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The Masters: Scheffler excited to see golf unified

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The Majors have always attracted elite fields but the buzz around this Masters has been dialled up several notches with most of the world’s top players set to go toe-to-toe for the first time since the British Open last July.

Scottie Scheffler of the US. File Picture: EPA, TANNEN MAURY

World No.1 Scottie Scheffler comes into this week’s Masters as a unifying force in a divided golf world, playing the type of game that has grabbed the attention of fans everywhere.

As the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV circuit try to iron out an agreement, the reality that fans are the big losers in their feud is sinking in.

The Majors have always attracted elite fields but the buzz around this Masters has been dialled up several notches with most of the world’s top players set to go toe-to-toe for the first time since the British Open last July.

“It’s going to be great to see all these great players together,” said two-time Major winner and broadcaster Andy North.

“That’s what we want to see as fans and as broadcasters, to be able to get the best against the best.

“To get (Jon) Rahm and (Brooks) Koepka and these guys here to play on the same golf course at the same time as everybody else, I think is really important for our game.”

Lured to the breakaway circuit by huge pay days, LIV headliners Rahm, Koepka and others poached from the PGA Tour have been happily counting their money but largely out of the golfing spotlight.

With those big-name departures the PGA Tour has lost currency, seriously diminishing their product but now a golfer of some consequence is starting to emerge from the chaos.

Scheffler is not an unknown commodity. He has won a Major and seven other PGA Tour titles, including two this season.

The 27-year-old American is a modest man – when he won the 2022 Masters he said his big splurge was a hot tub – but he is widely seen as the best golfer on the planet by a mile, even by world No.2 Rory McIlroy.

Statistically he has entered Tiger Woods territory.

McIlroy said at the end of last year that Scheffler was having perhaps the best ball-striking season of all time, which would top Woods’ 2000 campaign.

This season he is posting even better results. Of the eight PGA Tour events Scheffler has entered this year he has finished no worse than 10th in all but one.

With back-to-back wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship and a runner-up finish at the Houston Open, Scheffler is the hot favourite to slip into the Green Jacket on Sunday.

If Scheffler does become the first to successfully defend his Masters crown since Woods in 2002, he could become the marquee golfer the sport needs as it navigates the LIV Golf and PGA Tour storm.

When play begins on Thursday, Scheffler will be the focus of attention but as always there are others at Augusta National who will grab the galleries’ attention.

Rahm won the Masters last year as a member of the PGA Tour but returns to defend the Green Jacket as an employee of LIV Golf.

The Spaniard is among 13 LIV golfers in the field which includes Koepka and evergreen Phil Mickelson, who finished as runner-up at last year’s Masters.

Woods maintains he never enters an event if he does not believe he can win but even he would have to view his chances of a sixth Green Jacket as a long shot.

The 15-time Major winner has never missed the cut at the Masters as a professional but that run of 23 consecutive cuts made could be in danger. The 48-year-old has made one PGA Tour start this year and that lasted just 24 holes.

Willing himself around Augusta’s rolling layout for 72 holes may be too much to ask of Woods’ battered back and leg.

McIlroy, who yearns to complete the career Grand Slam, has declared his love for Augusta but the Masters has never returned his affection.

It has been a decade since the hugely popular Northern Irishman’s last Major win and there have been heartbreaking near misses at the

Masters, such as in 2011 when he began the final round with a four-shot lead only to suffer a harrowing back-nine collapse.

Reuters

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