Scottie Scheffler is a man on a mission. The American is seeking to become just the fourth golfer to ever defend a Masters crown and will hope to join Jack Nicklaus (1965 and 1966), Nick Faldo (1989 and 1990) and Tiger Woods (2001 and 2002).
Considering only three men have retained their title at Augusta National, the odds are certainly stacked against Scheffler, yet he is coming into the tournament on the back of some excellent form and this could give him a massive boost.
Top of the world rankings
Having secured his first Players Championship crown, winning by five shots from Tyrrell Hatton, Scheffler returned to the top of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) for the first time since last year and for those betting on golf he is currently 7/1 to win the tournament for the second year in succession. These odds place him as joint favourite for the crown alongside Rory McIlroy, and the 87th edition of the Masters promises to be a mouth-watering spectacle.
Scheffler dominated the Masters in 2022
Entering last year’s edition, Scheffler had stunned the golfing world by winning the Phoenix Open for his first PGA Tour victory and then followed this up with a stunning run of form, claiming the Arnold Palmer Invitational and World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play to enter the Masters in red hot form.
Battling cold and windy conditions, the 26-year-old led by five shots after just 36 holes and began the final round three clear of the chasing pack, which included Cameron Smith and Rory McIlroy.
He was the only player to break par for all four rounds, finishing at 10-under for the tournament and could even afford to four putt the 18th green such was his lead.
Can anyone stop Scheffler from winning the Masters?
The two in-form Europeans, McIlroy and Rahm, will certainly pose the greatest threat to his chances of defending the title. The Northern Irishman will be looking to finally add the Masters crown to his other major titles and become just the sixth person to win the career Grand Slam.
Rahm, on the other hand, has arguably been the in-form player over the previous few months. The Spaniard has finished outside the top ten in just one tournament since October, the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational, while winning three of his first five events in 2023.
Rahm will be hoping to add the Masters to his US Open victory in 2021 and could well be the best-placed golfer to challenge Scheffler.
The likes of Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson also cannot be ruled out, despite their highly published defection to the LIV Golf Tour. Smith ran Scheffler close in 2022 but faltered in the final round, eventually finishing tied third, while he was also runner-up to Johnson in 2020, proving he has the ability to tame Augusta if he can return to form.
The chase for history will give Scheffler an added incentive this year as he could join an illustrious list by retaining his crown and if he comes into the competition playing like he has done the last few weeks, it will be hard for anyone to stop him.