Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Jon Rahm, Ricke Fowler and five players who could win first major at US Masters

The past four champions at Augusta National were first-time major winners - can any of these players continue the trend come Sunday evening?

Jon Rahm is a leading contender to win his first major at the US Masters this week. EPA
Jon Rahm is a leading contender to win his first major at the US Masters this week. EPA

Winning the US Masters may represent the pinnacle of any golfer's career, but many have buckled under the pressure in pursuit of the famous green jacket.

However, Augusta National has also been a happy hunting ground in recent years for first-time major winners. In fact, the past four champions won their first majors at the Masters, as well as seven of the past eight.

Could there be a fifth successive first-time major winner come Sunday? Here are five players capable of extending the trend.

Jon Rahm

Few players are better positioned to win their first major at this year's Masters. Rahm, the world No 8, arrives at Augusta National in good form having earned six top-10 finishes this year from nine stroke-play events.

The 24-year-old Spaniard has also proved his worth at Augusta, and were it not for an opening round 75 last year - which he recovered from to post 68, 65 and 69 to finish solo fourth - Rahm would likely already have a green jacket. He also finished fourth at the US PGA Championship last year, again displaying his knack for thriving at the biggest events.

One of the best ball strikers in the world, Rahm has the aggressive game to conquer Augusta's par-5s, while his touch around the greens and solid putting game should hold up on the lightning-quick greens.

Temperament has cost Rahm in the past, but if he channels those emotions effectively, he should be competing at the top of the leaderboard. Also, he is grouped with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds, so motivation and a chance to topple the game's greatest player should give Rahm plenty of focus.

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler finished runner-up at the Masters last year and will be looking to go one better. Reuters
Rickie Fowler finished runner-up at the Masters last year and will be looking to go one better. Reuters

Is it even possible to discuss potential first-time major winners and not include Fowler? The entire golf world has been rooting for the popular American to finally get over the line, none more so than 12 months ago when Fowler finished second to compatriot Patrick Reed.

World No 9 Fowler has once again set himself up for another tilt at his first major. He enters the Masters in positive form having won on the PGA Tour this season - at the Phoenix Open - as well as posting three other top-five finishes.

As well as last year's runner-up finish, Fowler, 31, placed tied-fifth in 2014 and tied-11th in 2017, demonstrating the know-how to consistently score low at Augusta.

Powerful off the tee and strong in iron play, it is Fowler's masterful short game that can guide him to glory.

Have the agonising near-misses taken their toll and created a psychological barrier, though? Fowler insists they haven't and that he is full of confidence. There will be few more popular winners should his long wait end.

Bryson Dechambeau

Bryson DeChambeau will be aiming to follow Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett by winning The Masters after winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. AP Photo
Bryson DeChambeau will be aiming to follow Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett by winning The Masters after winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. AP Photo

One of the most unique characters in professional golf, Dechambeau's scientific obsession to all aspects of his game have caught the attention, created debate, and sometimes even attracted ridicule. It has produced results, too.

A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Dechambeau enters the Masters ranked No 6 in the world. He won on his first start of the season and has claimed three more top-10 finishes. The 25-year-old American also has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, both of whom won their first major at the Masters having clinched the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title months earlier.

Dechambeau's short Masters record is nothing to shout about, with a T21 and T38 in his two appearances so far, although the same could be said of Reed prior to last year's victory.

The Masters' limitations on the devices and guidebooks players can use in practice - key to Dechambeau's preparations - could hinder a player who leaves no stone unturned when preparing for an event.

But if Dechambeau gets dialed in and gets all the science right, he could be slipping on a green jacket.

Paul Casey

Paul Casey arrives at The Masters having successfully defended his Valspar Championship title. AP Photo
Paul Casey arrives at The Masters having successfully defended his Valspar Championship title. AP Photo

Any player who has recently experienced the PGA Tour winners' circle deserves to be considered, and Casey's successful title defence at the Valspar Championship has got plenty of people talking up his Masters chances.

Before his win in Florida, Casey was showing impressive form, finishing runner-up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T3 at the WGC Mexico Championship.

The 41-year-old Englishman has a good record at Augusta, claiming four top-six finishes in 12 visits, including in his debut year and on three successive trips between 2015 and 2017.

Despite an encouraging record at the Masters, Casey has never seriously contended on a Sunday, which could work against him if he finds himself in contention.

However, Casey has a good track record, experience and form heading into Augusta - a potentially winning formula.

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele is a two-time winner of the PGA Tour this season and enters The Masters as the world No 10. EPA
Xander Schauffele is a two-time winner of the PGA Tour this season and enters The Masters as the world No 10. EPA

A player for the big events, Schauffele has rocketed up to No 10 in the world rankings thanks in no small part to wins at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Tournament of Champions - two tournaments boasting elite fields.

The 25-year-old American also won the Tour Championship in 2017, finished T5 at the US Open the same year and T2 at the British Open in 2018, so here is a man who thrives on the big stages.

Schauffele's lack of experience at the Masters - his debut appearance last year ended with a T50 - could be a cause for concern, but a lot has changed in the past 12 months for the American, who boasts the fifth-best scoring average on the PGA Tour.

If Schauffele once again rises to the occasion, as he has done so often at the most illustrious events, he has a great chance to lifting the trophy.

Updated: April 11, 2019 08:54 AM

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