Out of the Rough: The Masters (2023)
Spring can finally begin. It’s finally time for the 87th playing of The Masters, one of the best weeks of the year.
“A tradition unlike any other,” is the infamous tagline associated with the biggest golf tournament in the world.
Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia is the home of The Masters and is the most pristine and manicured golf property on the planet.
Outside of the diehard golf fans, The Masters draws the casual fans in as well. It’s a great week for all levels of golf fans.
The excitement level is through the roof as there are a multitude of storylines to follow this year within The Masters itself.
Several LIV golfers will be in attendance this week to create a sense of PGA TOUR vs. LIV Tour atmosphere. Scottie Scheffler will look to become the first back-to-back winner of The Masters since Tiger Woods did it in 2001 and 2002. Rory McIlroy looks to complete the career grand slam and the list of storylines goes on-and-on.
The list of storylines in this year’s Masters’ field is endless.
As previously mentioned, Scheffler is the defending champion. He shot -10 a year ago to win by three strokes over Rory McIlroy. He came into the final hole with a comfortable lead, missing a short putt along the way but that didn’t matter. We’ll see if he can become the first back-to-back winner of The Masters since Tiger Woods did it in 2001 and 2002.
McIlroy just needs a Masters’ victory to complete the career grand slam as he’s captured titles at The Open, The US Open and The PGA Championship. Jon Rahm will look to become the fourth Spanish player to wear the Green Jacket as well.
There’s still an impressive list of golfers in this year’s field that have yet to win a major and look to join the likes of Scheffler in making The Masters their first major victory. These names include guys such as Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Sungjae Im, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris.
Of course, a guy by the name of Tiger Woods will be in this year’s field. He recently stated that he will only be playing the majors moving forward. We saw Woods return in 2019 to win the Green Jacket, totaling his Masters count to five. Can he make it a sixth this year? We last saw him at the Genesis Invitational where he made the cut as he finished T49th. Augusta National is a course that proves results to those with history at the course. Woods definitely has that.
Although the previous storylines are big in their own ways, the biggest storyline this week will be the addition of LIV golfers, joining the PGA Tour golfers.
LIV provides several past champions joining this week’s field. Those past champions include Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed.
Other LIV golfers in this year’s field that are past majors winners within the last five years include Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith.
Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak, Thomas Pieters, Kevin Na, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen and Harold Varner III are LIV golfers joining the field as they ranked in the top 50 Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) at the end of 2022.
Another interesting name from LIV playing this week is Mito Pereira who fits the top 50 OWGR criteria and placed in the top four at last year’s PGA Championship.
Smith is the highest ranking LIV golfer in the OWGR currently sitting at sixth. According to the sports books, he’s the favorite of the LIV golfers to compete for a Green Jacket.
This is the first time we’ll get to see an essential full LIV field versus the PGA Tour.
Augusta National Golf Club is the definition of pristine golf course. As previously mentioned, it is the most pristine and manicured golf property on the planet. There simply is nothing like Augusta National.
Augusta National was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones in 1933 with re-designs in 2008.
It plays as a traditional par-72 and lists its yardage at 7,545 yards.
Although the yardage on paper is listed at 7,545 yards, the course plays more to the tune of 7,900 yards. Pure yardage is way more important than creating the right angle into the flag.
Water is in play on five of the holes as well. Water is in play more so on the back nine with the three key holes, also known as Amen Corner, featuring water.
The greens are a Bentgrass that play both firm and past. The average square footage of the greens is 6,486 yards. These greens are crazy fast and undulating.
The greens are also very large and contoured in a way to be some of the toughest on all of the Tour. This is where course history comes into play as these greens have been known to bamboozle the inexperienced and poor putters alike.
I know I’m going on-and-on about these greens but boy are they challenging. They rate up to 14-plus on the Stimpmeter if Mother Nature allows. These sub-air fueled greens are unlike anything that the world’s best golfers face across the rest of the season.
Birdie chances are reduced to the smallest of target areas. Many of these areas are only accessible by using the natural contours of the greens. The difficulty of these greens don’t stop there as they also offer Augusta’s infamous run-off areas which surround all green complexes. This makes around-the-green stats and scrambling that much more important.
The lack of rough around green complexes also creates indecision when greens are missed. Scrambling percentages take a hit due to this. When given too many options, golfers and caddies alike become confused. Again, this is where course experience comes into play. A patient outlook too is very important in this instance.
Augusta National is known for the topography of its fairways that forces uneven fairway lies.
To go along with the long list of defenses that this course features, swirling winds will cause fits to golfers all tournament long.
Augusta National annually yields the lowest penalty for missing fairways among major Tour venues. On seven of the 14 holes (par-fours and par-fives) there is a difference of less than 10-percent in birdie-or-better percentages depending on whether a player hits the fairways or not.
Distance off the tee will be important this week but not necessarily hitting the fairway.
Any hopeful winner of the Green Jacket must be aggressive on the four par-fives this week.
The par-five 15th and par-three 16th must be taken advantage of this week as well as they offer scoring opportunities. These holes help offer an exciting finish as ground can be made up if leaders take an errant shot off the tee.
Golfers too will look to minimize bogeys across the rest of the holes. To minimize bogeys, golfers will have to seek greens-in-regulation, scramble and have a solid short-plus-distance-lag-putting.
Although the course hosts this event year-in-and-year-out, it does a bit of tinkering almost every year to change some aspect of the course.
However, Augusta National did some major tinkering since we last saw it a year ago to one of its most iconic holes. The change was implemented to combat the insane distance of today’s Tour pros.
The par-five 13th, also known as Azalea, will play significantly longer this year. Thirty-five yards were added to this hole. For the long bombers off the tee, the hole had become a driver and a seven, eight or nine iron, removing what was once a true risk-reward of going for a par-five in two.
Thirty-five yards may not sound like much, but it is. McIlroy played a few practice rounds at Augusta recently and while he said the drive was easier than past years, the second shot is not. He was using an eight iron in recent years but in his practice rounds, was using a five-iron.
To make room for the additional 35-yards, trees were removed and a new tee box was installed. The 13th now plays at 545-yards. In Tour comparison, 545 yards is not a long par-five but the hole features a hard dogleg left and with Rae’s Creek guarding the green, the additional 35-yards will make the decision to go for the green in two more difficult.
Last year saw more changes to the course that we saw in the 2021 edition of this event.
The par-five 15th, also known as Firethorn, was extended by 20 yards and led to more forced layups. The fairways too were re-contoured with usage of short grass replacing the first cut.
The replacement of the first cut to short grass was implemented on holes nine and ten, also par-fours.
The par-four 11th, also known as White Dogwood, was lengthened by 15 yards last year.
White Dogwood also received a new tee box, lengthening the par-four to 520 yards. The fairways were re-contoured and widened by up to 15-yards as trees to the right of the hole were removed.
The first cut was removed on the right hand side as well and replaced by more fairway short grass. This caused errant drives to roll out into more disadvantageous positions due to the amazing topography of Augusta National.
New green surfaces were added to holes three, 13 and 17 in 2022 as well.
Weather could be a major factor this week as rain is currently in the forecast for each of the four days.
Thursday boasts a 40-percent chance of precipitation with a high of 86-degrees. Wins too are set for seven miles-per-hour.
Temperatures will then drop as the rain rolls into Friday. Friday has a high of 69 degrees with a 70-percent chance of precipitation. Winds too will increase as they are set for 12 miles-per-hour.
Temperatures continue to drop into Saturday with a high of just 54 degrees, a 32 degree swing from Thursday. Precipitation is set for a whopping 90-percent chance with winds set at 11 miles-per-hour.
The poor weather will continue into Sunday with highs set for 63 degrees. The chance of precipitation is set for 80-percent on Sunday and winds are set for 11 miles-per-hour.
In all, the drastic change of temperatures with what will almost certainly be wet conditions with increased wind, the weather will play a major part in who puts on the Green Jacket come Sunday (or maybe Monday if the forecasts are to be true.)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Average Par Five Scoring
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Par Four Birdie-or-Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT)
Average Driving Distance
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Three Putt Avoidance
Proximity to the Hole from 200-plus Yards
With it being The Masters I will be offering three golfers per price range opposed to my typical two. This too will be the trend of all majors on the season. The first golfer we have here is Jon Rahm ($10,800.) When Rahm is on his game (and not sick) he is the best golfer in the world and no one can debate that. Rahm is currently second on Tour in both average par five scoring and par four birdie or better percentage, third in both GIR% and proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, fourth in SG: APP, sixth in average driving distance, tenth in bogey avoidance, 12th in SG: PUTT, 17th in SG: ATG, 28th in SG: OTT, 43rd in scrambling and 82nd in three putt avoidance. His last three tournaments have not been the best. He placed T39th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a very impressive first round. He then withdrew from THE PLAYERS and didn’t make it out of the group stage at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Prior to that however he had won the Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express and the Genesis Invitational. He placed third at the WM Phoenix Open and T7th at the Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm has played The Masters the last six years where his worst finish has been T27th (2022 & 2017.) In that same time span he’s had two top fives (2018 & 2021) and two top tens (2020 & 2019.) His best finish was fourth in 2018 and T5th in 2021. Also consider the defending champion Scottie Scheffler ($11,100.) Scheffler is currently first on Tour in all three of bogey avoidance, SG: OTT and GIR%. He’s also third in three putt avoidance, fifth in average par five scoring, sixth in SG: APP, eighth in scrambling, 11th in par four birdie or better percentage, 19th in average driving distance, 24th in SG: ATG and 98th in SG: PUTT. He would rank first in our model this week if it wasn’t for a 168th placement in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards. Scheffler has had one heck of a calendar year. His worst finish on the season was a T12th at the Genesis Invitational. He has wins at the THE PLAYERS Championship and WM Phoenix Open. Outside of that he has eight top 15s, six top tens and five top fives. He’s of course the defending champion of this event so the course history is there. Also consider Rory McIlroy ($10,600.) He is currently first on tour in average driving distance, fourth in average par five scoring, sixth in SG: OTT, seventh in SG: APP, 21st in scrambling, 27th in three putt avoidance, 29th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 32nd in bogey avoidance and 33rd in SG: ATG. His score in our model this week is brought down due to a 140th placement in GIR%, 170th placement in par-four birdie or better percentage and 175th in SG: PUTT. McIlroy has had a bit of an up-and-down season. He placed T2nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and most recently placed third at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He missed the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship between the two events however. McIlroy has played in The Masters for the past 14 years. His best finish came a year ago where he placed second to Scheffler. He’s missed the cut here just twice in 14 events. In that same time span he had 11 top 25 finishes, eight top 15s, seven top tens and four top fives. He knows his way around this course and has proven that. As previously mentioned this is the last event he needs to win to complete the career grand slam.
Leading off this price range is Patrick Cantlay ($9,500) who ranks third in our model this week to only Rahm and Scheffler. Cantlay has quietly had a great stretch of events dating back to February at The Genesis Invitational. He placed third at the Genesis, T4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T19th at THE PLAYERS Championship and T9th at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Cantlay has had a mixed-bag of results over the past five years he’s played The Masters. He missed the cut twice and placed T39th a year ago. His best finish was back in 2019 where he placed T9th and then went on to place T17th in 2020. Although not the best of results, he has five years of experience at the course and event. Cantlay is currently first on Tour in both average par five scoring and par four birdie or better percentage, second in SG: OTT, fifth in both GIR% and bogey avoidance, 12th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 22nd in average driving distance, 38th in scrambling, 41st in SG: APP, 45th in SG: PUTT, 92nd in three putt avoidance and 91st in SG: ATG. He’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. At +1900 to win, he’ll receive a few dollars on my behalf. Also consider Max Homa ($9,200) who is right behind Cantlay in our model. Homa has been in great form on the calendar year. His worst finish was a T39th at the Phoenix Open back in February and outside of that his worst finish was a T14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in seven events. He won the Farmers Insurance Open in late January and placed second at the Genesis Invitational. He has six top 15s, five top tens and three top fives on the calendar year as well. Homa has played in the last three Masters, missing the cut in two of them and placing T48th a year ago. He’s developed significantly as a golfer since then so I’m not too concerned about his former placements. Even just playing the event goes a long way in familiarity. Homa is currently fifth on Tour in all three of SG: APP, scrambling and par four birdie or better percentage. He’s also seventh in bogey avoidance, tenth in SG: PUTT, 32nd in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 33rd in GIR%, 36th in SG: ATG, 37th in three putt avoidance, 49th in average par five scoring, 54th in SG: OTT and 67th in average driving distance. He’s well above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. At +3200 to win this week, a few of my dollars will be on him as well. Also consider Xander Schauffele ($9,000.) The price is right for Schauffele at the very bottom of this price range to offer lineup flexibility. He too has had a great calendar year where he’s made the cut in all of the seven events he’s played. He recently finished T5th at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and placed T3rd at The American Express back in January. On the calendar year he has five top 25s, four top 15s, three top tens and two top fives. Schauffele has played in The Masters the last five years where he missed the cut just once, a year ago. Besides that he’s had some fantastic showings with a T3rd in 2021 and T2nd in 2019. It seems that every-other year he’s in contention so if that trend continues, this could be his year. He’s currently ninth on Tour in SG: APP, 12th in average par five scoring, 18th in par four birdie or better percentage, 20th in both SG: PUTT and three putt avoidance, 27th in bogey avoidance, 45th in GIR%, 48th in SG: ATG, 62nd in scrambling and 84th in average driving distance. His score in our model is hindered by a 126th placement in SG: OTT and 127th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards. Like the other two in this price range, I’ll be placing an outright on Schauffele at +2500.
All three of my suggestions in this price range rank within the top seven of my model this week. First up we have Tony Finau ($8,900.) Finau is in search of his first major victory. Finau has a very good track record here at Augusta National. In the five events he’s played here consecutively, he has never missed a cut. He has three top ten finishes and a top five. He placed T5th in 2019 and T10th in both 2021 and 2018. He placed T35th a year ago. Augusta National seems to be one of those courses that Finau “gets.” On the calendar year he too hasn’t missed a cut. His worst finish in eight events has been a T24th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Over that same time span he has eight top 25s, three top 15s and two top tens. He’s currently third on tour in SG: APP, seventh in average par five scoring, ninth in GIR%, 11th in bogey avoidance, 23rd in all three of scrambling, SG PUTT and par four birdie or better percentage, 25th in SG: OTT, 63rd in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 70th in average driving distance, 79th in three putt avoidance and 81st in SG: ATG. He’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’ve taken into consideration this week. I’m not in love with his odds at +2400 but he still will receive a few dollars from me. Also consider Jason Day ($8,700.) Day has played The Masters ten times since 2011. His best finishes were a T2nd in 2011, third in 2013 and T5th in 2019. His most recent appearances (2021 & 2020) he missed the cut. However, he’s re-emerged since and has put together a fantastic season this year. In those ten tournaments he had seven top 20’s, four top tens and three top fives. Day hasn’t missed a cut on the calendar year and his worst finish has been a T19th at THE PLAYERS Championship. His best finishes have been a fifth at the WM Phoenix Open and a T5th at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. In that same time span he has five top 15s, five top tens and two top fives. He’s currently second in both scrambling and bogey avoidance, 12th in par four birdie or better percentage, 15th in SG: PUTT, 16th in GIR%, 22nd in SG: APP, 23rd in SG: ATG, 37th in SG: OTT, 38th in three putt avoidance, 62nd in average driving distance, 63rd in average par five scoring and 119th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards. Also consider Sungjai Im ($8,100.) Im offers lineup flexibility being at the bottom of this price range that Finau and Day may not offer. Im has played The Masters the last three years with a ton of success. He did miss the cut in 2021 but placed T2nd in 2020 and T8th a year ago. His game is perfect for Augusta National and that’s proven with his past results. On the calendar year he has made the cut in eight consecutive events. His best finishes have been a T4th at the Farmers Insurance Open and T6th at both the WM Phoenix Open and THE PLAYERS Championship. On the season he is currently third in average par five scoring, 12th in bogey avoidance, 15th in SG: OTT, 17th in scrambling, 30th in SG: ATG, 39th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 46th in GIR%, 62nd in SG: APP, 63rd in SG: PUTT, 74th in both par four birdie or better percentage and three putt avoidance and 90th in average driving distance. He’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. At +3600 you best believe I will have an outright on him!
My first suggestion in this price range is Tom Kim ($7,700.) Kim is currently third on Tour in bogey avoidance, tenth in scrambling, 11th in GIR%, 19th in SG: APP, 39th in SG: ATG, 40th in average par five scoring, 43rd in three putt avoidance, 58th in SG: OTT, 80th in par four birdie or better percentage, 95th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 103rd in SG: PUTT and 125th in average driving distance. On the calendar year he’s made six consecutive cuts, highlighted by a T6th at The American Express. He also placed T5th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the turn of the year. He has a win on the season back in October at the Shriners Children’s Open as well. Of course, he hasn’t played in The Masters before but with the way his game lines up, I’m not penalizing him for that. He’s currently at +10000 to win. I will be placing a bet on him. Also consider Keegan Bradley ($7,400.) Bradley is currently 13th on Tour in three putt avoidance, 29th in par four birdie or better percentage, 31st in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 37th in SG: APP, 39th in bogey avoidance, 43rd in SG: OTT, 52nd in GIR%, 58th in SG: PUTT, 77th in average par five scoring, 89th in scrambling, 95th in average driving distance and 137th in SG: ATG. Bradley has played in six Masters dating back to 2012. He missed the cut just once in that time span and his best finish was T22nd in 2015. Bradley has missed the cut in three of six tournaments he’s played this calendar year but when he made the cut, he made the most of it. In tournaments where he made the cut he has placed second at the Farmers Insurance Open, T20th at the WM Phoenix Open and T10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Also consider Chris Kirk ($7,100.) Kirk is currently the best on Tour when it comes to three putt avoidance. He is also 12th in SG: ATG, 16th in both bogey avoidance and par four birdie or better percentage, 25th in SG: PUTT, 56th in SG: APP, 65th in scrambling, 68th in GIR%, 96th in average par five scoring, 102nd in SG: OTT, 113th in average driving distance and 166th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards. Kirk played in three Masters between 2014 and 2016 where he missed the cut once. His best finish was a T20th in 2014. On the calendar year he has a win at the Honda Classic. He also finished third at the Sony Open in Hawaii and T3rd at The American Express. He most recently went T10th at the Valero Texas Open last week. He missed the cut just twice in seven events he’s played.
In this final price range, my first suggestion is Tom Hoge ($6,900.) Hoge has missed the cut just twice in eight tournaments on the calendar year. His year has been highlighted by a T3rd at THE PLAYERS Championship and T3rd at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He also placed T14th at The Genesis Invitational. Hoge has played in just one Masters which was a year ago where he made the cut and placed T39th. He’s currently the best on Tour when it comes in SG: APP. He’s also eighth in par four birdie or better percentage, 12th in GIR%, 17th in bogey avoidance, 18th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 29th in average par five scoring, 45th in three putt avoidance, 49th in SG: PUTT, 82nd in scrambling, 119th in SG: OTT, 135th in average driving distance and 175th in SG: ATG. The around the green placement is a bit worrisome but being an elite iron player will go a long way this week. You’re getting all of that in the last price range. You can’t beat that. He sits at +15000 to win and you best bet I’ll have some sprinkled there. Also consider Brian Harman ($6,700.) Harman has not had the best of years as he’s missed the cut in four of seven events. His best finish too has been a T32nd back in January at the Sony Open in Hawaii. However, he has had a bit of success at Augusta National. In 2021 he placed T12th at The Masters. He’s played in three masters since 2015 and outside of the T12th finish in 2021, he missed the cut in 2022 and 2015. He’s currently fourth on Tour in bogey avoidance, sixth in scrambling, 14th in average par five scoring, 17th in SG: OTT, 19th in GIR%, 33rd in three putt avoidance, 37th in par four birdie or better percentage, 61st in SG: PUTT, 110th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 139th in average driving distance, 141st in SG: ATG and 153rd in SG: APP. Also consider K.H. Lee ($6,400.) Lee has made the cut in five of the eight tournaments he’s played this season. His season has been highlighted by a T7th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T19th at the Valspar Championship. He has played in just once Masters previously, a year ago, where he missed the cut. He is currently 27th in SG: ATG, 29th in GIR%, 42nd in bogey avoidance, 44th in three-putt avoidance, 48th in par four birdie or better percentage, 67th in SG: APP, 96th in scrambling, 99th in average driving distance, 100th in SG: OTT, 102nd in SG: PUTT and 180th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards.
Jon Rahm (+950) - 3u
Patricky Cantlay (+1900) - 2u
Tony Finau (+2400) - 2u
Xander Schauffele (+2500) - 2u
Max Homa (+3200) - 1u
Sungjae Im (+3700) - 1u
Tom Kim (+10000) - 0.5u
Tom Hoge (+15000) - 0.5u