The Masters is back just five months after its previous iteration, this time with limited fans.
By the numbers: The field comprises 88 golfers, including six first-timers and 18 past winners.
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Here are the five favorites, via DraftKings (pictured above):
Johnson set a Masters record (-20) last year. With a win this weekend, he’d become just the fourth repeat champion (Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods).
Spieth is coming off his first win in nearly four years and has one of the best Masters track records of anyone in the field. Gotta love him.
Rory McIlroy hasn’t won a major since 2014, but a Masters win would make him the sixth golfer with a career Grand Slam (Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen).
Brooks Koepka is less than a month removed from surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap. Most believed that would require at least a six-month recovery, but he tees off this afternoon.
November’s fall foliage and cool, damp weather gave Augusta a brand-new feel. But now that spring has bloomed, the course is back to looking like itself.
Why it matters: Hidden in that beauty is a daunting reality for golfers: After a uniquely dry month, Augusta is expected to play tougher than it has in over a decade.
Johnson’s record 20-under par in November was aided by slow greens, a byproduct of October seeing more than double its average rainfall.
But last month, nearby Atlanta saw 30% less rain than average, meaning the whole course should be lightning fast.
The state of play: All that rain in the fall neutralized Augusta’s best defense: its firm, undulating greens. But now they’re back — and perhaps deadlier than ever.
“You can’t hit that shot in April,” Paul Casey said of an approach he hit in November right at the flag stick. “That shot in April would have one-hopped over into the patrons.”
“This week’s going to be a huge premium on accuracy, on landing your golf ball on your numbers and being precise with your iron play,” said McIlroy.
“If it stays dry, it’ll be as difficult as the course has played in a long, long time, and that’s what I think we need to have,” added 61-year-old Fred Couples.
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