Dan Box
By Dan Box

For the last few weeks leading up to Masters week, all the talk has been about the young stars who are lighting up the game and showing the rest of the world how it's done.

Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and new World Number One Scottie Scheffler were the names on fans' lips when discussing who were the favourites for the Green Jacket in one of the most hotly anticipated majors in recent years.

The likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka are fast becoming the 'older guys' on tour. The news of Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and the Saudi Golf League has even quietened down in recent weeks with Bryson returning to action and Mickelson sensibly stepping away for the time being. Things were well placed for a very exciting week and the game felt like it was in a pretty good place, all things considered.

And then on Sunday night, Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta National looking healthy, happy and ready to contend, and in doing so completely changed the storyline heading into this week's tournament.

Last Year

Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese male player to win a major championship, and the first Asian-born player to win at The Masters, with a one-stroke victory over American rookie Will Zalatoris.

Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele both finished in a tie for third place at 7 under par, with Jon Rahm and Marc Leishman tying for fifth.

The Field

As you might have imagined, all attention has turned to Tiger Woods once he arrived on the property on Sunday evening and the speculation and excitement has only heightened after clips of him moving and swinging freely were circulated across the internet.

Despite being the smallest of the major fields, with just 91 players invited to Augusta National, it is still packed with star quality everywhere you look.

The betting favourite this week is Jon Rahm, who won his first major at the US Open last year and is looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Spaniards Ballesteros, Olazabal and Garcia with victory this week.

The number one player in the world, Scottie Scheffler, has three wins in his last five starts and looks like he could win just about every time he tees it up at the moment, while Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa will be fancied by many although both have slight question marks on and around the greens when it comes to navigating Augusta's famed putting surfaces.

Cameron Smith has an excellent record at this event and should be well rested since his victory at The Players which confirmed to the world that he has definitely got what it takes to win an event of this magnitude.

The likes of Rory, DJ, Justin Thomas and Spieth are major winners who have performed well at the course and could threaten again.

And who knows which version of Bryson DeChambeau will turn up this week? Short of form and fitness, Bryson looked very rusty in his last two starts and has a poor record at Augusta but perhaps he'll come up with a formula for success.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is also waiting on a late fitness test after withdrawing in Texas last week, let's hope that it was just precautionary to ensure that he's ready for Thursday.

Jason Day, Ian Poulter and Rickie Fowler aren't in this year's field after failing to qualify, whilst Richard Bland also just missed out despite moving inside the Top 50 in the World Ranking following the Valero Texas Open.

1991 champion Ian Woosnam has called time on his Masters career, after celebrating the 30th anniversary of his victory at Augusta last year.

The Course

The folks at Augusta National are known for making constant tweaks on the golf course year-on-year. Some they are happy to tell people about, some they like to let the golfers discover themselves.

This year, the club has outlined details of changes to the 11th and 15th holes, lengthening them by 15 and 20 yards respectively as well as planting more trees down the right hand side of the 11th fairway.

If you haven't seen much of The Masters before, or you want to refamiliarise yourself with the golf course, check out this handy guide courtesy of Golf.com...

Look Out For...

  • Lots more patrons

The 2020 tournament had no spectators, 2021 was a limited capacity, but 2022 should be back to normal. Get ready to hear those familiar roars across the course on the back nine come Sunday evening - particularly if there's a big name making a charge.

  • A new honorary starter

After the sad passing of Lee Elder in November, two-time Masters Champion Tom Watson was invited to join Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the third Honorary Starter at The Masters, joining an illustrious list that includes the likes of Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Gene Sarazen.

Golfalot Tips

  • Brooks Koepka @ 20/1

Isn't it about time he won another major? Koepka has come close before at Augusta, and with all the talk about the young stars and Tiger, you just know that he would love nothing more than to remind everyone of his talents by winning this week. Has missed three cuts in 2022 so far but also had strong finishes in Phoenix and performed well at the recent WGC Match Play.

  • Jordan Spieth @ 22/1

After looking like his old self at times last year, 2022 has been a bit of a struggle again for Spieth besides a runner up finish at Pebble Beach, a course that he loves. Speaking of which, there aren't many people on Earth who have scored better at this event than the American, who has contended almost every time he's played here and could easily have 2 or 3 Green Jackets. For that reason, you can never discount him.

  • Patrick Cantlay @ 25/1

Clearly proved he is a world-class player but his major record has so far been poor. This could be a great chance to change that and Augusta should set up well for him, with his tight draw off the tee, excellent approach play and rock-solid short game. Two wins at Muirfield Village, designed by six-time Masters Champion Jack Nicklaus and modelled in part on Augusta National, should help.

  • Shane Lowry @ 55/1

The popular Irishman has been in excellent form in 2022 so far, making every cut and coming close to victory at The Honda Classic. His performances at Augusta have been improving too, with top 25 finishes in the last two events and his magical short game should serve him well if he does happen to miss the green.

  • Robert MacIntyre @ 125/1

Left handers have always had success at Augusta National and MacIntyre started his Masters career well with a T12 finish in 2021. Whilst he still only has one professional victory to his name, his performances in big events have been pretty good and his form over the last few months has been steady too, as he gets increasingly more used to playing in the US.


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