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The Masters 2024 Preview, Picks & Analysis

By: | Mon 08 Apr 2024

The Masters always serves up plenty of drama and this year’s tournament is going to be no exception.

There are many storylines. Can Rory McIlroy finally end his drought, win the Green Jacket and secure the career Grand Slam? Will Jon Rahm successfully defend the title he won 12 months ago and strike another blow for LIV Golf? Will Tiger Woods be able to provide the most unlikely of victories? And who is going to stop Scottie Scheffler from winning his second major?

Let’s deal with Woods first of all. He said at the start of the year that he planned to play at least one tournament a month. We are now into April and his only proper tournament was the Genesis, which he hosted. And he withdrew through illness midway through the second round when he was struggling to make the cut. Of course you can never write off this extraordinary athlete but even Woods cannot seriously believe that he has a realistic chance of landing his 16th major. Success for Tiger will be making the cut - but don’t bet your mortgage on him being able to do so. He simply has not played enough competitive golf.

McIlroy will start the week as one of the favourites. He won the Dubai Desert Classic in January, and did so in some style. It sparked a wave of optimism that this might finally be the year that we would see him winning his fifth major. There have been flashes of form, and it has to be said that he has driven the ball really well. He has also looked pretty sharp on the greens. But his iron play has been poor. Very poor. And you simply cannot win at Augusta National if you are not confident in your iron play. There is no other course these guys play that puts a greater demand on approach play than this course. So I am sorry to say that I really don’t think we are going to see the Northern Irishman breaking his duck this week. And time is beginning to run out for him.

Rahm sparked huge controversy when he defected to LIV last year for a reported $500m. He is by far their biggest signing, and it sparked a wave of speculation about who would be next, with many expecting Viktor Hovland and Hideki Matsuyama to be next off the blocks. So far, it has not happened.

And the Spaniard has had much to say. It is clear that he is missing the cut and thrust of playing 72-hole tournaments on the PGA Tour and regrets not being able to defend the titles he won in 2023. But he is in the field this week. He has played some decent stuff since his defection, and I would be astonished if he is not in the mix come Sunday afternoon.

The Masters

Which brings us to Scheffler. He showed a level of consistency in 2023 that we have not seen since Woods was in his prime. And he has been even better in 2024, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five shots and coming from five back to secure The Players Championship in a thrilling finish. There are those who will claim that tournaments such as The Players have been devalued because the fields do not feature the likes of Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Talor Gooch. But even Rahm admitted that he was enthralled by Scheffler’s play as he held off US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Schauffele and Open champion Brian Harman

Scheffler dominated the game in 2023 despite consistently struggling on the greens. Had he putted better he might have won 10 times. But the bad news for his rivals is that this brilliant ball striker putted like a god at Bay Hill and continued to drain putts for fun at TPC Sawgrass. And anybody who watches The Masters on a regular basis will know that the key to winning here is to be able hole putts. I simply cannot see past Scheffler, who now has a huge lead at the top of the world rankings.

This will be his fifth visit to Augusta - he won in 2022 and his worst finish is a tied 19th in his first outing. He was 10th 12 months ago.

There will, of course, be plenty of golfers who will believe they can beat Scheffler. These include Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Clark, Max Homa, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tony Finau.

I believe that Schauffele is the man who could upset the odds this week. He has a wonderful temperament. This is a golf course on which things are going to go wrong and Schauffele’s greatest strength is his ability to shrug that off, erase it from his brain and move on. He finds plenty of fairways, is a fabulous iron player and knows how to get the ball in the hole.

Clark has had a memorable 12 months, winning three times, including that incredible US Open triumph, during which he held off McIlroy. 

He used to struggle with his temper but has employed a sports psychologist who has helped him to turn things around. That US Open win was no fluke. Make no mistake - Clark is a world-class golfer who now expects to win more majors. He was not at his best during the final round at Sawgrass and it says much about him that he was able to hang in there, coming within a whisker of forcing a playoff. He will arrive at Augusta full of confidence and self-belief.

Fitzpatrick is a former US Open champion and won the RBC Heritage last year. He was in the mix at Sawgrass and would have challenged Scheffler had he not made so many mistakes. He made birdies for fun but there were simply too many dropped shots. Fitzpatrick has added some length to his game and he is one of the best putters in the game so he definitely has a chance.

Coming off the best year of his career, Hovland surprised everybody by changing his swing coach. He is now working Grant Waite, and it has to be said that things are not going well. I am utterly bamboozled by why Hovland would want to change a technique that saw him win the FedEx Cup and star for Europe in the Ryder Cup. He says it is because he is a “curious” golfer. We all know what curiosity did to the cat! I sincerely hope that the Norwegian has a lightbulb moment - and soon - and realises that nothing needs to change.

He would do well to talk to Fowler, who lost his game when he also decided that he needed to change his swing. Fowler is now once again working with Butch Harmon and is somewhere close to the golfer who looked certain to win a handful of majors.

Koepka has definitely benefitted from a lighter playing schedule with LIV. He is a golfer who has struggled with career-threatening knee problems but is now 100% fit and back to his very best. He ran Rahm close 12 months and then cruised to the US PGA the following month. He is once again playing with freedom and has no weaknesses in his game. I would expect him to be there or thereabouts on Sunday afternoon.

How to Follow The 2024 Masters

Monday, April 8, Live from the range, 5pm, Sky Sports Golf

Tuesday, April 9, Live from the range, 5pm Sky Sports Golf

Wednesday, April 10, Live from the range, 5pm Sky Sports Golf; Par 3 Contest, 7pm, Sky Sports Golf

Thursday, April 11, first round, 2pm, Sky Sports Golf / Radio 5 Live, 9pm

Friday, April 12, second round, 2pm, Sky Sports Golf / Radio 5 Live, 9pm

Saturday, April 13, third round, 3pm, Sky Sports Golf / Radio 5 Live, 9pm

Sunday, April 14, final round, 3pm, Sky Sports Golf / Radio 5 Live, 9pm

Must Read Masters Content

The Course:

Augusta National has been extended to 7,510 yards and is a par 72. It is one of the most beautiful golf courses on the planet, famous for its slopes, water hazards, well-placed bunkers and lightning-fast putting surfaces.

Tournament Winners:

It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 by Danny Willett, in 2017 by Sergio Garcia, in 2018 by Patrick Reed, in 2019 by Tiger Woods, in 2020 by Dustin Johnson, in 2021 by Hideki Matsuyama, in 2022 by Scottie Scheffler and last year by Jon Rahm.

Form Guide:

Scottie Scheffler has taken his game to a different level in 2024, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and becoming the first golfer to successfully defend The Players Championship. He has always been a formidable ball striker but has now worked out his issues on the greens. He is definitely the man to beat this week and is the 7/2 favourite on Betway.

To Win:

Scottie Scheffler. Can anybody stop him? (7/2)

Each Way:

Brooks Koepka. Will be there or thereabouts (16/1)

Each Way:

Jon Rahm. Don’t rule out a successful title defence (11/1)

Five to Follow:

Scottie Scheffler. In a class of his own (7/2)

Brooks Koepka. Tough competitor (16/1)

Jon Rahm. Will be fired up (11/1)

Tommy Fleetwood. Has all the shots (40/1)

Xander Schauffele. Wonderful temperament (16/1)

Five Outsiders to Watch:

Joaquin Niemann. Hugely underrated (25/1)

Eric Cole. Mr Consistency (200/1)

Jake Knapp. Has made the breakthrough (200/1)

Min Woo Lee. Massive potential (50/1)

Thorbjorn Olesen. Could surprise a few people (200/1)

This 2024 Masters preview article was written and published in collaboration with Betway.

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Tags: the masters Masters Golf Previews daily picks Augusta National

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