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Wednesday August 10th, 2022 8:12PM

MASTERS '22: Brief look at 10 (or 11) contenders at Augusta

By The Associated Press
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — A capsule look at 10 (or 11) leading contenders for the 86th Masters, to be played April 7-10 at Augusta National. Listed in predicted order of finish:

JUSTIN THOMAS

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide victories: 14.

Majors: PGA Championship (2017).

Best finish at the Masters: 4th.

Masters moment: Being part of a five-way tie for the lead after 36 holes in November 2020.

Notable: He has only five top-10 finishes in 24 majors as a pro.

Backspin: While he has gone more than a year without winning, Thomas has finished in the top 10 in six of his last nine starts and has put a strong emphasis on his driving. His only good week at the Masters was in the soft conditions of November 2020.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 37.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 8.

Worldwide victories: 25.

Majors: Masters (2020), U.S. Open (2016).

Best finish at the Masters: Won.

Masters moment: Being so emotional about winning in 2020 that he couldn’t speak.

Notable: He has not won on the PGA Tour since the Masters in 2020. His last victory was the Saudi International 14 months ago.

Backspin: Johnson has looked sharper lately, and he has said in recent weeks he is “trending.” Even when he briefly fell out of the top 10, he remains one of game’s dominant players.

JON RAHM

Age: 27.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide victories: 13.

Majors: U.S. Open (2021).

Best finish at the Masters: 4th in 2018.

Masters moment: Opening with a 75 in 2018 and still giving himself a chance to win on Sunday until hitting into the water on the 15th hole.

Notable: South Africa and Spain currently are tied for having the most players win the Masters.

Backspin: He has been better than ever from tee-to-green this year without converting as many putts. Rahm has finished in the top 10 the last four years at the Masters, and he was the only player last year to finish in the top 10 at all four majors.

SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER

Age: 25.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide victories: 3.

Majors: None.

Best finish at the Masters: Tie for 18th.

Masters moment: Moving into the top 50 as a PGA Tour rookie to qualify for his first Masters in 2020.

Notable: He is the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to have won three times in the year going into the Masters.

Backspin: Six weeks ago he was looking for his first PGA Tour victory. Now he’s a three-time winner and No. 1 in the world. But look beyond the last six weeks. Scheffler has finished in the top 20 in all six majors he has played since getting his PGA Tour card.

JORDAN SPIETH

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 17.

Worldwide victories: 15.

Majors: Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015), British Open (2017).

Best finish at the Masters: Won.

Masters moment: Going wire to wire in 2015 for a four-shot victory over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

Notable: He already has five top-three finishes at the Masters in eight appearances.

Backspin: He ended his long winless streak last year going into the Masters, but he hasn’t won since the Texas Open and has only contended one time this year at Pebble Beach. Still, his track record at Augusta National suggests he can find his way into the mix, especially when he cuts down on the foul balls off the tee.

XANDER SCHAUFFELE

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 10.

Worldwide victories: 5.

Majors: None.

Best finish at the Masters: Runner-up in 2019.

Masters moment: Hitting 8-iron into the water at the 16th after cutting Hideki Matsuyama’s lead to two shots in the final round of 2021.

Notable: His Olympic gold medal last summer in Tokyo is his only victory in the last three years.

Backspin: He was among those who finished second behind Tiger Woods in 2019, and he was closing in on Hideki Matsuyama last year until his triple bogey on the 16th hole. Among the young players without a major, he contends in them more than the rest.

RORY MCILROY

Age: 32.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 9.

Worldwide victories: 28.

Majors: U.S. Open (2011), PGA Championship (2012, 2014), British Open (2014).

Best finish at the Masters: 4th in 2015.

Masters moment: Having a four-shot lead in 2011 and closing with an 80.

Notable: Since winning the British Open in 2014, this will be his eighth attempt to win the Masters for the career Grand Slam.

Backspin: The attention on the career Grand Slam is not as great as it has been in previous years, but it’s still there. McIlroy has shown he’s capable at Augusta National. But the scar tissue of losing the big lead in 2011 and getting beat in the final group against Patrick Reed in 2018 only adds to the burden.

PATRICK CANTLAY

Age: 30.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide victories: 5.

Majors: None.

Best finish at the Masters: Tie for ninth in 2019.

Masters moment: Making eagle on the 15th hole in 2019 to take the lead, only to bogey the next two holes and tie for ninth.

Notable: He has only two top 10s in the 14 majors he has played as a pro.

Backspin: Cantlay showed his potential late last year when he won three times and captured the FedEx Cup. But while he has no real weakness in his game, he hasn’t been on the best run going into Augusta, finishing out of the top 20 in his last three starts.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA

Age: 30.

Country: Japan.

World ranking: 12.

Worldwide victories: 17.

Majors: Masters (2021).

Best finish at the Masters: Won.

Masters moment: Thrusting his arms in the air when he put on the green jacket.

Notable: Matsuyama is the eighth player to have been low amateur and champion at the Masters.

Backspin: Not one to seek a lot of attention, Matsuyama hosts the Masters Club dinner on Tuesday night and will be under more pressure than usual as defending champion. He hurt his neck and shoulder at Bay Hill and did not play for three weeks until the Texas Open ahead of the Masters.

COLLIN MORIKAWA

Age: 25.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide victories: 6.

Majors: PGA Championship (2020), British Open (2021).

Best finish at the Masters: Tie for 18th.

Masters moment: Has played the 11th hole in 7-over par in his eight rounds at Augusta National.

Notable: He won three times on the PGA Tour before playing in his first Masters.

Backspin: Morikawa won the PGA Championship in his second try and the British Open in his first. This is his third Masters. He says he tried to change his game to fit Augusta National when he should have relied on a game that already has produced six victories worldwide.

x-TIGER WOODS

Age: 46.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 944.

Worldwide victories: 93.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best finish at the Masters: Won

Masters moment: Winning by a record 12 shots in his professional debut in 1997, completing his sweep of the majors in 2001, winning after going through four back surgeries in 2019.

Notable: He could tie Jack Nicklaus with a sixth green jacket and replace Nicklaus as the oldest Masters champion.

Backspin: Woods hasn't played since the November 2020 Masters because of a car crash in the coastal Los Angeles suburbs in February 2021 that badly damaged his right leg. His only competition since then was playing a scramble format with his 12-year-old son in the PNC Championship in December and using a cart.

___

x-Has not announced if he will play.

___

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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