The biggest week in golf — and arguably one of the biggest weeks in sports — is upon us once again. The Masters, which takes place annually at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, is the first of four major championships on the PGA Tour.
If you ask any golfer, Augusta is probably their dream course to play. It’s the Sistine Chapel of the golf world. However, for most fans, watching 100 of the best players in the world navigate Augusta’s infamous winding fairways and lightning fast greens is just fine.
Here are five players competing for the coveted green jacket to keep an eye on this week:
Crowd favorite: Rory McIlroy
The northern Irishman is no doubt a fan favorite this week. McIlroy has been desperately chasing a Masters win ever since he won the Open Championship in 2014, which put him one major away from a coveted career grand slam — a victory in all four majors. If McIlroy wins this year, he will add to the list of only five players to ever win a career grand slam in golf history.
It’s been almost four years since his last major title, but Rory McIlroy “truly believes” he will win the Masters and complete a career grand slam. https://t.co/C2zOJmBBBe pic.twitter.com/ibGmm3OdRr
— CNN Sport (@cnnsport) June 10, 2018
Things are looking especially good for Rory after his recent win at the Players Championship. McIlroy’s putting has been iffy over the past couple of years. However, if he can keep a level head around the quick and slopey Augusta greens and drive the ball long and straight as he has done all season, I think he has a serious chance to win.
Safe pick: Dustin Johnson
As the current No. 1 golfer in the world, everyone will have their eyes on Dustin Johnson this week. To put it bluntly, he’s a machine. Johnson’s distance off the tee combined with his dialed-in wedge game is a force to be reckoned with.
Dustin Johnson with a drive Happy Gilmore would be proud of.
433 yards! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/JzpIuURFeh
— Marathonbet (@marathonbet) January 8, 2018
Augusta National is becoming a slightly longer course each year, making Johnson’s distance an even bigger asset. In addition, his mental focus and endurance is rock solid. Mental game is a major factor at Augusta, and DJ’s zeroed-in mindset will put him on the right path.
On the rise: Bryson DeChambeau
If you don’t recognize Bryson DeChambeau’s name, you may know him instead as the “mad scientist” of the PGA Tour. DeChambeau is infamous for his analytical and calculated approach to the game — he literally uses formulas to figure out how to hit a shot.
It helps to be good at golf … and math.@B_DeChambeau made this look too easy. 👏 pic.twitter.com/sTKgD4R61I
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 27, 2018
His methods have repeatedly been questioned, but he has had an outstanding career so far, with five impressive PGA Tour wins. That being said, DeChambeau may just have developed an equation to solve Augusta National. The course can eat you up if you aren’t taking every factor into account, and preparation is one thing we won’t have to worry about with him.
Due for a win: Rickie Fowler
My personal favorite player on tour, Rickie Fowler, is coming off of a huge tour win this season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Fowler is all about confidence. He goes on hot and cold streaks, but this recent win was definitely the start to a strong upcoming season.
You can exhale now, @RickieFowler!
He’s the champion of the @WMPhoenixOpen.
Congratulations. 🏆#LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/8F8O1OoS97
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 3, 2019
Fowler has yet to win a major championship; however, he has come close many times. During the 2018 Masters, he lost by only a stroke to Patrick Reed. Fowler has said many times that Augusta suits his game extremely well — maybe this will become the 30-year-old’s first major win.
Hype master: Tiger Woods
That’s right, Tiger is back. After a legendary win at the Tour Championship in December, the hype around every event in which Woods has played has been off the charts, and the Masters is no exception. Everyone wants to see Woods win his 15th major at Augusta; it would be straight out of any golf fan’s fantasy.
He still has his ups and downs, however, which were on display at the recent WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Woods’ putting, chipping and driving accuracy can go out the window at any moment.
On the other hand, the Augusta crowd’s roars will without a doubt amp him up. And when Woods is amped up, there’s no one who can stop him, especially at the Masters.
When you think of the Masters you can’t help but think of this incredible birdie shot by Tiger on the 16th hole ️⛳️
🎥: @PGATOUR pic.twitter.com/I2dsKw8YxA
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) April 9, 2019