This Masters Would Be a Good Time for Golf's Stars to Shine

Outside Scottie Scheffler, the game's biggest names have been largely quiet in 2024 and Bob Harig says there's no better place than Augusta National for that to change.
The Masters - Previews
The Masters - Previews / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — The year’s first major championship could not get here soon enough. There is always heightened anticipation for the Masters, especially now that the previous major—the British Open—occurred way back in July. The game’s four biggest tournaments have that understandable pull.

But this year it seems especially important to see Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, the dogwoods, azaleas and all the other things we’ve come to associate with Augusta National.

 The game continues to go through some things, and the Masters rarely disappoints.

Getting all of the top players back in the same place competing for the same trophy and without any regard to how big the first-place check will be but one aspect of the desire to see the calendar turn to this week.

The division in the game still exists, with no end in sight as the PGA Tour and DP World Tour remain apart from LIV Golf and its unending resource in the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

That issue will hardly be put in the background this week—it’s almost assuredly going to come up with various players and Masters chairman Fred Ridley in the lead-up to the first round. But once balls are in the air on Thursday, there’s a good bet that the focus will return to the game itself, and all the good vibes that brings.

It would help if the stars would shine.

Other than recently when Scottie Scheffler, who is No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, stepped up to win in consecutive weeks, the PGA Tour has been bereft of its most recognizable and popular players being atop leaderboards.

2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler
2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who helped present awards at Sunday's Drive, Chip and Putt, has been one of golf's few stars to excel so far in 2024. / Katie Goodale-USA TODAY Sports

Such is the nature of the game that fields run deep and other less prominent players emerge. Golf needs stories, too—Grayson Murray and Nick Dunlap, who won as an amateur—are excellent examples of that. Both are in the Masters field this week.

But too often, the biggest names have been but an afterthought when the final-day proceedings get under way.

Consider that since Rory McIlroy won back in January in Dubai on the DP World Tour, he had not finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour until a solo third Sunday at the Valero Texas Open. Still, he was not a Sunday contender. The second-ranked player in the world would give golf no bigger boost than to contend for a career Grand Slam at the Masters.

Defending champion Jon Rahm has not won since his Masters victory a year ago. Now with LIV Golf, he contended the first week in Mexico and was seventh Sunday in Miami.

Fourth-ranked Wyndham Clark won at Pebble Beach and contended at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship. He’s now won three times including his U.S. Open victory and makes his Masters debut this week. He’s a good story that gets even better if he wins another major, especially in his first try at Augusta National.

Xander Schauffele remains one of the most consistent players in the world—he’s made a Tour-leading 42 straight cuts—but the fifth-ranked player in the OWGR has not won since July 2022. He’s been working on a swing change and had a close call at the Players.

No. 6 Viktor Hovland won three times last year, captured the BMW and the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup, then had a great Ryder Cup for Europe—and has been quiet in 2024. His best finish is a tie for 19th at the Genesis Invitational.

Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Ludvig Aberg, Max Homa ... these are top top 10 players who have not won this year nor contended often.

You can see where this is going.

The only player among the top 20 right now other than Scheffler and Clark to win on the PGA Tour in 2024 is Hideki Matsuyama at Riviera (you have to love the 2021 Masters winner this week at Augusta National) and he was ranked 54th in the world at the time. He is now 14th.

The next highest-ranked player to win? Stephan Jaeger, who won last week in Houston and is now 43rd.

Golf is cyclical in this way. And the abundance of strong players makes it difficult for anyone to dominate, let alone have all of the stars prosper all of the time.

But the game could use a dose of drama and intrigue inside the ropes, with a slew of big names in the mix. Jordan Spieth? Rickie Fowler? Adam Scott? Brooks Koepka? Cam Smith?

What about Tiger and Phil?

There’s no better time than now.


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.