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Scheffler up against Rahm and a 2024 Masters to savour

by | Apr 2, 2024

Fans can expect a blockbuster 2024 Masters this month – the very best versus the very best. And this could well mean a showdown between two greats of the game today – Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

What world golf fans have been mostly missing since the formation of LIV Golf are head-to-head duels between the top players in the world.

World No. 1 Scheffler has been sensational on the PGA Tour but his victories this year would have been even sweeter if he was competing against the best of the best – like, for instance, LIV Golf defector Rahm.

That all changes in next week’s April 11-14 Masters, in which Rahm is the defending champion. Rules are rules for the powers that be at Augusta National and they allow – actually they prefer the term “invite” – all previous Masters champions to take part, should they choose to take up the invitation, even if they have defected to LIV Golf.

Invitations are also extended to those players who finished in the top 12 of the previous year’s Augusta showpiece.

Any player who won a Major or a fully-sanctioned PGA Tour event the previous season also books a place in the line-up. The same goes for any player who achieved a top-four finish in any of the previous season’s Majors, while Major winners in the US Open, British Open and PGA Championship secure their Masters berth for five years.

Any player in the world’s top 50 the week before the Masters who has not qualified by any other measure is also invited.

LIV golfers playing at Augusta will be seen by some as controversial and even wrong, but the fans certainly won’t mind.

Mouth-watering clashes between the best of the best LIV golfers – besides Rahm, think Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Cam Smith and Charl Schwartzel – and the cream from the rest of the world – Scheffler, McIlroy et al, are clearly on the cards.

Rahm left the PGA Tour in December for untold LIV Golf riches – as much as $600 million, by some estimates – and he instantly shot to the top of the leaderboard on that tour, too. But he left behind some old rivals and many beloved old venues on the PGA Tour, and he spoke candidly last week about how, with all the money he now has, there’s still a feeling that he’s missing the PGA Tour.

“It’s done. It’s past,” he said of his choice to leap to LIV. “It’s a decision I made, and I’m comfortable with it. But I’m hoping I can come back, and hopefully defend at Augusta.”

Last year, Rahm won three times – at the Sentry, the American Express and the Genesis – before the Masters, a magnificent run that put him in position to claim that first Green Jacket. But once he opted to go to LIV Golf, Rahm forfeited the right to play in those events and defend those titles. He’s realising now what he gave up.

“I’m not going to lie,” Rahm says. “For everybody who said the jump to LIV would be easy, some things have been, but not being able to defend some titles that mean a lot to me hasn’t.”

He noted that not being in Riviera to defend his Genesis Open title was difficult. “I still watched the broadcast though. I still watch golf because I love watching it. But it’s hard. It was hard not to be at the Phoenix Open at the end of February, and it was hard not to be at Hawaii because it’s another tournament that my family enjoys and I’ve done fantastic on.”

Plus, he’s no longer a part of the head-to-head competitiveness, the ability to face down the PGA Tour’s best, like Scheffler. The Players Championship, which Scheffler won, was the best golf of the season to date; how much better might it have been with Rahm, Koepka, Cam Smith and other LIV stars in the mix? Now, at The Masters, they will be in the mix.

There are only three South Africans in this year’s line-up – Schwartzel (who won the Masters in 2011), Erik van Rooyen and giant, 6ft 8inch Christo Lamprecht who earned a coveted spot due to his win in last year’s British Amateur.

Written by Randpark member Grant Winter
Photo Credit: Sky Sports

 

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