Masters set for stormy start as Scheffler, McIlroy chase history

Augusta, United States: Thunderstorms are forecast to disrupt the start of the 88th Masters at Augusta National today as world number one Scottie Scheffler and second-ranked Rory McIlroy tee off in a dream first-round pairing.

Rain and scattered thunderstorms are set to move into the region at around 6am local time (1000 GMT) and are expected to last until 1pm, potentially causing havoc to the first round schedule.

Honorary starters Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson are due get proceedings under way at 7.40am, with the first group teeing off 20 minutes later.

However Masters organisers said late Wednesday that gate openings for today's first round would be delayed due to weather, a clear sign that play will also be held up.

Scheffler, seeking his second title in three seasons, was in a group with four-time major winner McIlroy, who would complete a career grand slam with a Masters triumph, and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, chasing his first major victory.

By taking the green jacket, McIlroy would join a select group including Woods, Nicklaus, Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. McIlroy has not won a major in 10 years but has learned he needs patience at Augusta National.

"This golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses," he said. "It always tempts you to do something you think you can do and I'm pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things.

"Sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient."

Scheffler, who won twice and finished second last month in PGA events, could join Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the rankings.

"The winds are going to be pretty high and it swirls like crazy around this place," he said. "You have to stay so patient and trust in all aspects of your game."

Fifth-ranked Schauffele hopes to lose the tag as the highest-rated player without a major title.

"It's definitely what motivates me as a golfer and as a competitor just to keep pushing," Schauffele said of a major victory.

The feature trio is scheduled to tee today at 10:42 a.m. (1442 GMT), 12 minutes after Spain's defending champion Jon Rahm, England's Matt Fitzpatrick and 20-year-old American Nick Dunlap.

Rahm could become only the fourth player to capture back-to-back Masters triumphs after Woods, Nicklaus and Nick Faldo.

"I do feel fresh and ready for it," Rahm said.

Reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark, Norway's Viktor Hovland and Australian Cameron Smith, the 2022 Open Championship winner, are together behind Scheffler and McIlroy.

Woods, returning to major golf after right ankle surgery last April but still struggling to walk 72 holes, will try to make the Masters cut for a record 24th consecutive time to break to mark he shares with Player and Fred Couples.

But the five-time Masters winner talks about another record -- the six career Masters wins by Nicklaus.

"If everything comes together, I think I can get one more," Woods said.

Woods tees off at 1:24 p.m. alongside fellow American Max Homa and Australian Jason Day.

A group behind them are 2023 Open Championship winner Brian Harman, 2023 PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka and South Korean Tom Kim.

Five-time major winner Koepka and Rahm are among 13 players from Saudi-backed LIV Golf in the Masters field, with six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and Koepka sharing second last year behind Rahm, who jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV in December.

Eyes will be on LIV player results as merger talks continue between the PGA Tour and LIV's backers, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.

There are 20 first-time Masters starters hoping to become the first rookie winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

This year's newcomers include ninth-ranked Ludvig Aberg of Sweden and fourth-ranked Clark.

"Stats like that are meant to be broken," Clark said. "That would be an amazing accomplishment. And I like my chances."

Most Popular
Related Article
Says Stories