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Masters 2024: Five Players to Watch

No golfer has repeated as the champion of the Masters Tournament, which begins on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club, since Tiger Woods successfully defended his crown in 2002.

Such is the challenge facing Spain’s Jon Rahm, who closed with a 69 last year to secure his second major title. He also won the 2021 United States Open.

Rahm, who signed with LIV Golf in late 2023, will be one of the favorites.

Here are five other players to watch:

The strong favorite will be Scheffler, who is so precise from tee to green. When he is making putts, as he’s been doing lately, he seems unbeatable.

Ranked No. 1 in the world, Scheffler turned in a six-under 66 in the final round to capture the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month. One week later, he shot an eight-under 64 to rally to win his second consecutive Players Championship, which no player had done since the tournament — considered the unofficial fifth major — began in 1974.

The true test of his greatness, however, will depend on how he fares in the official majors. Scheffler, 27, who tied for second in March at the Texas Children’s Houston Open, has one major title, the Masters in 2022.

Koepka, 33, made a run at the green jacket last year before faltering with a final-round 75 to tie for second, four strokes behind Rahm.

The next month, he took the P.G.A. Championship, his fifth major. One more and he’ll match the total of Phil Mickelson, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo.

Koepka said his inability to close the deal at Augusta National last year helped pave the way for his win at the P.G.A.

“I think failure is how you learn,” he told reporters at the P.G.A. “You get better from it. You realize what mistakes you’ve made.”

It wouldn’t be a shock if three-time Masters champion Mickelson, 53, were to miss the cut. He missed the cut in last year’s U.S. and British Opens and tied for 58th in the P.G.A. Championship.

It also wouldn’t be a shock if his name popped up on the leaderboard late Sunday afternoon.

That’s what happened last year when he fired a 65 to tie for second behind Rahm. In 2021, Mickelson won the P.G.A. Championship at age 50, becoming the oldest golfer to win a major.

Could there be another week of magic in Mickelson on a course he knows so well?

For one thing, Matsuyama, 32, is a former Masters champion. In 2021, he became the first Japanese man to win a golf major, edging Will Zalatoris by a stroke.

For another, he has been playing extremely well in recent months.

In February, he recorded a 62 on Sunday to capture the Genesis Invitational by three.

In March, he tied for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Then, Matsuyama, who has nine tour victories, tied for sixth in the Players Championship. And on Sunday, he tied for seventh in the Valero Texas Open.

Put aside how he has performed recently — he hadn’t cracked the top 25 for nearly two months, until tying for 10th in the Valero Texas Open — and keep in mind that Spieth, still only 30, often comes to life when he tees it up at Augusta National.

Last year was no exception.

Spieth, now ranked No. 18, closed with a 66 to end up in a tie for fourth. In 2021, he tied for third. In 10 appearances at Augusta since his Masters debut in 2014, Spieth, the winner in 2015, has notched six top five finishes.

“From the moment I got here,” the three-time major champion told Golf Digest in 2023. “I was always very excited, and I wanted to learn it and fall in love with it.”

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