The most anticipated tee sheet of the professional men’s golf calendar is here, and now we have almost two days to talk ourselves into why a situation on paper might be good or bad for a certain green jacket hopeful. The Masters enjoys the unique luxury, for a major, of having a field often well under triple digits, while the others are bursting at the seams with 156 players. The 2022 tournament has 91 players, including a certain five-time winner, at the start of the week.
At that manageable size, there is no need for a split-tee start the first two days, with everyone rolling off No. 1 with a bit of cushion on both sides of the tee sheet and the ability to make up plenty of ground should there be weather delays. There’s the slight potential for that on Thursday, but it’s limited and the forecast looks fairly clean for the rest of the week, some wind and colder temps notwithstanding.
There are 29 threesomes and two twosomes set for Thursday and Friday, but all the drama of Tuesday’s tee sheet reveal focused on that aforementioned 5-time green jacket winner. Let’s take a quick spin through what we got:
The big one
Tiger Woods strolled into the press building just before the official release of tee times and told the assembled press, “As of right now, I feel like I am going to play, as of right now.” That’s not a 100-percent commitment, despite some of the siren alerts and definitive news breaks that went out characterizing it as such, but it certainly meant he would be on the tee sheet. And if we’re being realistic, based on every assessment we’ve heard from players and those close to him, it would be a stunner if he doesn’t show up for that tee time on Thursday.
So who are the lucky playing partners who will have to deal with an overwhelming throng swarming up and down the slopes of Augusta National? Two elite international ball-strikers in Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquín Niemann, a trendy pick among the closer golf watchers. Both players likely groaned when they drew Tiger, because despite the experience of witnessing history, playing in the circus is often not helpful for your scorecard.
10:34 AM Thurs/1:41 PM Fri — Tiger Woods, Louis Oosthuizen, Joaquín Niemann
Whether intentional or not, Augusta National did give Tiger a break with an early-late draw for the first two rounds. For someone who is a game-time decision due to physical questions about his ability to play full rounds on one of the hardest walks in pro golf, recuperation time seems critical. He gets that with the early-late draw and will not have to turn around quickly from Thursday night to Friday morning. Maybe it was random, or maybe the hosts threw him a bone and tried to create the most benevolent conditions for an amazing comeback attempt.
Heavyweights at the bottom of the card
One thing Augusta National is not prone to do is give the people what they want when it comes to absolute power trios. The USGA or PGA will oblige and put a Tiger and Phil together occasionally, and load up a select four to six distinct headline groups. The Masters, on the other hand, will spread the “stars” around and mix in some diversity with different ages, nationalities, and amateurs. The 2022 tee sheet, however, seems weighted much more at the bottom on Thursday.
The AM draw will have that Tiger show, but the final four groups off for the day in the first round feature 12 players considered to be among the favorites, whether due to their world ranking or history at this venue.
- 1:30 PM Thurs/10:12 AM Fri — Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa
- 1:41 PM Thurs/10:23 AM Fri — Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm
- 1:52 PM Thurs/10:34 AM Fri — Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele
- 2:03 PM Thurs/10:45 AM Fri — Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
There is not a single weak link, with so much happening in a pod with consolidated starpower at a level that feels rare for the Masters. Aside from the Tiger show, the other half of the draw feels thin. Enjoy the Thursday afternoon telecast on ESPN.
Groupings of intrigue
Here are a few more tee times we like.
10:01 AM Thurs/1:08 PM Fri – Shane Lowry, Kevin Na, Max Homa
Twitter’s hero in Homa, and a frequent target in Na, will make the rooting allegiances fairly straightforward for that subset of the audience in this range of personalities. Homa and Lowry seem exceedingly nice, but also definitely a different speed than the third wheel here, and that may have them wanting to team up and stuff the Golf Saudi ambassador in a locker by Friday night.
10:12 AM Thurs/1:19 PM Fri – Kevin Kisner, Daniel Berger, Tommy Fleetwood
Berger has been one of the elite ballstrikers on tour for the last few years. The other two are traditionally thought of that way, though the strokes gained approach numbers are not pretty the last few seasons. Great iron play is absolutely essential at the Masters, more than any other trait, and these are three players at differing stages of their careers trying to strike their way into contention. Fleetwood looked precise during his Tuesday morning stroll, but hasn’t had a top 10 since last fall. It’s not a power or star trio, but it is a distinct kind of group, attempting to get around in a different ways.
12:35 PM Thurs/9:17 AM Fri – Bubba Watson, Tom Hoge, Keita Nakajima
One of my favorite moments from Tuesday’s shortened practice round was watching Cameron Champ, known to struggle around the green, stare almost in awe at Bubba chipping around in the short-game practice area. Bubba is not the dominant player who won here twice in three years, but he’s an artist always worth following at a place like this. Hoge has been one of the best irons players in the world, a skill we just noted is delectable to watch at ANGC. And Nakajima is the next-in-line hyped star from Japan, the world No. 1 amateur, and focus of the Netflix golf docu-series scurrying around the grounds this week.
1:30 PM Thurs/10:12 AM Fri — Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa
Part of the power pod mentioned above, this features the full freakout spectrum. Deadpan DJ and tempestuous Billy playing together for two straight days, likely on a featured group stream, will be amusing to watch, with Collin falling somewhere in the middle, likely shading more toward the DJ side of the mood board.
2:03 PM Thurs/10:45 AM Fri — Matthew Fitzpatrick, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy
The most intriguing grouping on the sheet, and we’ll spare you the obvious 600 words on why. The least heralded name, Fitzy, could be the favorite to finish best among the three. This is just an amazing mix of demons, hubris, perspective, world-class game, and expectations.
The recent Players Champion winner has been one of the two or three best players in the world this year. A tough tee time may do little to stop that, but he didn’t get a fluffy draw to start his Masters, playing just a group ahead of the Tiger circus, which is infamously cited as the hardest spot to play as the galleries run ahead to get in position while you’re trying to play. Also, his playing partners are the banged-up Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey, elite victim mentality talents. Of all the people in the field, those externalities probably bother Smith the least but it’s still not the ideal situation on paper.
Making only his second Masters start as a pro, Niemann enters in form and with the traits desired most for Augusta National. He’s also just looked dominant at another classic and mentally challenging course with a loaded field in Riviera. He was set up well to make a splash, but that won’t be happening alongside Tiger, who will suck up all the oxygen and attention the first two days. He just needs to hold on for the ride.
Seems like it will be hard to get a word in edgewise in his grouping.
Here’s your full tee sheet for the first two days — UPDATE — due to overnight rain, and continued storms into Thursday morning, all tee times were pushed back exactly 30 minutes today. Tiger Woods will now tee off at 11:04 a.m. ET.
More Masters coverage from The Fried Egg team: