The 10 players who could win the Masters: ranking the contenders

Collin Morikawa walks up to the 18th green during the third round of the Masters on Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.

Collin Morikawa walks up to the 18th green during the third round of the Masters on Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — On Thursday and Friday at Augusta National, gusty winds and quick greens made for a chaotic couple of days. On Saturday, the wind and rain were gone, but the chaos wasn’t. The course? Still really difficult.

“It’s a hard golf course out there,” said Jon Rahm. “Anything under par is a good round.”

No one was safe atop the Masters leaderboard on Saturday.

Collin Morikawa joined the pack with three straight birdies to start his round. Scottie Scheffler had an uncharacteristic double bogey-bogey stretch, which of course he followed with an eagle. Max Homa couldn’t do anything but make pars. Bryson DeChambeau couldn’t buy a putt. Nicolai Hojgaard made three straight birdies only to follow them with five straight bogeys. His Ryder Cup teammate, Ludvig Aberg, grabbed a co-lead then made back-to-back bogeys. No one — and we mean no one — could figure out how to keep a ball on the par-3 12th green.

And through it all, at 5:42 p.m., Jim Nantz said it best: “What’s going on here?”

It was an unpredictable, wonderful Saturday at the Masters, and now our leaderboard for Sunday is set. Four years ago, Dustin Johnson led by four after 54 holes. Three years ago, Hideki Matsuyama was up four. Two years ago, Scheffler led by three; and last year, wicked weather led to a marathon Sunday that squeezed 1 1/2 rounds into a single day.

As for this year? Things are different. It’s a proper leaderboard with several players in the mix in what will be a normal, sunny Sunday. Scheffler leads at seven under, followed by Morikawa (six under), Homa (five under), Aberg (four under) and DeChambeau (three under).

That’s your core group of contenders. And yes, they have probably thought about slipping on a green jacket (for the first time or again).

“Look, it always crosses your mind,” Morikawa said. “If it doesn’t cross your mind, I don’t know what the hell your mind is thinking about.”

So, who’s going to win the Masters? Let’s break down the contenders — or at least the 10 we believe have the best chance to do so.

Ranking Sunday’s Masters contenders

No. 10 — Nicolai Hojgaard (-2, 5 shots back)

The 23-year-old DP World Tour pro made three straight birdies on Nos. 8-10 to grab the Masters lead at seven under, but he killed his round with five straight bogeys. He has the firepower to throw some circles on his scorecard.

No. 9 — Cameron Young (-1, 6 shots back)

He’s famously never won on the PGA Tour but has managed to finish second seven times. He was T7 here last year. But is he too far back? Maybe…

No. 8 — Tommy Fleetwood (-1, 6 shots back)

He shot even par on Saturday and played better than his score suggested, missing a 6-footer for birdie on 12 and a 4-footer for par on 18. It’s a course that suits his ball-striking. But will he make enough putts or go low enough?

No. 7 — Cameron Smith (-1, 6 shots back)

The 2022 Open champion has finished in the top five here three times and is one of the best putters in the game. He didn’t make as many on Saturday, but if he starts rolling some in on these tricky, fast greens early in Round 4, he could post a good number and see if anyone can catch it.

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No. 6 — Xander Schauffele (-2, 5 shots back)

The man often atop the list of the best-player-never-to-win-a-major ranking, Schauffle’s quietly stuck around with rounds of 72-72-70. He has six top-five finishes in majors. Is this the time he finally breaks through?

No. 5 — Bryson DeChambeau (-3, 4 shots back)

The first-round leader had a wild Saturday, making just two pars in his final 11 holes. A few of the head-scratchers: a three-putt par on 13 and a water ball and double bogey on the par-5 15th (which was five strokes worse than Scheffler on those same holes). But he’s won a major before, and he ended Saturday on a high note after a frustrating second nine — holing out for birdie with a wedge from 77 yards on the 18th hole.

No. 4 — Max Homa (-5, 2 shots back)

Playing in a final pairing for the first time in his major championship career, Homa battled nerves on the first tee and drove his opening tee shot into the 9th-hole fairway. He still managed to save par, but he didn’t make a birdie on Saturday, and he hasn’t made one in 32 holes. The good news? His steady but not spectacular play kept him in it. He has one career major top 10 in 17 starts; he’ll get another this week. But will it be a win?

No. 3 — Ludvig Aberg (-4, 3 shots back)

Every betting pool’s favorite sleeper pick hasn’t disappointed. He shot a two-under 70 Saturday that would have been even better if not for back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15. Still, it’s his first major. Can the 24-year-old handle the pressure? He has so far. It could be the first major victory of an extremely bright career.

No. 2 — Collin Morikawa (-6, 1 shot back)

Don’t be shocked to see him here — he’s finished in the top 10 in his last two Masters starts, and he hasn’t finished worse than T18 in his last three. The two-time major champ opened Saturday with three straight birdies to get to six under, which is where he ended the day thanks to 10 straight pars (and a deft short game). His confidence is sky high and a win here would mean he’s three-fourths of the way to the career grand slam.

No. 1 — Scottie Scheffler (-7, 1 shot lead)

It has essentially been the World No. 1’s tournament to lose and it still might be. After a rare stretch in which he played two holes in three-over par, Scheffler played the next two par-5s (13 and 15) in three under, with a 31-foot eagle bomb on 13 acting as the exclamation point. We know the facts: he won here in 2022, and he’s won two of his last three starts (and nearly won all three). He’s still the favorite come Sunday, simply because he’ll make fewer mistakes than everyone else. And don’t forget about the caddie advantage, either: his looper, Ted Scott, has already been on the bag for three Masters wins (one with Scheffler, two with Bubba Watson).

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