MASTERS '23: A capsule look at top contenders for Augusta


AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — A capsule look at 10 top contenders for the Masters, which is April 6-9 at Augusta National Golf Club (listed in predicted order of finish):


Age: 28.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide victories: 19.

Majors: U.S. Open (2021).

Best Masters finish: 4th.

Masters moment: Opening with a 75 in 2018 and still giving himself a chance to win on Sunday until hitting into the water on the 15th hole.

Backspin: Rahm already has won three times on the PGA Tour this year and briefly returned to No. 1 in the world. Even though his best finish is fourth place, he has a knack for following the path of his hero, Seve Ballesteros.


Age: 29.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 16.

Worldwide victories: 16.

Majors: Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015), British Open (2017).

Best Masters finish: Won.

Masters moment: Going wire-to-wire in 2015 for a four-shot victory over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

Backspin: Spieth is back to playing well, just not winning with the regularity he once did. But he had close calls at Bay Hill and at Innisbrook, and Augusta National brings out his best. A win and four top 3s make him a favorite just about every year.


Age: 26.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide victories: 6.

Majors: Masters (2022).

Best Masters finish: Won.

Masters moment: Four-putting the 18th green and still winning by three.

Backspin: Scheffler was on one of the all-time heaters last year when he capped it off with a dominant Masters win. Turns out that wasn’t a hot streak. He won again in Phoenix and at The Players Championship. He now tries to become the fourth player to win the Masters back-to-back.


Age: 33.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide victories: 32.

Majors: U.S. Open (2011), PGA Championship (2012, 2014), British Open (2014).

Best Masters finish: Runner-up in 2022.

Masters moment: Losing a four-shot lead with an 80 in the final round of 2011.

Backspin: McIlroy is going on his ninth year without a major and this is the ninth time at Augusta National knowing a green jacket is all that’s keeping him from a career Grand Slam. His form is good. His voice has brought him attention in the legal battle against LIV Golf. His putter will make the difference.


Age: 32.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide victories: 6.

Majors: None.

Best Masters finish: T48.

Masters moment: Making the cut last year for the first time in three tries.

Backspin: Homa is good at social media without trying. He’s good at golf by trying really hard. His popularity can overshadow the fact he has emerged as one of golf’s top players who should be looked upon as a contender at any major.


Age: 29.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide victories: 10.

Majors: British Open (2022).

Best Masters finish: Runner-up in 2020.

Masters moment: Challenging on Sunday twice in the last three years against Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler.

Backspin: He was good at the Masters before he won a major, and the British Open last year was his crowning moment. The question is how his move to LIV Golf and a limited schedule will have him ready. The short game is reliable. The long game is the key.


Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 4.

Worldwide victories: 8.

Majors: None.

Best Masters finish: Tie for 9th in 2019.

Masters moment: An eagle on the 15th hole to tie for the lead, and then following that with two bogeys.

Backspin: Despite having no discernible weakness in his game, the majors are starting to become a question mark. Except for 2019 when he was tied for the lead late, he hasn’t been in serious contention over the final hour of a major. That will change at some point.


Age: 31.

Country: Japan.

World ranking: 21.

Worldwide victories: 17.

Majors: Masters (2021).

Best Masters finish: Won.

Masters moment: Becoming the first Japanese man to win a major.

Backspin: Right when he was starting to show a little form, Matsuyama withdrew from the Match Play as a precaution because of stiffness in his neck, a recurring problem. He now has gone 15 months since his last victory. He had gone three years without a victory when he won the Masters.


Age: 47.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 994.

Worldwide victories: 93.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best Masters finish: Five green jackets.

Masters moment: Winning in 2019 after going through four surgeries on his back.

Backspin: Woods has played four times since badly injuring his right leg in a February 2021 car crash. He has missed the cut only once (British Open), which is remarkable. This will be only his third elite competition since July. He has never missed the cut as a pro at the Masters.


Age: 32.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 70.

Worldwide victories: 9.

Majors: Masters (2018).

Best Masters finish: Won.

Masters moment: Playing in the final group with Rory McIlroy and winning his first major.

Backspin: At any other Masters, Reed might not be a consideration based on his form. Put him under the spotlight surrounded by controversy, and he has a long history of thriving. He is among the most polarizing figures in golf. And he plays his best that way.


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