Top Tips: Five contenders who can down Dustin at the Masters
The odds, form overview and what needs to click for the main men heading to Augusta
A general view of the main tournament scoreboard during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. Photograph: Getty Images
World ranking: 2
Best finish: 4th (2015)
Overview: Trying to find the missing piece to the jigsaw puzzle, the 27-year-old – seeking to complete the career Grand Slam – has had a disrupted season so far.
The stress fracture to a rib which manifested during the South African Open in January led to a period of recuperation and six weeks on the sideline. It could yet prove to be a blessing, as McIlroy heads into Masters mentally and physically refreshed and focused.
What needs to click? With driver in his hands, McIlroy has few if any peers. Hitting it long and straight around Augusta will give him a big advantage on the majority of the field. The one imponderable is how the putter behaves. If it’s any way hot, he could be slipping a 40” green jacket onto his shoulders.
World ranking: 12
Best finish: Debut
Overview: No chance of this 22-year-old slipping in under the radar on his maiden visit to the Masters. The 6’ 2” Spaniard’s meteoric rise since turning pro less than a year ago has already propelled him into the frame to become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller back in 1979.
His win in the Famers Insurance Open – an improbable putt from off the green on 72nd hole sealing the deal – and three top-fives in his next four appearances on tour have seen him jump from 137th in the world at the start of the year to a current 12th position.
What needs to click? Rahm cleverly tapped into the intelligence bank built up by Phil Mickelson in a practice round here, and it’s some of Lefty’s short game wizardry that might be required. Rahm’s strength is his driving, long and accurate, but it is scrambling and putting that wins green jackets.
World ranking: 61
Best finish: 21st (2015)
Overview: The last man to earn an invite – thanks to his win in the Houston Open last Sunday – there at least in the knowledge that he is in-form. More than that, Henley – who attended the University of Georgia – knows the course well.
What needs to click? He played the par fives in a combined nine-under on his last appearance in the Masters in 2015, so needs a repeat of that . . . and for the hot putter from Houston to stay that way!
World ranking: 46
Best finish: Debut
Overview: This Canadian from the town of Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan has proven to be a revelation this season, starting the year ranked 191st and leapfrogging his way into the top-50 on the back of a breakthrough PGA Tour win in the Valspar Championship. Postponed his honeymoon this week to French Polynesia so that he could play.
What needs to click? An excellent putter (he tops the PGA Tour in one-putt percentage) and a very good scrambler, Hadwin is more out of the Zach Johnson school of driving than that of Dustin Johnson. He is definitely not a long driver! But his propensity to keep the ball in play means he can stay out of the cathedral pines and play to his strengths around the greens.
World ranking: 52
Best finish: T-9th (2015)
Overview: Okay, something of a real long shot . . . But with good reason. Hoffman has played some of the best golf of his career since turning 40, and after an indifferent start to the season has clicked into gear in recent weeks with two top-five finishes in his last four outings: fourth at the Genesis Open at the Riviera Country Club and second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
What needs to click? Ranks in the mid-to-long in driving but most impresses with irons in his hand on approach play, which is a plus around this course. If he is to live up to causing an upset though, he needs the putter to be his friend.