Scheffler readies for Masters repeat bid

American world number can become fourth golfer ever to achieve the feat

AFP April 06, 2023


Scottie Scheffler will launch his bid to become just the fourth golfer to win back-to-back Masters on Thursday when the 87th edition of the tournament gets under way at Augusta National.

The American world number one is the bookmaker's favorite to slip into the famous green jacket when the four rounds are complete on Sunday evening.

The build-up has been dominated by the presence, for the first time at the Masters, of players from the breakaway, Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour and that focus is unlikely to fade.

Players who took lucrative multi-million dollar deals to sign with LIV are expected to learn on Thursday the outcome of a London arbitration panel ruling on whether the DP World Tour was within its right to fine and suspend European players for taking part in LIV events, as the US PGA Tour has done.

The rancor, however, has been put aside on the practice range and players from both camps have avoided some of the barbed comments that have accompanied the disputes.

But with so much attention on the divisions, the sport is in desperate need of a feel-good story or a moment of golfing drama or brilliance on Sunday.

It is unlikely to come from five-time Masters winner Tiger Woods, who continues to battle with the aches and pains of his multiple injuries.

Woods has speculated this may be one of his final appearances at Augusta National but will be hoping to produce at least some nostalgic glimmers of his former greatness.

Scheffler may not have the charisma and star quality of Woods, but his consistency over the past 14 months, which has seen him win six PGA Tour titles, makes him the man to beat.

The 26-year-old won the Players Championship in March and he warmed-up for the Masters with a hole-in-one during the traditional par-three contest on Wednesday.

Only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods have achieved successive victories in the Masters and Scheffler is trying not to think too much about a rare repeat.

"Everybody starts even par. Just because you're defending doesn't mean you get to start at 1-under," he said. "I'll be approaching it just like I do a lot of other tournaments."

Last year's runner-up, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, is hoping to finally complete his career Grand Slam with a long-awaited Masters triumph.

"I don't need to do anything differently this week. I go out and play the way that I know that I can, get myself in with a chance to win," said the world number two.

"Then those last couple hours on Sunday... it's about who can hold it together the best."

McIlroy has been a leading supporter of the PGA Tour, for whom a nightmare scenario would be the sight of a LIV rebel celebrating in the green jacket --  not an entirely fanciful notion.

Australian Cameron Smith, the reigning British Open champion, tied for third at Augusta last year, while fellow LIV Golf player Brooks Koepka has won four majors and Dustin Johnson, who won LIV's first season, triumphed in Augusta three years ago.

The PGA Tour has a deeper list of contenders with world number three Jon Rahm of Spain, 2015 winner Jordan Spieth and two-time major winner Justin Thomas among those in with a chance.

Augusta is a tough course, with intimidating, usually fast greens, but rain is in the forecast for the next four days.

The course tends to reward the brave, said 1987 winner Larry Mize, playing in his final Masters.

"You've got to respect this golf course," he said. "But you can't play in fear out there or it's going to be a long week."


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