The week we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. It’s Masters weekend and we have much to celebrate. The annual showdown at Augusta National is sufficient to excite the average golf fanatic, however it is Tiger Woods who is hogging all the headlines.
News of Tiger attempting practice rounds has the golf world on its seats. However, we are in for a last-minute decision as to whether or not he will tee off in the 2022 Masters Championship.
His name is on the tee sheet for 10:34 Eastern Time on Thursday morning. He is paired with professional farmer and golf hobbyist Louis Oosthuizen and Chilean Joaquin Niemann. Let's hope he makes it to the first tee.
Hideki Matsuyama returns to Georgia, attempting to defend the crown he bagged in 2021. The Japanese star has returned a mixed bag of results this season, including four top ten’s and two victories. He currently sits 4th on the FedEx Cup standings and 12th on the world rankings.
However, the cherry is far from blossoming for the Pride of Japan. Matsuyama withdrew from the Valero Texas Open last week due to a neck injury. Although he has traveled east to Augusta, doubt remains over whether he will tee off. However, early reports seem promising.
One of the past Masters champions will not be in attendance. Instead, he is sheltering from the explosion of controversy in the past three weeks. That aside, numerous in-form players are teeing off at the Alistair Mackenzie-Bobby Jones masterpiece.
Take the 25-year old Scottie Scheffler as an example. He has snatched three PGA titles this season, leading him to the top of the FedEx Cup and World rankings. The man is on fire and has displayed he has what it takes to win. In his two visits to Augusta, he has finished in the top 20 on both occasions.
Three time Masters champion Phil Mickelson sits out this years Masters after recent controversial comments.
Downpours are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, which may soften conditions up for day one of play, requiring target golf. However, as the week progresses, the weather clears up. The players and fans are on course for chilly evenings and early mornings while the temperature rises between 54 to 66-degrees during the day.
Friday is the only day where the wind will seriously trouble the Pros, with Easterly winds gusting at 24-knots. Otherwise, the conditions could not be better for the first major of the year.
The Australian mullet has consistently impressed in the last couple of years. In five seasons on the PGA Tour has picked up an equal amount of victories. Two of them have come in his previous four starts, with the biggest being the Players three weeks ago.
Smith has entered seven events this season and finished in the top ten four times. Two of those top ten were first places.
The Aussie also has the best birdie and scoring average on tour. Plus, he is fearless and is willing to attack the flag on any shot. As he did on the 17th at Sawgrass in mid-march.
By his standards, Xander will scoff at his results this season. But if you pay careful attention, you notice how consistent he is. His only top 10 finish this year came at the Waste Management Open.
However, Xander has finished inside the top 20 in 60% of his appearances. Schauffele also has an impressive record at Augusta, finishing inside the top 20 in his last three outings. That includes a 2nd place in 2019 and 3rd last time out. In addition, the California native ranks 10th on Tour for birdies this season.
Berger is a player you cannot rule out. He is another consistent performer who should have more silverware in the trophy cabinet. This season he has two top ten’s to his name and four top 25’s.
Furthermore, Berger ranks in the top ten on tour for scoring average and strokes gained around the green. If he can excel in these areas this weekend, you will see him troubling the leaders.
The Englishman has drummed up hype ahead of Thursday’s Masters because of his consistent showings in previous editions. However, he has never embarrassed himself and has one top ten in the bag at Augusta.
I feel he is poised to return his best showing yet. He has finished in the top ten on four occasions this season and is first on tour for total strokes gained. In addition, he is 4th for scoring average and 5th for strokes gained from tee to green.
Sungjae has enjoyed a consistent season with one victory, four top 10’s, and seven top 25’s. Since finishing in the top ten at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, he has not repeated the success, missing a cut and finishing outside the top 25 on three occasions.
However, when Sungjae is on fire, he threatens the scoreboard. Added to his results, the Korean ranks among the top 15 on tour for strokes gained around the green, tee to green, and total strokes gained.
Im will hope to replicate his 2020 performance, where he finished 2nd behind DJ. It is time to put the disappointment of missing the cut last year behind him.