Countdown to Masters 2017: A Maiden Master?
It’s getting so close, you can almost smell the azaleas.
The 2017 Masters is now but a few weeks away and, to help us gear up for arguably the greatest spectacle in all of golf, we are considering a list of players in the current field who could walk away with their very first Green Jacket.
Coming off the back of a 2016 golfing year which gave us four first-time major champions, there is every chance we could see another man in the field emulate Danny Willett’s feat of last year.
Check out the best of Willett's 2016 final round action below:
As Magnolia Lane gets ready to greet the world’s best players, in all its splendid glory, we at Hole19 want to bring you five possible first-time winners of that highly coveted Green Jacket. Of course there are many more than five who could get the job done come April 9th; it seems a good number though.
Let's see what we've come up with.
Out of the current field Matsuyama seems to be trending towards his first major faster than most.
He sits one single point behind Justin Thomas in the FedEx Cup standings thanks to his win last month in retaining the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and after picking up the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan Golf Club, Shanghai back in October 2016. Hideki also won the Hero World Challenge in December, an unofficial tournament for FedEx purposes.
Expect a solid showing from the young Japanese superstar.
McIlroy’s season has been interrupted by a troublesome rib injury and he has only played the WGC in Mexico and the BMW South Africa Open this year so far. This would be a cause of concern if not for the fact that he has posted a top ten in his last four tournaments, including a playoff defeat in the SA Open (to Englishman Graeme Storm). No rustiness for us to worry about then.
The Augusta National course certainly suits his eye, with a career best performance coming in 2015 when he finished in fourth place. Teeing off alongside Jordan Spieth in last year’s final group promised much but delivered little, as a birdie-free five-over-par 77 put paid to his chances.
By capturing a Green Jacket, Rory will be fulfilling his ultimate goal by completing the career grand slam.
Golf’s newest world number one has all the tools to challenge for each and every major championship from here forward. Of course, his imperious form is far from certain to continue but, as things stand, DJ is undoubtedly the most in-form player in the current field.
Last year’s US Open win at Oakmont Country Club could easily be followed by a second major in 2017, with a first Masters win more than plausible in itself.
Take a look at how the big Floridian closed out proceedings in Pennsylvania for his first major last year:
Being a big hitter with a much improved short game has Johnson firmly in the discussion for a Green Jacket when proceedings get underway in a few weeks.
2017 has been all about the emergence of Justin Thomas. Commanding back-to-back performances at both the SBS Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii brought Thomas right to the forefront of the game.
Shooting low scores is this guy’s bread and butter; if he gets hot the field needs to do what they can to hold on to his coat tails. Drawing from the experiences of his close friend, two-time Masters champion Jordan Spieth, could prove invaluable.
With a real stack of talent coming through, European golf is in great shape. Right at the head of that list of players is Spaniard Jon Rahm. Winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January of this year was a solid watershed moment, and he kept Dustin Johnson more than honest at the WGC in Mexico.
Here are some of his highlights from last year's Open at Oakmont:
Along with Matsuyama, Rahm was one of Hole19’s ‘Six Players to Watch in 2017’ and, although this year may be a little too soon to be considering major glory, an Augusta win may well be on the cards at some point in the future.
Who have we missed from your list of likely maiden Masters winners? Is Jason Day an obvious omission? Tell us via Facebook or Twitter.