11 golfers who can win The Masters in 2023, ranked

The Masters doesn’t need drama away from the course to make for a compelling week. But the 87th edition of the event has plenty of unique angles affecting many of golf’s best players.

Animosity and confusion lingers in the midst of the ongoing PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf battle. Tiger Woods will attempt to conquer Augusta with improved health and a made cut in February at the Genesis Invitational. And golf’s current “Big Three” consisting of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and defending champion Scottie Scheffler will all compete for the Green Jacket, and also the title of No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, with a win.

This year’s 88-man field is full of storylines and motivated players. With 18 LIV Golf players among the group, it’s the first crossover event between rival tours in 2023.

During a fascinating year for the majors here are the 11 biggest contenders to win the 2023 Masters.

11. Tony Finau

The feel-good story of Full Swing has three top-tens in five appearances at Augusta. Three wins in 2022 proved he can close when Sunday pressure strikes.

10. Dustin Johnson

Despite playing a lighter recent schedule on LIV Golf, counting out the former champion and accomplished Augusta competitor would be silly.

9. Collin Morikawa

One of golf’s brilliant ball strikers finally seemed to figure out the Masters with a top-five finish in 2022. A recent downturn in results after a hot start has Morikawa looking for some answers this week.

8. Patrick Cantlay

Even though he’s grown into a well-rounded, elite player, Cantlay has struggled to find that elite form at the Masters. The regular top-ten machine on Tour only has one in five appearances.

7. Justin Thomas

Two major championships and a love of Augusta National means Thomas is always a threat. A slow start to 2023 with only two top tens in nine events leaves his recent form in question.

6. Xander Schauffele

The San Diego State product is hoping to shed the label of being one of the game’s most talented without a major. Schauffele came close to winning this in 2019 and 2021.

The Masters - Preview Day 2

Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

5. Cameron Smith

The reigning Open Champion faces a fascinating week in Georgia. Smith is a major champion with a major resume at Augusta. The Aussie owns four top-10 finishes in the past five years – including three top-five finishes. He was the first player to ever shoot all four rounds in the 60s during his runner-up finish in 2020.

Played in the final group on a Sunday? Smith has done that. He’s checked just about every box that Augusta has to offer without ending the event with an enthusiastic Jim Nantz monologue and a Green Jacket.

But the LIV Golf conundrum cannot be overlooked. Smith hasn’t played the PGA Tour schedule in 2023. His artistry and talent has been missed during the elevated events that regularly pit the top players against each other. Coming off the season he had in 2022, Smith belonged in any Best in the World conversation. Politics got in the way of Smith being able to defend titles at the Tournament of Champions or the Players Championship. Is Smith still among golf’s truly elite who contend at every major? The talent, the course profile and the trophies all show Smith can win this week.

The Masters - Preview Day 1

Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

4. Jon Rahm

A month ago it would have seemed insane to have Rahm this low. Rahm looked completely unbeatable opening the season with wins in three out of five PGA Tour starts. He was the living embodiment of Bowser in Mario Golf – a large, powerful, sometimes-volatile player with insane length off the tee and enough skill around the greens to pour in birdies at will. When Rahm is running at his best, he can drop enough long putts to run away with an event.

Lately, Rahm has slowed after the torrid start. Three recent starts haven’t yielded a top-30 finish – although illness was to blame for a surprising mid-event WD from the Players last month. During an unexpected early exit from WGC Match Play, Rahm’s irons looked out of sorts as he was eliminated from group play.

Even though the last month has been spotty, it would be impossible to count out a player who can easily turn it on and become the best at seemingly any time. Rahm has never finished worse than 27th in this event – highlighted by four straight years in the top ten. After a sluggish 2022 in which he failed to contend at all four majors, Rahm is extra motivated to compete and have a chance to add another major.

Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club

Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

3. Jordan Spieth

Among the modern generation, nobody owns a more consistent Augusta track record, while producing more compelling moments, than Jordan Spieth. There’s the memorable win in 2015 and two runner-up finishes. Five top-three finishes in nine starts is completely ridiculous.

Certain players just have a way of seeing Augusta and playing to its unique contours – making the most out of any situation. That’s Spieth’s game at the Masters in a nutshell. There’s always the chance for a special hole-out or a crazy putt.

Entering this edition, Spieth is showing solid form with three top-10 finishes on the year. There’s also the notable Spieth on Easter trend.

Spieth faces the unique pressure of not winning a major since the 2017 Open Championship — but his current form entering this week provides major optimism for him to contend.

The Masters - Preview Day 1

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2. Rory McIlroy

No player in the field faces more internal pressure than McIlroy. It’s hard to believe that Rory, the biggest star of his generation, has not won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship – when he was still only 25 years old. McIlroy has yet to win the Masters. He’s perhaps the most talented player not eating “Scottie-style” cheeseburgers at the Masters Champions Dinner this week.

On paper, McIlroy’s track record at Augusta is strong. Last year’s incredible Sunday 64 catapulted Rory to an unlikely runner-up finish. That top-two spot gave McIlroy a notable seven top-10 finishes in the last nine years. Despite the solid finishes, however, Rory’s never been a credible threat to actually win the event during that span. Unless you’re including the final-round collapse in 2011 that I’m sure McIlroy would like to forget.

The important thing is that McIlroy is playing some of his finest overall golf entering a Masters. The driver appears to be fixed after a strong third-place showing at the WGC Match Play event two weeks ago. It’s also notable that Rory reintroduced a similar Scotty Cameron putter into his bag that he used to win his first two majors.

First-round jitters remain an intriguing subplot for McIlroy. The last four years, Rory has been over par after the first round. McIlroy’s slow starts have prevented him from truly competing down the stretch. Something as simple as a strong start could change McIlroy’s fortunes at this event.

The Masters - Preview Day 1

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

1. Scottie Scheffler

Defending at Augusta feels nearly impossible. It’s only been done by titans of the sport: Jack Nicklaus (‘65-66), Nick Faldo (‘89-90) and Tiger Woods (‘01-02). That’s the entire list. But if anyone was to pull off back-to-back Masters in the modern era, it’s Scheffler in current form.

Maintaining his unorthodox swing-out-of-your-shoes style off the tee, Scheffler has dominated again to start 2023. For as terrifyingly good as Scheffler was entering last season’s Masters, gobbling up three wins the months before, strokes gained data from Data Golf indicates he’s even stronger in 2023. Leading up to this, Scheffler already captured titles at the Players Championship and repeated at the WM Phoenix Open. Astoundingly consistent, through seven starts in 2023, Scheffler hasn’t finished lower than 12th.

And yet, despite Scheffler’s sublime stretch, he still isn’t a mega star outside of the golf community. An unassuming and easygoing nature lends Scheffler to being removed from a lot of off-course drama that has consumed the sport over the past 15 months.

But back-to-back wins at Augusta changes everything. Multiple wins at Augusta is a life-changing accomplishment. As long as Scheffler can withstand a loaded field, the pressure of repeating and his heavy Masters Dinner then he’s the favorite once again.

This post was originally published on this site