Who Could Upset The Favourites at The Masters
The countless storylines that The Masters has produced along the years typically revolve around the world’s greatest players.
This year, there are a collection of world-class golfers who will be looking to pick up their first green jacket, with the likes of Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka having never triumphed at Augusta.
What if the script was written differently, however, and the world’s elite could not match up to the underdogs below them in the world rankings?
We’re going to look at four golfers who could very well steal the limelight - and either secure their maiden major or another in the process.
If you’ve not been impressed by the peaceful character that is Corey Conners, hopefully his display in the WGC-Match Play should have earned him a new fan. What does this Canadian do right, I hear you say? Everything. He drives the ball beyond 300 yards, he has decent accuracy and he’s third in Greens in Regulation this season. So, he’s driving the ball a long way, finding the majority of fairways and locating the third most greens on tour. Impressed yet?
Since The Genesis Invitational, where he missed the cut, he has produced a string of notable performances. He finished just outside the top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T11th), concluded his annual trip to Sawgrass with a T26th finish and, after the heartbreak of losing to Kevin Kisner in the Match Play semi-final, found enough inspiration to defeat two-time major champion Dustin Johnson. With a world ranking of 32, he may not be too far away from the elite, but he could join their circle indefinitely with a win at Augusta.
Erik van Rooyen
South Africa are blessed with the sheer amount of talented golfers that are coming out of the nation and Erik van Rooyen is certainly one of them. Has he won a boatload of tournaments? No, he has not. However, his inaugural PGA Tour victory at the Barracuda Championship will have definitely ignited belief in himself. Once you win on a prestigious tour, you start to understand just how good you are but more importantly, you discover that you belong. And boy, does van Rooyen belong at the highest standard.
He has only recorded one top 10 in a major - T8th at the 2019 PGA Championship - and his only appearance at The Masters culminated in him withdrawing from injury in the first round - a sorrowful way to end such a unique experience. Nevertheless, he has a chance to play four rounds around an unfiltered Augusta and all he’ll need to do is keep himself in contention until the back-nine on Sunday, where he’ll be looking to attack the closing stretch. Keep an eye on not just van Rooyen but all South African talents, they’re threatening to take over professional golf!
Harold Varner III
Harold Varner III may not have won in America yet, but he looks a more polished version since the start of the new season. Firstly, picking up victory at the Saudi International was very impressive. To win in the manner he did, notching an outrageously long eagle putt for victory on the 72nd hole, is the mentality that we are looking for. Let us not forget the strength of that field too, with the likes of Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson, Abraham Ancer and Cameron Smith all involved.
His selection goes beyond that singular achievement, however, as his Players Championship performance caught the eye of many golf fans. He may have finished T6th and five shots away from eventual winner Smith, but he could only produce a two-under final outing, in contrast to Smith’s six-under. His record in major championship golf isn’t great at all, but like we say, Varner seems different this season and through the impressive victory in Saudi Arabia, we would be inclined to believe this will be his greatest major finish to date.
Gary Woodland, similarly to Corey Conners, is an excellent role model for the next batch of hopefuls vying against one another for PGA Tour stardom. He always has time for fans and you’ll often see him interacting or signing autographs. It just so happens to be he’s a pretty decent golfer too, one who has previously triumphed in a major championship. Unlike the other members on this list, Woodland, who is currently ranked 90th in the world, can lean on past experience if he finds himself leading down the stretch - which will be invaluable.
Whilst heading to Augusta in good form would be an obvious benefit, it certainly isn’t the difference between winning and losing. Woodland has endured a fairly average season by his own standards, missing six cuts which is a few too many. He did find a bit of form at the start of March however, finishing T5th in back-to-back events at The Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He missed the cut at The Players but a T21st finish at the Valspar means he’s heading into The Masters with a touch of confidence. It remains highly unlikely he’ll have enough to cross the line but rule a major champion out at your own peril.
There you have four golfers who are ranked outside of the world’s top 25 but still hold the potential to upset the favourites.
You’d have to go back to 2011 when the last golfer ranked outside the top 25 won the event (Charl Schwartzel, 29th).
Although it remains expected that a more notable name will win this year’s Masters, the talent pool away from the absolute elite continue to improve every year - and records are there to be broken, right?
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