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2021 Masters: Which golfer should you root for?

(AP Photo / David J. Phillip)

Every year, golf fans descend on the state of Georgia, or plop down on their couches at home, to watch the sport’s biggest event of the year: the Masters.

At the same time, viewers that don’t follow golf throughout the year spend four days getting accustomed to some of the sport’s new faces and rising stars, looking for a diamond in the rough to hitch their wagons to.

In an age where many are finding love on dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and more, those casual fans go through a similar process to find their new favorite golfer, evaluating pros and cons and figuring out which member of the field is the best match for them.

>>RELATED: 2021 Masters: Dates, times and how to watch

With Tiger Woods, the highly-desired Bachelor in this metaphor, out of the tournament due to injuries sustained in a car crash in February, that process will become much more common for the 2021 Masters.

So, just like your favorite dating app or reality television show, we figured we should step in to help you find “the one.”

As you prepare for the most dramatic four-day stretch of the sport’s schedule, just sit back, relax, and let us find the right golfer for you to root for throughout the 2021 Masters.

Favorite: Dustin Johnson

Basketball fans were made fun of if they started rooting for the Miami Heat or Golden State Warriors when their dynasties began in the 2010s, or the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.

Football fans get heckled if they rooted for the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots in the 2000s and 2010s, or if they shifted their fandom to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he joined the team in 2020.

Whether you’re a longstanding fan of any of those teams, it’s par for the course when rooting for a frontrunner.

In this case, you can expect to catch some flack if you’re a casual fan and decide to root for Dustin Johnson to win the 2021 Masters. But, considering the man just won the 2020 Masters five months ago, it’s hard to pick against him if you don’t know the field well enough.

Underdog: Kevin Na

For those sports fans who scoff at the idea of rolling with the frontrunner, and instead want to think outside of the box with an unorthodox pick, Kevin Na is the guy for you.

Na is the definition of unorthodox at this point, known for his tendency to “walk in” putts before they’ve found their home in the hole.

While he’s a relatively well-known golfer for those that follow the sport year-round, he certainly wouldn’t be one of the competitors that comes to mind when evaluating the top-tier talent in the field for this year’s Masters.

But, Na impressed many by hitting every green in regulation throughout the first round of the 2020 tournament and showcased his talents with most of his clubs. Unfortunately, he faltered with the one that mattered most: his putter.

While he became the first Masters player since 2009 to hit every green in regulation throughout the round, he still managed to shoot over par with a total of 39 putts on the day.

If he can show some more consistency on the greens while maintaining his prowess with his drivers and irons, Na could be an under-the-radar pick for you to follow throughout the weekend.

Veteran: Paul Casey

Phil Mickelson would likely be most people’s pick for the “veteran” if you’re looking for an older golfer to root for, especially considering how well-liked he has been for decades at this point.

But, if you’re looking for someone a little younger that’s still well-tenured, look no further than 43-year-old Paul Casey.

The United Kingdom product has been hit-or-miss at The Masters in recent years: he tied for 38th place in 2020, missed the cut in 2019, tied for 15th in 2018, finished in sixth place in 2017, tied for fourth in 2016, and tied for sixth in 2015.

Throughout those years, he’s proven that he can hang in Augusta when he’s on top of his game, and he’s showcased his skills around the world in a variety of other tournaments, as well.

While he may not be as popular as Mickelson, he has a much better shot at showing up in the top 10 than the 50-year-old Californian and seems due for a big weekend in Georgia.

Youngster: Sungjae Im

Shifting from the 43-year-old Casey and 50-year-old Mickelson, it’s time to head back to the future with 23-year-old Sungjae Im.

Im was 22 when the 2020 Masters took place in November, and established his presence in a big way by tying for second place with Cameron Smith with a -15 weekend.

He was a middle-of-the-pack golfer in the tournaments he competed in throughout the following months, and seemed to fall back under the radar a bit as a result.

Just a few weeks after his 23rd birthday, Im will look to regain some momentum and replicate his masterful performance from 2020, and fans will get to see if the South Korean star can handle the newfound spotlight.

Powerhouse: Bryson DeChambeau

As the famous Nike commercial once said, “Chicks love the long ball.”

If you’re looking for someone that’s going to make you question how the golf ball hasn’t exploded after it’s been hit off the tee, and how someone could possibly swing that fast and hard, then Bryson DeChambeau is the most obvious choice on this list.

DeChambeau was ridiculed in 2020 for saying that his par was 67 at Augusta National because of his ability to drive the ball, and he had to face the music when he struggled earlier on in the weekend and barely made the cut.

But, he certainly wasn’t wrong about his ability to smash a golf ball.

“From a driving perspective, I just am trying to get up there like I’m in a batter’s box swinging as hard as I can trying to hit a home run,” DeChambeau said in the days leading up to the 2020 Masters. “I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it.”

He’ll need to improve his short game and his putting if he wants a better finish this year, but DeChambeau is undoubtedly one of the more fun golfers to watch if you’re a casual fan watching the 2021 Masters.

Technical: Justin Thomas

“Timing beats speed, precision beats power.”

That famous quote from UFC star Conor McGregor translates nicely to the world of golf, and those that don’t agree with DeChambeau’s powerful approach may be more inclined to root for a technically sound golfer like Justin Thomas.

Thomas has consistently been a top-tier golfer throughout his career, and seems to live towards the top of the leaderboard whenever he steps onto a course, evident by his fourth-place finish in the 2020 Masters.

He does all of the little things right, and his short game and putting helps set him apart from the power of golfers like DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.

If you are worried about a Masters hangover for Dustin Johnson after his win in 2020, Thomas might be the golfer to watch throughout the 2021 Masters.

Well-rounded: Rory McIlroy

Arguably the best thing about golf is the fact that any style of approach could win you a tournament. Power has its positives and negatives. A more technical style, while safer, has its drawbacks, as well.

There isn’t always a straightforward, clear-cut answer, and sometimes, it’s better to play with the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for someone to fit that bill, then you’re rolling with Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy has long been thought of as Northern Ireland’s version of a prime Tiger Woods, with the power to hammer drives when needed, and the ability to hone in for his short game when the time comes, as well.

He’s rightfully dealt with some flack for his lengthy pursuit of a Masters win, and while he looked good in the 2020 Masters, he was only able to finish in fifth behind Johnson, Im, Smith and Thomas.

But, he put together one of the better final rounds out of the bunch in 2020, and he could have momentum in his favor after a brief stretch between last year’s Masters in November and this year’s in April.

Craziest story: Brooks Koepka

If you’re just looking for an incredible storyline that would make the 2021 Masters memorable, a la Tiger Woods’ comeback to win it in 2019, then Brooks Koepka likely tops that list.

Koepka has been one of the sport’s best talents in recent years, with loads of trophies and four major championships to his name.

But, the superstar told Golfweek in March, just a few weeks before the 2021 Masters, that he had dislocated his knee cap and suffered ligament damage, putting his status for the tournament was put in question.

Somehow, despite the injury, Koepka showed up in Augusta for the 2021 Masters, and will play through the pain as he looks for his first green jacket of his career.

It’s highly unlikely that Koepka can pull it off after such a major injury, especially after his swing coach Pete Cowen said “the only problem is going to be the walking.”

But, if Koepka can find a way to win, it’ll be an all-time Masters moment, and one that would shock even the most seasoned golf fan.

Who’s your pick for the 2021 Masters? Let us know by following @SOTSports on Twitter or by liking our Facebook page!

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