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The Masters Preview

Adam Cairns / USA TODAY Sports

The Masters. A tournament many golf fans mark on their calendars for the first weekend of April. One of the major golf championships held each year on the PGA Tour and arguably one of the most prestigious out of the four. The tournament is played at the majestic Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and founded by the legendary Bobby Jones. The Green Jacket is one of the most coveted items in professional golf and a field of eighty-eight players will vie for the honor of dawning its threads. What will we see this year as we drive down Magnolia Lane into the 2023 Masters Tournament? 


First-Time Participants

There will be a total of sixteen first-time participants in this Masters Tournament with seven of those golfers being amateurs. Gordon Sargent is a notable inclusion in the event as a special exemption. Sargent is the number-one ranked amateur golfer in the WAGR and is the first amateur golfer to receive a special exemption invite to the Masters in over two decades. Sargent is the reigning NCAA individual champion as a sophomore for Vanderbilt University and will hope to make a splash in his first appearance at Augusta. 

Mito Pereira, Tom Kim, Kurt Kitayama, Taylor Moore, Adam Svensson and Sahith Theegala all qualify for the tournament through PGA Tour event wins or finishes. Ryan Fox and Adrian Meronk qualified by ranking within the top-fifty in the OWGR at the time of qualification. 

Fox will be the oldest first-timer at thirty-six years old and Meronk will be the first Polish player to participate in the Masters storied history. Kazuki Higa qualified through special exemption like Sargent and is likely the shortest golfer to participate in the event ever, standing at a menacing 5’2”.

Can McIlroy Complete The Career Grand Slam? 

Rory McIlroy has accrued twenty-three PGA Tour victories and nine international victories in his time as a professional golfer. McIlroy is currently ranked second in the OWGR and sixth in the Fedex Cup Standings. McIlroy has won a U.S. Open, British Open and has been victorious twice at the PGA Championship. The only major championship missing from his trophy case is the Masters. 

The North Irishman finished in second place in 2022 after an impressive final round of 64 to come up just short. McIlroy has seven top-ten finishes in the event and seems poised to break through soon. McIlroy acknowledged that this may not necessarily be a matter of the course being tailored to his strengths but whether the time is right for him. 

“Those last couple hours on Sunday, it’s not about whether the course sets up well for you,” McIlroy stated this week. “It’s about who can hold it together the best.” 

Let’s hope McIlroy is in contention on Sunday and can not only hold it together but excel past the field and finally hoist the clubhouse trophy above his head.

Last Masters For Tiger? 

Tiger Woods is undoubtedly one of the most renowned and accomplished golfers in the game’s history. Woods is a five-time Masters champion with a miraculous win in 2019 at the age of forty-three years old. Woods has been severely hobbled recently due to a horrible car accident in 2021 where he sustained injuries to both legs, consisting of a shattered ankle and two leg fractures. The Stanford product will likely only compete in Majors this year and maybe a select tournament or two due to struggles with walking for long periods of time. 

Woods was asked on Tuesday about whether or not he has thought about this potentially being his last Masters Tournament as a competitor.

“Last year… (I) didn’t know if I was going to play again at that time,” Woods stated gratefully. “For some reason everything kind of came together and I kind of pushed a little bit and I was able to make the cut which is nice. Yeah, I don’t know how many more I have in me so just to be able to appreciate the time that I have here and cherish the memories.” 

Hopefully Woods at his age can continue to rehabilitate and recover from his ailments and give fans a few more memories at Augusta. 

LIV Golf 

LIV Golf is a storyline that simply will not go away. There will be eighteen LIV Golf Tour players participating this week, qualifying either as past champions or meeting the threshold through other qualifications. Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith will be the most recognizable names on the tour that will compete at Augusta National. 

McIlroy, who has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the PGA Tour, was relatively cordial on discussing the involvement of LIV golfers at the Masters. 

“This week and this tournament is way bigger than any of that, I feel, and it’s just great that all of the best players in the world are together again for the first time in what seems to be quite a while,” McIlroy said. 

Koepka and McIlroy played a nine-hole practice round on the course Tuesday so maybe wounds are healing and tension is easing. Johnson, Smith and Koepka are likely the only players on the competing tour that will have a chance on Sunday but it would be wise to not count anyone out on one of golf’s grander stages, especially any returning champions. Koepka was recently victorious at the LIV Golf Orlando event last week so we will see if he brings that momentum into the Masters.

Can Scheffler Defend The Green Jacket? 

Scottie Scheffler took home the 2022 Masters Tournament despite an impressive final round from McIlroy, staying cool and calculated for his first major championship. Scheffler has won six tournaments in his two years on the PGA Tour. The Dallas native has two victories already this year at the Players Championship and WM Phoenix Open, ranked number-one in the OWGR, third in the Fedex Cup standings and has seven top-ten finishes as well.

Scheffler is playing some of the best golf of his short career thus far and that makes McIlroy and him 7-1 favorites to win the 2023 Masters Tournament. Scheffler will face stiff competition in this iteration of the event. If successful in his defense however, Scheffler would be the first defending Masters champion since Woods did so twenty years ago. 

The 2023 Masters Tournament will begin on Thursday morning. You can find all of the first and second round tee times here.

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