Ten golfers who could really use a green jacket

Winning the Masters can change your life. That’s what Ian Poulter alluded to in our soon-to-be-released podcast with him. We asked him if he would rather win the Open Championship or the Masters. He said The Open is closer to his heart, but the Masters is more commercially appealing. It changes everything.

Part of what shifts is the legacy of whoever wins it. Even somebody like Tiger Woods — who up to last year’s Masters had 14 major wins and four green jackets — we still think about him differently because he took the 2019 edition. Even more so Trevor Immelman or Danny Willett or Charl Schwartzel — good golfers who have played well around the world but never won another major.

With that concept in mind — and while remembering that “need” is a very liberal term here given the seriousness of what’s going on around the world — let’s take a look at 10 golfers (of those who have a legit chance at winning) who could most use one of the thick green coats handed out at Augusta National after 72 holes of play are completed.

1. Rickie Fowler — This one may be obvious, but how much differently do we think about Fowler if he has a Players Championship and a Masters rather than just a Players Championship? I still go back to the 2018 Masters, which Patrick Reed won by one over Fowler. One stroke is the chasm between the way a lot of people think about Fowler (“can’t win the big one”) and the way we would have had he won (“late bloomer like Phil Mickelson”). One stroke.

2. Rory McIlroy — Again, this one is obvious (and also again, “need” is probably not the right word). You win four majors by the age of 25, and you’re already historically great. But you win five majors and the career grand slam by the age of 30 (or I guess now 31 since the Masters will be in November), and you’re an icon. Especially if the last of those comes at Augusta National Golf Club.

3. Jon Rahm — The easiest golfers to put on this list are the ones who have never won a major, and you can make the argument (you probably should make the argument) that Rahm is the best of that group. The underrated part of Rahm needing a victory here is not only that it would change his legacy but also that it would remove whatever yoke golfers feel as they proceed into their late 20s as top-10 players but having never won a major. In other words, winning one here will ease the burden of having to win one later on.

4. Justin Thomas — I will continue to make the case that Thomas’ trajectory is one of the best ones we’ve seen over the last few decades. A Masters win to go with his 2017 PGA Championship would bring that into focus and make him the frontrunner to own the next decade.  

5. Jordan Spieth — He can flip the entire three-year script with four good rounds at Augusta National (whenever four rounds are next played at Augusta National). Also, our perception that he has two or three green jackets would actually be a reality. (Or maybe that’s just my perception).

6. Dustin Johnson — He’s already a Hall-of-Fame level player, but your career is framed a lot differently if you have 25 wins and that includes one at Oakmont and one at Augusta National than if it includes only one at Oakmont. D.J. has been disappointing (I guess this is the right word) over the last year, and a victory here would be a rekindling of the, “Oh yeah, D.J. is, like, the second best player in the world”).

7. Patrick Cantlay — He’s probably the best player that the broader sports world knows nothing about. You could make the case that, in terms of commercial success, nobody would benefit more from a Masters victory than Patrick Cantlay

8. Xander Schauffele — Everything I said above but with Xander’s name in place of Cantlay’s.

9. Bryson DeChambeau — He may end up having one of those bizarre careers where you look up and he’s 33 years old with 12 PGA Tour wins but only two top 10s at majors and no wins there. A major win (or, heck, just a run at a win at this point) would go a long way in validating all the quirks and idiosyncrasies he purports.

10. Hideki Matsuyama — A good career that could be elevated to a great career with a Masters win. It would also make him the undisputed best Japanese golfer of all time. I’m not sure anyone else could lay claim to the title of best golfer ever from their country with a Masters win because they’re either already there (McIlroy) or can’t get there with one major win (all Americans not named Tiger).

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