Steve Palmer's player-by-player guide to the Masters
Racing Post Sport's golf guru offers his A-Z assessment of the Augusta field
Steve Palmer's player-by-player guide to the Masters, which starts at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday.
The Texas-born Mexican played in the final threeball on his Masters debut in November – an incredible achievement – but dropped to 13th place after a Sunday 76. With more of a premium on short-game skill in this April edition, less can be expected from the Tour maiden.
The Floridian has steady Augusta form figures of 10-27-32, and arrives this year having claimed a fourth PGA Tour title at Pebble Beach in February. But a niggling rib injury over the last month is off-putting for Masters punters.
The 26-year-old South African, a three-time champion on the European Tour, has started to make an impact Stateside. A share of 38th place was a tidy Masters debut and a top-20 finish could be within reach.
The Florida-based Californian, a three-time PGA Tour champion, briefly held a share of the Masters lead after eagling the 15th in round four in 2019, but finished tied for ninth. That is his Augusta PB from four visits. His form has tailed off this year after a bright West Coast Swing.
The Englishman has always enjoyed Augusta, sharing sixth place on his debut in 2004 and posting a further three top-six finishes since. A runaway victory in the Dubai Desert Classic at the end of January and generally bright form throughout 2021 suggests the three-time PGA Tour champ can contend again, but a first Major at the age of 43 will probably prove beyond him.
The Californian brute, one of the most powerful players in the game, made two eagles and 19 birdies on his Masters debut last year. A triple-bogey at the fourth and a quadruple-bogey at the 12th, though, meant Sunday hell and a share of 19th place. The November Masters suited him better than April and his dire 2021 form suggests making the cut will be an issue this time.
The 2009 Open champion finished third in the 2008 Masters – one of only two top- ten finishes in 17 appearances. Victory in the Safeway Open in September showed there is life in the old dog yet. But the 47-year-old, often twitchy with putter in hand, is an unappealing prospect on these lightning-fast greens.
The 29-year-old Canadian has progressive Masters form figures of MC-46-10, but his suspect short-game will come under pressure. Third place at Bay Hill last month was followed by seventh at Sawgrass. He then lost all three of his group games in the WGC-Match Play, but played well over the weekend in the Texas Open (tied 14th).
The 61-year-old believes he can still be a factor. The 1992 champion boasts 11 top tens at Augusta, but he has missed the cut in the last two years.
The injury-plagued Aussie is winless since 2018 and the former world number one seems set to slip outside the top 50. Three Masters top fives underline his liking for Augusta, but he has become difficult for punters to trust.
The cocksure Californian was all the rage with punters for the November Masters, starting as favourite after his US Open win, but he tied for 34th place. Four Masters starts are yet to yield a top-20 finish. Victory at Bay Hill a month ago has convinced his fans that a Green Jacket is imminent, but a firm, fast Augusta seems far from ideal.
The Georgian won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January to end a drought of more than seven years, but he has been poor since. Has Augusta form of MC-42.
The regular bridesmaid has finished second ten times since his only victory in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. Masters results of 10-5-38 are decent but his short game and temperament may cost him.
The Sheffield man has made five visits to Augusta as a pro and made the cut every time (7-32-38-21-46), but his lack of power and low ball-flight are not ideal for this assignment. Impressive recent form makes him of interest to top-20 punters – the Abu Dhabi Championship in January was the last event in which he finished outside the top 20.
The Southport star is still waiting for a PGA Tour breakthrough. The US Open, in which he was fourth in 2017 and runner-up in 2018, has provided near-misses, but he has never contended for the Masters (MC-17-36-19). Some strong WGC-Match Play form last time out – he lost in the quarter-finals to champion Billy Horschel – has been the highlight of a generally disappointing 2021 campaign.
The South African, who missed the cut on his Masters debut in 2018, returned in November to finish fifth. He has added significant driving distance and progressed to the knockout stages of the Match Play before losing to Tommy Fleetwood. There are certainly worse outsiders than the 2019 John Deere Classic champion.
The Masters winner in 2017 has failed to make a cut at Augusta since joining the Green Jacket club. Some solid 2021 form suggests he will be around for the weekend, but any title challenge would probably falter on the greens.
The veteran plodder is making his first Masters appearance since 2013. Victory in the low-grade Bermuda Championship in November earned him an Augusta ticket, but he is outside the world’s top 200 and has an abysmal Majors record.
The 2019 Houston Open champion missed the cut on his Masters debut in November, but has shown enough this year to suggest he might make the weekend.
The diminutive left-hander, born and based in Georgia, does not have much Augusta experience (MC-44) and would typically consider the course too long. The recent dry weather, though, and his third place at Sawgrass followed by a run to the quarter-finals of the Match Play make the 2017 US Open runner-up of interest. Six of the last 18 Masters have been won by a lefty.
The 29-year-old Englishman has never been more confident, having made his PGA Tour breakthrough at Bay Hill last season before following up with two prestigious European Tour titles (BMW PGA and Abu Dhabi Championship). Dismal Masters form (MC-44-56-MC) will be enough for many to rule him out, though, and he has played poorly in his last two tournaments.
The 43-year-old Cincinnati man has won three times on the PGA Tour, his fairway-finding ability enough to forge a prosperous career, but his only previous Masters resulted in a missed cut and he has never bettered 43rd place in ten Major starts.
The 30-year-old Californian won his second PGA Tour title in February and has established himself in the top 50 of the world rankings. He missed the cut in November on his Masters debut and he has failed to make the weekend in four of his five Majors, finishing 64th in the other. He probably needs a few more spins around Augusta before he can be considered a genuine threat.
The 34-year-old Floridian won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last month then told the media that his goal for the future was to win every Major. But he has won only five Tour titles and has just one Major top-ten finish. His Masters results of 37-MC-17-MC-56-38 are uninspiring. There will be a lot of pressure on his often abysmal chipping.
The 23-year-old Norwegian was the low amateur in the 2019 Masters, sharing 32nd place, and he makes his first Augusta start as a pro this week. Major form of 32-12-33-13 highlights his magnificent ball-striking and he is a clear danger man. But disappointing performances at Bay Hill, Sawgrass and Austin Country Club have sent him to Augusta with his confidence dented.
The 30-year-old Canadian missed the cut in his only previous Masters start and he has made the cut in just one of his six Major appearances, finishing 58th in the US PGA last year. He has never entered a Major higher in the world rankings than he is this week, but his tee-to-green weakness makes him an unappealing option.
The Korean youngster finished tied for second in the November Masters but the April conditions will put more pressure on his suspect chipping. Im is a leaderboard regular, but he is winless since his Honda Classic breakthrough 13 months ago.
The world number one, defending champion and Masters favourite has lost his form over his last 12 rounds. A poor closing 72 in the Genesis Invitational was followed by 54th in the WGC-Workday Championship, 48th in the Players Championship and a group-stage elimination in the WGC-Match Play. Masters form of 6-4-10-2-1 must be respected, but his putting and driving have been poor over the last month and half, so the short odds are easily resisted.
The 2007 Masters champion won the tournament with a plus-one total, bad weather having turned the course into a brute, and his other 15 Augusta appearances have yielded just one top-ten finish. The 45-year-old has been largely making cuts without contending over the last seven months and it will probably be the same story this week.
The 40-year-old Australian won the Honda Classic in style last month. He has played in the Masters just once before, missing the cut in 2014, and he has never bettered 21st place in 16 Major appearances. His lack of comfort at Augusta makes him difficult to fancy.
Si Woo Kim
The inconsistent Korean showed how good his A-game is with a 23-under-par total to win The American Express in January – a third PGA title – but he has been disappointing since. The 25-year-old has Augusta form of MC-24-21-34 and is clearly talented but unreliable.
The short-hitting Carolinian always says he has no chance at Augusta because the course is too long, but dry weather in the build-up this time has made the track more inviting. He has made the cut in four of his five previous visits and can battle through to the weekend.
Knee surgery last month has left the Floridian struggling for fitness. He insists he is at Augusta to win – and has Masters form of 33-21-11-2-7 – but staying healthy for 72 holes could be an issue.
The 35-year-old slugger got off the mark on the PGA Tour in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in October and he has established himself in the top 50 of the world rankings. He missed the cut on his Masters debut in November, but stellar form on the Florida Swing this season suggests he is ready to make more of an impact this time.
The 2012 Sawgrass champion and 2013 WGC-Match Play victor used the 2021 Match Play to restore some confidence the week before last, finishing third after slumping to 54th in the world rankings. His last strokeplay top ten came in February last year. With three Masters top fives on his record, this experienced campaigner should not be discounted, but the likelihood is he will end his career without a Major title.
The powerful Scot has missed five cuts in ten starts since a shock Shriners Open win in October, with a best finish of 17th place in the 42-runner Sentry Tournament of Champions. He has not competed at Augusta since 2013 and has old Masters form of 20-57-MC.
The German warhorse, a 63-year-old who is probably fitter than many 23-year-olds, is a dual Masters champion (1985, 1993). He has made the cut in the last three editions, finishing 29th in November, refusing to buckle under with age.
The Australian suffered more than most from the pandemic, spectacularly losing his form over lockdown and drifting from world number 15 to 39 after a succession of dismal performances on his return. He has three Masters top-20 finishes to his name, but is difficult to fancy this time.
The Bristolian won the 2020 British Amateur at Royal Birkdale, then a crowdfunding page helped him raise enough money to make the trip to Augusta this week. This is a steep learning curve for the inexperienced 23-year-old.
The Open champion showed glimpses of form at Sawgrass, where he finished eighth, but that is his only top-ten finish in the last eight months and his Masters form figures of MC-39-MC-MC-25 do not inspire confidence.
The veteran Scot, the Masters champion in 1988, has missed the cut in nine of his last 11 visits. His last top ten in a Major came 33 years ago.
The left-hander found form in the WGC-Match Play, halving a match with Dustin Johnson and qualifying for the knockout stages. The Scot will be hoping to make the cut on his debut.
The frustrating Japanese star is winless since the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but has five PGA Tour titles to his name and five top-20 finishes in the Masters. Respectable form suggests he can add another top-20 finish, but he may lack the mental strength to end his victory drought.
The four-times Major champion last won one in 2014 and the frustration is palpable. The Masters would complete a career Grand Slam and that desperation for a Green Jacket does not seem to help his performance, underlined by an opening round of 75 in November. McIlroy recovered to finish fifth, but patchy form this year and a switch to a new coach last month has made for an unconvincing preparation.
The three-time Masters champion has been talking positively about the state of his game and 35th at Sawgrass and 25th in the Honda were encouraging, before an opening 79 in Texas last week, which he closed with a ten. A Friday 69 showed Lefty in much better light. His experience and magical touch around the greens stand him in great stead at a firm, fast Augusta, and a fourth title at the age of 50 seems feasible.
The 62-year-old won the 1987 Masters, beating Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman in a playoff. Has made three of his last seven Masters cuts.
The 2018 Open champion took almost eight months away from competitive golf to settle his family in California. Since returning in October last year, he has posted three top-ten finishes in nine appearances, but has missed the cut in his last two outings.
The 24-year-old Californian has made rapid strides from college golf to the top five of the world rankings, becoming a Major champion at the third attempt and winning four PGA Tour titles. His accurate iron-play is a great weapon at Augusta and he should improve on the 44th place he managed on his Masters debut in November. Short-game inconsistencies are a concern.
The 28-year-old Colombian’s only PGA Tour title came at the 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship. Munoz finished 19th on his Masters debut in November, but his form has been patchy since.
The Korean-born American won the Sony Open in January – his fifth PGA Tour title – and beat Dustin Johnson in the Match Play last time out. Generally, though, he has been unimpressive and nine previous Masters yielded no top-ten finishes.
The 22-year-old Chilean, who made his PGA Tour breakthrough in 2019, missed the cut in his only previous Masters start as an amateur in 2018. Seven Majors have yielded no top-20 finishes. He has been impressive this year, twice finishing runner-up and thrashing Patrick Reed in the Match Play group stages last time out, but lacks Augusta know-how.
Jose Maria Olazabal
The 55-year-old, Masters champion in 1994 and 1999, makes a 32nd Augusta start. He last made the cut in 2014.
The 2010 Open champion has become a Majors nearly-man since, finishing second four times, including a 2012 Masters playoff defeat. The South African could easily contend, but he is yet to win Stateside and lost all three matches he played at the WGC-Match Play last time out.
The 29-year-old Mexican won the Houston Open in November for his PGA Tour breakthrough. This is his Masters debut, so making the cut would be an achievement. Major form is MC-52-MC.
The 2020 US Amateur runner-up is one of only three amateurs going to post. None of them seem likely to be around for the weekend.
The 44-year-old Texan, winless since the 2010 Sony Open, has Masters results of 39-MC-10-MC-33. He arrives with nine months of excellent form behind him, but no victories and it is difficult to imagine this jovial but jittery character becoming a Major champion.
The 29-year-old Taiwanese made an incredible Masters debut in November, sharing seventh spot, a remarkable feat after he missed the cut in seven of his other nine Major appearances. The former world number one amateur has been poor since his last Augusta trip, but third place in the Honda Classic last time out was encouraging.
The Frenchman has been coming of age Stateside, making superb debuts in the Players Championship, where he tied ninth, and in the WGC-Match Play, in which he finished fourth. His world-class ball-striking can deliver improvement on the 46th place he managed on his Masters debut in November, but his short-game is probably not strong enough.
The 45-year-old is a European Ryder Cup legend, but has never won a Major and never bettered sixth place in 15 Masters appearances. He has missed only one Masters cut. The Florida-based Englishman should battle through to the weekend again, but seems an unlikely title contender.
The Spaniard has solid Masters form figures of 27-4-9-7 and his ball-striking has been superb this year, He became a father on Sunday so will have every incentive to perform.
The 2018 Masters champion won the Farmers Insurance Open by five shots in January after making swing changes, but the Texan has not been overly impressive since. His short-game class should make him competitive.
The 2013 US Open champion has been suffering with back problems over the last month and may not be fit enough to do himself justice. The two-time Masters runner-up, a playoff loser to Sergio Garcia in 2017, will be in danger of drifting outside the world’s top 50 unless he picks up soon.
The Californian has become a nearly-man, finishing second eight times since his last victory, and the steel he used to show has disappeared. He tied for second in the 2019 Masters and has posted a top-ten finish in half of his 14 Major appearances, but this seems an unlikely venue to end his winning drought.
The 24-year-old beat Jon Rahm on his way to a runner-up finish in the WGC-Match Play, and Scheffler showed with fourth place on his US PGA debut last year that his game is good enough to compete in Majors. He tied for 19th on his Masters debut in November.
The 2011 Masters champion has not seemed to enjoy golf much over the last few years, his putting and temperament holding him back, and he has slipped outside the world’s top 200. Like his compatriot Trevor Immelman, he is a member of the Green Jacket club who is becoming irrelevant at an early age.
The former world number one and 2013 Masters champion is well equipped to handle Augusta from tee to green, but he is difficult to trust with putter in hand. The Aussie is a better bet in the top-20 market than in the outright betting.
The 35-year-old, US Open champion in 2012 and Players victor in 2018, has grown comfortable in Major arenas and since the 2017 Masters he has made the cut in every Major. Augusta form of 20-5-10 shows he has a handle on the Cathedral of Pines. He should give a decent account.
The 58-year-old Fijian won the 2000 Masters, but has missed the cut in six of his last 11 Augusta visits.
The Aussie became the first player in history to card four rounds in the 60s in the Masters – his 67-68-69-69 effort in November resulting in a tie for second place. He was fifth in 2018 and clearly relishes the mission. This time he arrives with some tidy recent form in the book.
The three-time Major champion ended a victory drought of almost four years on Sunday, winning the Texas Opens, and punters have been rushing to back him for a quick follow-up. Masters form figures of 2-1-2-11-3-21-46 highlight his affection for the Cathedral of Pines. Spieth is back in business and likely to be in the mix at the weekend.
The Swede has just turned 45 with his game in crisis. He missed the cut by two shots in Texas last week, a sixth consecutive failure, and he has drifted outside the world’s top 100. He has recorded just one top-ten finish in 15 Masters appearances.
Last year’s US Amateur champion is a 22-year-old Floridian making his second Major appearance. He qualified for the 2018 US Open and missed the cut. The best of the amateur contingent, but that is not saying much.
The 33-year-old won the RSM Classic in November – his second PGA Tour title – and will be hoping this is third time lucky at Augusta after missed cuts in his two previous visits. He has missed five cuts in eight starts since the RSM win.
The 2020 Corales Puntacana Championship was an overdue second PGA Tour title for the 33-year-old. He has missed nine cuts since that September win, though, and missed the cut by four shots in his only Masters appearance.
A love for Augusta and progressive Masters form figures of 39-22-17-12-4 make Thomas a serious title contender. The start of this year proved challenging off the course, with a backlash to a thoughtless curse he made during the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, followed by the death of his grandfather in February and the car crash of his good friend Tiger Woods. But a brilliant weekend performance at Sawgrass last month meant Players Championship glory and a new dawn. Poor putting has hindered Thomas at Augusta in the past, so if that club behaves this week, the Jacket could be Justin’s.
The 35-year-old won his second PGA Tour title in July last year – the 3M Open – and will be making a third Augusta appearance (MC-25). He has shown enough this year to suggest he can squeeze through to the weekend.
The 35-year-old plodder, a three-time PGA Tour champion, has missed the cut in five of his 11 Major appearances, including both visits to Augusta. The dry conditions and his ever-trusty putter can keep him competitive.
The 2016 US PGA champion is winless since that Major breakthrough, suffering health problems and drifting outside the world’s top 500. He has made the cut in all seven of his Augusta starts, but two years of generally abysmal form suggests he will struggle.
The four-time European Tour champion is winless since September 2018. Third place in Texas last week provides a confidence boost with third place, but his Augusta form is MC-46.
The dual Masters champion (2012, 2014) finished fifth in 2018 and relishes the shape of Augusta, but his 2021 efforts have not been impressive enough to suggest he should be considered for a hat-trick.
The Canadian left-hander, the 2003 Masters champion, has little to offer at the age of 50 and has missed eight of his last ten Augusta cuts.
The veteran Englishman has enjoyed a heady four months, winning the Race to Dubai in December, then finishing runner-up in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship last month. He has twice been Masters runner-up. But the 47-year-old is yet to win a Major, has not won Stateside since 2010, and a dry Augusta will severely test his fragile short game.
The Austrian is a seven-time European Tour champion, but is rarely seen to good effect on the PGA Tour and he missed the cut in the Texas Open last week. He has made the cut in all five of his previous Masters starts, with a personal best of 22nd place.
The 2016 Masters champion has Augusta form figures of MC-MC-MC-25 since claiming a Green Jacket. He has been inconsistent since the last Masters and missed the cut by a shot in the Texas Open.
The 21-year-old Californian has been suffering with injury in recent months, emphatically losing his form after
back-to-back runner-up finishes in the US Open and Shriners Open. He missed the cut on his Masters debut in November.
The 2019 US Open champion has been blighted by injury since and dropped outside the world’s top 50 last month, but a strong weekend in the Texas Open last time out was encouraging. The Masters – five missed cuts from eight starts with a best finish of 24th place – has never been a happy hunting ground.
The Welshman is the Ronnie O’Sullivan of the Masters, regularly hinting at impending retirement before swiftly returning to action. O’Sullivan is still playing snooker and 63-year-old Woosnam has reported his brittle back is fit enough for him to hop aboard the Augusta bogey train once again. He last made the cut in 2008.
The former Korn Ferry Tour star has quickly adjusted to the higher grade and seems set to become a PGA Tour champion soon enough. The Californian’s supreme ball-striking allowed him to finish sixth in the US Open last year and he is arguably the most dangerous Augusta debutant this week.
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