WILL EVANS runs the rule of the Masters Tournament field ahead of this week’s rescheduled golf major at the Augusta National. New sensation Bryson Dechambeau is the favourite to carry off the famed Green Jacket, but the likes of Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are in great touch, while Aussie veterans Jason Day and Adam Scott can’t be counted out of contention for a second major title.
THE TOP CONTENDERS
Golf’s newest rock star, Dechambeau is aiming to back up his breakthrough triumph at September’s US Open. The strapping 27-year-old American – combining a huge drive with a meticulous approach to the game that has garnered the nickname ‘The Scientist – is the Masters betting favourite and the tournament’s headline attraction. Dechambeau has played just one tournament since his stunning six-stroke win at the US Open, tying for eighth at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open a month ago. The current world No.6’s best Masters performance was tying for 21st in 2016.
World No.1 Johnson has run into form at the right time. Tied for sixth at the US Open, he finished equal-second at the Houston Open – two strokes behind shock winner Carlos Ortiz. The 36-year-old regular steps up on the big stage. He won the 2016 US Open, came second at the Masters and PGA Championship in 2019, and tied for second again at the PGA Championship this year. Johnson has finished top-10 in his last four Masters forays – and is $2.10 to do so again.
Spaniard Rahm has captured pre-Masters attention after sinking hole-in-ones on consecutive days at Augusta National. The second a freakish pond-skipping effort that is dominating sporting highlight reels worldwide. Those heroics aside, the second-ranked Rahm looks the most likely of players yet to claim one of golf’s majors. The closest he has come to date was tying for third at last year’s US Open, while he was fourth at the 2018 Masters and tied for ninth last year. A disappointing 23rd at the US Open in September, the 26-year-old tied for second at the Zozo Championship in late-October. A great option for a top-five finish at $3.25.
The Masters is the only major to elude Northern Ireland’s most famous golf export. McIlroy won the US Open in 2011, the PGA Championship in 2012 and ’14, and The Open Championship in 2014 – but his best Masters finish was a fourth-place effort in 2015. Tied for eighth at the US Open, the world No.5 has not enjoyed the best season and was well off the pace at the recent CJ Cup (T21) and Zozo Championship (T17). But the drive for a maiden Green Jacket may provide McIlroy with the extra edge required this weekend.
The golfing world has been waiting for Justin Thomas to deliver again at a major tournament since his breakout win at the 2017 PGA Championship. But a tie for sixth at the following year’s PGA Championship is his best finish since. Tying for 12th last year is Thomas’ highest Masters placing, while he finished in a share of eighth at the US Open in September. But the 27-year-old, ranked No.3, carries the momentum of a runner-up finish alongside Rahm at the Zozo Championship a few weeks ago. A solid top-10 shout at $2.25.
BEST AUSSIE CHANCE
The Aussie at the shortest odds for Masters glory, Day provided hope for his fans at last week’s Houston Open. He faded late but still finished in a tie for seventh – a timely return to form for the 32-year-old after failing to do better than 38th at a tournament since tying for fourth at the PGA Championship in August. The 2015 PGA Championship winner, Day tied for second at the 2011 Masters, came third there in 2013 and finished in a share of fifth last year. Primed for a big start, there is a juicy $5 on offer for the Queenslander to be in the top 15 after Round 1.
On the same line of betting as fellow major winners Tiger Woods and Webb Simpson, Scott remains the only Australian to collect a Green Jacket courtesy of a Masters Tournament victory. That 2013 triumph may seem a world away given his glut of missed cuts and out-of-contention finishes at majors in recent years. Meanwhile, tying for 22nd at the PGA Championship was his best performance in just five tournament appearances (not aided by a positive COVID-19 test last month) since the Tour’s resumption. But the 40-year-old could flourish in difficult wet conditions similar to those he won the Masters in seven years ago. Marc Leishman ($151), Cameron Smith ($51) and amateur Lukas Michel ($1,001) are the other Australians in the Masters field.