Georgia On My Mind: Five golfers who aim to impress at The Masters

Ahead of today's action, we look at some of those in contention at Augusta as well as a couple of outsiders

Georgia On My Mind: Five golfers who aim to impress at The Masters

Image: Eric Christian Smith / AP/Press Association Images

The 80th Masters gets underway today and with all eyes firmly fixed on Augusta National, the pre-tournament favourites have caught the headlines.

Jordan Spieth's imperious performance last year saw him capture the green jacket, while Jason Day has won six of the last 13 tournaments he has contested.

Many feel that world number three Rory McIlroy will benefit from coming into the tournament under the radar as he continues his search for a career Grand Slam.

"I feel like I've improved each and every year at Augusta,” he told the Guardian's Ewan Murray, “I don’t feel like anyone needs to tell me how to play the course. I feel like I've been there enough to know that. I know what I need to do to win at Augusta. I know what the game plan is."

While there will always be a circus around some of the sport's superstars, we take a look at some of the others who aim to impress.

 

1) Rafa Cabrera-Bello

The Spaniard comes into the tournament with momentum. Beat McIlroy at the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play third place play-off, 3&2, and was in contention last Sunday evening when he finished fourth at the Shell Houston Open.

Strong bogey-free weekend in his last outing, including an eagle to cap a final round 65, the 31-year-old looks like an excellent longshot for the weekend.

Europeans haven't fared particularly well in Augusta, so Cabrera-Bello will need more than a good weekend to challenge the big hitters.

Rafa Cabrera Bello watches his shot on the sixth tee during semi-final round play against Louis Oosthuizen at the Dell Match Play Championship golf tournament at Austin County Club. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

 

2) Bubba Watson

Not exactly out of left field, the 2012 and 2014 champion looks to continue his biennial cycle of winning the tournament.

Success at the Northern Trust Open in February was followed by a runners-up finish at the WGC Cadillac Championship, so we'll neglect the T28 finish at the Dell Match Play.

Knows the course and importantly knows how to win on the course. Comes into the tournament relatively under the radar, as much as a two-time former winner can, so will be without the relentless glow of the media spotlight.

Bubba Watson watches his drive on the first hole during round-robin play against Emiliano Grillo at the Dell Match Play Championship. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

 

3) Zach Johnson

Spoke this week about his concern for the speed of the greens at Augusta, bookmakers have 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson at an average price of 60-1.

The current Open champion has major pedigree as well as 12 PGA Tour wins since turning professional in the 1998.

Boasts five top 20 finishes this season, including a fifth placed finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but crucially has also missed the cut twice.

Will need a fast start if he is to remain in the mix come Sunday, but has shown at St. Andrews he can hold his nerve under pressure.

Zach Johnson reacts after missing a putt on the 13th green during the round of 16 play against Rory McIlroy at the Dell Match Play Championship. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

 

4) Bryson Dechambeau

In 2015, Dechambeau became the fifth golfer in history to win both the NCAA Division I championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year.

Paired alongside defending champion Jordan Spieth and England's Paul Casey. Won't be put off by the big names, he's already been paired with Rory McIlroy for the final round of the Arnold Palmer invitational.

“If you keep playing like this,” McIlroy told him after that final round 66, “I’ll be seeing a lot more of you.”

Nothing to lose and everything to gain, he's hoping to surpass Ryan Moore's T13 at the 2005 Masters.

Bryson DeChambeau hits from the eighth fairway during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

 

5) Matthew Fitzpatrick

Certainly a long-shot. An excellent season last season and has enjoyed some good form this season.

In his five events on the PGA Tour this season, he's missed the cut just once and had a strong finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as well as at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions last November, where he finished T7.

First time playing in the Masters as a pro, but he played it as an amateur in 2012 after winning the US Amateur so knows his way around.

Worth a punt if only for an each-way shout.

Matthew Fitzpatrick watches his putt on the eighth green during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen, Jr.)