The world’s best golfers will be reuniting for the first time in eight months for the 88TH Masters, a tournament that sees reigning champion Jon Rahm return to Augusta to defend his title, but this time as a LIV golfer. Could the stakes be any higher?

While the Masters is always the most eagerly anticipated golf tournaments of the year, coming as it does, after eight Major-free months, this year’s renewal has more than a certain extra frisson to it for a number of well-publicised reasons.

The arrival of LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed tour, in the spring of 2022, set the professional tours on a collision course that has seen long-standing friendships torn apart and bitter rivalries created.

The schism that now exists between those that stayed ‘loyal’ to the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, and those 50-60 plus players that chose to follow Greg Norman into battle, seems wider than ever, and with many LIV golfers having seen their world rankings drop faster than Everton down the Premier League table over the last two years, this may well be the last time we see some of them teeing it up at the Masters, or any other of the major championships, for some time to come.

Jon Rahm will be back to defend his Masters title next month, but this time as a LIV golfer

While the Masters Tournament committee has said that they are not minded to rescind invitations to LIV golfers, the continued denial of world ranking points to LIV Golf events means that players of the standing of Talor Gooch no longer qualify for the Masters despite his consistent run of good results on the LIV circuit.

Few will shed a tear for Gooch and his like, given the gamble that LIV defectors knowingly took when they joined the breakaway circuit for eye-watering sums, but their absence is slowly but surely beginning to undermine the integrity of the majors as the months tick by.


Thankfully for golf fans, the Masters, due to its unique set up, has a slightly more democratic feel to its guest list given that many of the top players who joined LIV also have a recent major victory to the name, or are past Masters’ champions, thus enabling them to tee it up at Augusta for as long as their exemptions or golf game allows.

Thus, defending champion Jon Rahm and past winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia will all be chomping at the bit to get back into Major action next month, as will the likes of LIV’s other recent major winners Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are Masters champions

With so many question marks surrounding the future direction of professional golf, and with so few answers, it all adds up to an intriguing backstory that continues to bubble beneath the surface at pro tournaments around the world.

What isn’t in doubt, however, is that the Masters remains professional golf’s biggest draw outside of the Ryder Cup, and all eyes will be on Augusta on April 11 when the first round gets under way, signalling the beginning of four days of glorious golfing action at one of the most visual stunning courses in the world.


While this year’s renewal presents its usual tantalising mix of stars, many of them will be arriving at Augusta in somewhat indifferent form, with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele all having so far failed to get a ‘W’ on the board on the PGA Tour, or anywhere else, in 2024.

Scheffler, the current no.1, continues to impress from tee to green, and has enjoyed four top-10s from five starts to date – but his performance with the putter has been pretty woeful by his own high standards, and he has cut a frustrated figure on the greens this season.

Having said that, class is permanent, and it’s unlikely that his failings with the flat stick will be more than a temporary blip on what has otherwise been an extraordinary run of form since his breakthrough win in Phoenix back in 2022.

McIlroy, likewise, is also continuing to frustrate both himself and his loyal following of fans thanks to some consistent inconsistencies with all parts of his game.

Will this be Rory McIlroy’s year

Some weeks his driver is on, but his short game lets him down, and on others he holes putts for fun but can’t find a fairway. It all adds up to not very much for a man who, almost unbelievably, is chasing his first major victory in a decade.

PGA Tour loyalists Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Colin Morikawa – major champions all – are also finding several players too good for them so far this season.

Despite being admirably consistent, Spieth and Thomas haven’t won for over two years, while 2021 Open champion Morikawa at least has last year’s ZOZO Championship trophy on his mantlepiece, although he hasn’t threatened to trouble the engravers so far this season.

If you’re looking for a US winner it would be foolish to ignore the chances of Wyndham Clark. Last year’s surprise US Open champion has continued to rise up the world rankings – currently seventh – with his excellent run of form including victory at last month’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Wyndham Clark is coming into the tournament in great form

Patrick Cantlay is another home-grown talent who also can’t be ruled out of the equation either, although the admirably consistent world No.6 has yet to improve on a best-placed third in the 2019 PGA Championship when it comes to major performances.

Rahm is short odds to repeat his feat of 12 months ago, and following his disappointing move to LIV, the fiery Spaniard will no doubt be doubling down on his efforts to retain the jacket to prove to himself and his critics that competing on the no-cut, 54-hole circuit hasn’t dulled his competitive edge.



While Europe’s hopes certainly look to rest heavily with the current champion, there are reasons to be optimistic about the hopes of Rahm’s Ryder Cup teammates, with 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick beginning to get the hang of things around Augusta in recent years, with a best-placed 10th last time out, while Viktor Hovland, who finished 2023 in fine form, is surely going to come good in a major championship before long.

He finished seventh at Augusta last year – where he shot a disappointing 74 on Sunday when bang in contention – and has all the attributes to be a green jacket contender.

Ludvig Åberg must not be ruled out

It will also be exciting to see how wonderkid Ludvig Aberg gets on in what will be his first outing in a major championship, let alone a major, although the stats are very much against the young Swede, with just three first-time winners since the Masters began in 1934, and with Fuzzy Zoeller’s triumph way back in 1979 being the most recent triumph by a debutant.

Still, kids are born ready these days, and it will be no surprise to see Aberg high up the leaderboard on Sunday.


Regardless of experience, all the players will face an Augusta National course that now measures a whopping 7,555 yards off the back tees, making it almost 600 yards longer than it was when Tiger Woods won in 1997.

While 35 yards was added in 2023 with the extension of the par-5 13th hole, the only lengthening that has taken place ahead of this year’s renewal is the extra 10 yards that has been added to the par-2 second hole, Pink Dogwood, which now measures 585 yards, making that second shot from a hanging lie even more of a challenge.

The Augusta National course will be in tip top condition once again


All of which points to Augusta being pretty much a bomber’s course, albeit a bomber who also has the touch of a surgeon around its notoriously slick greens. And whoever can master both of those skills will have a solid chance of slipping on the green jacket come Sunday night on April 14.


Latest outright US Masters odds – via Betway

  • Scottie Scheffler – 9/2
  • Rory McIlroy – 9/1
  • Jon Rahm – 11/1
  • Jordan Spieth – 18/1
  • Viktor Hovland – 18/1
  • Brooks Koepka – 20/1
  • Will Zalatoris – 20/1
  • Xander Schauffele – 20/1
  • Ludvig Aberg – 22/1
  • Patrick Cantlay – 22/1
  • Cameron Smith – 25/1
  • Justin Thomas – 25/1
  • Wyndham Clark – 25/1
  • Collin Morikawa – 28/1
  • Hideki Matsuyama – 28/1


The Masters will air on Sky Sports Golf from April 11-14. For the full schedule of live coverage, visit For all the latest Masters betting odds, visit Betway.