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Scheffler, Rahm, McIlroy brace for Masters showdown

SCOTTIE Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy are determined to make history in the 88th Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course. | RAJ MEHTA, MEGAN BRIGGS and BRENNAN ASPLEN/agence france-presse

AUGUSTA (AFP) — Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, defending champion Jon Rahm and a host of the world’s finest golfers arrive at Augusta National looking to make history in next week’s 88th Masters.

Third-ranked Rahm, who jumped from the PGA Tour to Saudi-backed LIV Golf this season, could become only the fourth back-to-back green jacket winner, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo.

“This could be my second-ever title defense,” said Rahm, who also won the 2018 and 2019 Spanish Opens.

“That would be quite incredible.”

“That would be a dream come true. Not many back-to-back champions and that would be very unique to be able to put my name to that list.”

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, a four-time major winner seeking his first major crown since the 2014 PGA Championship, will make his 10th attempt to complete a career grand slam with a Masters victory.

“Good golf at Augusta feels like boring golf and I think that’s something that I’ve always struggled with because that’s not my game,” McIlroy said.

“It’s the biggest test of discipline and the biggest test of patience of the year for me.”

Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner, arrives on a hot streak after wins last month at the Arnold Palmer Championship and The Players Championship and a runner-up effort at the Houston Open.

He would join Woods (2001, 2002) as the only players in Masters history to win the event twice while atop the world rankings.

“I try not to place too much emphasis on results — good or bad,” Scheffler said.

“I think you can take some positives in the momentum.”

And 15-time major winner Woods, among 88 players in the field listed on the Masters website, could set a Masters record by making the cut for a 24th consecutive time.

Woods shares the record cut streak with Gary Player and Fred Couples but he withdrew after making last year’s cut due to plantar fasciitis.

Woods, 48, underwent ankle surgery last April to repair injuries from a 2021 car crash. He last played in February at Riviera, withdrawing after one round with illness.

“We all idolize Tiger,” Scheffler said.

“Watching what he did in special moments over the years is crazy. I’ve learned a lot just from being around him. We’re just very thankful he’s still a part of our sport.”

Rahm is among 13 LIV players in the Masters as merger talks continue between the PGA Tour and LIV’s financiers, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

“It’s a decision I made and I’m comfortable with it,” Rahm said.

“I feel like my game is in a really good position. I like where I’m coming up to the Masters.”

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