2023 Masters Tournament Preview and Picks
2023 MASTERS TOURNAMENT PREVIEW AND PICKS – Thanks for stopping by to take a look at our thoughts for the first major tournament of the season. We’ve had some stacked fields to preview already this season, but nothing compares with the tradition of The Masters.
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In terms of course preview, most people are probably pretty familiar with what to expect if they’ve been watching any type of golf in their life.
Fast greens, wide undulating fairways, light rough. Those are the hallmarks of Augusta National. Players will rarely have a flat lie and the greens are downright dangerously fast.
Weather could be an issue, particularly for guys who have to play on Friday afternoon as conditions worsen throughout the day.
The only notable change is the lengthening of the 13th hole. It’s gone from being a relatively easy par-5, to a significantly more difficult one. Lengthening the tee shot has taken some stress off the tee shot because players won’t be forced to hit a draw around the dogleg anymore, but the second shot will prove to be much more challenging.
Most of the players have indicated they’ll be laying up on the 13th hole for their second shot, but I’d imagine we’ll see plenty of drama as guys begin to press on the back nine Sunday.
Neither Jack, my co-host, or myself are playing any of the top-3 guys. If you’re looking at some advice on putting together some picks I’d suggest 3-4 midrange guys (we typically slot them in the Irons portion), and maybe toss in a longshot or two if you’re feeling frisky. Big longshots don’t typically take home the hardware here, but they’re still fun to think about.
Be sure to check out our podcast, Clubhouse Picks, in which you can hear our musings and banter. If you don’t have an hour, I’ll break down some of our picks here.
THE DRIVER (Scottie, Rory, Rahm)
These are guys we’re looking at if you only like betting studs at the top of the leaderboard. We usually take a look at the top three or four guys on the odds board and choose the one we like the most.
Scottie Scheffler (+650)
We were both in agreement on this one and it’s a pretty straightforward argument. He’s the best player in the world and his recent form has shown us exactly that. Additionally, he’s the only one of these three guys who has won this tournament. He sort of sneaks under the radar because he keeps a lower profile than Rory or Rahm, but do not overlook him if you really want to bet a favorite this week.
Approach numbers and tee-to-green numbers are hugely important at Augusta. If you’re shooting for a big name. Take the guy who leads the Tour in GIR and SG: Tee-to-Green.
THE IRONS (Thomas, Burns, Morikawa, Homa, Sungjae, Finau)
These are solid, reliable guys in the mid-range tier (think 30/1-80/1ish). They are reliable and you can count on a handful of guys in that range to be sniffing around in contention. These are who we have our eyes on this week. Some of them we didn’t mention, but should have on the show. Here’s who we like.
Tony Finau (+2000)
Yes, I know, the odds aren’t awesome here. But, by god, I will not be able to live with myself if Tony is slipping on the green jacket come Sunday evening.
The form is excellent right now, and he’s won three times since July. He’s been able to shed the perception that was held for a long time that he wasn’t a closer.
He hasn’t finished outside of the top-25 since November of last year and he owns three top-10s at this tournament. At some point, he’s going to close a big tournament and Augusta National should suit him better than some of the other majors in the rotation.
If you want some stats, here they are: he’s top-5 this season in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, and SG: Total.
Putting has typically been an Achilles’ heel for Tony, but even in that stat he’s 23rd this season.
The game is excellent and my FOMO prevents me from not betting on him, even at this small of a price.
THE WEDGE (Tommy Fleetwood, Cameron Young)
This is a guy that we are always finding a reason to bet on, but they never win. These guys likely won’t either, but here’s to hoping.
Tommy Fleetwood (+5500)
In a vacuum, Fleetwood should have the type of game that contends well here. In the last eight tournaments here, the eventual winner was among the best iron players in the field for the week (the lone exception is short game ninja, Patrick Reed).
Fleetwood has long been considered one of the better iron players in the world, but the game cooled off in the last couple of years and the market may not be accounting for his career resurgence. He’s clawed himself back up to 27th in the OWGR, and he’s done it with his ballstriking (12th in SG: Tee-to-Green).
Why is he in this section? May be a question, and the answer is quite simple. He’s never won on the PGA Tour, but he’s long been a darling of the DP World Tour. He’s too good not to win an event in America. Maybe he flies under the radar and gets it here.
THE PUTTER (Tom Hoge, Matthew Fitzpatrick)
These are guys who we bet on and then instantly regretted.
Tom Hoge (+11000)
This one is pretty straightforward. Our strategy this week relies on the belief that two types of players tend to play well here. Elite iron players and elite short games tend to be what win at Augusta.
Tom Hoge just happens to have the best SG: Approach numbers on Tour. He popped up for a 3rd in The Players last month, so he’s definitely playing well and getting comfortable in big events.
Is it a huge ask to think his iron game will propel him enough to overcome some pretty shaky short game numbers and deficiencies off the tee? Absolutely. But these are longshot we’re talking about, and driving numbers aren’t typically hugely important with the absence of deep rough and wide fairways.
HYBRID (Chris Kirk, Sahith Theegala)
These are our wild card guys who could pop up and make us rich. They could also be out of the tournament by noon on Thursday. We’re just throwing darts here and hoping for something good at long odds.
Sahith Theegala (+12000)
Well, in the previous section we targeted an elite iron player. So we would be remiss not to cover the other kind of archetype who plays well here: the short game maestro)
Sahith is definitely a short game maestro, and his ability to scramble out of trouble can be breathtaking when he’s at his best.
It can be difficult to quantify why he’s so good because few of his stats jump off the page. But the results are undeniable. He’s been in the top-10 five times this season.
Typically, a wayward driver is the culprit for many of his troubles. Augusta National isn’t as penal in the respect, so he can be competitive if he can harness the elite shotmaking and scrambling that have become his hallmark in the course of his still young career.
Bonus Section: Driving Iron (Cam Smith, Mito Pereira, Abraham Ancer)
We didn’t know what to do about the LIV guys because they play so infrequently and LIV doesn’t provide the type of stats that we can use for betting purposes. Additionally, we’re all wondering what these guys will look like with the relative dearth of competitive action when compared to their PGA Tour counterparts. When we look at these guys, we’re relying on what their strengths were prior to the jump, and how they’ve played in majors previously.
Abraham Ancer (+13000)
When he was at his best on Tour, he was solid with his irons and could hit some eye-popping short game shots. He definitely slides into the “short game maestro” category we’ve coined for this column, so we’ll give him some love here.
Ancer has played well in big events and he has experience at Augusta. His ability to manufacture shots around the green and be creative should serve him well at a course that demands creativity.
The results on LIV haven’t been great, but that can be said for a lot of the guys competing this week as they cross over from the PGA’s rival tour. He was one of my favorites to watch before I had to suffer through shotgun starts on the CW channel to watch LIV golf, so this may be sentimental. BUt I’ll be rooting for him here.