One of the best weekends of the year, Christmas in April, and a tradition unlike any other: The Masters, on The Lead Sports. Here are the only 18 golfers you should care about going into Masters weekend (unless you are related to player not on this list). Note: despite prodigious ball striking skills, you won’t find Sergio Garcia on this list. It takes great putting and mental toughness to win at Augusta and he has neither. He’s also an insufferable tool (although that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, as you will see below).
18. Alex Noren
Noren is probably the highest ranked guy you’ve never heard of. He’s currently ranked #10 in the world and playing some decent golf. He’s strung together an impressive run of victories the past few months, starting with the Scottish Open last July. At 34 years old, this will be his first time at Augusta, and one can’t help but wonder if beginners luck is even a thing at the Masters. When asked about becoming the first Swede to win the green jacket, he said, “Of course I’ve thought about it. But very fast after that thought, I try to be realistic and tell myself I have a lot of work to do, and just thank The Lead Sports for including me on this list.”
17. Tommy Fleetwood
Tommy Fleetwood will return to Augusta for the second time, but first as a competitor. His second place finish this year at the WGC-Mexico Championship turned him from spectator to player. It’s hard to imagine a first-timer winning the Masters. Such a feat hasn’t been done since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. But then you find out Fleetwood’s been paired with Zoeller for the par-3 contest and can’t help but consider fate.
16. Henrik Stenson
I know, it’s weird seeing a guy ranked fifth in the world just barely making the list. Stenson has been consistent at Augusta the same way you’re consistent at golf, in a bad way. He’s finished in the top 20 five times in his past 11 trips to Augusta, similar to how you’re a consistent 114 or higher. Both are irrelevant. But the Swede has shown he has what is takes to win a big tourney, and he claims to be as confident as ever.
15. Bernhard Langer
Even as the field gets littered with younger and better talent, there always seems to be a timeless legend in the mix for the green jacket. Langer was that man last year and will be that man again this year. After being just two shots off the lead in 2016, he collapsed on Sunday because he probably wanted to make the clubhouse’s early bird special and bingo night. This year, look out for Langer to pop a Viagra and be ready to go throughout the weekend (sorry for this image, but not really). Also, never EVER rule out a two-time Masters champion with such immaculate hair.
14. Bubba Watson
Again, never EVER rule out a two-time Masters champion, especially one with such immaculate hair even though immaculate may be too strong of a word for his lettuce. Currently sitting at 19th in the world, Bubba is looking to add a third green jacket to his wardrobe, but it seems like he’ll have to do it without the support of the fans who recently eviscerated him on Instagram. This week, the PGA Tour’s official Instagram page posted a photo of Watson with a caption reading: “Fill in the blank: @BubbaWatson will finish _____ this week.” Fans responded by saying “last” and “dead last,” others said “crying” or “miss the cut.” One person even wrote that Watson will “finish his caddy’s career.” Regardless, Bubba revealed what might be his secret weapon. He said, “I have a secret. I always eat before the Champions Dinner…It’s always at least one burrito, it could be two. Then I play with the food after that.” Apparently, burritos = green jackets.
13. Tyrrell Hatton
Hatton, currently ranked 15th in the world, is a young gun with whom you need to familiarize yourself. He’s been playing very well as of late and ranks first on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting and third in strokes gained total. On the European tour, he’s won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Most Likely to Replace Zayn in One Direction award. He will compete with the best of them for the green jacket.
12. Adam Hadwin
Hadwin has already made a strong case to claim 2017 as his own. He’s fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, had three top-6 finishes, won on one of the PGA Tour’s toughest courses, aaaaand just got married. This Canadian is playing for keeps as he traded his honeymoon for a shot at the green jacket. The newlywed sex could be the game changer here, folks.
11. Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas has missed three of six cuts since starting the year scorching hot. But don’t think he’s out of the running for the green jacket. The ‘Bama boy who’s tight with Spieth could make a strong play to win the Masters this weekend, especially if the weather is bad. A big hitter like Justin could weather the storm like John Daly weathers a 12-pack of Bud heavy.
10. Justin Rose
Justin Rose enters the Masters feeling like he’s “clicking at the right time.” He’s heading to Augusta with the #14 world ranking, an Olympic gold medal, and an MBE as a new member of the Order of the British Empire. He’s been one of the most consistent players in Augusta lately, with his worst performance being in 2012 when he finished 25th. Regardless, Rose is entering this year’s battle for the green jacket with the Queen’s blessing in his arsenal, a differentiator you must consider.
9. Jason Day
Day has had an atrocious 2017, but all of his play up until this point is obsolete. First, you need to recognize him as one of the most talented golfers in the world, and the third highest ranked. Next, you need to consider how difficult it’s been for him to play the game after confessing to the world his mom’s lung cancer diagnosis. Being in such an emotional state often inspires the best players in the biggest moments. Take his ninth-place finish at the 2015 U.S. Open while falling over with vertigo, for example. Jason Day could have a Tiger Woods 2006 Open Championship moment if he dons the green jacket for Mama Day.
8. Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm is ranked 12th in the world at 22 years old, but he could be the hottest player in the game right now. This year, he’s won the Farmers Insurance Open on a 60-foot eagle putt and has had two top-3 and two more top-10 WGC placements. Spain’s prodigy, and probably the most impressive 22-year-old golfer since Spieth, Rahm is looking to butt heads with the game’s best in Augusta.
7. Phil Mickelson
If you think Phil still can’t get it done, you should probably go rewatch last year’s Open Championship. Ranked 18th in the world, Lefty will again make a strong push to be Masters champion. Although he hasn’t been dominating, he’s been solid in 2017. Age won’t be a factor for Phil. His three green jackets will. Or maybe the Securities and Exchange Commission. Who knows? It’s the Masters. Anything can happen.
6. Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki heads into Augusta after maybe his strongest start ever to a season. He’s been a contender the past two years, but his putting game has prevented him from claiming the green jacket. The world’s #4 ranked player has never won a major, but has finished top-7 the last two times he was at the Masters. If Hideki can snag a hockey putter or hit the mini golf course with Chubbs, he has a legit shot at the green jacket.
5. Rickie Fowler
There’s a strong case that Fowler shouldn’t even be on this list, since he’s been virtually irrelevant in major championships the past few years. But he’s already won one tourney this year and performed well in the Houston Open last week, finishing third. The game’s eighth best ranked golfer is coming off a big Ryder Cup win and hundreds of solicitations from the world’s most eligible women.
4. Rory McIlroy
The good: Rory is one of the best players on the planet. The bad: he hasn’t fared well at Augusta the past three years. Nevertheless, he’s always a great pick to win any tournament, even the Masters. He’s been looking good since coming back from a rib injury, and he had a good performance at Bay Hill. Rory’s differentiator will be that he’s got the United States military on his side.
3. Jordan Spieth
Last year, Spieth gave us one of the more epic collapses in recent memory when he put two into the drink on 12. He was rock solid outside of that, not to mention he won in 2015 and almost won in 2014 at 20 years old. But let’s put things into perspective here. Spieth was just a few swings away from winning the green jacket THREE YEARS IN A ROW, and in his early 20s. Insane to think about. Jordan simply needs to turn to his two Majors wins, his green jacket, his Under Armour deal, and his new 16,000-square-foot Dallas mansion to calm his nerves.
2. Dustin Johnson
There is no one in the game hotter than
Paulina Gretzky Dustin Johnson. He has been absolutely dominating golf as of late and will be the favorite by a mile heading into the weekend. He’s the #1 player in the world riding the momentum of a three tournament win streak. He hasn’t fared particularly well in Augusta during his career, with only one top-5 finish, but history will play no part in Dustin’s performance this weekend. Look for Paulina to put the club members’ wives Dustin to put the field on notice early.
1. Grayson Murray
Meet Grayson’s caddie, Lindsey Pelas (considering that Gary McCord was banned for life from The Masters for joking on air that they must have used bikini wax to speed up the greens, this should go over superbly with the powers-that-be).
Talk about inspiring yourself. Just give him the jacket already…