVers to observe this week embrace 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, 2022 British Open champ Cameron Smith, 2020 U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and present league chief Joaquin Niemann, who has received a pair of occasions this yr.

Tiger Woods will not be giving up.

At 48 years previous and hobbled by an appalling array of accidents and surgical procedures over time, it is fairly unlikely that the largest star in golf historical past will match Jack Nicklaus’ report by profitable his sixth inexperienced jacket this week. And he can most likely overlook about Nicklaus’ report of 18 main titles too. Woods has been caught at 15 since his unbelievable Masters victory 5 years in the past.

Tiger’s physique was on the fritz then, and it is actually fallen aside because the brutal 2021 automobile wreck that almost value him a leg. Lowered to a part-time participant, he withdrew on Sunday of the Masters final yr on account of an ankle damage that led to a different surgical procedure, which stored him out till December. He made it by 4 unremarkable rounds on the Hero World Problem earlier than pulling out of February’s Genesis Invitational throughout his second spherical.

Woods mentioned this week that he can nonetheless contend at Augusta “if every part comes collectively.” However a extra reasonable objective is perhaps breaking the report for many consecutive cuts made on the Masters. At 23 and counting, he shares the mark with Gary Participant and Fred {Couples}.

4 Canadians will tee it up on Thursday.

Three have an opportunity to win their first main.

Nick Taylor is ranked twenty fourth on the earth after following up final yr’s monumental Canadian Open victory by profitable the Phoenix Open in February. However he is brief off the tee, which is not a terrific match for Augusta, and this will likely be his first time enjoying a conventional Masters. Taylor tied for twenty ninth in 2020, when the match was moved to November due to the pandemic and the course performed in another way.

Adam Hadwin is ranked forty sixth after three top-six finishes this yr. He is performed in three Masters, most not too long ago in 2020. He missed the reduce that point and tied for twenty fourth and thirty sixth in his different two begins.

Corey Conners, ranked forty ninth, truly has the perfect probability to win. Expertise is important on the Masters, and he is performed in 5 of them. Earlier than lacking the reduce final yr in terrible climate, Conners had three straight top-10 finishes, together with a tie for sixth in 2022.

Taylor, Hadwin and Conners are vying for Canada’s probably two spots within the Olympic males’s match in Paris this summer season. These will likely be decided by the world rankings after the U.S. Open in June.

Becoming a member of these three at Augusta this week is Mike Weir, the one Canadian to win a inexperienced jacket. The 52-year-old performs on the senior’s tour now and has made only one Masters reduce since 2015. However his 2003 victory gave him a lifetime invitation, and stays one of many nice moments in Canadian sports activities historical past.

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