Some of the biggest names in the world of golf are hitting their stride as the first round of The Masters approaches. Meanwhile some other fancies are searching for their games. Here is what a few of the favourites of their chances and game before the 83rd Masters gets underway.
Tiger Woods: “I just think if you get off to a quick start here, a solid start, it gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”
Jordan Spieth: “My expectations are high this week. I feel great about the state of my game right now. I feel like my recent results aren't a tell of where my game is actually at, and I feel I've made a lot of strides in the last couple days in the tee‑to‑green game, really just off the tee, my long game, which has been the only separation from being able to win golf tournaments over the last month or so.”
Rory McIlroy: “I'm very comfortable with this golf course. I think one of the great things about this course is it forces you to be creative and I like that side of the game. I like to see shots. I like to visualise. The massive tall pines, the contrast between the green grass and the white bunkers, the yellow flagsticks, there's so many, you know, so many things to look at and be aware of and it paints a picture for you.
“I think that's one of the great things about Augusta National is it almost— you can't help but be creative and see things, and that's one of the really fun things about this, this place.”
Brooks Koepka: “I feel good. Obviously I haven't played as well as I would have liked in the beginning part of the year, but over the last couple weeks, I've seen some solid results, and I like where my game is trending. It's nice to be back here. It's always a special place to be playing, and last year, disappointing, not being able to be here, but you know, looking forward to a good week.”
Patrick Reed: “Knowing that I have to get the jacket back at the end of the week, it makes me more hungry and more motivated to keep the jacket and continue playing well and trying to win another one, because it's nothing like being able to kind of walk around, and I position the jacket everywhere I go, so every time I wake up, I see it, and every time I come home and go to bed, I see it. I use it more as motivation.”
Dustin Johnson: “This week is no different than any week for me, but I'm going to have to do everything well if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday. I feel like the game is in very good form right now. You know, for me, it's all going to be up to my putting. If I can putt well this week, these greens – I like these greens, they have got a lot of slope in them. It's greens that – I like to see the ball breaking; it's something I really like out here. I'm comfortable on the greens, and I think if I can roll it well, I'll be right there come Sunday.”
RIGHT: Phil Mickelson has a special history at Augusta National. PHOTO: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Francesco Molinari: “It's a second‑shot golf course. Tee shots are important, but not key, probably. Obviously you can play from the rough. I think off the tee, it's important to miss on the good side. Every hole there's a side where most of the time you have a shot to the green, even if you are out of position, and then, yeah, second shot, so that should suit my strengths and my game.”
Phil Mickelson: “This is a place that you drive up Magnolia Lane and things just change for everyone. You just have that special feeling, that special remembrance of when you were a kid and dreaming of coming here and playing, and it brings out oftentimes the best in everyone. I'm certainly hoping that's the case here.”
Justin Thomas: “I've had a hard time at this event every year because I love this golf course so much and I feel like it fits my game so well. I've always prepared so hard and well for it; that when I get here, I really feel like I should have a great chance to win and I think that gets in my own way sometimes, or at least it has the past couple years, I would say I learned – well, I guess I'll let you know on Sunday – but I learned from it just as I took a little different approach this year in terms of not wearing myself out at home. Yeah, it's Augusta and, yeah, it's the Masters and, yeah, you have to do these certain thing but it's still golf.”
Justin Rose: “Confidence is up there for sure. I feel like I've had a decent year so far. I've had enough good golf to give me confidence and I've had enough poor golf to keep me working hard, which is sometimes a good place to be, as well, because you know, if the game comes sometimes too easily and results are just happening, you can sometimes – you don't get lazy by any means, but you don't quite know where the next level for improvement is.”
Rickie Fowler: “Just have to do one better. A lot of confidence was taken from last year. I've been in similar positions before going into the weekend and either not had the Saturday or not had the Sunday I wanted. I did a good job of obviously putting together a good round on Saturday to put myself in position and fought through a maybe not perfect front nine to allow myself keep moving forward. The way I executed on the back nine Sunday last year was definitely something I pull from.”