AUGUSTA, Ga. — Five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods says it will be a “game-time decision” whether he plays in the 86th Masters, which is scheduled to begin Thursday.
Woods, 46, hasn’t played a round in a regular PGA Tour event in more than 500 days. He has been recovering from serious injuries to his right leg and right foot that he suffered in a car wreck outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2021. Woods was at Augusta National on Sunday to continue his practice and preparation.
With Woods potentially back in the field, who is going to win the Masters might not be the biggest question heading into the tournament. It’s whether Woods, a 15-time major champion, plays and, if he does, whether he can contend for a sixth green jacket.
Here’s a look at the 91 players who will attempt to win golf’s most revered championship this week:
Tier I: The guys who can win
Here are the legitimate contenders. They have the games, guts and nerves to handle four pressure-packed rounds on one of the most treacherous golf courses in the world.
There’s not a hotter golfer on the planet than Scheffler, who has won three times in his past five starts. The last time a player ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and made his next start at a major, Ian Woosnam won a green jacket in 1991. One concern for Scheffler: He ranks 134th in driving accuracy (57.2%).
Thomas has five straight top-25 finishes at Augusta National, including a tie for 21st in 2021, when he fired a 5-under 67 in the second round to pull within 3 strokes of the lead. He was a combined 4 over in the final 36 holes. He has five top-10s in nine starts on tour this season.
The 27-year-old Spaniard is no longer No. 1 and hasn’t won since the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. He has finished in the top 10 in each of his past four starts at Augusta National, including a tie for fifth in 2021. His short game hasn’t been great; he ranks 170th in shots gained: around the green (-.257) and shots gained: putting (-.115).
Hovland, 24, drives the ball exceptionally well and has become one of the best iron players in the world. But he ranks 209th in shots gained: around the green and his chipping, though improving, leaves much to be desired. Hovland was low amateur at the 2019 Masters, tying for 32nd.
If Augusta National is truly a second-shot course, then you have to like Morikawa’s chances. In 2020-21, he led the tour in shots gained: approach (1.17), and he’s seventh in greens in regulation (72.2%) this season. He won the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 Open Championship in his first starts in those events, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him win a green jacket in his third Masters start.
The Australian has already won twice this year, at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Players, where he collected $3.6 million in prize money. He tied for runner-up at the 2020 Masters, when he became the only player in the tournament’s history to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds.
The reigning FedEx Cup champion cooled off a bit over his past three starts. He ranks second on tour in birdie average (5.2) and ninth in scoring average (69.95), but just 89th in driving accuracy (60.8%) and 62nd in greens in regulation (68.4%). He missed the cut at the 2021 Masters.
Last year, Matsuyama became the first man from Japan to win a major championship and the first player of Asian descent to win the Masters. He won twice on tour this season, at the Zozo Championship in October and Sony Open in Hawaii in January. He withdrew from The Players because of a back injury and then the Valero Texas Open with a neck issue. He is attempting to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win back-to-back Masters tournaments.
For the eighth time, McIlroy will attempt to complete the career grand slam by winning a green jacket. He had five top-10 finishes in his past seven tries, but missed the cut in 2021. He would become only the sixth player to complete the career grand slam in the Masters era, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Woods.
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