Typically, yes, debutants don’t fare too well at the Masters.
In fact, only the illustrious Fuzzy Zoeller – back in 1979 – has won on their debut at Augusta National.
Nevertheless, here are five stars set for their maiden pursuit of the Green Jacket that we think you should look out for.
1 | Shubhankar Sharma
If you’d said to any golf fan, or even Shubhankar Sharma himself, at the start of December that he would be teeing it up at Augusta in four months time you would most likely have been laughed at. Then he sat 462nd in the world and without a professional win to his name. Fast forward 10 starts, two wins and a world ranking climb of almost 400 places and that is the reality now facing the Indian-star.
He took home a European Tour title either side of the new year at the Joburg Open and the Maybank Championship and rose to a high of 64th in the world. Since then, the 21-year-old has only continued to impress with top-10s at the prestigious WGC-Mexico Championship (where he held the 36 and 54-hole leads) and on home soil at the Hero Indian Open.
Sharma only received his Masters invitation 23 days ago and he’s out at the Houston Open this week to squeeze out every bit of practise he can. If that’s not enough, not only is this his first Masters appearance, it’s his first appearance in any major. But he’s spent the past five months defying the odds, so don’t be surprised to see him do the same in Georgia.
2 | Patton Kizzire
Patton Kizzire has played a major before; he’s played all of the remaining three before, in 2016. After a tied eighth at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans propelled him to a then-high of 54th in the world, he qualified for the remaining majors of that year. But he was too late for the Masters. His major memories won’t be all too fond; he has a tied 49th, tied 68th and missed cut to show for his efforts. A downward spiral meant he missed out on all in 2017.
With his electric form of late, he’s back now. And ready for his first Masters.
At the start of this season Kizzire had never won on the PGA Tour; he’s now won twice (at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and the Sony Open in Hawaii) and was leading the FedExCup rankings for the majority of the season before Justin Thomas came along and spoilt his fun.
He’s enduring the best season of his career and will be desperate to continue that with a big showing at Augusta.
3 | Haotong Li
Given Haotong Li’s pedigree, it may come as a surprise that this will be his first start at the Masters. In retrospect it makes sense. Despite earning five career wins before last year’s Masters, he didn’t break through into the top 100 in the world until his third-place finish at last year’s Open Championship.
Like Kizzire, Li has played all of the other major to varying success. As aforementioned he impressed at the Open last year with a final-round of 63, but only mustered a 68th at the US Open and missed the PGA Championship cut. It was his Open success, that set records for Chinese players in major championships, that earned him his invite for the Masters this year.
The world-number-41 already has a 2018 win under his belt, a sixth title of his career, having seen off Rory McIlroy by one shot at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January. His last three starts have all resulted in top-20 finishes. Trending, anyone?
4 | Xander Schauffele
This season has not quite lived up to the hype built up around Xander Schauffele’s Rookie-of-the-Year season last year, but it’s certainly not been barren. The Californian took home PGA Tour titles one (The Greenbrier Classic) and two (no less than the TOUR Championship) in 2017, though is winless since September.
As well as his breakthrough wins, he also made major debuts at the US Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship last year. His first returns at the two former were an impressive tied fifth and tied 20th, whilst he did miss the cut at the latter.
Schauffele still sits a healthy 26th in the world and has finished top-20 in all of his last four starts. Looking at the odds, he fairs well in his first appearances at majors – and is all about making a big breakthrough – so, yeah, keep an eye out.
5 | Satoshi Kodaira
Satoshi Kodaira is probably the highest-ranked but least-recognised player in world golf. He is world-number-46 but, due to playing the majority of his golf on the Japan Golf Tour and Asian Tour, has very little reputation in world golf. With that said, he has six wins (all coming on the Japan Golf Tour) to his name and two from last year.
In his maiden major outing, at the 2013 Open Championship, Kodaira faltered with an 80 and 81 to miss the cut with only one player scoring worse over 36 holes. He missed the cut again at the 2016 Open but 2017 saw a tied 46th and tied 48th at the US Open and PGA Championship respectively.
If he is to lead an Augusta charge on his debut he will need to rediscover the form that saw him begin 2018 with consecutive tied seconds.
Do you see any of the debutants making a Masters impact? Leave a comment below or tweet us @TheCaddysReview.