The 2016 Masters Preview

When: April 7-10th, 2016
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth 

The par 3 12th, at Augusta National, always a pivotal hole in the Masters.

The par 3 12th, at Augusta National, always a pivotal hole in the Masters.

It’s never too early to start exploring the greatest week in golf. Masters week. Don’t miss all the hype as we highlight the major headlines from now until the main event. And keep coming back for more as we continue to update this preview as soon as the news hits the scene.

Spieth tries for repeat

Spieth took the 2015 Masters by storm, becoming the second youngest winner of all time, a few months behind Tiger Woods and the first player to reach -19 since Tiger Woods, eventually tying his scoring record at -18. See a trend? Spieth will attempt to defend his championship and join the likes of Woods, Sir Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only players in Masters history to win back-to-back Green Jackets.   

Spieth will enter the Masters in top form after already notching his first win of 2016 in his first start at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Spieth’s combination of putting and ball-striking make him a formidable opponent at Augusta. And in his two trips to Augusta, Spieth has yet to finish a day outside the top five.  

McIlroy goes for the Grand Slam

A win this year would put McIlroy in the rarified air of owning the career grand slam, further amplifying his illustrious career. The only other players to accomplish this feat are Bobby Jones (pre-Masters era), Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen. 

In 2011, it looked like the Masters would be Rory’s first major championship as he entered the final round 4 shots clear of his nearest competitor, but a disastrous 80 on Sunday left him in a tie for 15th.  Doubters thought that the Masters collapse would haunt McIlroy in major championships to come, but Rory quickly put that thought to rest by winning his next major start, the 2011 U.S. Open, by an astounding eight shots. He has since struggled in early rounds though, finding himself far behind the leaders heading into the weekend where he once shined.

While McIlroy’s power and ball-striking are a perfect match for the scorable back nine at Augusta, his early-round play could make or break him in 2016. Rory will have to find himself near the top the leaderboard in early rounds if he wants to be the new owner of a green jacket.

DeChambeau makes his final amateur bid

Bryson DeChambeau, one of the most decorated and polished amateur champions of recent memory, became only the fifth player in amateur history to win both the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA Championship in the same year. DeChambeau’s success has gone beyond amateur golf as he finished 2nd in the Australian Open and led the Abu Dhabi Championship after a first round 64, proving he can play with the big boys.    

The Masters will likely serve as DeChambeau’s final amateur appearance considering he has hired an agent. The self-proclaimed “golf scientist” will tee up the first two rounds with Spieth, as is tradition for the U.S. Amateur and defending Masters champions.  DeChambeau’s accolades and track record give fans the closest opportunity of seeing an amateur compete for, and potentially win, the Masters.   

Mickelson trying to pull a Nicklaus

Phil Mickelson entered 2016 with something to prove after the worst year of his career in 2015. 

Lefty, a fan favorite, returns to Augusta after already winning two Green Jackets in his prime. Mickelson finished in a tie for 2nd last year at -14, a total that would have won or tied for first in 74 of 79 Masters.    

With all of golf’s new superstars, a run in 2016 at age 45 would bring back memories of Jack Nicklaus’ historic championship in 1986.

Bubba lurking

The two-time Masters champion holds the distinct crown of being the most polarizing figure in golf, some hate the long-hitting lefty while his supporters insist that he is simply misunderstood. No matter where your personal opinion rests, there is no denying his ability to play golf. The fidgety star enters this year's event as a bit of a sleeper, but coming off of his victory at the Northern Trust Open, he should be listed as one of the favorites. Bubba's combination of distance and ability to shape his shots both left and right allow him to take advantage Augusta's doglegs and scoring holes the par 5s. 

Other Storylines to watch

Can Rickie Fowler officially cement himself in the “Big Four” by winning a major championship? 

Will Jason Day stay healthy and finally add the Masters to his resume?  Day has 2 top-3 finishes in 5 starts at Augusta.