The Masters: Will Augusta National deliver the next first-time major winner? | Golf News


New world No 1 Scottie Scheffler says he will draw on previous experience of playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in this years' Masters tournament.

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New world No 1 Scottie Scheffler says he will draw on previous experience of playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in this years’ Masters tournament.

New world No 1 Scottie Scheffler says he will draw on previous experience of playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in this years’ Masters tournament.

Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm became first-time major winners in 2021. We take a look at some of the leading contenders who can join that club by claiming their maiden major success at this week’s Masters….

Scottie Scheffler

The No 1 player in the world, in red-hot form heading into The Masters.

Scheffler had yet to win any tour title two months ago but has since soared to top spot in the rankings courtesy of three wins in his last five starts, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Phoenix Open.

Tiger Woods previously held the record-fastest time from first PGA title win to world No 1 ranking (252 days), but Scheffler has obliterated that in 42 days. Will a first major title now swiftly follow?

The 25-year-old American owns a top-10 finish at each of the other three majors, while at Augusta National he is yet to crack the first page of the leaderboard – albeit his finishes of tied-19th and tied-18th on his last two visits are more than respectable.

Sky Sports’ Rich Beem said of Scheffler: “With the way he swings the golf club and the game he has right now, then I think Scheffler is ready to win a major championship and he’s going to be right in the mix.”

We asked golf fans who they thought would be victorious at the 2022 Masters, which starts this Thursday live on Sky Sports.

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We asked golf fans who they thought would be victorious at the 2022 Masters, which starts this Thursday live on Sky Sports.

We asked golf fans who they thought would be victorious at the 2022 Masters, which starts this Thursday live on Sky Sports.

Viktor Hovland

What a remarkable rise it has been for the 24-year-old Norwegian over the last couple of years.

He first burst onto the scene as an amateur, winning the US Amateur in 2018 to earn himself invitations into The Masters and US Open proper in 2019, where he became the first player to win low-amateur honours at both in the same season since Matt Kuchar in 1998. His score of 280 at the latter was the lowest by an amateur since Jack Nicklaus’ 282 set in 1960.

Viktor Hovland tied for 21st at The Masters last year

Viktor Hovland tied for 21st at The Masters last year

In 2020, he became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA Tour when he won the Puerto Rico Open, while he has since gone on to count the BMW International Open and, most recently, the Dubai Desert Classic among his six tournament wins.

Hovland has an unorthodox swing, but is a superb driver of the golf ball and has become one of the most consistent iron players in the world. It is his short game which arguably stands between him and winning a first major.

Cameron Smith

The 28-year-old Australian has leapt to the top of a lot of ‘ones-to-watch’ lists for this week following his impressive victory at The Players Championship last month.

Yet, history counts against Smith swiftly doubling up on that success as only Woods has ever won The Players and The Masters in the same year – back in 2001.

Cameron Smith celebrates after winning the Players Championship - the unofficial fifth major

Cameron Smith celebrates after winning the Players Championship – the unofficial fifth major

Smith has, however, reserved his best performances at majors for Augusta National, with three of his four top-10 finishes coming there. He tied for runner-up at the tournament in 2020, when he became the only player in its history to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds.

Smith said this week: “l feel pretty hungry. I think my game is already there [to win a major].

“The Players was nice to tick that box, I guess. I feel really confident in my game. I feel like I can play any shot under any circumstance and I’m ready to go out there.”

Tiger Woods announces his intention to play at The Masters this week says he believes he can win at Augusta

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Tiger Woods announces his intention to play at The Masters this week says he believes he can win at Augusta

Tiger Woods announces his intention to play at The Masters this week says he believes he can win at Augusta

Xander Schauffele

Currently rounding off the world top 10, surely it is only a matter of time before Schauffele breaks his major duck?

While Smith claimed golf’s unofficial fifth major with his win at TPC Sawgrass a month ago, Schauffele has also come as close as you possibly can to tasting major success by winning Olympic Gold in Tokyo last year.

The 28-year-old American has nine top-10 finishes in the 19 majors he has competed in, with six of those in the top five – including finishing tied for second at Augusta in 2019 and joint-third last year.

 Xander Schauffele won Olympic gold in Tokyo

Xander Schauffele won Olympic gold in Tokyo

That said, Schauffele will need to put his nightmare at the 16th hole last year behind him. Trailing Matsuyama by only two shots with three to play – after a remarkable run of four straight birdies – his tee shot found the pond guarding the green, while his third from the drop area went long as a triple-bogey ended his challenge.

Schauffele has shown he has the game for Augusta and the ability to compete in all conditions. Will he put it all together to win the tournament in 2022?

Tommy Fleetwood

It has been a tough couple of years for Fleetwood, but there are glimpses that his best form is beginning to return.

On top of his star showing in the 2018 Ryder Cup – in which he and Francesco Molinari became the first pairing to win all four of their matches for Europe – Fleetwood has shown he is more than capable of thriving under pressure and contending for a major, finishing fourth and second at the US Open in 2017 and 2018, and then second again at The Open in 2019.

His best finish at Augusta was his tied-17th in 2018 but Sky Sports’ Butch Harmon has picked out the 31-year-old Englishman as his outside tip for the 2022 tournament.

Tommy Fleetwood finished runner-up in the 2018 US Open and 2019 Open Championship

Tommy Fleetwood finished runner-up in the 2018 US Open and 2019 Open Championship

“I’m going to give you one that is going to shock you. He [Fleetwood] didn’t play well last year, but I happened to see him a month or so ago down in Florida, I watched him practice and was very impressed,” said Harmon.

“He is trending in the right direction. His game is back. I said to him, ‘whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it, because you look like you used to’. That’s my outside pick.”

If it is good enough for Butch, then count us in too.

Who else could be in contention?

Staying with the English interest, Matt Fitzpatrick is another to watch. He has made the cut for six years running at Augusta, including a tied-seventh finish in 2016 and has shown some good form of late with five top-10 finishes in his last eight starts.

The Masters – Live

April 7, 2022, 2:00pm

Live on

Tony Finau is forever talked up as the next first-time major winner, having finished in the top 10 as many as 10 times – three of those coming at Augusta – while Will Zalatoris, runner-up behind Matsuyama in his first start at Augusta last year, will be desperate to go one better in 2022.

There is also world No 5 Patrick Cantlay, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour but a player who has only twice really challenged at the top end of a major leaderboard with top-10 finishes at Augusta and in the PGA Championship in 2019.

Watch The Masters exclusively live on Sky Sports. Live coverage throughout tournament week is on Sky Sports Golf, with additional feeds and bonus action during all four rounds available via the red button.


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