The 5 Best Groups to Watch as Tee Times Are Announced for the 2021 Masters
Augusta National has released the first- and second-round tee times for the 2021 Masters.
As expected, many of the high-profile names are grouped together in the latter portion of the day and will be prominently featured during the televised coverage.
After browsing through all 30 of the Masters groups on Thursday and Friday, here are the five I’m most excited to watch.
Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy
- Round 1 Tee Time: 10:42 AM ET
- Round 2 Tee Time: 1:48 PM ET
Talk about a group loaded with firepower, all three of these guys are among the top-8 favorites to slip on the Green Jacket on Sunday.
Xander has quieted down from his spurt on the West Coast Swing and flies in a bit under-the-radar, although nobody would be surprised to see him throw his hat in the ring come the back nine on Sunday. Schauffele tied for 2nd the last time the Masters was held in April.
Jon Rahm arrived on the premises on Tuesday evening and will be playing a bit of “catch up” in regard to how the golf course is playing. Then again, the brand-new father has finished 4th-9th-7th in the last three Masters and ranks 2nd on the PGA Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green. My guess is “Rahmbo” will be just fine.
McIlroy hasn’t won a golf tournament in nearly 18 months and recently turned to Pete Cowan for help, but it’d be naïve for anyone to count Rory out at this particular venue. Top-10s in six of the last seven Masters, perhaps this is the year McIlroy completes the career Grand Slam.
Jordan Spieth, Cameron Smith, Collin Morikawa
- Round 1 Tee Time: 2:00 PM ET
- Round 2 Tee Time: 10:54 AM ET
Last out on Thursday afternoon are a trio of 20-somethings who rack up a boatload of birdies.
|Birdies Per Round – 2020/21 PGA Tour Season|
|Player||Birdies Per Round||PGA Tour Tank|
Jordan Spieth’s swing has finally fallen back into a groove and is as dangerous as anyone in the field this week. Coming off a victory at the Valero Texas Open, here is a fun stat to tell your friends who are trying to talk to you off of Spieth.
According to Justin Ray, Jordan has gained 2.41 strokes total per round at Augusta. Among players with 20+ rounds at the Masters, only Ben Hogan’s number is higher.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again when the cameras shift to Cameron Smith. This past November, the 27-year-old mullet-rocking Aussie became the first player to record four rounds in the 60s at the Masters. The runner-up at the 2020 Masters also finished 5th here in 2018.
If anyone tells you that Collin Morikawa isn’t a good fit at Augusta, shame on them. The undulating layout lined with loblolly pines is renowned for being a second-shot golf course. Well, the following tweet gives you an idea of where Morikawa stacks up on approach shots.
Strokes gained on approach shots since Feb. 1 (via @DataGolf). 1. Morikawa — 1.9 (!!) 2. Spieth (!!) — 1.4 3. JT — 1.3 4. Sergio — 1.2 5. Hovland — 1.2 6. Finau — 1.2 7. Koepka — 1.1 8. Rahm — 1.1 9. Zalatoris — 1.1 10. Conners — 1.1April 6, 2021
Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland
- Round 1 Tee Time: 10:06 AM ET
- Round 2 Tee Time: 1:12 PM ET
Do not expect a ton of chit-chat in Group 11.
Bubba will be slinging his pink driver around the corners hoping to navigate his way to a third Green Jacket. He’s been a bit sketchy over the last few months but garnered a chunk of momentum at the WGC Match Play. Watson emerged out of his group before running into a red-hot Brian Harman in the Round of 16.
Koepka is on-site just three weeks after a knee surgery that some touts (cough, cough Brad Faxon) thought could keep him sidelined up to eight months. When asked about the status of his knee and how he would deal with walking up and down the fairways, Brooks remained coy as he so often does. The idea that he hasn’t played competitively in over a month is curbed by a win and a 2nd-place finish in February.
Viktor Hovland is making his second appearance at Augusta after finishing as the low-am in 2019. Viktor spent Tuesday’s practice round alongside Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey soaking up all sorts of tidbits from the loquacious duo. The 23-year-old has quickly ascended as one of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers.
Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger, Paul Casey
- Round 1 Tee Time: 10:54 AM ET
- Round 2 Tee Time: 2:00 PM ET
Friday’s second round will culminate with a triumvirate of bulldogs bringing up the rear. Not as in three former University of Georgia golfers – although Reed spent some time in Athens – but a threesome of guys who will not back down or succumb to pressure.
The 2018 Masters champ has an uncanny ability to set aside any outside noise and focus on the task at hand. This week, the assignment is to give himself as many convertible birdie chances as possible. Patrick saunters down Magnolia Lane ranked #1 on the PGA Tour in SG: Putting.
I’ve been touting Daniel Berger all week long – from someone to back in the top-20 market to one of the genuine Masters sleepers. Berger has no holes to speak of and can attack this golf course from all angles. Case in point – Daniel’s one of four players who are currently slotted inside the top 20 in par-3 scoring, par-4 scoring, and par-5 scoring (Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Joaquin Niemann).
Lurking at +4000 to win, don’t underestimate the capabilities of Paul Casey. The 43-year-old Englishman is enjoying quite the resurgence in 2021 and has been a force to be reckoned with in every stroke-play event.
|Paul Casey – Results in Stroke-Play Events in 2021|
|THE PLAYERS Championship||T5|
|Arnold Palmer Invitational||T10|
|AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am||T5|
|Omega Dubai Desert Classic||1|
|The American Express||T8|
Too much to ask of a European golfer to back up a win in Dubai with a victory at Augusta?
Not if you ask Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard accomplished this very same feat back in 2017.
Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick
- Round 1 Tee Time: 1:36 PM ET
- Round 2 Tee Time: 10: 30 AM ET
With representatives from the US, European, and International contingencies, Group 27 will exhibit three men on a mission.
Patrick Cantlay knows what it feels like to lead the Masters on the back nine on a Sunday – he did that in 2019. Course fit being one of them – Patrick checks all the boxes for anyone making Masters predictions. Most importantly, his iron game is stellar, and his recent form is on point (top-20s in seven of his last eight starts).
Sungjae Im has just 72 holes under his belt at Augusta, but it’s safe to say that he can acquit himself nicely at the home of the Masters. Rounds of 66-70-68-69 in November propelled Im into a tie for 2nd place, and his game is trending rather nicely.
|Sungjae Im – Last Four Starts in Stroke-Play Events|
|3/7/21||Arnold Palmer Invitational||T21|
|3/14/21||THE PLAYERS Championship||T17|
|3/21/21||The Honda Classic||T8|
Rounding out this Masters pairing is a player who unobtrusively continues to climb up the world ranks. In five starts since the middle of February, Matt Fitzpatrick has landed 11th or better four times.
The only instance he didn’t was a T18 in Austin on the heels of winning two out of his three matches (his only loss was to Jordan Spieth). One of the best putters on the planet is sneaky good with the driver (24th in SG: Off-the-Tee).
More Masters Groups to Watch on Thursday and Friday
It all starts with Lee Elder joining Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the honorary starters at 7:45 AM ET on Thursday morning.
After that, the action kicks off with an Alabama (Michael Thompson) vs. Georgia (Hudson Swafford) battle in the opening two-ball.
I highlighted five Masters pairings that immediately stood out, although here are five other Masters tee times in rounds 1 and 2 worth watching.
- Group 9 – Jason Day, Matthew Wolff, Cameron Champ
- Group 12 – Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout
- Group 26 – Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Scottie Scheffler
- Group 28 – Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa
- Group 29 – Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Thomas