The highly anticipated first major of 2023 is only days away. The 2023 Masters will be one of the most interesting majors of all time with the storylines in play: Will Tiger Woods be able to contend? Can Rory McIlroy complete the career grand slam? How will the PGA Tour vs. LIV feud unfold when they’re all under the same tent? How will the 13th hole play with the new tee box? Can Jordan Spieth reassert his dominance at The Masters? Is Scottie Scheffler the best player since Tiger? Will Collin Morikawa regain his major form from 2021? I can’t wait to learn the answers to all these questions over the coming week. One thing is for certain, the 2023 Masters will provide amazing entertainment for fans.
Let’s look at what is needed to succeed at Augusta National. The main key to success here is always iron play. You can’t fake your way around this course. Being in command of your irons allows you to place the ball in the correct spots on the green to have a makeable putt for birdie. Players who struggle with their irons will be left with difficult two putts for par or extremely difficult up and downs with all of the slopes and shaved runoffs around the greens.
There are a few other key areas players may gain an edge. Players who drive the ball long will have an advantage on the four par fives, given they will be able to easily reach all four of them to potentially create easy birdie or eagle opportunities.
Now you might be thinking…what about the importance of chipping and putting? Well, the greens at Augusta are so fast and so undulating that everyone is going to miss his fair share of putts. The best way to make birdies will be hitting iron shots in the correct spot for an easy putt or dominating par 5s. If you have to rely on your chipping and putting to bail you out, you will most likely falter at some point over the course of four rounds. That’s the beauty of Augusta. It rewards the player who is playing the best and in control of his golf ball and nerves.
I’m not gonna sit here and just recommend Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm. We all know they are great players and have the best chance to win. Let’s focus on three players further down the board who have a chance to don the green jacket for the first time come Sunday.
Max Homa $9,200
I feel like we are getting a cheap price on Homa here based on his historical results in majors. He has played 12 majors as a professional and has finished better than 40th just once. He has played in three Masters and hasn’t finished better than 49th. That was a different Max Homa.
Over the last year, Homa has progressed from a mid-tier player to arguably a top-five player in the world. His improvement hasn’t just been in one area. He has improved statistically in each of the four key strokes gained metrics (off the tee, approach, around the green, and putting). It’s rare to see a player improve in all facets. So it’s been a meteoric rise for Homa, who has a chance to put his name in the upper echelon with a major victory in 2023.
Tony Finau $8,900
Finau is a perfect fit for Augusta, which is why he is the best player in my model outside of Scottie, Rory and Rahm. He ranks top 15 in approach, off the tee, birdies, par 5 scoring, driving distance, and putting. Yes, I said putting. Everyone thinks that Tony is a bad putter but the stats show that he is actually an above-average putter. His putting metrics are even better when we focus in on fast, bentgrass greens and that is what we have at Augusta. In his five appearances, he has three top-ten finishes. Now with three wins under his belt in the last year, it is time for Tony to add a major and there is no better place than Augusta to do that.
Jason Day $8,700
What a story it would be to see the resurgence of Jason Day’s career come to fruition with him wearing the green jacket come Sunday. His game had been in shambles over the last few years as the former world number one was ranked 175th just seven months ago. Since then, he has been on absolute fire, finishing 21st or better in all but one of his 12 events. Now, the 33rd-ranked player in the world heads to a course where he has had great success. From 2011 to 2019, Day recorded seven top-28 finishes, including three top tens, highlighted by finishing runner up to Charl Schwartzel in 2011. In this same time frame, he had 15 top tens in majors! Based on what I’ve seen in the last seven months, Day is back and I look for him to be in contention in majors in 2023.
Check back in the coming days for a long shots article and best bets article.