World number one Scottie Scheffler and fellow U.S. Open runner-up Will Zalatoris paid respect to winner Matt Fitzpatrick after a thrilling final round at The Country Club.

Scheffler started his round with four birdies on his first six holes, going on to shoot a 67 and finish five under for the tournament, one behind Fitzpatrick.

Zalatoris also finished at five under, and had a chance to force a playoff by making a birdie putt on the 18th hole, only for it to narrowly miss wide.

It was a remarkable result for England's Fitzpatrick, who became the first player since fellow Englishman Danny Willett in 2016 to mark his first career PGA Tour win with a major victory.

Scheffler told the media after his round that he was happy with his performance, and highlighted the massive improvements he has seen from Fitzpatrick this season.

"My game is still in a good spot," he said. "I gave myself a chance to win the U.S. Open. 

"Performed really well today under a lot of pressure – I made some key putts there in the beginning to kind of get today going. I just played some quality golf. 

"It just so happened the putts [later in the round] were going around the edge instead of in. That's kind of what it felt like was happening most of the week… a few breaks here or there, and I would be the one holding the trophy.

"Tip of the hat to 'Fitzy'. He's been playing really good golf, and he definitely deserved to win this event. I don't know if you guys noticed, but I feel like he has made some extreme improvements off the tee in a matter of months.

"I played with him in Austin this year, and he was not hitting it nearly as far as he is now. I don't know what he was doing. Maybe he was on the Bryson program or something. 

"He's hitting the ball really well and has been knocking on the door for a long time. He definitely deserves this win."

Zalatoris said he thought his playoff-forcing putt was dropping as he watched it travel, and gave respect to Fitzpatrick for what will go down as a legendary bunker save on the 18th hole.

"I did [think my putt was going in] – with about six feet to go, I thought I had it," he said.

"When he pulled it off [out of the bunker] – tip your cap, well done. Now I have to make birdie and hope he misses.

"I painted that shot right over the flagstick and just hit it a little deep. [Fitzpatrick's] golf shot was one-in-20, at best. To pull it off in that situation is incredible.

"He had to cut it around kind of an island of rough in the middle of that bunker. Probably – I don't know how far he had – I'd say roughly around 160, 170 [yards to the pin]. 

"So he's probably hitting a seven or a six-iron and opening it up, carving it off probably left edge of the green. And to get it to be just past pin-high, like I said, the fact he had a look was just awesome.

"When they show the highlights at future U.S. Opens, that's one that's going to be shown, because that was just incredible."

Matt Fitzpatrick called it a dream come true to win his first major after shooting 68 in Sunday's final round to finish on six under, winning the U.S. Open by one stroke from Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris.

The win is the 27-year-old Englishman's first on the PGA Tour, making him the first player to collect his debut victory in a major since Danny Willett won the 2016 Masters.

It also comes at the same course – The Country Club at Brookline – where Fitzpatrick won the 2013 U.S. Amateur.

Speaking to the media after his stunning triumph, he said this was the culmination of a lifetime of work.

"No words, it’s what you grow up dreaming of," he said. "It’s a day I’ve worked so hard for, for such a long time.

"There was a big monkey on my back trying to win over here, all they ever talked about was that, and to do it as a major for my first win – there’s nothing better."

Fitzpatrick gave himself every chance on Sunday by hitting 17-of-18 greens in regulation, and then produced one of the shots of his life on the 18th hole to work his way out of a bunker for the win.

"I’ve got to give myself credit, I stayed patient today," he said. "I said to [caddie] Billy [Foster] that if I could just hit 18 greens today I’d like to think I’d got a good chance – and I near as damn did it. 

"I got a couple of nice breaks there on 15, took advantage of it and that’s what it took in the end.

"Me and Billy spent quite a while talking about the 18th tee shot, undecided. I hit a three-wood today, into the bunker and if there was one shot that I’ve struggled with that I just do not want, it’s a fairway bunker shot. 

"I don’t know, ability just took over and it’s one of the best shots I’ve hit, of all time. When I saw it leave the sand, I couldn’t have been happier."

Back in 2013 when he won the U.S. Amateur, Fitzpatrick stayed with a host family, and he decided to stay with the same family – the Fultons – this time around.

"It’s meant the world, I’ve won twice now here," he said. "I’m trying to get every Tour event around here now and stay at the Fulton’s. 

"So to have them, or to stay with them this week, has made it so much more relaxing, less pressure – I’ve loved every minute."

He finished his trophy presentation ceremony with a message for Jack Nicklaus.

"I don’t know if Jack’s listening to this, but he gave me a bit of abuse at the start of the year," he said.

"I won the member’s member at his club – the Bears Club – and he said ‘finally, congratulations on winning in the States’. 

"So I can go back to him and say 'Jack, I’ve won a second time this year'."

Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead coming into the final round at the U.S. Open, finishing a tough Saturday on four-under par at Brookline.

Only nine players at this third major of the year have scores under par after 54 holes at the Country Club, and the tied lead between Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick only came after Jon Rahm's dreadful final hole in overcast and blustery conditions.

The world number two had the outright lead coming into his final hole on moving day, but three consecutive bunker shots and a two-putt led to a double-bogey on the par-four 18th and three-under after 54.

Zalatoris and Fitzpatrick have not won as professionals in the United States, with the former agonisingly finishing second at the 2021 Masters and this year's PGA Championship.

With Zalatoris finishing his round earlier in the day, Rahm finished as the conditions further cooled, placing particular difficulty on the approach to the green with club selection.

A visibly frustrated Rahm was able to compensate with some exceptional putting on the back nine, however, sinking a long birdie putt on the 14th to put him level with the two leaders. Three birdies between 14 and 17 were undone by the last hole, however.

Scottie Scheffler recovered from a double-bogey and three consecutive bogeys between 11 and 14 to finish Saturday on two-under, securing a birdie on the 17th before a massive par save on the last after hitting the bunker.

The usually stoic Scheffler did not hide his emotions with a triumphant fist-pump after the save, which left the world number one tied with Adam Hadwin and Keegan Bradley.

Joel Dahmen and Collin Morikawa fell down the leaderboard after opening Saturday with the lead on five-under. Morikawa's natural left-to-right game particularly suffered, shooting a seven-over 77.

Dahmen is joined on one-under by Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy, who only made seven greens in regulation but stayed in contention with a string of saves on the back nine.

 

Shot of the day

After two birdies and a bogey through his first seven holes, Scheffler really shone on the eighth.

His stunning eagle on the par-five hole saw him leap into a two-shot lead at the summit of the leaderboard.

Player of the day - Will Zalatoris

In a day characterised by survival in blustery conditions at Brookline, Will Zalatoris was one of the few on Saturday who thrived.

His ball-striking shone on an overcast day, scoring only one bogey as the rest of the field struggled to find the green.

 

Chipping in

Zalatoris: "Yeah, that was brutal. When I made a mistake, I made sure I was on the fat side of the green or having room where I could maybe at least chip one up there from eight to 10 feet."

Scheffler: "There's a lot of trees on this golf course, and it's gusty as well. So it's definitely unpredictable. I think that's what happens when you get these foresty golf courses, and then with the gusts, I mean, that little golf ball is just getting thrown around all over the place." 

 

A little birdie told me...

- Victory on Sunday would see Fitzpatrick emulate Jack Nicklaus, winning the U.S. Open at the same course he won the U.S. Amateur, after beating Oliver Goss at the Country Club in 2013.

Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen are the 36-hole leaders of the U.S. Open after an entertaining second round at The Country Club on Friday, tied at five under.

Dahmen was one stroke off the lead after the first round, and he followed it up with a strong 68 in windy conditions. He is one of three players to shoot 68 or better in the opening two rounds. Morikawa came into the day at one under, and shot the round of the day as the only player to get around in 66. 

One stroke back from the lead is a five-man group headlined by stars Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, along with American duo Hayden Buckley and Aaron Wise. Buckley and Wise were the two players along Dahmen to shoot back-to-back 68s.

Beau Hossler joined that group at four under thanks to a chip-in birdie on his final hole.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of the group at three under, and he shared the early clubhouse lead following a three-under 67. He is joined by Nick Hardy, Matthew NeSmith, Patrick Rodgers and Brian Harman to round out the top-10.

Overnight leader Adam Hadwin is a further shot back at two under with Sam Burns and Matt Fitzpatrick, while South Africa's M.J. Daffue – who was three strokes clear atop the leaderboard early in his round at six under – posted five bogeys and no birdies down the back nine to head into the weekend at one under.

Also at one under are hopefuls Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris, still well within striking distance, while Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka headline the group at even par.

Star-studded duo Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson are at one over, and the pair of Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are at two over, one stroke clear of the cut-line.

Finishing right on the cut-line at three over was recent winner Lee Kyoung-hoon and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who has a pair of top-three finishes this season.

Plenty of big names missed the cut, with the international contingent of Spain's Sergio Garcia, Ireland's Shane Lowry, Chile's Mito Pereira and Canada's Corey Conners all one shot out at four over. Tony Finau finished five over, Cameron Smith was six over, and the pair of Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland were both at seven over.

 

Shot of the day

Cameron Young had a moment he will never forget when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par-three sixth.

There were huge cheers after the American's dream tee shot at the 165-yard hole dropped in. Young was unable to make the cut – missing out by one stroke – but not without achieving a rare feat.

Player of the day - Collin Morikawa

Morikawa produced the round of the day to ensure he is the man to catch heading into the weekend.

The two-time major winner was not at his brilliant best, but five birdies and just the one bogey at the par-five fourth putting him in the lead.

Chipping in

Morikawa: "No one has taken it deep so far and kind of run away, but you know what, right now my game feels really good. The last few days is a huge confidence booster for me heading into this weekend, and hopefully we can kind of make some separation somehow."

Scheffler: "I've been number one in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest."

 

A little birdie told me...

- Young's ace was the 48th in US Open history.

- Nick Hardy and M.J. Daffue emerged from the Springfield, Ohio qualifying. They both held a share of the lead on Friday.

- Scheffler is bidding to become only the second player to win this major while world number one since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986. Tiger Woods (2000, 2002 and 2008) is the only man to achieved that.

- Matthew Fitzpatrick is looking to emulate Jack Nicklaus by winning the US Amateur and US Open on the same course.

Cameron Smith continued his strong start to the Memorial Tournament on Friday, sitting alone atop the leaderboard on eight under after being one of three players to shoot under 70 on back-to-back days.

The Australian was in a six-way tie for the lead after round one, and pushed on well his second time around, finishing with just one bogey – on the sixth hole – which was sandwiched by birdies on the fifth and seventh.

Smith then birdied the par-five 11th, and the par-three 12th, showing his impressive touch over long and short distances, but where he really made his money was around the greens.

According to Data Golf, Smith had negative strokes-gained off the tee and with his approach shots in round two, but was second overall in strokes-gained around the greens (plus 3.55), trailing only Beau Hossler (plus 4.25). They gapped the field, with nobody else gaining more than plus 2.83 in that shot category.

Sitting one stroke off the lead is American Denny McCarthy and South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon, while one stroke further back at six under are round one's joint-leaders Davis Riley, Cameron Young and Luke List, along with Jhonattan Vegas and Billy Horschel.

McCarthy and Vegas joined Smith as the only players to shoot sub-70 in the opening two rounds.

Rory McIlroy headlines the group at five under in a tie for ninth, along with Francesco Molinari, still well within striking distance heading into the weekend.

A strong international group is at four under, including Canada's Mackenzie Hughes, Chile's Joaquin Niemann and South Korea's Im Sung-jae, and they are one stroke ahead of Ireland's Shane Lowry, Mexico's Abraham Ancer and American Will Zalatoris.

Jon Rahm and Corey Conners will still feel like they have a chance at two under, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele finished well inside the cut-line at one under, and Jordan Spieth shot a disappointing 74 on Friday to take an even par score into the weekend.

England's Aaron Rai – who was number one in strokes-gained off the tee on Friday – along with Australian Adam Scott finished right on the cut-line, making it through at two over, but Matt Fitzpatrick (three over) and Collin Morikawa (four over) were not so lucky.

World number three Cameron Smith headlines a six-way tie atop the Memorial Tournament leaderboard after Thursday's first round at Muirfield Village.

Smith is joined by American trio Luke List, Cameron Young and Davis Riley, as well as Canada's Mackenzie Hughes and South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon.

It is the largest leading group after the first round in tournament history, but they all got to their five-under 67 in different ways. 

Young finished the day second in average driving distance (316.8 yards), behind only Jon Rahm, while Lee, Hughes and Smith finished top-six in putts-per-green-in-regulation.

List was the only member of the leading group to finish with less than two bogeys, and Riley played an all-round game; top-15 in driving distance while being dialled in with his putter down the back-nine, going five-under from the 11th hole to the 17th.

US PGA Championship runner-up Will Zalatoris is part of the three-man group one stroke off the lead, while Max Homa and Canada's Corey Conners are in the logjam at three under.

A star-studded group finished with a two-under 70, including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Im Sung-jae, while Chile's Joaquin Neimann is with Collin Morikawa and Jason Day at one under.

Patrick Cantlay and Rahm were even-par, Mito Pereira will need a solid second round to make the cut after a one-over finish, and Hideki Matsuyama was handed his first career disqualification for using a wood with paint on its face – deemed illegal. He was three over at the time of the incident.

World number one Scottie Scheffler was part of an eight-man group atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, played at Colonial Country Club in Texas.

Scheffler, who shot a bogey-free 66 despite only hitting 50 per cent of the fairways in regulation, was joined by fellow Americans Harold Varner III, Chris Kirk, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, as well as Canadian Nick Taylor and Australian Cam Davis.

Hossler produced the most notable round, with two eagles – both coming on par-fours – in his last four holes to fly up the leaderboard.

One shot off the lead were a group including Davis Riley and Kevin Na, while pre-tournament favourite Jordan Spieth was back at one under, tied with Victor Hovland and Max Homa.

Spieth, who is from Texas, has an impeccable record at Colonial, with seven top-10 finishes – including three runners-up and a win – from nine starts on the PGA Tour.

Speaking to the media after finishing his round, Spieth said he is battling his putter at the moment but that he is confident things will turn in his favour.

"I think I'm typically more comfortable with reads here, although today here was totally different, I misread a number of putts today," he said.

"But I stroked it beautifully, I just felt great about the way I putted, I just didn't get much to go.

"Those are the kind of rounds where you can either look at it negatively, or you can say at it like 'hey, that lid is going to come off one of these times, and all of a sudden they're all going to pour in'.

"It's done that for me [previously] at Colonial, so I think that's the attitude I'm going to take."

At even par were a strong international group including Chile's US PGA Championship main character Mito Pereira, Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, England's Ian Poulter, American Collin Morikawa and the South Korean duo of Lee Kyoung-hoon and Im Sung-jae.

PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas was at one over, while his playoff opponent last week Will Zalatoris was a shot further back at two over.

Justin Thomas ultimately prevailed in a thrilling US PGA Championship, lifting the Wanamaker Trophy after Mito Pereira's collapse on the 18th hole forced a playoff.

Holding the lead coming into the final round, Pereira only needed a par on the 18th hole to secure his first PGA Tour victory, but put his drive in the water and could not even salvage a bogey to earn his spot in the playoff.

With a double-bogey capping off a final round 75, he went from six under to four under, tying for third with Cameron Young.

The playoff was contested between Thomas and Will Zalatoris after both players produced clutch shots late in their rounds to finish at five under.

Thomas – who tied for the round of the day with his 67 – had a birdie putt on 18 to move to six under, but could not convert from 10 feet, finishing with a par to head into the clubhouse in outright second place, trailing Pereira by one shot.

Zalatoris, on the other hand, bogeyed the 16th to drop to four under, but came right back with a birdie on 17. He had a tricky par putt on 18 to remain tied with Thomas, and he remained cool under pressure.

In the playoff – which was contested over the aggregate score of three holes, the first being a par-five – Zalatoris appeared to strike first as he found the fairway with his drive, while Thomas hit the rough. Thomas was forced to lay-up, while Zalatoris made the green in two.

Zalatoris two-putted for his birdie, while Thomas put his wedge to within six feet, converting his birdie putt to tie the first playoff hole.

The second playoff hole was the 17th – a drivable par-four – and Thomas found the green with his drive. Zalatoris did not, and after chipping into birdie range, he missed his putt, tapping in for par. Thomas, on the other hand, safely two-putted for birdie to take a one stroke lead into the final playoff hole.

Both players drove well and made the green in regulation on the last, and after Zalatoris failed to sink a long birdie putt, Thomas only needed to two-putt for par to secure his second career major, making no mistakes. It is his second PGA Championship, five years after winning at Quail Hollow.

Also making the top-five was the English duo of Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood – with the latter matching Sunday's best score – and American Chris Kirk, tied for fifth at three under.

It was a strong final round from Rory McIlroy, who rebounded from a disappointing 74 on Saturday to shoot 68 – one stroke off the round of the day – to finish outright eighth at two under.

McIlroy looked like he may be trending for a legendary final round after four consecutive birdies starting on the second hole, but he would claim no more from the fifth.

A four-man group of Mexico's Abraham Ancer, Ireland's Seamus Power and the American pairing of Tom Hoge and Brendan Steele rounded out the top-10, and the last players to finish under par.

Cameron Smith and Xander Schauffele highlighted the group at even par, while the big names struggled, as Jordan Spieth finished at four over, Jon Rahm wrapped up at six over, and Collin Morikawa at eight over.

Shot of the day

The shot of the day went to Englishman Laurie Canter, who birdied the difficult par-four 18th hole from the fairway.

After his drive found the rough, he was forced to lay-up 97 yards from the pin, but was able to convert it thanks to some sharp backspin.

A little birdie told me…

Before his horror drive on 18, Pereira earned his 71-hole lead with great success on the difficult par-fives and par-threes. He joined Webb Simpson as the only players to shoot a combined six under on the par-fives (fifth and 13th holes) over their four rounds

Only four players finished under par for the week on the par-threes (sixth, eighth, 11th and 14th holes) – Fitzpatrick and Rose were two under, while Pereira and Steele shot one under.

On average, nobody drove the ball further than Rory McIlroy this week, posting 347.6 yards per drive. However, the longest drive of the week went to Jon Rahm, with a 418-yard bomb.

Will Zalatoris says he "got away with murder" after overcoming a rough start on day two to take the lead of the US PGA Championship, finishing five under after a superb performance.

The San Franciscan topped the leaderboard at Southern Hills Country Club with nine under after two rounds, as Rory McIlroy faded from the summit and Tiger Woods scraped the overall cut.

The 25-year-old, who is chasing his first major after a second-place finish at the Masters last year, made one under par through the first nine before powering through the pack with a turkey between the 11th and 13th.

But Zalatoris felt he made a lucky escape after a few wayward shots early on looked to have checked any momentum he might have built.

"I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in," he said.

"Same thing on 17, being able to get out of there with birdie where it was looking like I was going to be making 5.

"10 was really the big one, compounding two errors and hitting one really good golf shot and saving par, I just kept the round going today.

" I made a bunch of six or eight-footers for par that kept the day going, and obviously being bogey free around this place is pretty nice.

"We lucked out with the draw for sure. I played the last eight holes with not much wind, but take it when you can get it."

Zalatoris is teeing up a tilt at a maiden triumph in one of golf's four most-storied events, having nabbed T8 at the PGA last year and T6 at the US Open the year before.

"They're tough golf courses that allows my ball-striking to really give me the best chances," he added on his prospects in majors.

"Obviously these greens aren't easy, but hitting them on the right tiers and being able to have the 15-to 25-footers where I'm not going up and down slopes is huge.

"But the other part, too, I think is just I've kind of had an attitude with the majors, especially since the Masters, where I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as I could.

"I don't want to leave anything. Looking back from 20 years from now I don't want to regret my attitude or anything like that.

"So I just make sure that after really every single shot I hit, it's just... I don't want to say life or death, but make sure I'm fully committed to everything that I do because we only get four of them a year."

Will Zalatoris took advantage of the friendlier conditions later on Friday to finish his round five under, giving him the outright lead at nine under through two rounds at Southern Hills Country Club.

He is the only player to shoot 66 or better in the first two rounds as fellow fast-starters Rory McIlroy and Tom Hoge both finished over par their second time around the course.

Zalatoris went bogey-free, birdieing the first hole, the 17th, and three consecutive starting on the 11th. While the conditions were conducive to scoring, both of his playing partners – Cameron Smith and Victor Hovland – shot even-par 70s.

In outright second place at eight under is Chile's Mito Pereira, who was one shot off the round-of-the-day with his six-under 64, leaving him at eight under through two rounds. He had seven birdies – including back-to-backs on holes four-five and 10-11 – and just one bogey on 12.

Justin Thomas posted his second consecutive 67 to have a share of third place at six under, and he is one shot ahead of Bubba Watson, who shot Friday's best round of 63 – tying the course record – with nine birdies and two bogeys. He sits alone in fourth.

Tiger Woods was in danger of missing the cut after a double-bogey on the 11th moved his score to five over, but he responded in terrific fashion.

Showing his quality, Woods one-putted on the next six greens for two birdies and four pars to leave him one shot inside the cut-line (four under) heading onto the 18th. With a par on the last, he finished his round one under and earned two more rounds of action.

First-round leader McIlroy is in a share for fifth af four under after his round of 71, and he's tied with Mexico's Abraham Ancer and America's Davis Riley.

England's Matt Fitzpatrick and American Stewart Cink are one further shot back at three under in a tie for eighth, and there is a logjam at two under, tied for 10th, highlighted by Cameron Smith, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Kuchar.

A strong grouping of Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth are part of a large contingent at one over, with Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm a further stroke back after they posted scores of 67 and 69 respectively on Friday.

Jason Day is tied with Woods at three under, while at four under Collin Morikawa and Hideki Matsuyama just did enough to qualify for the weekend.

Scottie Scheffler is now the proud owner of a green jacket after winning the Masters with a terrific performance in the last round – even if he wobbled on the 18th green.

Scheffler, 25, finished 10 under overall and shot 71 on Sunday after a double bogey at the last, winning his fourth career PGA Tour title after landing his first just 57 days ago.

A terrific chip-in on the third hole helped him find his footing after a couple of wayward drives early on, but his ability to recover from less-than-ideal situations was on full display on the first nine.

He would birdie the seventh hole on the way to a bogey-free front half, before his first slip-up came with a bogey on the 10th as he missed a makeable par putt. He lost his putting poise on the final green, but had enough shots in hand that it hardly mattered a jot.

The final day shaped up as a two-horse race between Scheffler and Cameron Smith, but any chance Smith had at mounting a comeback went up in smoke as his tee shot on the par-three 12th found the water.

Smith went on to triple-bogey the hole, and fell apart from that point, pulling drives into the trees as his fight turned from a chance to win to a battle to hang on in the top five.

The surge of the day came from Rory McIlroy, who shot one off the course record with an eight-under 64 to finish outright second at seven under.

McIlroy went bogey-free, with birdies on one, three, seven, eight, 10 and 18, and an eagle on 13.

He capped off his round with a remarkable chip-in from the bunker on 18 – only for his playing partner, Colin Morikawa, to do likewise to put the finishing touches on a 67 to earn outright fifth place at four under.

Also finishing inside the top five was Shane Lowry, who finished with a three-under 69 to tie with Smith for third on a five-under aggregate, despite a triple bogey on the par-three fourth.

There is nothing in golf quite like The Masters.

Arguably the most prestigious of the majors, Augusta National becomes the centre of the sporting world once more over the weekend, as the famous green jacket goes up for grabs again.

In 1997, Tiger Woods won his first major when he triumphed in Georgia, and 25 years on he is set to make a sensational comeback from injury.

But Woods is not the only name to look out for.

 

The favourites

Let's start from the top. Scottie Scheffler is the world's new number one and he heads into the weekend on the back of three victories in his last five events, having not finished worse than T-19th in his six major appearances since 2020.

Scheffler said he has been resting up at home ahead of travelling to Augusta, where he joked he has already been brought down a peg or two.

He told Sky Sports: "I've been humbled a couple of times already, showing up here. The guy who picked me up in the cart this morning called me Xander, so that brought me down to earth real quick! It's been great, really looking forward to this week."

The Xander in question is Xander Schauffele. He finished T3 last year, three shots back from the champion Hideki Matsuyama, and was looking good on his final round until he sent a ball into the water on the 16th, but he won gold at the Tokyo Olympics and comes into the tournament in strong form.

Reigning champion Matsuyama cast doubt over his participation when he withdrew from the Texas Open with a neck problem, meanwhile, which may hinder his title defence.

 

Brooks Koepka has won four majors, but did not make the cut last year and will be out to put that right this time around, having defeated Jon Rahm in the WGC-Match Play last 16. 

Rahm has finished in the top 10 in each of his last four Masters appearances. However, the Spaniard has not won a tournament since triumphing in the US Open last year, but did secure a place in the top 10 in all four of last year's majors.

Dustin Johnson failed to make the cut in 2021 in a torrid title defence. He had dropped out of the top 10 up until an impressive performance at the WGC-Match Play moved him up to number eight, and he'll be determined to rekindle the form that saw him clinch the green jacket in 2020.

Viktor Hovland is ranked fourth in the world, though his weak chipping game may prove costly to his chances at Augusta, while Collin Morikawa cannot be discounted for a third major title and Justin Thomas will be out to win a second major having won the US PGA Championship in 2017.

 

The outsiders

Augusta is where golfers can shoot to stardom over the course of four spectacular days, and there will be plenty of the field who fancy their chances despite not being among the bookmakers' favourites.

One such player capable of a challenge is Cameron Smith. The Australian is ranked at a career-high six, won the Players' Championship last month and has finished inside the top 10 in three of the last four Masters.

Will Zalatoris, meanwhile, comes into the weekend with the best SG (strokes gained, which compares a player's score to the field average) tee-to-green* statistics on the PGA Tour this season, with his 1.767 average just edging out Thomas, and he came second on his Masters debut in 2021.

Zalatoris only has one pro win to his name so far but the 25-year-old has largely impressed at the majors. He finished T2 in 2021 at Augusta and T8 in last year's PGA Championship, while recording a T6 finish in the 2020 US Open.

Rory McIlroy's Masters record is frustrating. It is the only major the former world number one has not yet won. He finished in the top 10 six times between 2014 and 2020 before missing the cut last year, and now he'll have another stab at sealing a career Grand Slam, though his best finish this season has been third in the Dubai Desert Classic.

 

Only five players have previously completed a clean sweep of the majors, and McIlroy has not won one of the big four events since 2014.

Russell Henley will feature for the first time since 2018 after 12 top 10 finishes in the past year, and he has finished in the top 25 at Augusta three times, while Bryson DeChambeau is going to compete despite missing a chunk of the season with a hip problem. He finished T46 on three-over-par in 2021.

Marc Leishman finished fifth a year ago, improving on T13 from 2020, and Sergio Garcia will at least hope to make the cut for the first time since he won in 2017. Perhaps if the Spaniard can just make the weekend, he can go all the way again?

 

The return of the king

As far as comeback stories go in sport, Woods has already provided one of the very best.

In 2019, against all odds following years of back issues and surgery to fix the problems, Woods won The Masters for a fifth time in his illustrious career, taking his total of major victories to 15. He trails only Jack Nicklaus in that regard.

But this comeback might just top the lot.

The 46-year-old admitted he cheated death in a major single-car crash in February 2021, which left him with serious leg and foot injuries. Woods was unable to walk unaided for several months and has not played serious golf since, but he is all set for a remarkable return on the biggest stage of them all.

It will be his first appearance in any tournament since he played at Augusta in November 2020. Since winning his maiden major a quarter of a century ago, Woods has claimed nine more major titles than any other player, while he is one of only three players to win successive Masters titles (2001 and 2002).

Woods has never failed to make the cut in 21 appearances, and even if he does not challenge at the top of the leaderboard this time around (though you would not put it past him) his comeback is already the story of the weekend.

 

Luke List has had a long wait for his first PGA Tour win and that was extended after a two-hour wait before triumphing in a playoff over Will Zalatoris at the Farmers Insurance Open on Saturday.

The 37-year-old American, enjoyed an excellent final round six-under-66, highlighted by four consecutive birdies from the third to the sixth holes, to storm up the leaderboard at Torrey Pines.

But List, in his 206th career start, waited almost two hours after entering the clubhouse as the overnight leaders completed their rounds before facing Zalatoris, who also finished 15-under overall, in an 18th hole playoff.

In fading light, the pair both landed their tee shots within inches of each other in a bunker, with List's third shot placed close to the hole, enabling him to tap in to card a birdie.

Zalatoris pushed his longer birdie putt, which was near-identical to his 18th hole putt for victory that he missed, wide left again to settle the playoff in List's favour.

California-born 25-year-old Zalatoris may have clinched victory on the 18th as List patiently waited and practiced elsewhere, but was agonizingly short and slightly wide after a late fade on his putt.

He carded a final round one-under-71, grouped alongside Jason Day and Aaron Rai, with world number one Jon Rahm also making a late charge.

Day shot into a share of the lead after landing an eagle on the 14th hole but had to settle for joint third alongside Rahm and Cameron Tringale at 14-under-par overall.

The Australian, who had not won a PGA Tour title in 1,364 days, finished with back-to-back bogeys to slip from contention.

Rahm rolled in a clutch 26-foot putt to birdie the 17th to be one shot off the pace but only managed par on the last hole.

Joaquin Niemann, Justin Rose, Pat Perez, Sungjae Im and Rai were next, finishing 13-under overall.

Patrick Cantlay secured a one-shot lead on 14-under par ahead of Tom Hoge on the second day of the American Express in California on Friday.

The world number four followed up his impressive round of 62 on the opening day with a four-under 68 to hold the outright lead at the end of day two, with Hoge following up a first day 65 with another respectable round of 66 to sit on 13-under.

The best round of the day came from Will Zalatoris, who shot an 11-under 61 to move up 93 places to joint-third after having hit just 10 greens in his opening round 71.

The 25-year-old American managed 12 birdies, including each of his last seven holes to climb up the leaderboard, and now sits level on 12-under with fellow countrymen Lanto Griffin, Greyson Sigg, Cameron Young and Joseph Bramlett.

His drive on the final hole actually ended in the rough on the adjacent first hole, but he was still able to make birdie.

“I think today I just gave myself chances," Zalatoris said after his round. "I hit a lot close and made a couple 20, 30 footers to keep the round going and obviously... making birdie on nine from the wrong fairway is kind of the icing on the cake."

Sam Ryder, Roger Sloan, Zach Johnson and Paul Barjon ended their second rounds tied for eighth on 11-under. 

Meanwhile, Lee Hodges, who held the lead with Cantlay at the start of day two, could only muster an even-round of 72 and now finds himself tied for twelfth with 11 other competitors.

Among them is Sahith Theegala, who shot an eagle and eight birdies as part of a round of 62 to climb 98 places to inexplicably sit alongside the previous day's overnight joint-leader.

World number one Jon Rahm was unable to build on his steady first round of 66 as he hit five birdies and three bogeys during his 70 to sit tied for 32nd on eight-under.

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