There has been plenty of attention on the performance of defending champion Adam Scott, American favourite Phil Mickelson and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy. Add the likes of Australia’s Jason Day, and those seem to be the main protagonists for one of the biggest weeks in world golf.
The fact that there has been very little mention of the South African entries could have something to do with the recent form that the six have shown but in a group that includes two past winners and three players who have managed second-place finishes, there is still some hope.
The liveliest contender on paper appears to be Charl Schwartzel with his current world ranking of 17, and the fact that he won the event in 2011 adds to the belief. His best finish this year came at the Northern Trust Open when finishing fifth before a tie for 19th at last weekend’s Houston Open.
The group all used last weekend’s event as a tune-up for the challenge that this week poses, but only Schwartzel and Ernie Els managed to make it into the weekend with Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Tim Clark and Trevor Immelman all missing the cut.
Immelman won at Augusta in 2008, beating Tiger Woods by three shots, but since then he has dropped from 15th in the world rankings to his current 225, while Grace put in a solid performance in his Masters debut last year and ended up tied for 18th.
Els features in what will surely be one of the most scrutinised playing groups of the first day alongside Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose as the Big Easy tees off in his 20th Masters appearance, having come closest in 2000 and 2004 when finishing second.
Oosthuizen’s form of late, coupled with a troublesome back, doesn’t inspire much confidence.