Our expert golf tipster Jamie Worsley is in hot form and is back with his main betting preview and tips for the first Major of the year, The Masters. He will also have specials, first round leader and in play tipping pieces, so make Betfred your home for the Masters!

The Masters 2023 Tips

  • 5pts Jon Rahm – Win Only – 9/1
  • 2.5pts Collin Morikawa – each way (1/5 8 places) – 22/1
  • 1.5pts Sungjae Im – each way (1/5 8 places) – 35/1
  • 1.25pt Tommy Fleetwood – each way (1/5 8 places) – 45/1
  • 1pt Keith Mitchell – each way (1/5 8 places) – 80/1

Scottie Scheffler winning the Phoenix Open and adding another prestigious title at THE PLAYERS Championship that has seen him retake the title of world #1; Jon Rahm reeling off three victories in his first seven starts of the year; Sam Burns taking another step in the right direction towards the top when winning the WGC Match Play; Max Homa continuing to establish himself amongst that top-tier in world golf.

The start of 2023 has been an exciting one and it’s about to step up this week as Scheffler, Rahm, Burns and Homa, along with other megastars of the game in Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy – amongst many more – head to Augusta National for our first major of the year: the 87th Masters Tournament.

Tournament History

Starting in 1934, The Masters was the most recent of golf’s four majors to make its debut but has grown into arguably the most famous and prestigious golf tournament in the sport. This is in no small-part due to the iconic golf course that has wowed and engaged audiences the world over in each and every edition: Augusta National.

Horton Smith won that inaugural renewal in ’34, then going on to win again in 1936 to become the first repeat winner of the event.

A further sixteen players have since won more than once, with Jack Nicklaus holding the record of six wins between 1963 and his final win in 1986; a win which made him the oldest Masters champion at 46-years-old.

The youngest ever winner is a certain Mr. Tiger Woods, who won for the first time in 1997 at 21-years-old; a record-breaking 12-shot victory that is the record winning margin in tournament history and where his winning score of -18 was also the record winning score until Dustin Johnson’s -20 in the covid-affected November Masters of 2020.

That win in ’97 was the first of five for Woods – his latest coming in 2019 – and makes him second on the list of all-time wins; Arnold Palmer third on the list with four victories in six years between 1958-1964.

The event was dominated by U.S players in the early years and we had to wait 27 years for the first of three wins for South Africa’s Gary Player to find our first non-American champion. Indeed, Player’s other two wins – in 1974 and 1978 – were the only other victories for players outside the U.S, before Seve won for the first time in 1980 and in turn set about a change in fortunes for the International/European contingent; with 23 wins for the Americans and 20 for non-Americans since 1980.

That included four British winners in a row between 1988 and 1991 – Sandy Lyle (88), Nick Faldo (89), Nick Faldo (90) and Ian Woosnam (91). Those back-to-back wins for Faldo – two of three for the Englishman – makes him just the third player in history to retain the title of Masters Champion; a feat achieved by Jack Nicklaus in 1965-66 and Tiger Woods in 2001-02.

After producing a dominant display in a three-stroke victory at Augusta National for his first major championship last year – where he had to withstand pressure from a charging Rory McIlroy during the final round – that elite list is one which current world #1, Scottie Scheffler will be looking to add his name to this week. An achievement that looks well within his capabilities.

The Course

Designed by Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones in 1933, Augusta National Golf Club is a par 72, measuring a lengthy 7545 yards – extended again this year by 35 yards – and plays even longer when you consider the grass is grown towards the tees; designed to stop the ball rolling out.

That added 35 yards this year comes from the lengthening of the par 5 13th. During the modern game, this hole has been getting ever-easier, with players able to cut the doglegged corner into the wide fairway and leave relatively short approaches in to set up more makeable eagle opportunities. The added length of the hole is intended to hinder players doing this and instead leaving them with a more dangerous, longer iron-shot should they want to reach the green in two.

Augusta National is a heavily undulating course with elevation changes throughout and set through doglegging corridors, lined with mature pine trees.

The fairways are predominantly huge, ranking as the 5th easiest to find on the PGA Tour and with little rough aside them, it can often lead you into a false sense of security in thinking this is a simple driving course.

Whilst the fairways may be wide, some of the driving lines aren’t and though bunkering is sparse around the course (44 in total) many of the particularly cavernous ones sit in strategic places on the fairways, making it borderline impossible to find the lightning-quick bentgrass greens should you miss and contributing to Augusta ranking as the 8th toughest course on which to find greens when missing the fairway.

Said greens are difficult to find in general, despite them being predominantly large in size, with false fronts and cruel shaved run-offs designed to repel anything but the most precise of approach shots. Rather unfortunate for this week’s visiting competitors, as continually being forced to chip from tight lies sees The Masters rank only 2nd to the Memorial Tournament in scrambling difficulty.

Hitting the greens is only half the battle, with more of that precise iron-play needed to find the right areas of the severely undulating putting surfaces, that rank as the most difficult to putt on tour; culminating in this being the most challenging regular course on and around the greens that players will play all year.

Further to this is the challenge of handling the constantly changing wind directions that swirl around much of the course; whilst water adds another dimension of danger on the back nine, where it is in-play on five holes.

The only real scoring holes are the par 5s and historically, it’s proven vital that the chances players are able to orchestrate on these holes are taken. The par 3s are all challenging and brimming with danger; very much the same story with the par 4s, with nine of the ten exceeding 440 yards.

It’s a very tough but fair test – reflected by an average winning score of -11.7 over the last ten renewals – and requires players to be creative and hit all types of shots but additionally approach each hole with varying intentions and levels of aggression day-to-day.

The Stats

Key Stats: SG: Around-the-Greens, Scrambling, SG: Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, Proximity 150-200 yards

Secondary Stats: Driving Distance, SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Putting (quick bentgrass)

We have only had the benefit of strokes-gained stats for the past two years, though I’m not sure that’s as much of a hindrance here as it may be elsewhere. We get to witness this same course every year and to a much more intense level than almost any other venue; with that, we’re more than accustomed to knowing who goes well at Augusta and how they generally do it.

As with every major, a complete all-round performance will obviously serve you well and that was what we witnessed with Scottie Scheffler’s win last year, as he ranked 2nd tee-to-green and 13th in putting – a combination good enough to it done anywhere– though in that he confirmed what was always gathered: that it’s hard to win The Masters without a quality short-game.

The tight lies on closely-mown run-offs lends itself to only the very best chippers and the best of Scheffler’s stats last year came around-the-greens, where he ranked 2nd, a ranking he also achieved in scrambling. Runner-up, Rory McIlroy, was the best player around the greens, whilst Shane Lowry in 3rd ranked 4th ATG and 1st in scrambling; with Cameron Smith, also in 3rd, possessing one of the best short-games around; seven of the top 9 ranked 11th or better ATG.

2021 winner, Hideki Matsuyama has always been terrific around the greens, something he showed in that win, ranking 4th and was 6th in scrambling. Will Zalatoris in 2nd was very much about the ball-striking, though Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele in 3rd ranked 1st and 3rd respectively ATG; seven of the top 11 ranked 9th or better ATG.

Beyond this, the strokes-gained data dries up but scrambling stats are still available and tell much the same story. Dustin Johnson ranked 4th in scrambling when winning in 2020 and was 2nd in the same statistic when finishing runner-up to Tiger in 2019.

2018 winner, Patrick Reed has one of the best short-games in the sport, whilst Sergio Garcia (2017), Danny Willett (2016) and Jordan Spieth (2015) all ranked top 10 in scrambling when winning.

Almost as important as that need for quality around-the-greens is the necessity for high-class approach play. Indeed, this was the second most important area for Scheffler last year, as he ranked 6th in approach; also hitting a high percentage of greens, ranking 5th for GIR. Whilst McIlroy in 2nd wasn’t quite as dialled in with the irons, he hit more greens than anyone; Cameron Smith and Collin Morikawa in 3rd and 5th ranked 2nd and 8th for approach respectively.

Matsuyama’s elite approach game was as important as his short game in 2021, ranking 4th, whilst a large part of Will Zalatoris’ strong ball-striking runner-up performance can be attributed to the same area, ranking 9th in approach and 3rd for GIR. Spieth in 3rd led the field in greens hit and ranked 7th in approach, with Xander Schauffele no slouch either despite excelling in other areas, ranking top 20 for both.

As arguably the greatest iron-player that has ever lived, Tiger Woods’ superb record here is another tick for those with a high calibre approach game. He led the field in GIR when earning that remarkable victory in 2019, something repeated by Dustin Johnson the following year.

Additionally, pay particular attention to those who excel with the mid-irons; with approaches from 150-200 yards looking the most important this week.

There is no doubt that those with added length off the tee have the advantage, something backed up by the list of most recent winners but with how penal Augusta is when you stray off line and how narrow some of the driving lines are, it’s not a place where I want to trust the most wayward of drivers. Instead I’m inclined to favour those who combine that length with an all-round strong driving game, though weighted in at less importance than the short-game and approach play.

Finally, good experience on similarly quick bentgrass greens has to be marked down as an obvious plus. However, greens so difficult and quick can often prove to be a bit of a leveller between the putters and non-putters, with the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia providing evidence of those with poor putting records able to win here and since the introduction of strokes-gained data for The Masters in 2021, the putter has proven to be the least important club.

Correlating Events (Courses)

Memorial Tournament (Muirfield Village)

A par 72 of almost identical length, with wide fairways and bentgrass greens that are similarly tough to hit, Muirfield Village has plenty in common with Augusta. Add in that equally challenging difficulty around the greens and it’s of little surprise to see an abundance of correlating form between the two courses.

Tiger Woods equals his five-title haul here with five at Muirfield Village, whilst Hideki Matsuyama has also won both events. Reigning Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler has finished 3rd there, as has two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson, whilst Patrick Reed has multiple top 10s.

Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar have both won and finished 2nd at the Memorial, to complement their excellent records in The Masters, where they’ve recorded multiple top 10s apiece. Tony Finau and Marc Leishman too have multiple top 10s across both events, whilst Ryan Moore has finished 2nd and 5th there, to go with a strong record in Augusta; the best of which is a 9th place finish in 2017.

Arnold Palmer Invitational (Bay Hill)

Another similarly lengthy par 72, Bay Hill offers a strong championship-like test and compares closely to Augusta in GIR percentages and short-game difficulty.

Tiger Woods has amassed an incredible eight wins there, whilst Scottie Scheffler has finished 1st and 4th at Bay Hill the last two years; Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman two former API winners with strong Masters records.

Corey Conners – who has finished top 10 in three of his four Masters appearances – has a 3rd at Bay Hill, whilst Sungjae Im has twice finished 3rd, to go with 2nd and 8th place efforts over his three trips to Augusta. Justin Rose and Ryan Moore tie the form together again, with multiple top 5s at Bay Hill.

Honda Classic (PGA National)

Though being a much shorter par 70 course, PGA National ranks closely in terms of finding the similarly sized greens but particularly, it challenges the short-game to a higher level of difficulty than most courses, with the exception of Augusta; typically proving a good learning ground for major winners.

Adam Scott has won both events, with Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Sungjae Im also past champions. Shane Lowry – who finished 3rd at the Masters last year – has finished 2nd at the Honda amongst other tidy finishes, with that strong International/European flavour that is now frequently on show at Augusta mirrored here; former Masters winners Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel, along with contenders such as Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, all going well in the Honda.

Houston Open (Memorial Park Golf Course)

A couple of newer courses now and in the three years since making its debut on the PGA Tour, Memorial Park Golf Course has shown itself to be a course that can provide clues to the majors, with an average winning score of -13 over those renewals. Another lengthy course, it ranks closely to Augusta in many areas, from average driving distance and GIR, to the demands it puts on your short game, with the firm, undulating greens ranking as the 3rd most challenging on tour; two spots behind Augusta.

In those three years, it has seen three Masters winners: Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler all finish 2nd, whilst Tony Finau won there last year.

3M Open (TPC Twin Cities)

I always like to include a correlating course a little from left-field and I fell on TPC Twin Cities – host of the 3M Open – this week. Since arriving on our schedule in 2019, this event has been a hit with longer hitters, providing a similar driving test to Augusta. Though it’s on and around the greens that interests me most.

They share an almost identical average size to those here and like this week’s test are bentgrass, typically being set up to play firm and fast. Additionally, in those four years it has proven to be one of the tougher scrambling tests on tour.

Tony Finau won here last year, with 2021 winner, Cameron Champ possessing a good record at Augusta amidst the general chaos of his results. A quartet of runners up include proven Masters performers: Charl Schwartzel, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa and Louis Oosthuizen, further enforcing this correlation.

The Weather

Warm, stuffy temperatures are set to bring about a stormy week in Georgia, with thunderstorms predicted on every day of the event. From Friday, this could also bring about some strong winds, which will remain over the weekend; with those warmer conditions replaced by colder weather and the potential for some significant rainfall.

As always, these weather summaries are to be taken lightly and can change considerably before play starts; hopefully that is the case this week as the storms currently predicted will likely bring about a good few stoppages over the course of the week.

The Field

This is the first time this year that the top 50 players in the world – excluding Aaron Wise, who withdrew last week – will tee it up together in 2023, with the LIV rebels entering the conversation.

A field enhanced by the presence of Tiger, who tees it up for the second time this year following an encouraging 45th at Riviera back in February.

World #1 and reigning Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler heads the field, closely followed by Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm; the three men who have been locked in battle for that top spot all year.

Reigning Open champion, Cameron Smith is the top ranked of the eighteen LIV players in attendance this week, joined by past Masters winners: Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson.

A further fourteen former winners are in the field, including 1988 winner, Sandy Lyle and 1987 champion, Larry Mize – both stated to be making their farewell appearances this week.

At the other end of the scale, sixteen players will be making their Masters debuts. Chief amongst them are 20-year-old Korean star Tom Kim and recent first-time PGA Tour winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Kurt Kitayama; in addition to Japanese Tour star (and now DPWT member), Kazuki Higa, in on a special invite.

That same honour was awarded to the leading amateur in the world, Gordon Sargent, one of seven who will be fighting it out for the Silver Cup – the award for being low amateur – including last year’s U.S Amateur Champion Sam Bennett and winner of the prestigious Amateur Championship in the UK, South Africa’s teenage sensation, Aldrich Potgieter.

Selections

The market is headed by Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler at 7/1, with Jon Rahm coming next at 9/1. Usually, such prices don’t hold much appeal to me but these three are so difficult to ignore, for all I tried. They’ve been performing levels above the rest, exchanging that position atop the world rankings with one another since the end of last year.

I wanted to have one of them on side and whilst the cases were strong for both the joint-favourites, every which way I looked at this event and on every model I ran, Rahm came out on top. With that, it’s the big Spaniard that gets my vote this week.

5pts Jon Rahm – Win Only

Despite a win in Mexico and plenty of other strong contending performances, Rahm’s 2022 was largely underwhelming, in part due to subdued performances in the majors. However, he found winning form at the end of the year over on the DP World Tour; first winning at home in the Open de Espana and following by taking the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on his final official start of the year.

Come the new year and Rahm started it in much the same way he’d finished the last. He kicked off by winning the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, where he produced a sensational 10-under-par final round to take victory by two-strokes on a score of -27.

Two weeks later he made it back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour in The AmEx, again shooting -27; following strong efforts of 7th in the Farmers Insurance Open and 3rd in the Phoenix Open, Rahm won his third title of the year at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational. Entering the final round with a 3-shot lead and withstanding pressure from a multitude of challengers to find another gear late on, holing a monster 40ft+ birdie putt on 14 before hitting a sensational shot into the 16th for a 3ft birdie, helping him to a two-stroke win.

Rahm’s starts have been sparing since, finishing 39th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then having to withdraw due to illness following a solid start in THE PLAYERS; before a group stage exit at the Match Play. All of very little concern and easy to look past.

The main reason for this is simply that Rahm has been superb in all areas of his game this year. He’s excelled in approach in particular, ranking 4th for the season and is 3rd in GIR, whilst he’s also the best player in the field in proximity from 150-200 yards.

A strong ball-striking game is completed by a top 30 ranking OTT, where he’s also the 5th longest driver on tour. Combined with a short-game that sees him rank 12th on the greens and 13th around them so far this year, there is no-one with a better skillset for this challenge.

This is well on show in Rahm’s Masters record, where he’s made the cut in each of his six visits and recorded four top 10s, the best of which is a 4th place finish in 2018.

His win in the Memorial Tournament in 2020 provides further encouragement and concludes a predictably compelling case for Rahm to become a two-time major winner – adding to his 2021 US Open win – this week.

2.5pts Collin Morikawa – each way (1/5 8 places)

Already a two-time major winner – thanks to wins in the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 Open Championship – Collin Morikawa is halfway to the career grand-slam and can move one step closer to joining that elite list this week.

Last year represented the first year that Collin Morikawa finished winless since turning professional in 2019, though there was little to be too concerned about, with many a contending performance and his iron-play still amongst the best standard in the world.

Jump forward to this year and Morikawa looked in ominous form. He’d been the best player by some way in the ToC, before a back-9 collapse on Sunday let Rahm swoop in with that sensational final round to take the title.

He appeared to be suffering no hangover from that on his next start when finishing 3rd in the Farmers Insurance Open. Though his form has been a little more in and out since then – missing two of his next five cuts – plenty of positives have remained.

He was a good 6th in the Genesis Invitational, before responding to a missed cut in the API on his next start with a 13th place finish in THE PLAYERS Championship; leading the field with a typically outstanding approach performance.

As we’ve been accustomed to seeing, Morikawa’s performances are largely engineered by his electric iron play, ranking 2nd in approach this season; whilst he’s also 6th in proximity from 150-200 yards and 7th in GIR.

Often overlooked because of the quality in approach but Morikawa has been excellent off-the-tee too, ranking 22nd, despite lacking for distance, whilst he’s been plenty solid around the greens, ranking 60th.

The putter is still the weakest area, although he’s one of the most unpredictable players in this regard and seems more able than most to dismiss poor putting performances in previous starts by getting hot on his next.

Indeed on his three visits to Augusta National so far, Morikawa has been solid on the greens and when combined with the quality T2G, has enabled him to build up an attractively progressive record in the event. Since finishing 44th on debut in 2020, he has improved on each start, finishing 28th in 2021 before an excellent 5th place finish last year.

His excellent record at Muirfield Village, where he’s won and finished 2nd gives me more confidence in him here – in no small part due to his strong putting performances on the bentgrass greens – as does a 2nd at the 3M Open and if able to find one of those explosive putting weeks, he’s the one I feel can give the leading trio most to think about.

1.5pts Sungjae Im – each way (1/5 8 places)

Sungjae Im in 2023 has been very Sungjae Im. He’s been consistently strong, once again showing quality in every area of his game and if he can take that level of form into Augusta – a place where he’s finished 2nd and 8th in three starts – he looks set for another big week in Georgia.

In ten starts this year, Sungjae has missed just one cut and recorded seven top 25s, turning three of them into top 10s, with his best performance of the year coming when 4th at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Two starts ago he was 6th at TPC Sawgrass and would’ve gone better if not for a poor week with his usually reliable short game. Whilst last time out he performed with credit in the Match Play, exiting in the group stages but winning two of his three matches in that round.

As mentioned, his game causes little in the way of concern. He’s gaining strokes in each area this season and ranks 6th in the all-round ranking on the PGA Tour. The driver is the strongest club in the bag, where he ranks 15th and whilst not long, he certainly isn’t one of the shorter hitters.

18th in scrambling and 32nd ATG shows the place his short game is in, whilst the putter has largely fired this year. His irons would be the lowest ranking area, though still show as a positive.

A strong all-round game should translate to a contender just about anywhere, especially at challenging major courses. Whilst he’s largely struggled in the other majors, we can’t say the same about Augusta, where he finished an excellent 2nd on debut in 2020 and followed a missed cut in 2021 by returning last year to finish 8th; looking particularly good on the greens in those two top 10s.

His win in the 2020 Honda Classic is another positive, as are his 2nd place finish in the 3M Open last year, his two 3rd place finishes in the API and top 10 at the Memorial Tournament. He’s a player who ticks almost every box.

1.25pt Tommy Fleetwood – each way (1/5 8 places)

The strength of Tommy Fleetwood’s T2G game has always made plenty of appeal at Augusta. He’s showing particularly good form around-the-greens and in approach this season; when combined with the potential for unappealing conditions – the type he’s self-confessed to enjoy and even excel in – he has every chance to produce a best-ever performance this year.

Fleetwood was in fine form at the end of last year, recording a 4th place finish in the CJ Cup on the PGA Tour, before heading back to the DPWT to win the Nedbank Challenge and then sign his year off with a 5th in the DP World Tour Championship.

He initially struggled to get going this year but found some form with an eye-catching 20th place finish in the Genesis Invitational and has carried on that form.

His 61st place finish in the API on his next start doesn’t look much but he was very good tee-to-green and just had a week to forget on the greens; subsequently, a strong (top 10) approach display took him to a solid 27th place finish in THE PLAYERS Championship.

Fleetwood then found his best result of the year – and best on the PGA Tour since the 2020 Honda Classic – when finishing 3rd at the Valspar Championship two starts ago, entering the final round with every chance but ultimately struggling to really get anything going.

He ranked 3rd in the field there T2G, down to the quality of his short game, where he ranked 2nd ATG and 4th in scrambling. These stats are reflected in his season’s best, where Fleetwood is the 3rd best player on the PGA Tour this season ATG.

When added to his strong ranking of 24th in approach, we find a player performing in the key areas for this week’s test and combined with solid performances OTT and with the putter, has him looking an interesting contender this week.

Interest is increased in Fleetwood when looking at his steadily improving form figures in The Masters. Following a missed cut on debut in 2017, he has made every cut since, with a 14th place finish in last year’s renewal his best to date.

Furthermore, his excellent records in the Honda Classic and API – where he’s logged 3rd place finishes along with multiple top 10s – is another positive. If able to bring the best of that short game and approach play that we have seen for much of this year, he can improve again at this year’s Masters.

1pt Keith Mitchell – each way (1/5 8 places)

Patrick Reed appealed most of the LIV contingent, with his excellent tussle with Rory McIlroy in Dubai earlier in the year showing he hasn’t lost his intensity in contention, whilst Joaquin Niemann would also appeal had he not been poor on recent starts on that tour. Ultimately it’s still very tricky to know where to place these guys with the questions of motivation and quality of competition still rife.

Instead I am going to finish with Keith Mitchell. The big-hitter was born in neighbouring Tennessee and went to college here in Georgia, now residing there full-time. He’s been in good form this year and can improve on what was an encouraging 43rd place finish here on debut in 2019.

Mitchell kicked off his year with a missed cut in the Sony Open but has made the cut on each of his next seven starts, recording two top 5s when 4th at Pebble Beach and 5th in the Genesis Invitational; where he was particularly impressive in leading the field around the greens.

He’s one of the best drivers on tour, ranking 7th and hits it a long way, ranking 13th in driving distance; this very much the club that has engineered much of his good form. However he’s showing quality across the board, gaining strokes in approach in all but two starts this year, as well as five of his last seven on the greens and four of his last six around them.

Aside from his encouraging debut effort here, Mitchell is a past winner of the Honda Classic, recorded top 5s in the API and 3M Open, as well as a top 10 in Houston. Particularly promising was his strong putting performance on the bentgrass greens at the 3M Open, something that he has replicated in top 25s at Muirfield Village.

Mitchell’s best major finish in his limited starts came when 34th in last year’s PGA Championship. He should relish the wide open fairways around Augusta this week and if able to keep those other areas of his game firing, he can improve significantly on that this week.

 

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