AUGUSTA, Ga. — As always in golf, all roads lead to Augusta. The journey to the Masters began in Maui, with a Dustin Johnson blowout defined by, quite arguably, the greatest shot in golf history. Things have only gotten juicier since. With all the storylines converging at this Masters, we thought it would be helpful to rank the best possible scenarios.
9. A HaoTong Li win
For all the talk about growing the game, nothing would change the sport’s landscape like China’s best player breaking through. Li would become a god throughout Asia and the win would lead to immense growth for the sport. Also, it would be fun to read all the whiny tweets on Sunday night from American sportswriters.
8. A Jordan Spieth win
This would cement Spieth’s status as the new king of Augusta and as the most important player of the post-Tiger era, as he would tie McIlroy’s career total of four majors…with all of them coming since Rory won his last one. Four major championship victories at the age of 24 would keep Spieth ahead of Jack Nicklaus’s pace.
7. A Justin Thomas win
He has quickly become golf’s most electric player, and if/when he wins a Masters it should be wildly entertaining. A win this week would push JT to world number one, a mind-boggling achievement for a guy who only 18 months ago had only one career victory.
6. A Dustin Johnson win
There remains a melancholy aspect to Johnson’s 2017 campaign — he won a bunch of tournaments and seized the number one ranking but a slapstick W/D at Augusta led to a lost year in the majors. Johnson has the chance to be a player of historical importance but he’ll be 34 soon — it’s time to start piling up the majors. A green jacket for this Southern boy would be a popular win.
5. A Rickie Fowler win
He remains one of golf’s great ambassadors but with the rise of Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and others, Fowler is increasingly falling behind his contemporaries. A green jacket would change all of that and could potentially turn Fowler into a crossover star whose appeal transcends golf and bleeds into the larger sports world.
4. A Rory McIlroy win
Among the young guys no one brings buzz to the sport like the former boy king. A Masters win would give McIlroy the career Grand Slam, an achievement so monumental it has been accomplished only by Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan, Player and Sarazen. It would end Rory’s years-long funk and free him up to do some truly spectacular things going forward.
3. A Phil Mickelson win
One more Masters title doesn’t really change Lefty’s legacy but it would be golf’s most popular victory since Jack’s jacket in 1986. It would give Phil four Masters wins, tying him with Tiger, which somehow seems fitting. It would also be a sixth career major championship, moving Mickelson out of a tie with his idols Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson, with only 11 players all-time claiming more. What a career victory lap this would be.
2. A Tiger Woods win
The earth would stop spinning on its axis. Cats would be sleeping with dogs. It would be, quite simply, the most monumental achievement in a legendary career and one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. It also adds unimaginable juice to golf’s next few years as Tiger resumes his climb up Mt. Nicklaus while sparring with this deep crop of young studs. The mind reels.
1. A Tiger Woods near-miss
It’s too soon in this comeback for him to win the Masters. Where’s the foreplay? It would be riveting theater to watch Tiger battle to the bitter end but come up one shot short. The tragic hero role suits him right now. It would also make the run-up to Shinnecock all the more delicious. We don’t deserve a Tiger victory at the Masters. Not yet.