With the last five Majors all being won by first-time Major champions, we look at who is most likely to continue the trend at The Masters this year
The US Masters has produced it’s fair share of shocks in recent times and has also been the springboard for many looking to open their account in the Majors. In fact, seven of the last ten Augusta champs have been first-time Major winners. So, who is the most likely to add to that list?
The American rises up the ‘best player never to win a Major’ list every time we get another first-time winner. Could 2017 be his year? He’s started the season in fine form with victory at the Honda Classic and several top tens. His record at Augusta is also good, barring last year’s missed cut, with a T5 finish in 2014 being the highlight.
Matsuyama started the season like a train winning five times and finishing second twice between October 2016 and February 2017. This impressive early season form, coupled with two top-tens in his previous two visits to Augusta, makes him one of the clear favourites. If he putts well he stands a great chance.
Thomas is another man who’s produced a blistering start to 2017 with three wins so far. Add to that the PGA Tour’s 72-hole scoring record and a round of 59 to boot, the American seems to have taken his game to the next level this year. He finished T39 in his Masters debut last year and has a modest record in his first six Majors but seems to be peaking at the right time to improve that record.
Who will follow in Danny Willett’s footsteps?
We haven’t had a Masters rookie walk away with the Green Jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 with the only two other occasions occurring in 1934 and 1935 – the first two stagings of the event. If anyone is likely to add to that tally this year then Belgian Thomas Pieters must be top of the list. His fearless performance in the Ryder Cup shows he’s not fazed by big events and if he drives well he can compete with anyone.
The Spaniard is another who has taken to professional golf like a duck to water. Since July last year he has risen 260 places up the world rankings to 25, with the standout performance coming at this season’s Farmers Insurance Open where he took his first PGA Tour victory. Many see him as a future Major winner and he’s another player who could take the crown as a rookie.
Fitzpatrick’s first appearance at Augusta came in 2014 as an amateur and since then his rise up the professional ranks has been rapid. His final-round 67 last year secured a T7 finish and his performances since hint that he’s ready to challenge for top spot in one of the big events.
Garcia, now 37, has had 22 top-ten Major finishes in his career but only three of those have come at Augusta. He is, however, in great form this season after a dominant victory at the Dubai Desert Classic and several other strong finishes. Could this finally be his year?
Many have written off the Englishman’s chances of a Major, especially after his putting woes came into full focus at the Ryder Cup. But, rewind 12 months and he was in contention until near the very end, finishing in a tie for second spot. He’s managed six top-tens at Augusta in total and could well raise his game again to finally land one of the big ones.
Others to watch…
With English golf in the ascendancy at the moment could Tyrrell Hatton cap his extraordinary rise with a win or could Paul Casey improve on last year’s T4 finish? Elsewhere, Brandt Snedeker’s brilliance on the greens might help him conquer Augusta National or could Matt Kuchar’s consistency finally pay dividends?