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Wednesday 21 February 2018

10 golfers who could don the Green Jacket at Augusta on Sunday evening

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hits onto the second green during a practice round ahead of the Masters
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hits onto the second green during a practice round ahead of the Masters

The 74th US Masters has just kicked off at Augusta National in Georgia. Here are 10 of the men who could find themselves in butler's Cabin on Sunday evening.

1. Patrick Reed (USA)

Billed as the American equivalent of Ian Poulter, the brash 23 year-old does not want for confidence, having declared after his breakthrough victory last month at Doral: "I feel like I'm one of the top five players in the world."

2. Henrik Stenson (SWEDEN)

No golfer on Earth is more mercurial than the Swede, who swept all before him last season en route to play-off triumphs in the PGA Tour and Race to Dubai, only to turn ice-cold this year with just a solitary top-10 finish.

But his pure ball-striking could be a perfect match for Augusta.

3. Rory McIlroy (NORTHERN IRELAND)

In lieu of Tiger Woods, McIlroy naturally assumes the mantle of the Masters' most-hyped, most-scrutinised property.

His back-nine unravelling here in 2011 remains notorious, but his brilliant closing 65 in Houston last weekend suggested he is coming to the boil at the right time.

4. Jason Day (AUSTRALIA)

It has been a profoundly traumatic past 12 months for the Australian, who lost eight of his relatives in Typhoon Haiyan.

Few could dispute that he possesses the major mentality, with two top-10s on the grandest stage in 2013, and this could be his moment to come good at last.

5. Phil Mickelson (USA)

Three green jackets, five major titles, and a healthy dose of genius - think back to that four-iron from the pine needles to set up his win in 2010 - should make Mickelson an automatic favourite in Woods's absence.

The only doubt is over his fitness, as he is harbouring a muscle injury.

6. Adam Scott (AUSTRALIA)

The world No 1 ranking awaits for Scott should he defend his title to join Jack Nicklaus, Sir Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in an exclusive quartet to have won successive Masters.

His play-off win over Ángel Cabrera 12 months ago proved that he has the bloody-mindedness to prevail.

7. Justin Rose (ENGLAND)

While the early part of Rose's season has been derailed by a shoulder problem, his maiden major at the US Open last June underlined an ability to perform amid suffocating pressure.

The memory of Merion ought to reinforce the Englishman's confidence.

8. Sergio García (SPAIN)

The Spaniard, in one of his more disconsolate moods, told reporters in 2012 that he would never win a major. Do not believe a word of it.

Among the most gifted players of his generation, he has not finished outside the top 20 since last August.

9. Dustin Johnson (USA)

Although Johnson is yet to contend seriously at Augusta, it would be foolhardy to discount this languorous son of South Carolina, such is his prodigious distance off the tee and his vastly-improved short game.

Five straight top-10s on the PGA Tour augur well for his chances, too.

10. Bubba Watson (USA)

When Watson withdrew at Bay Hill last month due to an 'allergy', many wondered aloud if he was simply allergic to shooting 83.

The 2012 champion is at his best among the frontrunners, and his capacity for contriving shots no one else can should reap dividends at Augusta.

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