MASTERS ’22: A quick look at 10 (or 11) contenders for Augusta | golf

By DOUG FERGUSON – AP Golf Author

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — A capsule look at 10 (or 11) leading contenders for the 86th Masters being held April 7-10 at Augusta National. Listed in predicted order of ending:

Majors: PGA Championship (2017).

Best placement at the Masters: 4th place.

Masters moment: Part of a five-way tie to be the lead after 36 holes in November 2020.

Notable: He has only five top 10 finishes in 24 majors as a pro.

Backspin: While going more than a year without a win, Thomas has finished in the top 10 in six of his last nine starts and has been very careful with his riding. His only good week at the Masters was in the soft conditions of November 2020.

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Majors: Champions (2020), US Open (2016).

Best Placement at Masters: Won.

Masters moment: He was so emotional about the win in 2020 that he couldn’t speak.

Notable: He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Masters. His last win was the Saudi International 14 months ago.

Backspin: Johnson has been looking sharper lately and he’s said he’s “trending” in recent weeks. Even after briefly dropping out of the top 10, he remains one of the dominant players in the game.

Majors: US Open (2021).

Best placement at the Masters: 4th place 2018.

Masters moment: He opened 2018 with a 75 and was still giving himself chances to win on Sunday until he hit the water on the 15th hole.

Worth noting: South Africa and Spain are currently tied for most players winning the Masters.

Backspin: He was better than ever this year from tee to green without converting as many putts. Rahm has finished in the top 10 at the Masters for the past four years, and last year was the only player to finish in the top 10 at all four majors.

Best result at Masters: Tie for 18th place.

Masters moment: Climbing into the top 50 as a PGA Tour rookie to qualify for his first Masters of 2020.

Notable: He’s the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three times in the year leading up to the Masters.

Backspin: He was looking for his first PGA Tour win six weeks ago. Now he is a three-time winner and world No. 1. But look beyond the last six weeks. Scheffler has finished in the top 20 in all six majors he’s played since receiving his PGA Tour card.

Majors: Masters (2015), US Open (2015), British Open (2017).

Best Placement at Masters: Won.

Masters moment: Wire to wire in 2015 for a four-shot win over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

Notable: He already has five top 3 finishes at the Masters in eight appearances.

Backspin: Last year he ended his long winning streak when he entered the Masters, but he hasn’t won since the Texas Open and has only fought once this year at Pebble Beach. However, his track record at Augusta National suggests he can find his way into the mix, particularly when limiting fouls off the tee.

Best placement at the Masters: runner-up 2019.

Masters moment: Hit the water on the 16th iron 8 after cutting Hideki Matsuyama’s lead to two shots in the final round of 2021.

Notable: His Olympic gold medal last summer in Tokyo is his only win in the last three years.

Backspin: He was among those who finished second to Tiger Woods in 2019, and he was close to Hideki Matsuyama until his triple bogey on the 16th hole last year. Among the young players without a major, he holds his own more than the rest.

Country: Northern Ireland.

Majors: US Open (2011), PGA Championship (2012, 2014), British Open (2014).

Best placement at the Masters: 4th place in 2015.

Masters moment: 2011 by four shots and 80 to finish.

Notable: This is his eighth attempt to win the Masters career Grand Slam since winning the British Open in 2014.

Backspin: Attention to the career grand slam isn’t as big as it was in previous years, but it’s still there. McIlroy has shown he is capable in the Augusta National. But the scar tissue of losing the big lead in 2011 and losing in the final group to Patrick Reed in 2018 only adds to the strain.

Best finish at Masters: Tie ninth in 2019.

Masters moment: Taking Eagle to the lead on the 15th hole in 2019 only to bogey the next two holes and finish in ninth place.

Notable: He has only two top 10s in the 14 majors he’s played as a pro.

Backspin: Cantlay showed his potential late last year when he won three times and captured the FedEx Cup. But while he has no real weakness in his game, he wasn’t the best run ahead of Augusta, finishing inside the top 20 in his last three starts.

Best Placement at Masters: Won.

Master’s Moment: Raise your arms in the air while putting on the green jacket.

Notable: Matsuyama is the eighth player to be a low amateur and champion in the Masters.

Backspin: Matsuyama, who doesn’t seek much attention, is hosting Tuesday night’s Masters Club dinner and will have more pressure than usual as the defending champion. He injured his neck and shoulder at Bay Hill and didn’t play for three weeks until the Texas Open before the Masters.

Majors: PGA Championship (2020), British Open (2021).

Best result at Masters: Tie for 18th place.

Champion Moment: Played the 11th hole 7 over par in his eight rounds at the Augusta National.

Notable: He won three times on the PGA Tour before playing his first Masters.

Backspin: Morikawa won the PGA Championship on his second attempt and the British Open on his first. This is his third master. He says he was trying to adapt his game to Augusta National when he should have relied on a game that has already produced six wins worldwide.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019), US Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best Placement at Masters: Won

Masters moment: He won in 1997 with a record 12 shots in his pro debut, finished winning the majors in 2001, and won in 2019 after four back surgeries.

Notable: He was able to tie Jack Nicklaus with a sixth green jacket, replacing Nicklaus as the oldest Masters champion.

Backspin: Woods has not played since the Masters in November 2020 due to a car accident in the coastal Los Angeles suburbs in February 2021 that severely damaged his right leg. His only competition since has been playing a scramble format and using a cart with his 12-year-old son in December’s PNC Championship.

x-Has not announced if he will play.

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