Rory McIlroy ended a wait of almost two years to win a title after claiming his third Wells Fargo Championship.

Not since the WGC-HSBC Champions in November 2019 had former world number one McIlroy reigned supreme on the PGA or European Tour.

However, he snapped his drought at Quail Hollow, where the four-time major champion came from behind to triumph by one stroke thanks to his three-under-par 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who was two shots off the pace heading into the final day, held off Abraham Ancer at 10 under to add to his 2010 and 2015 triumphs in the tournament.

A flawless front nine set the tone as McIlroy tallied two birdies before gaining further strokes at the 14th and 15th holes in Charlotte.

McIlroy then narrowly avoided a meltdown when he hooked his tee shot on the par-four 18th hole, where he took a drop and managed to get on the green before two-putting to seal his win.

The Northern Irish star captured his 19th PGA Tour victory in his 196th start, with the Wells Fargo Championship the first tournament McIlroy has won more than twice.

Ancer posted a final-round 66 to secure sole possession of second spot, a shot better off than Viktor Hovland (67) and overnight leader Keith Mitchell (72).

Gary Woodland (71) finished three strokes adrift of McIlroy at seven under through 72 holes, while former Masters champion Patrick Reed's 70 saw him share sixth place alongside Matt Wallace (70) and Luke List (72).

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau's hasty and expensive U-turn over the weekend resulted in a tie for ninth position – six shots off the pace.

DeChambeau flew home to Dallas on Friday after thinking he missed the cut. When the cut changed, the American star boarded another flight back to Charlotte for Saturday's third round.

In the final round, the powerful American carded a second successive three-under-par 68.

Keith Mitchell leads Rory McIlroy by two strokes following three rounds of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Bryson DeChambeau endured a whirlwind 24 hours.

American golfer Mitchell carded a five-under-par 66 to surge to the top of the leaderboard at Quail Hollow on Saturday.

Mitchell, whose solitary PGA Tour title came via the 2019 Honda Classic, was flawless in the penultimate round after holing five birdies without dropping a shot.

But four-time major champion McIlroy is lurking in Charlotte, where the two-time Wells Fargo Championship winner is two shots off the pace.

Former world number one McIlroy, who raced out to the lead, posted a three-under-par 68 to be tied for second position alongside Gary Woodland (70).

McIlroy was also two strokes back at the halfway stage of the tournament on Friday, having made the cut for the first time in two months.

A healthy crowd was in attendance to watch McIlroy lurk heading into the final round and the Northern Irish star – amid the coronavirus pandemic that has impacted attendances – said: "I sort of realised that it's hard for me to bring the best out in myself without that atmosphere that we had today. I'm excited to be in the position I'm in."

U.S. Open champion DeChambeau ended the day eight shots behind Mitchell following his third-round 68.

DeChambeau flew home to Dallas on Friday after thinking he missed the cut. When the cut changed, the American star boarded another flight back to Charlotte.

"It was funny," said DeChambeau. "We did a lot of scrambling last night to get back. One of the scenarios was like turning right back around, but the crew couldn't, you know, refuel and their hours were out. So we had to get a new crew, if anything, and it just didn't work out.

"So we're like, 'Well, let's just go in the morning'. So I left at 02:45am on a flight and I got here at 06:20am Drove 30 minutes to the golf course, put on my clothes in the locker room and headed out to the putting green. I did get a workout last night, though."

DeChambeau has a double-bogey or worse in each of his rounds at this year's Wells Fargo Championship. It is the fifth time in his career that he has recorded at least one double-bogey or worse in each of the first three rounds of a Tour event.

If there ever was a course to get slumping Rory McIlroy back on track, Quail Hollow might be it. 

McIlroy shot a five-under-par 66 Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship to make the cut for the first time in two months and reach four-under for the tournament, two strokes behind leaders Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland and Patrick Rodgers. 

First-round leader Phil Mickelson dropped to a tie for 10th overall after carding a 75 at the Charlotte, North Carolina course. 

Only Roger Sloan (64) went lower than McIlroy in the second round, as the 32-year-old recorded six birdies and just one bogey after shooting 72 in the first round. 

The Northern Irishman recorded his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow in 2010 and won there again in 2015. He lost out to Rickie Fowler in a three-man playoff in 2012. 

McIlroy is playing his first tournament since missing the cut at the Masters and The Players Championship, the latter coming a week after a 10th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer invitational in early March. 

"When you played the way I played sort of through that stretch in March and into April, you're going to feel like you're not as close as you probably are," McIlroy told reporters. 

"But I worked hard after Augusta. I took a week off and reset, which I needed.

"Then I put my head down and worked hard and at least felt better about everything coming in here."

Among the three leaders heading into the weekend, Wallace shot 67 Friday, Rodgers 68 and Woodland 69.

Kramer Hickok is one stroke back at five-under for the tournament, while Scott Piercy, Keith Mitchell, Carlos Ortiz and Scott Stallings are tied with McIlroy at four-under. 

Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson are among those at three-under, while 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed sits four back of the leaders. 

Justin Thomas is six back entering the weekend, while 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2020 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry just made the two-over cut. 

Among those who missed the cut were past major champions Fowler, Jason Day, Francesco Molinari and Lucas Glover  in addition to defending champion Max Homa and Jon Rahm.

Rahm had made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on Tour.

Phil Mickelson knows Quail Hollow as well as any course on the PGA Tour, and his comfort there was clear on Thursday as he earned a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship. 

Mickelson carded a seven-under-par 64 to set the early pace in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the five-time major champion is looking for his first win in 17 consecutive appearances at the event. 

The 50-year-old has always played well there, though, finishing in the top five in half of his 16 previous starts at the tournament. 

Lee Kyoung-hoon and Keegan Bradley were two shots back after shooting 66s.

Mickelson recorded just one bogey on day one while carding eight birdies, including four of the last five holes. 

He won two Champions Tour events last year in his debut season on that circuit, but has not captured a PGA Tour title since winning at Pebble Beach in February 2019. 

Mickelson's last opening-round lead or co-lead came three weeks prior to that in Palm Springs, but he did not want to put any additional pressure on himself after Thursday's strong start.

"I don't want to jump ahead, I want to play a good round tomorrow," said Mickelson, who recorded his lowest score on Tour since a 63 in the second round of the 2020 Travelers Championship. "I have an opportunity to play a course I love with a great pairing.

"I'm playing well and I just want to kind of not get ahead of myself and go play another fun round."

Mickelson, who entered the week ranked number 115 in the world, has 30 career opening-round leads/co-lads – the second most on Tour since 1992.

American star Justin Thomas closed out the first round five shots off the pace, while U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2012 tournament winner Rickie Fowler are a stroke further back.

Former Masters champion Patrick Reed shot a 71 as Xander Schauffele and former world number one Rory McIlroy ended the day one over the card.

McIlroy – winner of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2015 – mixed three bogeys and two birdies on a challenging day for the four-time major champion.

Jon Rahm struggled following his opening-round 76, while defending champion Max Homa's bid for back-to-back titles started with a six-over-par 77.

Rory McIlroy branded plans for a Super Golf League "a money grab" as he underlined his opposition towards any breakaway competition.

A report in the Daily Telegraph this week outlined proposals for the Saudi Arabia-backed event, referred to as the Premier Golf League, with high-profile players said to have been offered hugely lucrative incentives to join.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan addressed players ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship this week, where McIlroy is playing, with a Sky Sports report indicating professionals have been warned they will face immediate expulsion from the Tour should they sign up for closed-shop competition.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley announced opposition towards the alternative league "in the strongest possible terms", adding: "Since the launch of our strategic alliance last November, our two organisations have been working together to make global golf less fractured and not create further division, with the interests of all players and fans at the forefront of our thinking."

McIlroy, who said he was first approached about a breakaway format seven years ago, compared the proposals to football's European Super League, plans for which were largely abandoned 48 hours after it was announced due to an outrcry from fans and key figures in the sport.

"Maybe the source of the money has changed or the people that are in charge have changed, but nothing has happened [since 2014]," McIlroy, a four-time major winner, said on Wednesday.

"If you go back to what happened last week in Europe with the European Super League in football, people can see it for what it is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. Totally fine, then go and do that if that's what makes you happy.

"But I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world. I honestly don't think there's a better structure in place in golf, and I don't think there will be.

"You have the strategic partnership as well between Europe and the PGA Tour and that's only going to strengthen the structure of golf going forward as well in terms of scheduling and all sorts of other stuff and working together a little bit more.

"I don't think it was a coincidence that the news came out yesterday just as the PGA Tour was having their annual player meeting and Jay addressing the membership. Yeah, I think you all know my feelings on it and I'm very much against it. I don't see why anyone would be for it."

"You saw what happened last week with the European Super League. The top 12 clubs got together and said 'let's keep more of the money for ourselves', and people didn't like that. It affects competition, it affects the integrity of competition. I just can't see how it works.

"It's a complicated issue, but I just don't see at this point how it can get going. And the possibility that people, if they do go in that direction, can't play in the biggest tournaments in the game?

"The game of golf, whether it's a right thing or a wrong thing, is so about history. We still talk about Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen and Ben Hogan and all those guys because that's what this game is. It's steeped in history and the legacies that those guys have."

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all missed the cut at the Masters on Friday, while Justin Rose remains in the lead.

Johnson, who won the Masters for the first time in November, shot a three-over 75 on the second day to be five over overall and miss the cut by two strokes.

World number one Johnson made three bogeys on his final four holes to miss out, having previously impressed at Augusta, with top-10 finishes in his past five appearances.

He made four birdies on the front nine but also had two bogeys and a double bogey on the fifth.

Johnson becomes the third Masters champion in the past 15 years to miss the cut.

"Six three-putts in two rounds, you just can't do that," Johnson said. "Obviously didn't drive it great but drove it good enough.

"I never was really too bad out of position, just the three-putts killed me. You take all the three-putts away, I'm one under. That was kind of the difference."

The 36-year-old was joined by four-time major winner Koepka with a similar round to miss the cut, along with 2017 Masters winner Garcia, who shot an even round of 72 to finish at four over.

Four-time major winner McIlroy (74) and two-time Masters runner-up Lee Westwood (71) also failed to make the cut, with both unable to recover after poor first days at Augusta.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Rose sits one shot clear of Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman after a second-round 72, having led by four shots on the opening day.

Rose bogeyed four of his first seven holes on Friday, before steadying with three birdies on the back nine to salvage his lead.

"I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you're just slightly off," Rose said.

"You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling. I think maybe off the back of yesterday, it starts to feel pretty different pretty quickly. But I told myself going up the eighth hole, you're leading the Masters, your frame of reference is a little bit different to yesterday. Four ahead is something, but you're still leading so like just enjoy it and keep going."

On his Masters debut, 24-year-old Zalatoris moved up the leaderboard swiftly, aided by five birdies on his back nine, including three straight to finish his round as he carded a four-under 68.

Harman also moved into contention after three birdies on his final six holes to finish with a three-under 69.

Australian Marc Leishman and last week's Texas Open winner Jordan Spieth are tied for fourth after both enjoyed strong rounds on Friday.

Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau both shot 66s on Friday to storm up the leaderboard into joint sixth alongside four other players, including world number two Justin Thomas.

Justin Rose mounted a back-nine recovery to finish his second round with a two-shot lead over Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman.

Rose shot a sublime opening round of 65 at Augusta, but relinquished his four-shot advantage on Friday before returning to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in his space of four holes.

The Englishman was the man to catch on seven under when he signed for a level-par 72, rallying after bogeying four of the first seven holes in his second round.

Gains at the 13th, 14th and 16th holes gave Rose momentum heading into the weekend as he bids to don the green jacket for the first time.

The in-form Spieth surged into a share of second place with Australian Leishman by carding a four-under 68, with birdies proving easier to come by for the field than on the opening day.

Three-time major champion Spieth, on a high after ending a title drought stretching back to 2017 at the Texas Open last weekend, made four of his five birdies after the turn and only dropped one shot at the 12th.

Leishman also made a significant move, setting the tone by starting with three birdies in row and going on to shoot a five-under 67.

Scintillating six-under rounds of 66 from Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau put them just three shots adrift of Rose along with Justin Thomas, who shot a 67.

Will Zalatoris, Brian Harman and Si Woo Kim were also well poised on four under, with their rounds still in progress. Defending champion Dustin Johnson had work to do back on three over through 10.

Bryson DeChambeau responded to a poor opening round with a 67 of his own to sit at one over, while Brooks Koepka (+5) and Rory McIlroy (+6) were facing a battle to make the cut 10 and eight holes into their rounds respectively.

Lee Westwood was a couple of shots below the projected cut mark on five over midway through his round.

Rory McIlroy's quest for a career Grand Slam may have to wait another year after an underwhelming opening day at the Masters, but he says he was encouraged by the way he finished his round.

The 31-year-old Northern Irishman made six bogeys on the first day at Augusta, finishing with a four-over 76, leaving him well off the pace set by Justin Rose with a seven-under 65.

McIlroy's best ever finish at the Masters was fourth in 2015, having won the 2012 and 2014 US PGA Championship, 2011 U.S. Open and 2014 Open Championship.

"My goal is to play well and at least give myself a chance," McIlroy told a news conference after his opening round.

"Honestly I'm quite encouraged with how I hit it on the way in. I hit some loose shots out there, but after hitting the  six iron in the water on 13, I hit some really good shots coming in, so I'm encouraged by that.

"It was just one of those days where I wasn't very efficient with my scoring.

"You're sort of fighting against momentum, but if you make a birdie then you can sort of get going, and [it was] just one of those days.

"But I hung in there, hit some good shots coming in, could have made a couple more birdies, but it's not as if anyone is going really low out there.

"Hopefully feel a little more comfortable tomorrow, go out there and shoot a good one."

There was a bizarre moment for McIlroy when his approach on the seventh hit an onlooker, which was later revealed to be his father, Gerry.

"It was a perfect shot; it was dead straight but I think he was okay," McIlroy said.

"He didn't limp away. He walked away pretty swiftly, so that was all right."

He added: "I knew it was my dad when I was aiming at him."

Justin Rose surged into a four-shot lead as Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau were among the big names to endure first-round struggles at The Masters.

Rose was two over through seven holes in tough scoring conditions, with quicker and firmer Augusta greens proving a much bigger challenge than when Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a record score of 20 under last November.

The Englishman sparked into life with an eagle at the par-five eighth hole and lit up the back nine to card a magnificent seven-under 65, the lowest Masters round of his career, with patrons allowed back in under blue skies.

Rose, eyeing a maiden Masters title, got on a roll with seven birdies in nine holes before finishing with a composed par to retain his four-stroke advantage.

Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shared the early clubhouse lead with impressive three-under opening rounds of 69 before Rose stormed clear.

Defending champion Johnson shot a two-over 74 following a double bogey at the 18th, having made a bogey-birdie start before getting in the red for the first time at 13.

Masters debutant Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Patrick Reed will start their second rounds on two under following encouraging starts, while new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele are among a clutch of players at level par.

McIlroy suffered a miserable opening round and is back on four over, facing a battle to make the cut rather than fight it out to complete a career Grand Slam, while U.S. Open champion DeChambeau was four over through 15.

Jordan Spieth was left to rue a triple-bogey after launching a wayward tee shot into the trees at the ninth but was in a share of eighth on one under after chipping in for an eagle at 15, while Justin Thomas was a further stroke back through 15.

Brooks Koepka matched Johnson's 74 just a few weeks after undergoing knee surgery and the previously in-form Lee Westwood is languishing on six over.

Tommy Fleetwood generated a roar from those fortunate enough to be at the 16th to see him make a hole-in-one before he signed for a 74.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson failed to hit the ground running in testing conditions when he started the defence of his Masters title on Thursday.

Johnson donned the green jacket for the first time last November, finishing the tournament on a record-breaking 20 under par.

The world number one made only four bogeys as he blew the field away in the 2020 major at Augusta, but he dropped two shots in his opening five holes five months later, with patrons returning under blue skies.

Birdies were at a premium when the tournament got under way on much quicker, firmer greens than those seen in last year's tournament.

Two-time major champion Johnson started by dropping a shot after running through the first green with his second shot. Although he hit straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, Johnson was back at one over after failing to sink a par putt at the fifth.

Hideki Matsuyama led the way on three under through eight holes after draining an eagle putt at the eighth, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim just a shot behind.

New father Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey were among a host of players on one under following early birdies.

The recently in-form Lee Westwood was struggling on three over through six after a double bogey at the third, while Rory McIlroy dropped to one over with a dropped shot at the fifth and Brooks Koepka was level par eight holes into his first round.

The 85th Masters got under way on Thursday with Dustin Johnson waiting in the wings to defend his title at Augusta.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder signalled the opening of the 2021 tournament, which officially began with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford teeing off.

Reigning champion Johnson, who secured his second major with an imperious victory in Georgia five months ago, will tee off at 10:30 local time (14:30 GMT) alongside two-time runner-up Lee Westwood and U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The world number one has earned top-10 finishes at each of his past five Masters outings and holds the tournament scoring record after his stunning 20-under 268 last November.

Johnson is aiming to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets.

Though Woods is absent as he continues his recovery from a recent car accident, Johnson will face stiff competition from the likes of Jordan Spieth.

The 2015 champion ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week and will head out in the final group to tee off at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT), along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy has a career Grand Slam in his sights and his bid to become the sixth golfer to achieve the feat begins with new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele for company.

The Northern Irishman is still waiting for a maiden green jacket but boasts a strong record in the event, having finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven editions.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen form another group, with Sergio Garcia starting alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, while Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

It has been less than five months since Dustin Johnson donned the green jacket, but The Masters is upon us once again.

Golf, like all walks of life, was thrown into disorder by the global outbreak of coronavirus, with what was meant to be the first of 2020's four majors ending up being the last of three.

After Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau had prevailed at the US PGA Championship and U.S. Open respectively, Johnson completed an American clean sweep in a truncated season.

The world number one will return to Augusta to defend his title amid the usual fierce competition, although there will of course be no Tiger Woods this time.

With so much to look forward to ahead of what is sure to be another memorable tournament in Georgia, we have picked out a selection of some of the best Opta Facts relating to The Masters.

- Johnson will attempt to become the first golfer since Woods to win back-to-back green jackets (2001-2002); the only other golfers to have achieved that feat are Jack Nicklaus (1965-1966) and Nick Faldo (1989-1990).

- Nicklaus holds the record for most wins at the Masters (six), ahead of Woods (five).

- Woods is the youngest player to wear the green jacket (21 years, 104 days) while Nicklaus is the oldest – he was 46 years and 82 days old when winning his last major and green jacket in 1986.

- The only current golfer to have secured a top 10 in each of his last five Masters appearances is Johnson.

- Johnson set a new Masters scoring record of 268 (-20) in last year's win at Augusta. He is 32 under par over the last two editions; that is 10 shots better than anyone else over that period (Brooks Koepka, -22).

- Woods will be missing his fourth Masters over the last eight editions (since 2014). He had participated in each of the previous 19 Masters tournaments.

- A win would see Rory McIlroy become only the sixth golfer in history to secure a career Grand Slam, after – in chronological order – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods.

- American golfers have won 62 of the 84 editions of this tournament to date, with Spain and South Africa joint-second on five wins each.

- The Masters is the only major yet to have been won by a Northern Irish golfer. In total, players from Northern Ireland have won seven majors (two U.S. Opens, three Open Championships, two US PGA Championships), four of them by McIlroy.

- Only one of the last seven Masters tournaments has been decided by a play-off (Sergio Garcia versus Justin Rose in 2017). A play-off had been required in three of the previous five editions.

- Fuzzy Zoeller is the last player to win the Masters at the first attempt, back in 1979.

Dustin Johnson has had little time to revel in the success of his record-breaking Masters triumph last November.

The world number one became the first player in the tournament's illustrious history to win with a score of 20 under par.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant the event could not be held in its usual April slot, with Johnson's triumph achieved amid an Autumnal rather than Spring backdrop.

This year, though, the action takes place at the traditional point in the calendar. So, here we are for the first major of 2021 and the expert team at Stats Perform News have picked out their favourites for the green jacket.

GEAR UP FOR THE SPIETH SHOW – Peter Hanson

Here is a statement of fact (okay, actually it's an opinion): golf is much more fun when Jordan Spieth is in the groove. We all know it to be true. And recently, boy have there been some tantalising moments to suggest Spieth will be flying at Augusta – a place where you could fill a lengthy highlight reel with his brilliance from years gone by. A rancid run of form saw Spieth ranked as low as 92nd earlier this year following a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, four top-10 finishes from six events preceded a victory at the Valero Texas Open at the weekend – his first tournament win since triumphing at The Open four years ago. Spieth is always great viewing at a venue where he was champion in 2015 and has recorded three other top-three finishes. Key to success for Spieth will be if he can get the putter firing. On the PGA Tour this season, he ranks fifth for one-putt average, while his 27.91 putts per round tallies fourth.

BRYSON REVOLUTIONISED THE SPORT, NOW HE'LL WEAR GREEN - Dan Lewis

Having helped to revolutionise the sport en route to winning the US Open seven months ago, Bryson DeChambeau will now be looking to put his power game to good use with a second major title. The 27-year-old will certainly better his previous best finish of 21st in 2016 and, if he can continue to improve his putting, he has a serious shot of unseating Johnson.

THERE'S NO CURE QUITE LIKE WINNING FOR RORY – John Skilbeck

Who was that lurking in 39th place on the FedEx Cup standings last week? Is there another Rory McIlroy or is this where we are? By now, many thought we would be in an era of McIlroy domination, given the prowess he showed in his early twenties, but those predictions have been skewered, with McIlroy struggling to mount sustained title challenges in the majors. His career card shows plenty of top-10 finishes at the very elite level, but, since landing his fourth major at the 2014 US PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman has often been chasing essentially lost causes. There have been rounds which have amounted almost to self-sabotage, such as the closing 74 when he was genuinely in the hunt three years ago at Augusta, or the 75 with which he began last year. With coach Pete Cowen now on board, McIlroy is actively looking for remedies. There's no cure quite like winning.

DON'T IGNORE THE OBVIOUS, DJ CAN MASTER AUGUSTA AGAIN – Ben Spratt

Are we ignoring the obvious? Dustin Johnson is the Masters favourite and rightfully so. Since winning on his last trip to Augusta in November, DJ triumphed at the Saudi International on the European Tour but his PGA form has been mixed – just one top-10 finish from five tournaments. But no other golfer has had the benefit of returning to the scene of their triumph just five months later. Johnson did not just squeak to victory in November either; his 20-under 268 for the week broke Masters records and secured a five-stroke advantage. Do not bet against him mastering Augusta again.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR VETERAN WESTWOOD – Pat Ridge

Westwood has never won a major, but he is in excellent form heading to Augusta. He just missed out to Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, losing by one shot – his best result on the PGA Tour since he tied for second at the 2016 Masters. He followed that up with a second-placed finish at The Players Championship, and it could be a case if not now, then will it ever happen for the 47-year-old? A strong performance will also do his Ryder Cup chances no harm, as he looks to match Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances for Europe.

NEW FATHER RAHM CAN JOIN NEW WINNERS' CLUB – Chris Myson

Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau were first-time winners in golf's majors in 2020. Going further back, 12 of the last 19 winners had never before won a major, while seven of the last 10 champions at Augusta was triumphing at one of the big four events for a first time. This could be Jon Rahm's turn to continue those trends. While first-time winners have been prominent, nine of the last 10 Masters winners had landed a top-six major finish in the previous two years before breaking their duck. Rahm, who recently became a father for the first time, came in a tie for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and has three straight top-10 finishes to his name at Augusta. He has recent form too. In seven events in 2021, Rahm has five top-10s and is yet to miss a cut.

Rory McIlroy said golf's biggest stars must rally around Tiger Woods by making regular trips to his Florida mansion and he would love to be part of the sport's Grand Slam club by his next visit.

After winning an Open Championship, a U.S. Open and two US PGA Championships early in his career, McIlroy returns to Augusta for another shot at Masters glory this week.

Woods, who suffered serious leg injuries in a February car crash, would love to be involved but is recovering at home after that brush with disaster and hopes to play competitive golf again.

The American superstar became the first player since the 1960s to win all four of the sport's majors in his career when he landed the Open title in 2000 at St Andrews.

With 15 career majors, Woods is unmistakably an all-time great, and McIlroy would become just the sixth player to achieve the modern Grand Slam should he land green jacket glory. Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the players who achieved the feat before Woods came on the scene.

Speaking about the absent Woods ahead of Thursday's opening round, former world number one McIlroy said: "Hopefully, if his recovery goes well, who knows, he could be back in 12 months' time.

"He's always missed when he doesn't play in these big events, and that doesn't change this week, whether it's to do with his back or his leg or whatever it is.

"I know he's at home and he's fully focused on the recovery process, and I feel like he's mentally strong enough to get through that. And once he does, broken bones heel, and he's just got to take it step by step.

"I'm sure he's going to put everything he has into trying to be ready to play here next year. I went over and saw him, spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him. It was good to see him in decent spirits.

"When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he's going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that. A few of us that live down in South Florida went to see him. I'm sure he appreciates that.

"I think myself, JT [Justin Thomas], Rickie [Fowler], DJ [Dustin Johnson], Brooks [Koepka], all those guys down there, we all have a responsibility to try to keep his spirits up and keep him going and try to get him back out here."

Nothing would give McIlroy more pleasure than being able to visit Woods as a Masters champion, with that Grand Slam monkey off his back. He has six top-10 finishes at the event in the last seven years, which shows what he has to offer.

The Masters is the mountain he has been unable to quite climb, meaning the 'Rory Slam' has yet to be completed.

"If I were able to do it, I'd join a very small list of golfers in history that have been able to do it. So I know where it would put me in the game and how cool it would be, and I would love to do it one day," McIlroy said.

"But for me to do that, I just have to go out and try to play four good rounds of golf on this golf course. I've played a bunch of really good rounds on this golf course before, but just not four in a row."

McIlroy revealed his visit to Woods' home in late March was an eye-opener, in terms of learning how his friend and rival has approached competing over the years.

"In his family room he's got his trophy cabinet and it's his 15 major trophies. I said, 'That's really cool. Where are all the others?'," McIlroy said.

"He said, 'I don't know'. I go, 'What?'. He said, 'Yeah, my mom has some, and a few are in the office and a few are wherever'."

It struck McIlroy, as he was driving home from that visit, that the majors were the be-all and end-all for Woods.

"I'm just thinking to myself, how easy must that have felt for him if all he cared about were four weeks a year. The other stuff must have been like practice. So that's like a really cool perspective to have, right," McIlroy said.

"That's all I could think about on the way home. And I was glad he was OK, too."

McIlroy has been working with coach Pete Cowen on simplifying his technique, saying he is "just at the start of a journey here that I know will get me back to where I want to be".

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is also taking part this week, the 50-year-old being a U.S. Open short of a Grand Slam himself.

His prospects of completing the full set look to be slim given he is not the force he once was, but Mickelson has the capacity to surprise and would love another Augusta challenge.

Many consider McIlroy's game to be well suited to The Masters, and Mickelson always knew his own skillset was perfect for the course.

"I never really doubted that I would end up winning this tournament," Mickelson said on Tuesday. "This is a course that is very well suited for the way I grew up playing, but that joy of winning it for the first time, finally breaking through, it's beyond belief."

Rory McIlroy can snatch his next big chance to win The Masters and will "undoubtedly" one day triumph at Augusta, according to British golf great Laura Davies.

This week gives McIlroy another chance to land a first green jacket, and it marks 10 years since the Northern Irishman squandered a golden opportunity on the final day.

In the 2011 Masters, McIlroy led by four shots going into the closing 18 holes but then produced an 80 to slump into a tie for 15th place.

McIlroy has since won four majors, but his wait for a fifth has lasted since 2014, despite being a regular presence high up the leaderboard.

The Masters is the one major that McIlroy has yet to win, although six top-10 finishes in the past seven years points to his liking for the course.

"I always thought that Greg Norman would win The Masters and he never did. But I would say undoubtedly McIlroy will win The Masters," Davies, a four-time women's major champion, told Stats Perform News.

"His game's too good and he'll have a chance and maybe next time he'll take it for sure because you can't keep players like that down."

McIlroy has endured a rocky start to this year, however, missing the cut in two of his past four strokeplay events, including The Players Championship.

"Rory's game has gone downhill quite rapidly from the heights he had just more than a year ago, but he can turn it on a sixpence, he can turn it around," said Davies.

"I wouldn't have a bet on Rory McIlroy this week for The Masters, but you wouldn't want to bet against him. He can turn up and turn it on at any time. He loves Augusta, he's not won but it's a course that I think suits his game. I wouldn't fancy him this week, but he’s such an exceptional talent and something could click at any time."

If McIlroy does put himself into contention on the final day, Davies feels it would be a major test of character to ignore those memories of blowing up on the back nine 10 years ago.

"He'd be very strong mentally if it didn't come into play. I can really only speak for myself and I would definitely have been thinking about it," Davies said. "But that's where the great ones come through and win because they can put that aside and still produce the goods."

Speaking on Tuesday, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said it felt "pretty cool" and also surprising that McIlroy had made a recent attempt to follow his long-hitting game.

McIlroy has said he perhaps needs to "rein it back" to regain a more comfortable swing, rather than looking to match DeChambeau's distance off the tee, but he sees the American's power as a major asset.

"I knew there was going to be people trying it. I didn't know who was going to try it. But it's not an easy task," DeChambeau said.

"You have to have four or five things go right in order for you to accomplish hitting it farther and hitting it straighter and implementing it on the golf course in a tournament round. And I appreciate Rory's words.

"From my perspective, I wasn't trying to change anybody else's game. I was just trying to play the best golf I could.

"I knew there would be people there to be influenced. I didn't think it would be Rory. I think he's a pretty smart, talented individual that knows how to play the game potentially better than me. It's honouring and humbling hearing him say it's a difficult task.

"Not everybody can do it all the time, and from my perspective, I don't know what else to say other than it's pretty cool."

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