It’s here. The Masters is finally here. May the azealas be in full bloom, the pimento cheese fresh, the peach ice cream sandwich back and the fist pumps plentiful.
Even by the tournament’s standard, this year’s celebration seems especially special. There are three titans in Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, all of whom have a valid claim to being the best in the world, and a dozen or so names chasing them aren’t too shabby, either. This will also mark the first Masters held during golf’s Civil War, with LIV Golf members allowed to compete under the existing criteria. Arguably the most famous hole in golf has been lengthened, Jordan Spieth will be attempting to win on a third straight Easter Sunday, and that Tiger Woods fella also will be teeing it up. As the 2023 Masters Tournament approaches, we ranked the field, hoping to give you some a leg up on your friends as you watch/bet on one of the best weeks in sports.
Past champions not playing: Tommy Aaron, Jack Burke Jr., Angel Cabrera, Charles Coody, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Raymond Floyd, Trevor Immelman, Jack Nicklaus, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player, Craig Stadler, Tom Watson, Ian Woosnam, Fuzzy Zoeller
It may be unfair to call this group “ceremonial” players; after all, just weeks after he won the 2020 U.S. Open, Bryson DeChambeau finished a stroke behind Langer, a man more than 35 years his senior and often 50 yards behind DeChambeau off the tee, at the 2020 Masters. However, we just can’t envision any among this group of green-jacket winners pulling a Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009. Though they may not be contenders we should all be so lucky to earn such victory laps.
It might come as a surprise that no amateurs have made the cut in the past two Masters. In fact, the last time an amateur finished in the top 15 was Ryan Moore back in 2005 (T-13) with the last top 10 coming in … 1962. it’s hard for us to bet against history, although this group of ams will be worth watching, particularly Sargent. The sophomore at Vanderbilt is the reigning NCAA champ and the first amateur to receive a special invitation to the Masters since Aaron Baddeley in 2000.
Schwartzel’s standing may seem low for a past Masters champ who hasn’t turned 40, and he did finish a respectable T-10 last year. In that same breath last year’s finish was only his second top-10 in 11 starts since his win in 2011, and given the questions regarding a lack of competitive reps for LIV Golf members, riding with Schwartzel seems like a gamble. … Champ’s game has been suffering of late. He has missed the cut in six of his past seven starts and is ranked 201st in strokes gained while in danger of falling outside the OWGR top 200. However, Champ has finished T-26 or better in three consecutive Masters starts, including a T-10 last spring. … Higa was given a special Masters invite and will be making his tournament debut. He won four times in 2022 on the Japan Golf Tour, where he finished first on the circuit’s Order of Merit.
Since his 2016 win Willett has missed the cut at Augusta National in four of six starts, although he did finish T-12 in 2022. The Brit been quietly solid this season, ranking 39th in strokes gained and 13th in overall putting average. … Molinari desperately wants to make this year’s Ryder Cup, played in his home country of Italy. However, he is running out of time to make his bid for the European team, finishing inside the top 40 just once this season in seven starts on the PGA Tour. Aside from 2019—when he went toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods until collapsing on the back nine—Molinari has had a sketchy track record at Augusta National, with just one top-15 in 11 appearances. … Our favorite dark horse pick is Mitchell. He’s making just his second Masters start, yet the former Georgia Bulldog has been extremely impressive this year, ranking seventh in SG/off-the-tee, 20th in scoring and 23rd in strokes gained.
Mickelson has not finished better than T-21 since a distant T-2 in 2015, and didn’t compete in last year’s Masters following his controversial remarks regarding Saudi Arabia. Conversely, if there’s one venue where the 52-year-old could theoretically be a viable threat at a major championship, it’s Augusta National with its open confines that play both to his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. … Horschel has finished inside the top 30 just once in his Masters career, and his game this season (127th in strokes gained) doesn’t forecast a breakthrough this week. But Horschel is coming in with a bit of momentum after making the weekend at the WGC-Dell Match Play. … Speaking of momentum, no major championship rewards recent hot streaks more than the Masters. That’s good news for Kirk, who has three top-three finishes—highlighted by a win at the Honda Classic.
Does the 44-year-old Watson have one more run in him? The two-time Masters champ hasn’t contended at the tournament since 2018 (T-5), but his creativity and shotmaking can never be counted out. … Bradley is participating in the Masters for the first time since 2019, and his previous history in the event isn’t much to speak of. Yet entering the Valero Texas Open, Bradley was fourth in the FedEx Cup rankings and 23rd in birdie average. A good week from the former PGA champ could put him in the running for a Ryder Cup spot on Team USA. … Hoge has gone from a rank-and-file name to one of the tour’s top 30 players over the past year. Augusta National is known as a second-shot course, which should play to Hoge’s strengths (first in SG/approach). Don’t be surprised to see his name lurking on the leaderboard.
Can you believe it’s already been 10 years since Scott won the Masters? Perhaps here’s a sign more big things could be in the Aussie’s future this week: During an early scouting trip with Patrick Cantlay, Scott made a hole-in-one on the par-3 sixth. … Oosthuizen is perennially listed as a Masters sleeper pick. However, since his runner-up at the 2012 tournament he’s finished no better than T-12. … Yes, it’s easy to rag on DeChambeau, the man who once said Augusta National is nothing more than a par-67 course to him and whose game has fallen apart over the past year. But the ceiling remains high for DeChambeau, and he has played better than his results indicate at the Masters, which is why we’re zigging and stating he will shoot a 68 or better in the opening round and be in the mix heading into the weekend.
There was the win earlier this year at Pebble Beach, but Rose also had a high finish at the Players Championship (T-6) and his game has been rejuvenated after a three-year slump. He has six Masters top-10s, ranks sixth on the all-time Masters money list and his name seems annually attached to the Thursday leaderboard. Could this be the year the Englishman, now 42, finally breaks through? … We don’t ask for much, but our next paycheck for Kim to walk to the first tee on Thursday in similar fashion to his electric entrances at last year’s Presidents Cup. … Don’t look at Reed’s 2018 Masters win as a one-off, as he followed it with top-10s in 2020 and 2021. There is certainly a degree of expectation on how the LIV Golf members will perform at Augusta, and though that weight may sink others, we don’t envision Reed’s performance to suffer.
What Koepka are we getting? The one who was Koepka, Destroyer of Worlds, who said these weeks were the only ones that mattered with the performances to back it up? Or the Koepka who was a nonfactor at the 2022 majors and whose body has betrayed him? The recent results point to the latter, yet to think the former is completely gone seems like a mistake. … Conners hasn’t been particularly good this year (zero top-10s, 73rd in strokes gained). So why is he ranked this high? The Canadian has finished in the top 10 in three consecutive Masters, highlighted by a T-6 last year. … Fitzpatrick has missed four of his past six cuts in stroke-play events and was bounced early from the WGC-Dell Match Play as he works his way back from injury. In that same breath he’s reached the weekend in seven straight appearances at Augusta National. While the Masters is not known as a place to get right with your game, it could very well be the analgesic the reigning U.S. Open champ needs.
World Ranking: 995 Masters starts: 24 Best finish: Win, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2019
Woods has played just one competitive tournament since possibly saying goodbye to St. Andrews last summer. He also made the cut at last year’s Masters following a 20-month sabbatical and did so essentially on one leg. Woods has eschewed any notion that he is now a ceremonial golfer; he still insists when he tees it up he does so with only one thing in mind. So while the idea of the 15-time major winner finding himself in contention seems ridiculous, this cat has made a career out of making the ridiculous routine.
World Ranking: 10 Masters starts: 1 Best finish: MC, 2022
This ranking could border on disrespect for Burns, the No. 10 player in the world who turned in a tour de force display at the WGC-Dell Match Play. However, Burns is now blessed with the curse that comes with great achievement: To take the next step, he must prove he can take what’s he done in 40 weeks of the golf calendar and translate that success to the major championships. Thus far in his early career, the big four have been a mixed bag for Burns, a distant T-20 at last year’s PGA Championship his best finish. He’s also just 26, and he has he game—and conviction—to make his name known in a week like this.
World Ranking: 23 Masters starts: 7 Best finish: T-3, 2022
It may be hard to remember after Scheffler boat raced the field at last year’s Masters, but Lowry finished T-3. His results haven’t been stellar this season, but the stats illustrate he remains in fine form (26th SG/off-the-tee, 23rd in SG/approach). The guy plays his best when the weather is at its worse, and with rain in the early forecast, Lowry could be the man to beat if the elements have their say.
World Ranking: 9 Masters starts: 3 Best finish: T-21, 2021
Hovland found himself in major contention for the first time last summer at St. Andrews and things did not go well on Sunday, as he and Rory McIlroy were the only players in the top 14 who failed to shoot in the 60s in the final round. But the majors are notoriously unkind to the inexperienced, and sometimes it takes falling off before discovering how to stay on. In short, after coming out on the business end of last year’s Open, expect Hovland to be better prepared should he find himself in a similar spot at the Masters.
World Ranking: 8 Masters starts: 2 Best finish: Second, 2021
No player gave us more fits in this ranking than Zalatoris. Aside from a final-round 64 at Riviera, Zalatoris has not looked like the same lights-out player he was the last two seasons in his return from a back injury that sidelined him last fall (51st strokes gained, 77th approach). Still, he’s also the guy who finished runner-up and T-6 in his last two Masters starts, and has proven himself as someone whose play elevates during major weeks. In short, we could see him being a quick exit or someone that’s leading the tournament through 36 holes, so place your bets accordingly.
World Ranking: 18 Masters starts: 3 Best finish: T-2, 2020
Augusta National’s defenses were down during the 2020 Masters, making the results somewhat hard to decipher. Yet any worry that Im’s runner-up finish during that pandemic-delayed tournament was an aberration are mistaken, as Im turned in a T-8 last season. Im is coming in under the radar despite three finishes of T-6 or better in 2023, and his second-shot prowess should put him on your short list of Masters contenders.
World Ranking: 14 Masters starts: 5 Best finish: T-5, 2019
Finau is playing the best golf of his career, ranking fourth in strokes gained and third in approach. He also has played extremely well at Augusta, finishing T-10 or better in three of his last five Masters starts. The only thing that has stood between Finau and a green jacket in the past is his putter, and Big Tone seems to have gotten right with his flat stick (26th in SG/putting).
World Ranking: 68 Masters starts: 12 Best finish: Win, 2020
Concerns about the competitiveness of LIV Golf players are legitimate. For DJ, not so much. The guy’s talent and demeanor are not beholden to the constraints of normal players; Johnson could take a year off, given sticks that aren’t his own and we’d still expect him to break par. He has finished T-12 or better in six of his last Masters starts, the lone blemish a bizarre showing during his title defense in 2021 where he missed the cut. No matter; expect the good times at Augusta to continue for Johnson.
World Ranking: 33 Masters starts: 11 Best finish: T-2, 2011
Only two tour players have been better than Day over the past three months, according to Data Golf, and they are Rahm and Scheffler. Everything about the Aussie’s game seems to be working (10th in SG/tee-to-green, 20th around-the-green, 13th in SG/putting) and there’s no better place than Augusta for Day’s comeback campaign to carry on, owning four top-10s at the tournament in his career. One thing to watch: For whatever reason, Thursdays at Augusta have given Day trouble, the only day where he owns an over-par scoring average in 11 starts.
World Ranking: 6 Masters starts: 3 Best finish: T-48, 2022
No, the Players Championship is not a major, but it’s the closest environment to one on the tour schedule. That Homa finished T-6 after a solid weekend run is worth noting, for the only thing missing on Homa’s résumé is contending at one of the sport’s big four events. The past 18 months have shown Homa is one of the game’s best. To cement that stature, he needs to get it done on a week like this, and we think he will.
World Ranking: 15 Masters starts: 1 Best finish: MC, 2022
Young appeared to be stuck in the dreaded sophomore slump. However, after hiring veteran caddie Paul Tesori for his bag, Young promptly steamrolled his competition at the WGC-Dell Match Play before falling to Sam Burns in the final. The off-the-tee and approach figures remain really good for Young; it’s the short game that’s caused the rough start to 2023 (146th around-the-green, 180th in putting). Don’t imagine the woes to persist for much longer.
World Ranking: 4 Masters starts: 6 Best finish: T-9, 2019
He was the low am in 2012 and pierced together a Sunday run in 2019, but Patty Ice has been pretty cold at the Masters. That said, Cantlay has been playing well over the past two months, a T-19 at the Players as his worst finish in his last four tournaments. He knows he’s overdue to contend at a major, and at 31 the runway is still long for his career. But a good week can (finally) put an end to those questions, and his dual dexterity off the tee (second in driving) and approach (sixth in greens in regulation) makes him a formidable foe at Augusta.
World Ranking: 12 Masters starts: 3 Best finish: Fifth, 2022
We’re a Masters title away from Morikawa being on an all-time trajectory … and he’s what, the 10th, 11th biggest storyline entering the week? The California native played well last year en route to a fifth-place finish, and his game is in damn fine shape. This is a ball-striker’s paradise, and Morikawa is your favorite ball-striker’s favorite ball-striker.
World Ranking: 5 Masters starts: 6 Best finish: T-2, 2020
Only Scheffler was inarguably better in 2022 than Smith. But the reigning Open champ has played just a handful of times since jumping to LIV Golf, and hasn’t played particularly well in the most recent of those starts. Smith has insisted that LIV Golf is not a second-rate circuit and that his game hasn’t suffered because of the jump. However, unlike DJ, Smith hasn’t proven he can be undisturbed by outside noise. He does have the unflappable disposition to stay within himself, but we’ll have to see it before we totally believe it.
World Ranking: 11 Masters starts: 7 Best finish: Fourth, 2020
He loves Augusta, and his game is tailored to contend for a green jacket. And yet, he hasn’t had a lot of real success to date. That doesn’t mean it won’t. We’re slightly concerned that Thomas has appeared stuck in neutral the past few months, but if wet conditions soften Augusta up—and in turn, lower the course’s defenses—Thomas and his aggressive play should be the main beneficiaries.
World Ranking: 7 Masters starts: 5 Best finish: T-2, 2019
Time has caused many to overlook just how close Schauffele was to overtaking Matsuyama at the 2021 Masters before the 16th hole intervened, and Xander finished second in 2019. So clearly he has what it takes to compete at this tournament. He enters playing well, ranking eighth in strokes gained over the past three months according to Data Golf. Last year was an off year by Schauffele standards when it came to majors, including a missed cut at Augusta. Look for him to have a strong rebuttal in 2023.
World Ranking: 3 Masters starts: 6 Best finish: Fourth, 2018
Possibly dumb question: Did Rahm peak perhaps a little too soon for this year’s Masters? (Contemplating) Yes, that’s a dumb question … we think. A stomach bug at the Players and a quick exit at Match Play weren’t the ideal Augusta tune-ups. Even so, Rahm has looked more machine than man this year, letting you think he’ll have solved any lingering issues come Thursday.
World Ranking: 2 Masters starts: 14 Best finish: Second, 2022
Is sixth over the past three months in strokes gained according to Data Golf. Had his best Masters finish last year. Coming off a season where he was the de factor leader of the tour as it guided through an existential crisis. Something about the Grand Slam being on the line, too. A McIlroy win would be almost a little too written, wouldn’t it, something that Hollywood would toss out off a script because it’s unbelievable? Let’s move on before we jinx the Ulsterman further.
World Ranking: 1 Masters starts: 3 Best finish: Win, 2022
We really wanted to pick Scheffler. Honestly. Ran the numbers, consulted our scouting department, checked the tea leaves. The man is as good as advertised and them some, the only reason we’re not going with Scheffler to repeat is thanks to …
World Ranking: 16 Masters starts: 9 Best finish: Win, 2015
In our preseason predictions we nailed the following:
• Rahm opening the year on a tear to return to World No. 1
• No more big names defecting to LIV
• The rollback announcement
• The elevated events being a hit
• The Travelers Championship turning its floating flag into a playoff.
OK, that last one hasn’t happened (yet), but we’re off to a good start. In those predictions we picked Spieth to capture his second Masters title and his performances to this point have only strengthened our belief. Yes, the putting remains a concern, yet Augusta National is Spieth’s playground, a place where his artistry and vision take on a paramount importance and where he can take a complicated game and make it look remarkably simple. Oh, and there’s that undeniable fact that Spieth has won on the past two Easters and this year’s Easter is on, you guessed it, Masters Sunday. Others are playing better, but Spieth is our choice for the green jacket.
When Harold Varner III left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, he was refreshingly honest about his reasons for taking the guaranteed money from the Greg Norman-led and
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Luke Gifford thought his ball was going to sail past the hole. A grad student at Pepperdine, Gifford had come to the par-4 15th hole off t
Golf is a weird and wonderful game. One day, it seems you can't hit a golf club to save your life then, the very next day, you fire a career best round where n
By Jeff SteersJTV Sports (May 28, 2023 2:49 PM ET) Jackson County high school golf teams will compete in four regionals this week beginning Tuesday. East Ja