Spieth for the Masters?
With the Masters having started yesterday, Oscar Young looks at the contenders for the 2021 tournament, with Jordan Spieth returning to top form.
This week sees golf’s best return to Augusta National in Georgia for the 85th Masters tournament. The most prestigious event in the sport will return from an unusually short five-month hiatus, after last year’s delayed Masters took place in November. This year, the race for the tournament’s signature Green Jacket is as open as ever, with no clear front-runner.
Last week, Jordan Spieth triumphed in the Texas Open – a win that places him firmly among the favourites going into Augusta. Spieth’s victory puts an end to nearly four winless years dating back to his Open Championship victory in 2017. That period had been the most unsuccessful part of an otherwise decorated career that boasts 12 PGA Tour and 3 Major victories. He himself described it as a ‘road that’s had a lot of tough days.’
Spieth broke into the golfing world in 2015 with wins in both the US Open and the Masters. That Masters victory will live in the minds of golf fans after he led from beginning to end and tied a then-record 18 under-par performance. He has been a fan favourite ever since, having been the best in the world until the sharp decline after his Open victory two years later. At his lowest point, he dropped outside the top-100 ranked golf players in the world.
Though he has since only risen back to 38th in the world rankings, Spieth’s odds are as good as any for a victory this weekend. The Texas victory is just a confirmation of his return to form, following three top-five finishes in 2021. He is now looking to become the first person to win a tournament the week before the Masters and then the event itself, since Phil Mickelson in 2006.
He will face tough competition from other Americans who emerged during his drought, notably Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau. All four have won their first Majors since Spieth’s 2017 triumph, so the task will be a difficult one. DeChambeau has gained notoriety because of his ability to drive the ball unparalleled distances. During the lockdown of Spring last year, he gained 20 pounds of muscle in an attempt to improve upon his own new power-based approach to the game. More recently, he stated that the famous Augusta course plays like a par-68 for him, rather than its official 72 rating.
Dustin Johnson, the previous winner and current world number one, will also likely provide a challenge. He will be looking to bounce back from a shaky start to 2021 and secure his second Green Jacket.
From the other side of the Atlantic, Spaniard Jon Rahm (world number three) is looking for his first Major victory. For Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the Masters is the one that has escaped him. He will attempt to finally secure his career Grand Slam, seven years after his last Major win but may find it tough going with such a loaded field.
The road to victory is never easy at Augusta, as Spieth himself would attest, after his historic collapse on the final day of the 2016 tournament. However, his recent resurgence will certainly add to the annual anticipation for the Masters – a tournament that routinely provides the most dramatic moments in the sports history.