With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the 2020 and 2021 PGA Tour schedules, fans saw an unprecedented seven majors played in the short time between September 2020 and July of 2021. So much greatness packed into such a short period of time has made the majorless past nine months feel like an eternity.
Fortunately, as the world still attempts to return to something resembling normalcy, the first major championship of 2022, The Masters Tournament takes place this week in its traditional April slot. The best of the best will be on hand trying to win the most coveted jacket in sports.
In a season that is seeing one first-time Tour winner after another, how likely is it that we see another at Augusta? Not likely, as the event typically, but as we’ve seen in recent years, not always, Masters proficiency requires experience. So which players do we think are best equipped to take this year’s title? We start with the man who is arguably the most dominant force in the history of the game.
20. Tiger Woods
The “Will he? Won’t he?” drama is absolutely taking over the tournament in the past week. Having not played in over a year following a devastating car accident in February of 2021, where he was mangled so badly that amputation was a realistic option, Woods has been exciting the sports world with his presence at Augusta and his comments that he may give it a go if he feels he can on Thursday. Honestly, we put his chances of actually letting himself walk 72 holes on that treacherous terrain at well-below 50%, but who in sports history, let alone golf history, has defied expectations more times than Tiger Woods? The 46-year-old has won the green jacket five times, including his improbable 2019 victory a short time after missing two full years with injury.
Odds Rank: 18th
World Rank: 973rd
Last Six: N/A
Best at The Masters: Win (5 times)
19. Justin Rose
Now ranked 56th in the world, the 41-year-old Brit is nowhere near as dominant as he was during his stretch atop the world rankings in 2018-2019, and he has actually been pretty mediocre in the 2022 calendar year, but Augusta is a place where Rose really knows what he is doing. A year ago, he looked like he was playing a different course than everyone else when he exploded out of the gates with a 7-under 65 that gave his the first round lead by four-strokes. He stalled over the next three days, finishing solo-7th, his fifth top-12 in his last seven Masters starts… He was the runner-up in both 2015 and 2017… As invisible as his presence felt much of last year, Rose was also T8 at the PGA Championship.
Odds Rank: 34th
World Rank: 56th
Last Six: MC, MC, 62, 6, 33, 9
Best at The Masters: 2nd (2015, 2017)
18. Billy Horschel
The 35-year-old former FedExCup Champion has not been especially relevant in majors. In fact, since a T4 result at the 2013 U.S. Open, his first major start as a professional, Horschel has failed to record a top 10 in any of his 30 major starts since. So, why is he ranked this high in a stacked Masters field? His recent form has been tremendous. He won the European Tour flagship event, The BMW PGA Championship in September, and with five consecutive finishes inside the top 16, he has worked his way to No. 13 in the world rankings… His short game has been phenomenal this season, and his lack of elite length won’t kill him at Augusta. He really needs to embrace this week as his best chance at a major championship yet.
Odds Rank: 24th
World Rank: 13th
Last Six: 2, 16, 6, 11, 36, 23
Best at The Masters: 17th (2016)
17. Marc Leishman
The 38-year-old Aussie has won six times on the PGA Tour. None of those six were in majors, but that was not from a lack of trying, particularly at Augusta, where he has finished T13 or better in three of the last four editions. A year ago, he was in the runner-up mix behind Matsuyama through 54-holes before a difficult Sunday start doomed him to a T5… Among the vet players in attendance, Leishman is among the most likely to contend.
Odds Rank: 24th
World Rank: 43rd
Last Six: MC, 68, 15, 28, 16, 36
Best at The Masters: 4th (2013)
16. Corey Conners
Many would be surprised to learn that Conners has finished in the top 10 in each of the past two Masters Tournaments. The 30-year-old Canadian was in contention on the weekend a year ago, before an absolutely disastrous stretch from 5-9 on Sunday (+5) ended his hopes of a first career major title. He did well to play the rest of his round 2-under and finish in a tie for eighth… Conners has been on the first page of a number of major leaderboards the past few years, and appears to be rounding into his better form at the right time; he finished third two weeks ago at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, knocking off former tournament winner Dustin Johnson in the consolation game.
Odds Rank: 18th
World Rank: 32nd
Last Six: 35, 3, 26, 11, MC, 38
Best at The Masters: 8th (2021)
15. Tony Finau
When Finau won last August’s THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first leg of the FedExCup playoffs, it snapped an agonizingly long winless drought, in which he had posted more than 30 top-10s on Tour since his lone victory at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, there was hope that the flood gates would finally open for him. That has not happened. In fact, in 11 starts in the current 2022 season, the 32-year-old’s only top 30 finish was a T19 in a 32-man event in January… Still, though, this will be his first major start since that breakthrough victory, and he has been remarkably consistent in majors, posting at least two top 10s in each of the past four seasons. Among those are three top-10s at The Masters, and he even got to play the 2019 edition in the final threesome with eventual winner Tiger Woods… Expect this to be a slump-busting week for Finau.
Odds Rank: 24th
World Rank: 22nd
Last Six: 29, MC, 33, MC, 28, MC
Best at The Masters: 5th (2019)
14. Justin Thomas
Five months after finishing solo-fourth at the November 2020 Masters, Thomas was right in the thick of the leadership mix early on Saturday a year ago, but absolutely imploded when play resumed after a lengthy rain delay, lowlighted by a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 13th. He ended up finishing T21… Given that the 28-year-old has won on the PGA Tour 14 times, he is facing increasing criticism for having just one major victory (2017 PGA Championship)… Surprisingly, Thomas has not won on Tour in over a year, which would not be alarming for nearly anyone else, but his game does seem to be coming back around. He has posted finishes inside the top 8 in five of his last eight starts worldwide… Since a T39 in his 2016 Masters debut, the world No. 7 has finished T22 or better in each of his last five trips to Augusta.
Odds Rank: 1st
World Rank: 7th
Last Six: 3, 33, 6, 8, 20, 5
Best at The Masters: 4th (2020)
13. Patrick Cantlay
The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year, who recorded four wins in the 2021 season, started off his 2022 campaign with four straight top 10s, but saw all that momentum skid to a halt in his last three starts, although his awful PLAYERS week (72-77) came from the wave that got obliterated by the wind… The 30-year-old is fifth in the world rankings and recorded seven top-10s last season. Strangely though, none of those were in majors. In fact, he has finished outside the top 10 in each of his last nine major starts, and has two just top-10s in 19 starts for his career. That is not to say he is a complete fade this week though; he appears to have an unflappable demeanor and did hold a solo-lead here late in the 2019 edition before a late stumble allowed him to be caught by the field, finishing T9… He is currently second on Tour in birdie average.
Odds Rank: 8th
World Rank: 5th
Last Six: MC, 33, 2, 4, 9, 4
Best at The Masters: 9th (2019)
12. Rory McIlroy
For the eighth consecutive year, McIlroy can be the sixth player in Tour history to polish off the career Grand Slam if he wins at Augusta this week. To his credit, he has many high finishes here, with five consecutive top-10s between 2014-2018, and then added a T5 in 2020. On the downside though, he missed the cut last year, and has shot par or worse in eight of his last nine Tour rounds, with the exception being a Sunday 66 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was nowhere in the ballpark of contention. As always, the talent is there, but can he be trusted to close in majors anymore? We have not seen him do it since 2014. Since that last major championship, he has posted 13 top-10s in majors without a win.
Odds Rank: 8th
World Rank: 9th
Last Six: MC, 33, 13, 10, 3, 12
Best at The Masters: 4th (2015)
11. Dustin Johnson
A semifinals run two weeks ago at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was very encouraging, given that the Dustin Johnson of the past year has looked little like the Dustin Johnson who won the November 2020 Masters by four strokes. Surprisingly, DJ missed the cut in his Masters championship defense a year ago, which he followed up with another missed cut at the PGA Championship, before good results in the final two majors of the season (T19, T8). Before last year’s missed cut, he had finished inside the top 10 in each of his previous five Masters starts, including a T2 to Tiger Woods in 2019.
Odds Rank: 5th
World Rank: 9th
Last Six: 4, 39, 9, MC, 8, 25
Best at The Masters: Win (2020)
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