The Masters: Players to Watch
It’s Masters week. Golf’s grandest stage and one of the sports world’s annual signs that spring is upon us. So even though Tiger Woods will be missing the Masters for the first time because of back surgery, there is still plenty to look forward to.
Could one of the PGA Tour’s young up-and-comers continue their season-long dominance? Or will one of the grizzled veterans break through at the season’s first major?
Here are some players to watch:
THE DARK HORSE
Jimmy Walker: Ah, yes, Jimmy Walker. You may be asking, ‘who is Jimmy Walker?’
The answer: the best player on Tour so far this year. He is atop the FedEx Cup standings with 1,966 points, 623 points better than Patrick Reed who sits in second. Walker, making his first appearance at the Masters at age 35, has won three times already this year and has finished in the top 10 four times. He has cooled off since his last win at Pebble Beach in early February, with no better than a tie for 16th in five events since. But he is someone to watch out for.
Dustin Johnson: Maybe it’s time that he isn’t best known for dating Paulina Gretzky. Johnson has never really played well at Augusta, with a tie for 13th last year his best finish. But he is playing well this year, with a win and five top-10 finishes in seven events, good for third in the FedEx Cup standings.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar hasn’t done himself any favors over the last two weeks, collapsing in the final rounds of back-to-back tournaments. But he has six top-10 finishes in nine events this year and always seems to be lurking around at the Masters (he finished third in 2012 and eighth last year). He’s one of the best players on Tour to not win a major. This could be his time.
Jordan Spieth: Spieth may be the Tour’s Next Big Thing. Rory McIlroy was that for a while and still is – sort of. But Speith, 20, flew onto the scene a year ago as a rookie, winning the John Deere Classic and finishing in the top 10 nine times. He missed the cut last week at the Houston Open, but he is playing fairly well with three top-five finishes this year. Like Walker, Spieth is making his Masters debut.
Lee Westwood: Westwood is in the group with Kuchar as one of the best players to never win a major. He has come agonizingly close with two third-place finishes at the US Open, a third at the PGA, and a runner-up at the British Open. At Augusta, Westwood has six top-11 finishes in his career. The last four years: 2nd, 11th, 3rd, 8th. He’s comfortable at the Masters and his day has to come sometime…right?
Adam Scott: Last year’s winner, Scott is the favorite with Tiger sitting out. Scott has only played in five tournaments this year, but has finished in the top 10 in three of them. He is looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Woods in 2001-02. However, like in any sport, repeating is awfully hard.
Zach Johnson: Johnson is sneaky good. He won at Augusta in 2007 and then fell into obscurity. But over the past couple of years he has put together quite a comeback tour, with four wins (one this year) since 2012. In addition to his win at the Tournament of Champions in January, Johnson has three other top-10 finishes, including sixth at the Texas Open two weeks ago. He’s a previous winner, flying under the radar, playing good golf. Sounds like a winning formula.