Before golf fans know it, the Masters will have arrived and some of the world’s top players will be duking it out across the August Club green for the championship. That includes Northern Ireland’s golfing superstar, Rory McIlroy, who won the 2019 Players Championship and has finished among the top five three times in the last five Augusta Nationals.
This post looks at McIlroy’s past form and his chances of putting on the coveted green jacket at the end of the 2021 Masters. Attention then turns to some of the favorites to win the tournament.
Can McIlroy really win the green jacket this year?
The obvious answer would be: of course he can. McIlroy has won 18 PGA tournaments and, at the Masters, has amassed more than $2 million, which means he’s certainly capable. In the 2020 Masters, he hit an incredible shot out of the bunker on the 12th hole. It was nothing short of magic.
Experts have noted that the Augusta course favours veterans. The Bentgrass greens are some of the fastest on the whole tour and the changes in elevation and slope throughout the course make them even harder. Newcomers can struggle, which plays into McIlroy’s favour as he has played at the course many times before.
However, despite some moments of true golfing genius on the green, and despite finishes in the top five at the Masters, some have commented that McIlroy shows a certain inconsistency. They feel he either turns up and plays on top form or, much the opposite, plays embarrassingly poor. There’s no middle ground.
Mentally, McIlroy may have work to do if he’s to slip on that green jacket. He’s choked on the green in the past. In the 2011 Masters, he went 12 points ahead, but then buckled under the pressure between the 10th and 12th holes in the final round and put himself out of contention for that title.
Also playing on his mind will be missing out on the Grand Slam in 2020. His opening round of plus-3, 75 in the rescheduled Masters, in November 2020, ended his hopes of the career grand slam that years. Will it be on his mind in April?
A look at some of the favorites for the title
Predictions have been made and Masters betting odds have been called. The other players out there on the circuit aren’t going to let McIlroy just stroll onto the green and lift the title. Below is a look at a few players who could deny him the green jacket.
After he took the title in November 2020, Dustin Johnson is the man they all have to beat. He made it look very easy, by winning by five strokes, and although it’s going to be a much harder-fought battle this year, the bookmakers have set him as the favourite to don the green jacket at the end of the tournament, with odds of 6/1.
In three of his last four visits to August, Johnson has finished fourth or higher. Although it might take an injury or a stretch of seriously bad play for his odds to dip, fans shouldn’t assume victory is a foregone conclusion.
The Spaniard, despite winning the PGA championship five times, still doesn’t have a major trophy in his cabinet and will be hungry to return to the Med in the green jacket.
He’s the former no 1, he’s still up there amongst the top seeds but as the world number 2 and came close to taking the Masters in 2018 when he finished fourth. Bookmakers have given him odds of 10 or 11/1. He’ll be wondering if 2021 will be his year.
Rahm is still relatively young in golf terms and has plenty in the tank. He’s strong on and off the green and is also good at scrambling. The Augusta course won’t faze him.
Opinion seems to be divided over Brookes Koepka, who really came out swinging at last year’s tournament and finished seventh. He has received odds of 11-1.
Koepka has shown real promise. Experts have highlighted, however, a lack of consistency in his performance which they attribute to an inability to find the fairway off the tee. His driving accuracy percentage of 54.61 places him at 184th in the world for this, which they feel doesn’t bode well.
That being said… Koepka is incredibly hardworking and resilient. He may prove his doubters wrong in April.
Between August 2019 and January 2020, Justin Thomas won three times from just six starts. At the 2020 Masters, Thomas finished fourth, which was impressive as, at the time, he wasn’t playing at his best. His odds stand at 12/1.
At every (Masters) tournament, Justin Thomas has improved his finishing position. Not only that, but he’s also won the two closest correlating courses to the Augusta course: the Club de Chapultepec, which is home to the WGC Mexico Championship; and Riviera, the host of the Genesis Invitational. He’ll be comfortable on the August course.
Championship golf is heating up as the Masters draws closer. Competition for the green jacket will be fierce, with McIlroy hungry for a career Grand Slam and Rahm chasing a major title. Fans may see a few surprises, although Johnson is looking strong enough to defend his title, too. Let’s see what the championship brings.