AUGUSTA – Five Players to watch at the 83rd Masters golf tournament, which begins Thursday at par-72 Augusta National:
The 29-year-old from Northern Ireland hopes to complete a career Grand Slam by winning his first Masters title. His first major win came at the 2011 US Open – just two months after a final-round collapse cost him a victory at Augusta National. World number three McIlroy went on to win the 2012 and 2014 PGA Championships and the 2014 British Open.
He will have a starring role when the British Open is played in July at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush and would love to be there wearing a green jacket, the symbol of a Masters champion. He won the Players Championship last month and has opened the year with seven top-10 finishes in a row.
The 43-year-old American has won 14 major titles, four of them at the Masters but none since the 2008 US Open. He’s back in good health after spinal fusion surgery that ended years of injury woes.
Former world number one Woods, now ranked 12th, was second at the 2018 PGA Championship, his best major showing since a runner-up effort to South Korean Yang Yong-eun at the 2009 PGA. He won his 80th career PGA Tour title, two shy of matching Sam Snead’s all-time record, at the 2018 Tour Championship and reached the last eight at the WGC Match-Play Championship last month.
The 38-year-old Englishman has been a runner-up in two of the past four Masters, losing a playoff to Spain’s Sergio Garcia in 2017 and firing the lowest second-place score in Masters history along with Phil Mickelson in 2015 behind winner Jordan Spieth.
Rose took his most recent title in January at Torrey Pines. The 2013 US Open champion also shared second at last year’s British Open. Returned to world number one on Monday, overtaking Dustin Johnson. Has been in the top 15 in seven of the past eight years at the Masters.
The US left-hander, a five-time major champion who turns 49 in June, would become the oldest major golf winner if he captures a fourth green jacket after 2004, 2006 and 2010. Julius Boros owns the eldest major winner mark after winning won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48. And Jack Nicklaus is the oldest Masters champion, winning at 46 in 1986 for the last of his all-time record 18 major titles.
Mickelson, ranked 22nd, also won the 2005 PGA Championship and 2013 British Open and is a six-time runner-up at the US Open. He’ll try to complete the career Grand Slam in June at Pebble Beach, where he won the PGA Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the fifth time in February. Mickelson was second at the Masters as recently as 2015.
The 28-year-old American has not played the Masters since becoming a major champion but the man who won two of the past three Majors looks set for a top-10 showing at Augusta National this week. Koepka did win the 2017 and 2018 US Open titles and held off Tiger Woods in an electric atmosphere to win his third major crown at the 2018 PGA Championship. But he missed last year’s Masters with a left wrist injury that kept him out from early January to late April.
Fourth-ranked Koepka has improved in each visit to the Masters, going from 33rd in his 2015 debut to 21st in 2016 and 11th in 2017. His most recent win came last October in South Korea