AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s a lot to love about Masters week — the storylines, the favorites, the course and the pimento. There’s also those juicy groupings for the first two days. And no offense to the 11:37 a.m. pairing of Sandy Lyle, Si Woo Kim, and Doug Ghim, but a few more people might be following Tiger’s return or Phil and his fancy leather shoes.
Some groups just have more star power than others, especially this year, which many are calling the most anticipated Masters ever. Prisoners of the moment? Maybe. But this buildup sure is fun. Let’s keep it going and highlight the best groupings for the first two rounds at Augusta National. If you’re a fan on the grounds, there’s a lot to be excited about (and a lot to follow). Not on the course? No worries, here’s the live streaming and TV broadcast information. (And for complete tee times, click here.)
So without further ado, here are the seven best groupings — ranked! — to look forward to when the Masters kicks off on Thursday. (Starting times ET.)
7. Jordan Spieth, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen
(1:49 p.m. Thurs., 10:53 a.m. Fri.)
Jordan Spieth has an extensive history with Augusta National, which is remarkable since he’s only played the Masters four times. But he’s either won, lost in dramatic fashion, finished T2 or, in his worst year, T11. European Alex Noren has yet to break through in America but has nine European Tour victories (and is ranked 15th in the world) and South African Louis Oosthuizen is always a threat come major season.
6. Sergio Garcia, Justin Thomas, Doc Redman (a)
(10:53 a.m. Thurs., 1:38 p.m. Fri.)
Last year’s Masters champion is back to defend his title, but one of the top contenders for a green jacket is Justin Thomas, who has won four times since last year’s Masters. 2017 U.S. Amateur champ Doc Redman is a compelling player to round out this group.
5. Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(2 p.m. Thurs., 11:04 a.m. Fri.)
Two big-time favorites to win the Masters, neither of whom own a green jacket, and a sleeper pick with a killer irons game take the No. 5 spot here. Few have played better than Rose in the last six months, and in his last three starts at Augusta he’s finished second, T10 and T2. Oh, and then there is the No. 1 player in the world, who has yet to play the Masters since his ascension to top-ranked player in the game.
4. Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day
(11:04 a.m. Thurs., 1:49 p.m. Fri.)
A group of solid veterans here. Bubba is riding high and might be the hottest player in the tournament, Stenson is always a major threat (and he’s finished top six in his last two starts) and Jason Day, who won the Farmers two months ago, is finding his form after rising to No. 1 in the world two years ago only to fall back to No. 11 now.
3. Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood
(10:42 a.m. Thurs., 1:27 p.m. Fri.)
Marc Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood are trendy sleeper picks (or not sleepers at all, depending whom you ask), but Tiger’s return will make this the most-watched group come Thursday and Friday. The best? Not in this ranking.
2. Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm
(1:38 p.m. Thurs., 10:42 a.m. Fri.)
An all-American trio leads this ranking, but two Europeans and one Australian gets the runner-up spot. This group is headlined by Rory McIlroy, who is a Masters win away from completing the career grand slam. He also won last month and has spent a ton of time prepping at Augusta. Adam Scott already has a green jacket, but he’s fallen off the radar as of late and is trying to rebound. He’s still a big name, as is the uber-talented Jon Rahm, a fiery Spaniard destined to bag a couple of majors and/or climb to World No. 1 in his young career. McIlroy and Rahm will also anchor the European Ryder Cup team in September.
1. Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar
(1:27 p.m. Thurs., 10:31 a.m. Fri.)
This American threesome of fan favorites will kill you with kindness, kiss your babies, sign your shirts and make you leave Augusta giddy. Serial 72nd-hole greeter Rickie Fowler has never met a Tour player he doesn’t like, Matt Kuchar and his aw-shucks attitude will be showered with “Koooch!” chants, and Phil will be flashing his patented thumbs up like a paperboy dishing out newspapers on a busy street. The crowds will eat this group up, which says a lot about their reputation seeing as two of them have never even won a major.