jon-rahm-masters-2019-getty.jpg
Getty Images

It's Masters week, which means everybody needs a horse to back at Augusta National Golf Club for the first major championship of 2021. For many, the choices are easy. Maybe you're a diehard and have been following since shots were in the air at the Safeway Open last fall. You're on Daniel Berger because of how he played at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am or Abraham Ancer because you have him in your one-and-done league (not sure why you would have Ancer in a one-and-done league this week, but to each their own).

For many others, however, this is the start to the golf year. A lot has changed since golf last operated on its normal schedule, and some of this may be unfamiliar.  Two years ago, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff were still amateurs and Tiger Woods was among the favorites for this tournament (which he won). Tiger won't be there this time around, but the other three could all win it. Some even made this list, which includes several stars who have unique angles to their stories in this specific week.

Here's a look at nine golfers that are worth cheering for when the golf gets underway early on Thursday at the 85th edition of the Masters. Odds via William Hill Sportsbook.

1
Spieth will be the No. 1 storyline this week for so many reasons following his win at the Texas Open on Sunday. A traipse through the valley for three years (he'd failed to win since the 2017 Open Championship) followed by the high of sitting in Butler Cabin again on Sunday evening would be almost too much to take in (for him and us). He was easy to root for before, but now he's even more human, even more relatable. He shows you everything going on inside of him every time out, which is both intoxicating and tiring. It's hard not to pull for somebody who constantly showed you his heart even when it was barely beating. Odds: 12-1
2
I wrote after he won in 2020 that he has become maybe the most endearing superstar in the game today. Only three golfers -- Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus -- have ever won back-to-back Masters. D.J. would be a worthy fourth, and it would be sweet for him to get green jacket No. 2 on a course that is more full of fans this time around. In some ways, he actually deserves that moment again because of how good he was on an empty course five months ago. Odds: 9-1
3
The always affable Norwegian is the easiest player in the field to like. He'll shoot 77 with a smile on his face and cackle when he chunks a chip. If your boyfriend or grandma is looking to roll with somebody who perpetually looks like he cannot believe he gets to play a game for millions of dollars every week, Hovland is the guy. Odds: 33-1
4
This is an easy one this year because the narrative around the often-irritable Rahm entering the Masters was whether he would actually leave the grounds to attend the birth of his first child. Good news! Baby Rahm was born happy and healthy a couple days early, and Rahm is expected to make it to Augusta National. Swaddling baby Rahm in a green jacket would be nifty. Odds: 12-1
5
headshot-image
Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is not a tragic figure by any means, but when he's approaching 18 months since winning on the PGA Tour -- and, oh yeah, once again vying for the grand slam -- I think it can become even easier to pull for him to somehow seal the deal that now seems to be so elusive at a track where nobody has ever finished the slam. Odds: 14-1
6
Hovland but American (and better). Morikawa's electric smile is only outpaced by his even more electric swing. He's played his way into the role of best American golfer under 25 and already has a major under his belt. He seems like he genuinely enjoys the game in the way maybe only a 24-year-old raking in seven-figure checks on the regular possibly can. Like he cannot believe it is his good fortune to be born with this swing at this moment in time and like he never wants any of it to end. Odds: 30-1
7
Maybe the kindest player on the PGA Tour has become one of its biggest on-course assassins. That's a fun combination to cheer on, especially since it always seemed so improbable that mild-mannered Webb Simpson would ever grow into this specific role. Odds: 35-1
8
headshot-image
Tony Finau
Finau is cursed by begin good enough to matter every week but never good enough to win. It's a purgatorial state that may only be exorcised by winning a major championship decisively on a Sunday. He'd be an easy dude to root for in contention late. Odds: 33-1
9
Westwood is nearly two years older than Nicklaus when Jack won the Masters in 1986 and would be one of the oldest major championship winners of all-time. There's a pretty decent case to be made that the 48-year-old Englishman is the most accomplished player in the history of the sport without a major. His resurgence in the first quarter of the golf year rekindled in us a specific love for watching somebody who's seen it all see that, indeed, he still holds a bit of magic he might not have known was still in there. Odds: 30-1

Who will win the Masters, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine to see the latest projected leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed six golf majors and is up almost $10,000 since the restart.