Three Masters destinies to track

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

Three months ago, the Japanese was the hottest player in the world, with three victories and three second placings in six starts globally.

But recently the soft-spoken 25-year-old has struggled with his short game, a key component of success at Augusta.

However, since the World Golf Championships (WGC) Matchplay in Austin two weeks ago, the world No. 4 has seen improvement, so much so that he has returned focus to his long game.

Another reason for optimism is his familiarity with the course, where he finished in the top-seven the past two years.


JON RAHM

It is part of Masters lore that no first-year player has won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. But Rahm, ranked 12th in the world, may be capable of ending the Augusta rookie drought.

The 22-year-old Spaniard won the Farmers Insurance Open this year and lost to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson on the 18th green in the final of the WGC Matchplay.

His combination of length and deft touch around the greens makes him a legitimate contender.


JORDAN SPIETH

In the American's three starts at Augusta, he has finished tied for second, first and tied for second. The 2015 champion will have to face his demons at the par-three 12th hole, where he made seven last year and wound up wasting a five-stroke lead on the closing nine.

But Spieth is playing better than he was a year ago. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and his smooth putting stroke has benefited from an improved long game.

He is tops this season in the strokes gained: approach-the- green statistic, up from 87th a year ago.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2017, with the headline 'Three Masters destinies to track'. Print Edition | Subscribe