With seven of the last eight Majors being won by first-time Major champions, we look at who is most likely to continue the trend at The Masters this year.... by Lewis Blain
Potential First-Time Major Champions At Augusta
Last year’s Masters saw Sergio Garcia finally break his major duck with a playoff victory over Justin Rose.
Augusta National is often the location for many players looking to open their account in the majors – since 2007, eight winners have indeed been first-time major winners.
So who could join the likes of Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott?
Potential First-Time Major Champions At Augusta:
Fleetwood could top off a breakthrough 2017 by winning his first major at Augusta. He’s won three times in the past year, recording countless top tens including a tie for fourth at the US Open. His form has seen him move into the top-15 in the world. Last year was his first time around Augusta National so he can be forgiven for missing the cut. He comes here this year with knowledge of the course on top of his red-hot form.
Another Englishman who could join Sir Nick Faldo and Danny Willett as the only two English winners at Augusta is Paul Casey. The 40-year-old finally won for the first time since 2014 by winning the Valspar Championship in early March. He is somewhat ‘Mr Consistent’ on the PGA Tour having recorded 34 top-25 finishes in 49 competitions. Now he has finally won again it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him keep the ball rolling with another victory at a course where he has finished 6th-T4th-T6th in the last three years.
‘When will Rickie win?’ is a question that is asked every time the majors come around. Ever since a flurry of top fives at all four majors in 2014, the 29-year-old has been seen as a future major champion. He’s currently the world number eight after some fine performances in the last six months, including a win at the Hero World Challenge and a pair runner-ups at the OHL Classic and the BMW Championship. He had a share for the lead half way through the 2017 tournaments so he could go one further this time round.
Related: 2018 US Masters Golf Betting Tips
DeChambeau would be a shock winner of The Masters – or would he? It is a Ryder Cup year and after finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational he rose from 56th to 15th in the Team USA Ryder Cup points standings to throw his name into the conversation. The Californian won the John Deere Classic in July – a feat that former Masters champions Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson have accomplished. In 2016, he was the low-amateur after finishing T21, some five shots off the next amateur. Could the 24-year-old be next?
An Aussie has won The Masters before – Adam Scott in 2013. Leishman has the pedigree of a major winner and has finished inside the top 20 in all four, including a tie for fourth here in 2013 and a runners-up spot at The Open in 2015. He’s recorded a couple of top tens already this year and won twice on the PGA Tour during 2017. His form in recent majors will put him in good stead also, a T6 at The Open and a T13 at the USPGA Championship.
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Kuchar has always tailored his game to peak at just the right time and his results over the years have proven that – all but for the eluding victory. He very nearly won The Open last year and since 2010 he has featured just once outside of the top 25 at The Masters. His best finishes of T3 (2012) and T4 (2017) show he is almost certainly a player when it comes to Augusta.
No one has had a meteoric rise like Jon Rahm. In 2016, as the low-amateur at the US Open he was ranked 766 in the world – he’s now world number three. The Spaniard has won four trophies since then and almost certainly will win a major in his career. His record in majors to date has been particularly poor with just one finish inside the top 25 but the 23-year-old can take inspiration from Sergio Garcia’s win last year.
South Africa have had their fair share of major champions over the years but have been without one since Ernie Els’ triumph at The Open in 2012. In July, Grace became the only ever player to post a sub-63 score in a major championship when he shot 62 at Royal Birkdale. He went on to finish in a tie for sixth to add to his other impressive finishes of 4th (US Open) and 3rd (USPGA). The 29-year-old is in solid form having made 14 straight cuts, during which he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The Swede is a regular winner on the European Tour having won six times since 2015. This year he has only featured on the PGA Tour and has impressed in America. He lost a playoff to Jason Day at The Farmers and finished one shot behind Justin Thomas at The Honda Classic. He is clearly holding his own amongst other major champions. the world number 17 missed the cut in his first and only appearance at Augusta last year, but will come into this year with more knowledge of the course and a T6 at The Open suggests he could contend in a few majors this year.
Reed has been playing himself into some good form ahead of The Masters after finishing in a tie for second with Tiger Woods at the Valspar and a T7 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The Texan came close to winning his first major at the USPGA, closing two shots behind eventual winner Justin Thomas. His best finish around Augusta is T22 so he has some improvements to make but don’t write him off in a Ryder Cup year.
Others to keep an eye on…
Injury has blighted some of his 2018 campaign so far but Hideki Matsuyama is a player you can’t ignore, all that is missing from his resume is a major win – he’s finished in the top six in all four majors.
Tyrrell Hatton has climbed into the top 20 in the world and put on a good showing amongst golf’s elite with a T3 at the WGC Mexico earlier this month.
The 2017 Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele has a solid outsider claim after two PGA Tour wins at The Greenbrier Classic and a play-off win over Justin Thomas at the Tour Championship while Brian Harman could follow in the footsteps of fellow lefty Phil Mickelson, who has won at Augusta three times.
He’s only been round here once in 2015 but since then has won the Wells Fargo Championship and finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka at the US Open.
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