Faldo’s Elea Club in Cyprus
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Scottie Scheffler defends his Green Jacket, Tiger Woods is back, as are LIV golfers, and there’s been a change to Augusta National. Here’s everything you need to know.
The 87th edition of this magical event is golf’s first major of the season and will be played between April 6-9. Scheffler won his first major here in 2022 with a score of 10-under, three strokes ahead of Rory McIlroy who will be back this year trying for the ninth time to complete his career grand slam of majors.
If world No. 1 Scheffler wins he’ll become only the third player to win back-to-back Green Jackets, joining Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, and Jack Nicklaus.
Cameron Smith finished joint third in 2022 on 5-under and will be playing this year along with other LIV golfers. The LIV contingent have a great Masters pedigree with six champions in their ranks, three-time winner Phil Mickelson, two-time champion Bubba Watson as well as Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel.
Among the other LIV players joining them will be Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Louis Oosthuizen.
Tiger won the Masters in 1997 before adding victories in 2001, 2002, 2005 and memorably in 2019. The 15-time major champion’s appearance at Augusta National is just his second official start since missing the cut at The Open last summer.
On his chances of a record-equalling six win, he said: “I think my game is better than it was last year at this particular time. I think my endurance is better. But it aches a little bit more than it did last year.
“Whether I’m a threat to them or not, who knows,” Woods added. “People probably didn’t think I was a threat in 2019 either, but that kind of turned out okay!”
Woods played a practice round on Monday with Tom Kim, Fred Couples and McIlroy, who said: “He looks good. If he didn’t have to walk up these hills and have all of that, I’d say he’d be one of the favourites.”
Scheffler is favourite followed by world No. 2 McIlroy and No. 3 Jon Rahm. The trio have all been the top ranked golfer so far this season. Rahm has three wins this season, Scheffler two and McIlroy one.
McIlroy pushed Scheffler all the way last year, shooting a bogey-free 64 on Sunday which included a memorable birdie from a greenside bunker on the 18th. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay are also in the mix.
What a story it would be if a LIV player won, and that could be Cameron Smith. The Australian won his first LIV event in Chicago in September and the Australian PGA Championship in November.
Outside bets could include Corey Conners who, fresh off his recent second win at the Valero Texas Open, is ready for another good showing at the Masters. In his last three Masters starts, he has finished T6, T8, and T10.
88 golfers will be divided into 30 groups (28 trios, two pairs) for the first two rounds. Woods will play alongside Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele, while Scheffler will be joined by Max Homa and amateur Sam Bennett.
Notable tee times (local time):
10:18 am: Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Tiger Woods
10:30 am: Patrick Cantlay, Kurt Kitayama, Adam Scott
10:42 am: Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young
10:54 am: Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Smith
12:24 pm: Tom Hoge, Si Woo Kim, Phil Mickelson
1:12 pm: Corey Conners, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose
1:24 pm: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris
1:36 pm: Sam Bennett, Max Homa, Scottie Scheffler
1:48 pm: Sam Burns, Tom Kim, Rory McIlroy
2:00 pm: Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth
The 13th hole par 5 is going to play significantly longer this time. The hole named ‘Azalea’ has had its tee box put back by 35 yards, so the hole is now up to 545 yards from 510 yards last year.
It’s a hard dogleg left, and with the tributary of Rae’s Creek guarding the green, the extra 35 yards will make the decision to go for the green in two, and club selection, more difficult.
After the change to the 13th, the course is still a par 72, but it’s now 7,545 yards long.
The ability to move the ball, predominantly from right to left, is a big advantage here. In recent years the big correlation has been who leads in strokes gained approach and who wins the tournament. So, accurate iron approach play is key. And a good week with the putter is always essential around Augusta on its quick Bentgrass greens.
There is likely to be rain and perhaps thunderstorms this year. Thursday is expected to be hot and humid increasing the thunderstorm threat. Temperatures will then drop significantly and the rain increase over Saturday and Sunday along with the wind, resembling conditions more often seen at The Open. These tough conditions could relent a bit by Sunday.
If McIlroy wins he will complete the fabled career grand slam of winning all four majors: the Masters, US Open, PGA, and The Open. Only five players have achieved this: Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods.
The 2023 Masters has a total purse of $15 million and offers $2.7 million for the winner. Those who miss the cut still get $10,000. Amateurs are not paid. The player in 50th and last place gets $37,800.
1st: $2.7 million
2nd: $1.62 million
3rd: $1.02 million
A replica of the Masters trophy, a gold medal and the club’s famed Green Jacket, which was first handed out in 1949. The winner also gets 600 FedEx Cup points and 100 official world golf ranking points, with all four majors offering the maximum points for any tournament in men’s golf.
Other big benefits are a five-plus season exemption on the PGA Tour, as well a starting place in the Masters for life and spots in the other three majors for the next five years.
72-hole stroke-play event contested over four days. To make the cut after 36 holes, players must be in the top 50 places, counting ties.
If players are tied after 72 holes, the winner is decided in a sudden-death playoff, beginning at the 18th hole and going to the 10th hole if needed. If it goes to a third hole, it would go back to the 18th.
Woods won his first Masters in 1997 at the age of 21. He is still the youngest player to ever win the event. His victory that year was by 12 strokes, which is the largest winning margin in Masters history.
Jack Nicklaus has 6 wins, Tiger Woods 5, Arnold Palmer 4, and Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Sir Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson all have 3.