AT the time of going to press, 13 first-time players had received invites to this year’s Masters. History suggests they are at long odds to capture the green jacket.
Only three players have ever won the Masters at their first attempt – Horton Smith at the inaugural tournament in 1934, Gene Sarazen the following year and Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Of the 13 debutantes, a tick over half are professionals, with the highest ranked players including Americans Tony Finau, Patton Kizzire, Xander Schauffele and Wesley Bryan.
There will be plenty of interest from China in this year’s Masters, with World No.40 Haotong Li getting his first taste of Augusta, alongside countryman Yuxin Lin – the bighitting teenager, who won the Asia Pacific Amateur in New Zealand last October.
Lin will be favoured to win the leading amateur title, while Li will be hoping to match his play at the Open Championship last July where he finished tied fourth, gaining him an invite into the Masters.
“It’s a big gift,” a jubilant Li said when he found out he had qualified at Birkdale for a Masters invite. “This is huge … huge.”
“Every player dreams about the Masters … we hope we can go some day and play. Now I am.”