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2024 PGA Tour Preview: The Masters

Can Rory Mcilroy finally win at Augusta and snap his ten-year major drought? Will Scottie Scheffler continue his dominant stretch of play and claim his second green jacket? With no shortage of storylines surrounding the first major of the 2024 PGA Tour Season, the 88th Masters Tournament will once again make golfing history. Furthermore, it will mark the first time of the year when the best players in the world will all tee it up simultaneously, with LIV Golf players being allowed to compete at the event. 18 players from the Saudi Backed Tour competed last April. However, that number has been shrunk to 13 in 2024, mainly due to LIV Golf's inability to earn Official World Golf Ranking points.

Chris Gallagher and Everett Davidson contributed to this article.

The Course

One of golf's most celebrated courses, Augusta National, never fails to dazzle fans every spring. Originally opening in 1934, the venue has hosted The Masters yearly while witnessing some of the sport's most iconic and celebrated moments. Now, with a par 72 layout that plays over 7,500 yards from the back tees, the course still offers one of the most challenging tests on the Tour calendar. Home to some of the most dramatic and challenging undulations in the fairways and around the greens, it demands both accuracy and creativity from players. Moreover, the famous Amen Corner stretch on holes 11,12 and 13 will factor prominently into determining who will be victorious on Sunday afternoon.

The Field

The season's first major has the smallest field out of any of the four majors, but with that small field comes a higher percentage of players who have a realistic chance to win. Only two of the top 60 players in the OWGR aren't playing this week, with the highest-ranked of those being World No. 56 Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Defending Champion Jon Rahm and 2022 Champion Scottie Scheffler highlight the field, as well as 16 other champions in the event's history; the most recent champion not in the field is 2009 Champion Angel Cabrera, but he is not playing due to legal trouble in his home country of Argentina. Each player hopes to bring home the coveted Green Jacket at the end of the weekend, and unless you are Talor Gooch, there is no question that this tournament is one of the greatest in the world and brings the world's best to play.

Chris' Masters Picks

Outright: Xander Schauffele

Schauffele is off to a solid start to begin his 2024 season. The 30-year-old finished T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open and T4 at the Genesis Invitational before a runner-up finish at THE PLAYERS Championship. Remaining one of the best ball strikers on the planet, the former Olympic gold medalist ranks second in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and fourth in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. Furthermore, with a strong track record at The Masters throughout his career, the California native has placed inside the top ten in three of his last five trips to Augusta, including a T2 in 2019. Still searching for his first major victory, look for the seven-time PGA Tour winner to put all the pieces together this weekend finally.

Outright: Rory Mcilroy

Looking to put a disappointing missed cut at the 2023 Masters behind him, Mcilroy heads to Augusta for the 16th time. Aiming to snap his ten-year major drought, the Northern Ireland native had had a streaky showing at the tournament throughout his career. He has missed the cut in two of his last three showings. However, the 34-year-old has recorded seven top-ten finishes over the last decade. Fresh off his best showing of the year at the Valero Texas Open, Mcilroy was able to shake off his slow start en route to a third-place finish. He gained 7.5 strokes on approach shots to the field. Currently listed at 10/1 odds, bet on the current world number two to snap his decade-long major drought and complete the career grand slam.

Outright: Hideki Matsuyama

A February Genesis Invitational winner, Matsuyama carded a course-record 62 on Sunday afternoon to come away with a three-stroke victory. On a tear over the last month, the Japanese native also placed T6 at THE PLAYERS Championship before a T7 at the Valero Texas Open a week ago. Back healthy after battling neck and back injuries, the 13-year veteran ranks third in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green over his last 33 rounds (1.535). He also leads the field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green (0.712). A former winner at The Masters in 2022, Matsuyama has not missed a cut at the event since 2014. Furthermore, the nine-time PGA Tour winner has also racked up four consecutive top 20s.

Top-10: Joaquin Niemann

Quietly playing some of the best golf in the game, Niemann has been tearing up the LIV Circuit. The 25-year-old has two wins already this season and finished T9 at Doral Miami a week ago. Moreover, he was also victorious at the DP World Tour's ISPS Handa Australian Open in November. Possessing the game to have success at Augusta National, Niemann ranks second in LIV in driving distance (315.7). Furthermore, he remains one of two golfers on the Tour, averaging at least two strokes gained per round this season. While he struggled at The Masters early on in his career, the Chilean has made the cut in each of the past three years while finishing 16th at the event a year ago.

Head-to-Head: Shane Lowry over Colin Morikawa

A one-time winner at the 2019 Open Championship, Lowry has had a strong track record at Augusta throughout his career. He has four straight top-25 finishes at the tournament, including a T2 in 2022. The 37-year-old also comes off a strong showing during the PGA Tour's Florida swing, highlighted by a T4 at the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches. Enjoying an up-and-down start to his 2024 season, Morikawa placed T5 at The Sentry Tournament of Champions. However, the California native missed the cut at both The Farmers Insurance Open and The Arnold Palmer Invitational while placing T75 at The Valero Texas Open. Due to a dip in his usually stellar iron play, Morikawa is hitting just 64.25 percent of his greens in regulation.

Everett's Masters Picks

Outright: Jordan Spieth

Spieth is the 2015 champion, and he nearly defended his championship in 2016 before collapsing down the stretch and losing to Danny Willett. Ever since, he has played well at Augusta National. Since his debut at the tournament in 2014, he has had more top-5 finishes than he has finished outside the top 10, and after his lone missed cut in 2022, he rebounded with a T4 finish last year. This isn't the same Jordan Spieth, who won two majors in 2015 at 21, but he is a more mature player and doesn't let chances get away from him. Spieth has been playing well, with a T10 finish last week being his third top-10 of the season after a solo third at the Sentry and a T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If Spieth is in contention (which he likely will be), don't be surprised to see him win his fourth major. He is due for a win, as he hasn't won since the RBC Heritage in 2022, but this is one of his best courses, and it wouldn't surprise many people if he won a second Green Jacket this week.

Outright: Brooks Koepka

At the 2023 PGA Championship, Koepka became the first player for LIV Golf to win a major tournament, and it was his fifth since 2017, with two U.S. Open wins and two other PGA Championship wins in that timeframe. Last year, Koepka held a four-shot lead entering Sunday, but he played 30 holes due to a weather delay and ended up finishing T2, four strokes behind champion Jon Rahm. Additionally, in 2019, Kopeka was part of a five-way tie for the lead on the back nine, but he ended up with a T2 finish, one stroke behind tournament winner Tiger Woods. Koepka has a history of playing well at Augusta National and would like to add a sixth major title to his trophy case. He plays well at majors, too, as five of his 19 worldwide wins have come in major championships. If Koepka were to win this week, it would not shock many in the professional golf community.

Outright: Adam Scott

Scott is the 2013 Masters Champion but hasn't won the PGA Tour since 2020 when he won the Genesis Invitational for the second time. Scott likes Augusta National, but since his win, he has only finished in the top-10 once, with a T9 finish in 2017 being the highlight. He is off to a good start this season, with a T8 finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open being the highlight, and he is also coming off a T14 finish at the Valero Texas Open last week. This could easily be when Scott picks up his second major championship. He is playing the best golf he has played since his most recent win, and he is stacking good finishes together. Add that to the fact that they are playing at a golf course where he has had tremendous success, and he may find a winning formula.

Top-10: Sam Burns

Burns has never had a top-10 at a major before, but this could be the tournament where that finally changes. He missed the cut at the Masters in his first appearance in 2022, but last year, he finished T29 after posting a 68 in the first round and spent Thursday evening two strokes off the lead. Burns has been playing good golf to start the season, with four straight top-10 finishes earlier this year being highlighted by a T3 finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If Burns can show the promise that he had at the start of last year's tournament, he could stand a chance of being in contention come Sunday afternoon.

Head-to-Head: Tyrrell Hatton over Russell Henley

Hatton has been playing well on the LIV Tour to start the season, as he has finished in the top 15 in four of his five starts this year. He also finished last year strongly, and he comes in with some good momentum. Henley is also coming off a strong finish, as he finished solo-fourth last week at the Valero Texas Open and has two other fourth-place finishes this year. Last year, Henley finished T4 at the Masters for his first major top-10, but Hatton has a much stronger major championship history. The Masters is the only major in which Hatton has never placed in the top 10, but he has had solid performances in the past. Henley is a hit-or-miss player who either finishes nicely or misses the cut, and Hatton is more steady. Henley could win the tournament or miss the cut, and neither would surprise me, and Hatton is more of a “sure thing.”

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