- The 87th Masters
- Venue: Augusta National, Georgia Date: 6-9 April
- Coverage: Live text commentary of all four rounds on BBC Sport website. Live radio commentary on Thursday from 20:00 BST and Friday from 21:00, on Saturday from 21:00 and Sunday from 20:00
Augusta National. The Green Jacket. Amen Corner. The manicured fairways. The blooming azaleas.
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Unmistakably, the Masters.
Golf’s first men’s major of the year is upon us, with the world’s finest players making their annual pilgrimage to one of sport’s most iconic venues.
The first tee shot will be hit at 13:00 BST on Thursday – after the ceremonial drives from legendary champions Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson – with a field of 88 aiming to sink the winning putt come Sunday.
Here are the main talking points going into the 87th edition of the Masters…
Can McIlroy finally land the Grand Slam?
Based on his current form and past performances at Augusta, this is another golden opportunity for Rory McIlroy to finally land the title which has so far eluded him.
The Northern Irishman blew a four-shot lead going into the final day of the 2011 Masters and has since finished in the top 10 on seven occasions.
In recent years, slow starts have stalled the 33-year-old’s attempts to complete a full sweep of the four majors in the men’s game.
Two months after missing out at the Masters, McIlroy lifted his first major at the 2011 US Open and went on to win the 2012 US PGA Championship before claiming back-to-back titles at the Open Championship and the PGA in 2014.
This week will be his 15th attempt at earning a Green Jacket and his ninth opportunity to become only the sixth man to complete the Grand Slam.
“I’ve got all the ingredients to make the pie,” McIlroy said. “It’s just putting all those ingredients in and setting the oven to the right temperature and letting it all sort of come to fruition.”
McIlroy bounced back from missing the cut in 2021 to come second behind Scottie Scheffler last year but, like on several previous occasions, an exhilarating final round of 64 came too little too late.
This week, arriving ranked second in the world and with four wins on the PGA Tour in the past 10 months, McIlroy has cut a relaxed yet focused figure.
At the recent WGC Match Play he drove the ball imperiously and has been putting well in his practice rounds this week at Augusta – key ingredients to be successful in the Masters.
“I’m feeling as relaxed as I ever have coming in here just in terms of I feel like my game is in a pretty good place,” said McIlroy.
“I know the place just as about as well as anyone.”
Can anyone stop Scheffler?
If you’re not tipping McIlroy for glory this week then you are probably backing defending champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler.
The 26-year-old American maintained his hot form last year to expertly win his first major and again starts as the most in-form player on the planet.
He already has two wins this season – including the prestigious Players Championship – and has the experience of knowing how to win at Augusta after last year’s dominant triumph.
Another victory would see him become only the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters, following Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Woods (2001-2002).
“Any time you can get mentioned in the same breath as a Tiger and a Jack and a Nick Faldo is really special,” said Scheffler.
“But it’s not a motivating factor for me to come out here and play. I’m just trying to play good golf and have fun.”
Who else could potentially challenge?
Like McIlroy and Scheffler, Spain’s world number three Jon Rahm has the form and the pedigree to win at Augusta.
Rahm, 28, has chalked up three wins on the PGA Tour this year, and has recorded four top-10 finishes in six previous Masters starts while never finishing lower than joint 27th.
American world number five Max Homa has rocketed up the rankings after an incredible year and hopes to make his breakthrough at a major, while there are several other strong hopes to keep the home fans excited.
Jordan Spieth, who won in 2015 before crumbling when leading in 2016, has chalked up two top-five finishes recently, while Ryder Cup team-mates Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and Collin Morikawa have also been challenging on recent leaderboards.
Australian former world number one Jason Day – a perennial challenger for the biggest prizes in the 2010s – has also rediscovered his form on the PGA Tour and some have tipped him to become the Masters’ next comeback story.
What shape is Tiger in?
American great Woods is set to play in only his second tournament of the season, his playing time dictated by his own limitations following a high-speed car accident in February 2021.
The chances of 47-year-old Woods challenging for a sixth victory, which would equal Nicklaus’s record, are remote but he has still been impossible to ignore with huge galleries following his practice rounds.
And while the former long-time world number one admitted “I don’t know how many more I have in me”, he added “whether I am a threat or not who knows – people probably didn’t think I was a threat in 2019 either, but that turned out OK”.
Woods, who won his 15th major at Augusta in an emotional triumph four years ago, finished one under par on his first appearance in seven months at the Genesis Invitational last month.
Afterwards he conceded his remarkable comeback from the accident near Los Angeles, which led to fears his leg would have to be amputated, has been harder than he has “let on” publicly.
“I’m very lucky to have this leg; it’s mine,” Woods said. “The ability and endurance of what my leg will do going forward will never be the same. I understand that.
“That’s why I can’t prepare and play as many tournaments as I like, but that’s my future, and that’s OK.”
Eyes on the PGA v LIV rivalry
Another intriguing element is the prospect of a battle for the Green Jacket between players from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.
Those who have joined the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit are banned from PGA Tour events but eligible to play in majors.
Six Masters champions are among the 18 LIV players who will tee up at Augusta. with major champions Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau also fronting their star power.
Three-time winner Phil Mickelson, 53, is another big-name and he returns after missing last year’s Masters for the first time in 28 years as part of a self-imposed hiatus.
With the warring factions continuing their power struggle, it provides added spice to what is already one of the most tantalising weeks in the golfing calendar – even though LIV’s two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson reckons the rivalry is simply a “media construct” and 2020 winner Dustin Johnson said “all my buddies are still my buddies”.
LIV commissioner Greg Norman, who was a three-time Masters runner-up, says one of the players winning would spark a group celebration on the 18th green – a provocative move likely to upset many unhappy with LIV’s approach.
“At the majors, top players in the world are going and playing against each other. It doesn’t matter what Tour they’re on,” said 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed.
“For us, at least for myself, it’s going to be business as usual.”
Are any other UK players likely to contend?
McIlroy leads a pack of eight golfers from Great Britain and Northern Ireland aiming to land a rare Augusta win for the home nations.
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick is a reigning major champion after triumphing at last year’s US Open, but has joked he is only targeting “making the cut” after a season hampered by a neck injury.
Four other Englishman – Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Rose and 2016 champion Danny Willett – are also among the field.
Scottish veteran Sandy Lyle, who famously won the 1988 title and sparked a wave of British success at Augusta, has announced his impending retirement and will fittingly end his career at the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.
At the other end of the experience scale, Northern Irish amateur Matthew McClean – a 29-year old optometrist – makes his debut after securing an invite by winning the US Mid-Amateur in September.
Will reshaped 13th hole prove pivotal?
Many things go unchanged at Augusta but this year there has been a significant modification to the course in the lengthening of the previously-gettable par-five 13th.
Historically, the hole known as ‘Azalea’ has played as the easiest at the Masters with a mountain of eagles and birdies setting up challenges for the Green Jacket.
As the players hit longer, they have been able to drive over the dogleg on the 510-yarder, then knock a short iron over a tributary to Rae’s Creek and onto the green with their second shot.
So Masters organisers have moved the tee box back 35 yards and present them with a different challenge.
“If you don’t quite hug the left side you’re going to have such a long iron in that a lot of people will choose to lay up,” said Rahm, who has played Azalea 24 times in competition and is a cumulative 14 under.
“But there’s still going to be a risk, more so risk/reward aspect to it, because if you hit the green and give yourself an eagle chance, it’s going to matter a lot more maybe than it did in the past.”
Could wet weather lead to a rare Monday finish?
As well as the Augusta traditions which we look forward to every year, there is also one other which we don’t – the annual fretting that rain could ruin the parade.
Despite the concerns, there have only ever been five Monday finishes in the Masters’ 89-year history because of wet weather.
However, there is a real fear this could be the first since 1983.
Rain is forecast on all four days as a warm start gives way to chillier weather, with the downpours predicted to get worse over the weekend.
How can you follow the Masters on the BBC?
The 87th Masters takes place from 6-9 April and you can follow the action on the BBC’s radio and digital platforms.
You can listen to live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra and BBC Sounds from 20:00 BST on Thursday and from 21:00 on Friday. Saturday’s coverage starts at 21:00 and the final round is live on Sunday from 20:00.
There will also be live text commentary, in-play clips, reaction and analysis on the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 12:30 on Thursday and Friday, and from 16:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
- 1 Can McIlroy finally land the Grand Slam?
- 2 Can anyone stop Scheffler?
- 3 Who else could potentially challenge?
- 4 What shape is Tiger in?
- 5 Eyes on the PGA v LIV rivalry
- 6 Are any other UK players likely to contend?
- 7 Will reshaped 13th hole prove pivotal?
- 8 Could wet weather lead to a rare Monday finish?
- 9 How can you follow the Masters on the BBC?