The past three Masters tournaments have resulted in a player winning their first green jacket: Sergio last year, (the man who used to be) Danny Willett in 2016, and Jordan Spieth in 2015. The field might be small, but it is packed with notable stars who would like to make it 4-for-4 on maiden champions.
Here are the ones to look most closely at:
1. Dustin Johnson: The World No. 1 was the favorite coming into Augusta last year, coming off an unbelievable three consecutive victories. In a painful twist of fate, however, DJ suffered a freak injury at his rental home and had to withdraw. Now, the 2016 U.S. Open Champion is looking to again quiet the doubters by taking his second career major title. Before last year, he had finished in the top 10 of the previous two Masters, including a T4 in 2016. DJ was dreadful at the recent WGC-Match Play, but before that, had finished 1st or 2nd in three of just five season starts.
2. Justin Thomas: The most recent winner of a major, Thomas took down an impressive field at the PGA Championship last August. It was one of five victories on the season, and made the 24-year-old an easy choice for PGA Tour Player of the Year. In the new season, he has added an additional two victories, and is coming into the week off three consecutive top-4 finishes. He has yet to make a serious run at a Masters, but he is as hot as golfer in the field, and is justified as a tournament favorite.
3. Rory McIlroy: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Those are the only five golfers in PGA Tour history to have won the coveted career grand slam. But with a win this week, Rory McIlroy would become the sixth name on that list. He is one of three players who will have that chance this season, with Phil Mickelson needing just the U.S. Open, and Jordan Spieth needing the PGA’s Wanamaker Trophy. Rory gets first shot.
4. Jon Rahm: The 23-year-old Spaniard has consistently flashed unmatched talent in a short amount of time on the PGA Tour, and now up to World No. 3, a green jacket could make him the new No. 1. He has yet to seriously contend in a major, but anyone who is paying attention know it’s coming soon.
5. Matt Kuchar: Possibly the new Sergio Garcia, the 39-year-old Kuchar is still majorless despite many close calls. He made a fantastic run late at Augusta last year, even acing the par-3 16th on Sunday, but had to settle for a for a 4th place finish. He came even closer at the Open Championship where he was runner-up to Jordan Spieth, but knowing his chances are becoming fewer, Kuchar should be exceptionally motivated this year. It also helps that he is coming into the week off consecutive top 10s.
Five More: Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, and Paul Casey.