A total of 10 golfers with Georgia ties will be in the field for the 2018 Masters, among them three former champions, two “rookies” and a player with one of the best recent records at Augusta National by a non-winner.
The Georgia contingent at Augusta National consists of two-time champion Bubba Watson and fellow winners Zach Johnson and Larry Mize. Making their first start at Augusta National are Patton Kizzire and Wesley Bryan. Matt Kuchar sports an outstanding record in Augusta but is looking for his first title, and will join Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner and Patrick Reed in a field that will consist of only 86 or 87 players.
Watson is near the top of the list of Masters favorites thanks to his win last week in the WGC Match Play Championship and earlier victory this year in Los Angeles. Watson won in Augusta in a 2012 playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and a 2014 head-to-head duel against Jordan Spieth. He had been mired in a lengthy slump prior to his win in LA, but was in top form in his two victories, dominating in several of his matches in the WGC event. The former Georgia Bulldog has risen to fourth in the FedExCup standings.
During his nine previous appearances in Augusta, Watson has established an all-or-nothing record, with a tie for 20th in his first Masters in 2008 his only finish better than 37th. He missed the cut for the first time last year, one of his three missed cuts in 2017 majors.
Johnson scored one of the more surprising Masters victories in 2007, winning in some of the worst weather conditions in the modern history of the tournament with an outstanding final round performance. Johnson’s decidedly non-bomber style of play does not fit the mold of most Masters champions, and since his win more than a decade ago, he has just one finish better than 20th, a tie for ninth in 2015. Johnson, whose last of 12 career wins came in the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews, has played respectably thus far this season and is 54th on the points list. Johnson is one of four St. Simons Island residents in the field.
Mize scored one of the most memorable triumphs ever in the Masters, chipping in for birdie on the 11th hole, the second of sudden death, to defeat Greg Norman in a 1987 playoff that also included Seve Ballesteros. Mize, an Augusta native and long-time Columbus resident, had two more top finishes in the Masters in 1992 and ’94, and has made the cut four times as a senior, including three of the last four years. Mize, a Champions Tour member since 2009, scored four wins during his PGA Tour and has one on the Champions Tour.
Kizzire, one of the other three St. Simons residents in the field, has already won in Mexico and Hawaii this season and came up one shot short of making it into a playoff in Las Vegas. Kizzire, in his third season the PGA Tour after earning Player of the Year honors on the Web.com Tour in 2015, is second in the FedExCup standings behind Justin Thomas. The former Auburn golfer will be making his first Masters start after competing in the other three majors in 2016.
Bryan followed Kizzire as the Web.com Tour’s top player in 2016, winning three times to earn an in-season promotion to the PGA Tour. He enjoyed an excellent rookie season last year, highlighted by a victory in the Heritage Classic, where he became the first native South Carolinian to win that state’s only tour stop. Bryan, who played his college golf at South Carolina, has settled in Augusta and has had almost a year to contemplate his first appearance in what is now his hometown major. So far, Bryan’s sophomore season has not gone as well as his first. He is a distant 146th on the points list with missed cuts in his last three starts and a tie for 27th in the limited field Tournament of Champions his highest finish. He missed the cut in all three majors he competed in last year.
Kuchar, a former Georgia Tech star and St. Simons resident, has seven career PGA Tour wins, including the 2012 Players. He is looking for his first major title, but has come close on a number of occasions, most notably in last year’s British Open, where he was edged out by Spieth’s sensational finish. Kuchar recorded top 10s in three of last year’s four majors, including a tie for fourth in the Masters, his fourth top-10 in the last eight years and third top-5 in that span. Kuchar is off to a slower than usual start this season, standing 81st in the FedExCup standings with a T5 in Phoenix his best showing. He has qualified for the Tour Championship the last eight years in succession, but will have to pick up the pace to make it nine in a row.
Harman, a Savannah native and St. Simons resident, is enjoying an exceptional season with six top-10 finishes and a strong showing in the Match Play Championship, where he took down Rory McIlroy before losing to eventual champion Watson in the fourth round. The former Georgia Bulldog made his first mark in a major last year with a strong second place showing in the U.S. Open and has collected top 10s in all three WGC events this season, boosting him to 13th in the FedExCup standings. He missed the cut in his first Masters in 2015.
Henley, a Macon native and Harman’s UGA teammate, has qualified for the Masters for the fifth time in his six seasons on the PGA Tour, making it into the field at the last minute last year when he won in Houston the week before Augusta. Henley has had an interesting progression in his last three Masters starts, tying for 31st in 2014, placing 21st in ’15 and tying for 11th last year. Henley has three PGA Tour titles after winning three times on the Web.com Tour, one at the UGA course in Athens while he was a member of the Georgia golf team. He is looking for his first top 10 this season and is 103 on the points list.
Kisner, one of four ex-Bulldogs in the field, is coming off a terrific performance in last week’s Match Play, beating Dustin Johnson, Kuchar, Ian Poulter and Alex Noren in succession before having nothing left for his championship match loss to Watson. That boosted him to 27th in the FedExCup standings as he looks to make it to the Tour Championship for the fourth straight year. Kisner has two wins and four playoff losses since 2015 and made a strong run for his first major last year, tying for seventh in the PGA Championship. He finished around 40th in his first two Masters appearances.
Reed, who led Augusta State to back to back NCAA Championships in 2010 and ’11, has five wins since his rookie season in 2013, including WGC and Playoffs events. But he has not fared as well in majors, with a T22 in 2015 his best Masters finish. In four starts in Augusta, he has missed the cut twice. He is 25th on the points list this season on the strength of back-to-back finishes of second in Tampa and seventh in Orlando, and defeated Ryder Cup partner Spieth in the Match Play last week before losing in the fourth round.