Åberg and Clark aiming to replicate Fuzzy Zoeller 45 years on

Ronan MacNamara

Wyndham Clark (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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It’s been 45 years since the Masters has had a first time winner but could this be the year?

Not since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 has a player driven down Magnolia Lane before promptly leaving with the green jacket on Sunday night.

In Wyndham Clark and Ludvig Åberg, it would not be a major surprise to see the debutant drought brought to an end.

Clark is a US Open champion while Åberg has enjoyed a meteoric rise from college to the Ryder Cup in a matter of weeks last year and is now perched in 9th place in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Clark is enjoying the heady heights of world number four and he was also in Rome, donning the colours of the USA.

Both players may be rookies but they are not coming in facing the daunting task of tackling Augusta National for the first time. They arrive as some of the favourites.

Clark has already taken down Rory McIlroy on his way to his US Open win at LA Country Club and has been in terrific form this season winning at Pebble Beach before back-to-back runner up finishes to Scottie Scheffler at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass.

“Stats like that are meant to be broken,” said Clark. “So I know it’s a tall task. It’s a challenging golf course. There’s a bunch of good golfers. With that said, you still have to match — you have to still bring your game. So it’s not like you can just flip a switch and win it.

“But, yeah, that would be an amazing accomplishment. And I like my chances. I really like myself on this golf course. I feel good on a lot of tee shots and approaches, and there’s so much creativity. So I feel good coming into the week.”

While Clark looks to be relishing the challenge of trying to create some modern day history, Åberg, who is making his first major championship start, was caught unaware of the gap from 1979.

“I actually didn’t know that stat up until just now. I think that speaks to the difficulty of the golf course and the difficulty of some of the things that you might get thrown at you in the tournament. But I can’t really do a whole lot about that,” said the Swede, who played Augusta during college competition.

“It’s a tricky balance because obviously I’m feeling all the first-time feelings that everyone’s feeling, but I’m also trying to be OK with all those things coming at me at the same time. Because I think once you start fighting it, once you start trying to push it away, I think that’s when it becomes tricky.

“I guess all I’m trying to do is just embrace all the nerves and all the excitement that I feel and at the same time know my capabilities and know my qualities and know that’s probably going to be good enough to compete.

“I can’t make any promises, but I’ll definitely make sure that, coming Thursday, I’ll be as prepared as I can.”

As well as Zoeller, only two other players have won in their first appearance at the Masters are Horton Smith, who won inaugural tournament in 1934, and Gene Sarazen, who won the following year.

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