AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The first round of the 2021 Masters is set to begin any moment, and it simply seems as if there are only a handful of golfers who can actually win the tournament. It becomes abundantly clear that only great players from tee to green with a lot of experience who are coming in on good form have any chance of wearing green on Sunday. And it sounds great ... until about the middle of the first round when everyone in that category is 3 over.
Entering the 2021 Masters, I'm convinced only about four golfers are playing well enough to win it. This is obviously not true, but it certainly feels true at the moment with just hours to go before the ever-important top 10 is sorted out. And it feels more accurate than normal this year with an extraordinarily fast and firm Augusta National course set up to the test and simultaneously benefit the best in the world. The way the course looks and feels right now seemingly eliminates the vast majority of the field.
Despite that, the time ahead of the Masters is spent discussing which golfers actually have a chance of winning the Masters. These calls may not have much staying power if there's a surprise atop the leaderboard after the first 18 holes, but in all likelihood, the winner of the 2021 Masters will certainly be one of the following nine players.
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|This week feels so Spieth-y, it's terrifying. From his recent form of being the second-best iron player in the world over the last two months to his history at this event (he's always contended when he's been playing well) to a setup that demands an elite short game and darts from distance, it honestly feels like he could win by five. That it appears so obvious should probably be a bit of a concern, but he's the pick regardless. Odds: 10-1 |
|I would be a fool to leave somebody with five straight top 10s and the scoring record here off this list. Going back-to-back at any major is extraordinarily difficult, but nobody compartmentalizes singular events better than D.J. I worry a little about him putting mega-fast greens because his putter has been pretty poor so far this year, but if his speeds are good this week, he could be putting the green jacket on himself. Odds: 9-1 |
|The same reasoning that applies to Morikawa applies to Thomas as well, and you can toss in the fact that he has far more successful experience here than Morikawa does. The putting is certainly a concern here , but he's one of the few who can completely mitigate it by hitting it so close as to make it nearly irrelevant (like he did at TPC Sawgrass in March). Odds: 10-1 |
|It feels like we're entering "it's about time for Patrick Cantlay to win a major" territory. He's built up some good history at this course and has become a long-term mainstay in the top 20 in the world. Also, he's a great iron player (top 15 in the field over the last two months) who has no real holes in his game. Cantlay and Thomas (along with Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm) are the guys who have now had enough time to unlock the secrets here. Odds: 20-1 |
|Despite the baby news last week, Rahm is coming in under the radar compared to how he's been hitting it. His worst finish so far this year is a T32 with everything else in the top 13. Because he has yet to win in 2021, there's probably a little value to be had at this position. But given his form and his history at Augusta National, he will almost certainly contend at some point this weekend. Odds: 12-1 |
|The Big Boy has been smashing all week. I was more excited about his chances in November, and I worry that he won't be able to engender enough finesse around and on the greens to compete here. However, if he's locked in with the big stick, it truly does play like a par 67 or 68 for him. That's a real thing. He contended as an amateur in 2016 and briefly co-led in 2019 before Tiger Woods went on to win. In Tiger's absence this year, DeChambeau has become a bit of the epicenter of this tournament. If he wins another one, he'll become an even heavier epicenter for the entire sport. Odds: 11-1 |
|I've probably been a little too enamored with how well he's hitting the ball, but he's been a half stroke better per round than the next-best iron player in this field (Jordan Spieth) over the last two months. On a week in which iron play will be paramount (maybe even more so than usual), he's such an enticing choice. Odds: 30-1 |
|Yes, I'll say it. His results have fallen off a little bit, but he had a sweet run of four straight top-six finishes earlier in the year and remains an elite iron player. The most fascinating thing about him is his success here as the low amateur in 2019 and the fact that his game has only improved (a lot) since then. He's a far better chipper and putter now, and his last major (T13 at the 2020 U.S. Open) was his best finish as a pro. Odds: 33-1 |
|There are many concerns, but much worse golfers with far greater issues have won this tournament before. That's not exactly a great reason to include him, but him being the golfer with the most top 10s in the last decade is a great reason. It's all about the first 18 for him (and always has been). Odds: 14-1 |
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.