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World’s best come together at Masters in bid for Green Jacket

World’s best come together at Masters in bid for Green Jacket
Scottie Scheffler poses with the Masters trophy during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2022 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 10 (Reuters) - The Masters will bring together golf's best in an increasingly rare gathering of the sport's top talent when opening round play gets underway on Thursday at Augusta National with heavy rain threatening to dampen the excitement.

By Steve Keating

As the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf try to iron out an agreement, the reality that fans are the big losers in a feud that has split the sport have sunk in with even Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley on Wednesday taking notice during his annual pre-Masters press conference.

“I believe everyone agrees there’s excitement in the air this week,” said Ridley. “The best players in the world are together once again.

“That is good for everyone … especially our patrons and fans around the world.”

The majors have always attracted elite fields but the buzz around this Masters has been dialled up several notches with most of the world’s top players set to go toe-to-toe for the first time since last July at the British Open.

Defining that divide is red hot world number one and 2022 Green Jacket winner Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, who won last year’s Masters as a member of the PGA Tour but will defend his title as an employee of LIV Golf after jumping to the rebel circuit for a widely reported $550 million.

The Spaniard is part of an accomplished 13-member LIV contingent that features some familiar faces, including major winners Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka who will mix it up with PGA Tour headliners Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy on one of golf’s most iconic layouts.

Rahm will launch his title defence alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and Nick Dunlap while pre-tournament favourite Scheffler will be in a high-profile group with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

Bidding to become the fourth player to repeat as Masters champion, Rahm will go out in the 13th group at 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) in what is expected to be far from ideal conditions with the forecast calling for rain and wind gust of up 45 mph (73 kph).

McIlroy, who is looking to complete the career Grand Slam, will head out one group behind.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman will be making his 10th attempt at joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan as the only men to win golf’s four major championships.

The forecast will not be welcome news for Tiger Woods, who will be teeing it up in only his second event this season and says he needs heat and humidity to help get his injury-battered body through 18 holes.

Going out in the fourth-to-last group at 1:24 p.m. alongside Australian Jason Day and world number 11 Max Homa, the five-times Masters champion may miss the worst weather with conditions expected to improve later in the day.

Former Masters champion Johnson will head out in the day’s final group with Collin Morikawa and England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Augusta. Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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