The 2017 Masters is here, and with the practice rounds underway amid the blooming azaleas, it’s time to take a look at the biggest storylines from Augusta National.
Of course, there’s never any shortage of intrigue at the front end of Bobby Jones’ invitational tournament. However, the bountiful spread of tasty morsels listed on the pre-tournament menu doesn’t always end up being the most delectable storyline. Consider Jordan Spieth’s collapse last year. Tiger Woods’ 1997 triumph. Jack Nicklaus’ totally unexpected 1986 victory.
But that’s part of the glory of the Masters: quality dramatic threads going in, Shakespearean drama before all is said and done. We don’t know what the 2017 Masters has in store, but here are some of the biggest and best storylines heading into the first major of year (and no, we’re not including Tiger Woods’ absence as a story).
Rory McIlroy’s Career Grand Slam
Rory McIlroy, who famously frittered away the 2011 with a back-nine meltdown, is still seeking the Career Grand Slam. The Ulsterman has tasted victory at the Tour’s other three majors, but the Masters has eluded him thus far. A third-round 77 waylaid him last year. Will he get the job done this time around?
Will Westwood or Garcia finally win a major?
Two golfers still looking to get the “best player without a major” monkey off their backs, the clock is ticking for Lee Westwood (43) and Sergio Garcia (37). Garcia has won on the European Tour this season (and seems happily engaged), and Westwood’s form has been respectable. Both players have come close at ANGC before, but will 2017 be the year the door finally opens for one of the duo?
Phil Mickelson: Oldest Masters champion?
Now 46, Phil Mickelson is hoping to become the oldest Masters winner of all time. While he’s struggled with the driver, Mickelson has posted some strong finishes. Mickelson has made 21 of 24 cuts at ANGC in his storied career with 17 top-25 finishes including three wins. While he tied for second in 2015, Mickelson missed the cut last year. Will he play more like 2015 (and potentially win), or more like 2016 (and miss the weekend)?
Can anyone stop Dustin Johnson?
The hottest golfer to enter a major championship in recent memory, Dustin Johnson is listed as high as 6-1 at many sportsbooks. He enters the Masters with his driving and wedge play as good as it has been in his 10-year professional career. Oh, and he’s won his last three times out, most recently at the WGC-Dell Match Play two weeks ago. The popular perception is this is Johnson’s tournament to lose. Will he?
Rahm…or some other youngster?
Hard to remember a more heralded first-timer entering the Masters than Jon Rahm. Also among the under-30 set: Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler. The average age of a Masters winner is 32.5. Will someone buck that trend this year?