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Defending champion Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy headline top choices at the Masters

7 Min Read

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    Augusta National Golf Club will welcome a field of 88 for the 87th Masters Tournament and the first major of 2023.

    The legendary par-72 layout, designed by Dr. Alistair Mackenzie and Bobby Jones, will play 7,545 yards with the addition of the brand-new tee box on Hole No. 13 (Azalea) that will stretch it to 545 yards. This will also be the first event of 2023 on Bentgrass greens.

    History is a massive angle this week, not only on the course but throughout the event. Reigning champion Scottie Scheffler (+700) is topping the board at BetMGM Sportsbook as he looks to add another chapter to the ANGC history books. Only Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Sir Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02) have successfully defended here. The stoic Texan will not have to rely on the great memories of 2022 to jumpstart his season. The No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, as he was upon arrival last year, has already successfully defended at the WM Phoenix Open and added another major trophy to his bulging cabinet with a runaway victory at THE PLAYERS Championship in March. Nothing worse than T12 in seven 2023 starts suggests he could add his name to this exclusive list in only his fourth appearance down Magnolia Lane.

    Speaking of adding history, the career Grand Slam is on deck for the ninth consecutive season at Augusta National for Rory McIlroy (+700), who shares co-favorite honors with Scheffler at BetMGM. Making his 15th consecutive appearance, his solo second last year – albeit by three shots – was his best result in 14 previous tries and fourth overall in the top five. Closing with 64, he posted his career-best round as well, besting two previous rounds of 65. The new year began with a win in Dubai, and he has also gone close at Bay Hill (T2) and Austin Country Club, where he defeated Scheffler for third. McIlroy was the only player in 2022 to finish in the top 10 in all four majors.

    The familiar trio at the biggest events of 2023 remains intact for the first major as Jon Rahm (+900) rounds out the top three. The Spaniard always packs for four tournament days as he's never left after two rounds in six previous visits. Picking up T27 last year snapped a four-year run of T9 or better and matched his 2017 debut for only other time not inside the top 10. After a blazing start which included three wins from his first five events on TOUR, Rahm cooled after a quiet finish at Bay Hill, a bout of illness at THE PLAYERS (WD) and a group-stage exit at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Leads the TOUR in SG: Total and Scoring Average among other categories.

    After beginning his Masters career T2-WIN-T2, it's hardly a surprise to see Jordan Spieth (+1800) as one of the top choices on a track he clearly understands how to navigate. Since his blazing hot arrival on the scene, the Texan has added another pair of podiums with a solo third in 2018 and T3 in 2021. His run of eight straight weekends was clipped last year (74-76) but his scoring average of 70.71 is one of the best all-time regardless of amounts of visits. Half of his last six events on TOUR have resulted in T6 or better.

    Australian Cameron Smith (+2000), similarly to Rahm, has played every weekend from his six previous visits and has four paydays inside T10. Announcing his arrival in his second visit in 2018, he closed with 66 for T5. The last three years he's rattled off T2, T10 and T3. In 2020 he became the only player in the history of the tournament to post four rounds in the 60s. Last year he led the event in par-5 scoring and circled the most birdies while also picking up THE PLAYERS Championship and The Open Championship at St. Andrews.

    Justin Thomas (+2000) will be looking to hit the top 10 for the third time in four starts as he tries to keep his record perfect in making the cut in visit No. 8. His breakthrough into the top 10 with solo fourth came in the November edition but he returned last year to post T8. From his 28 career rounds, seven are in the 60s and his scoring average is under par at 71.54. The reigning and two-time PGA Champion knows how to get it over the line in big ballparks as he picked up the Wanamaker at Quail Hollow and Southern Hills. A quiet 2023 by his standards will be buoyed by a T10 last time out at Valspar, another demanding ball-striking track.

    With only one top 10 from six starts (T9, 2019) Patrick Cantlay (+2000) is hoping that start No. 7 will be the one that finally clicks. Major championships are always difficult and Cantlay's T8 at St. Andrews last summer was his first in 13 tries dating back to T3 at the 2019 PGA Championship. Shockingly the Californian only has painted the top 10 three times in 23 attempts in his career. Leading the TOUR in par-4 and par-5 scoring he's racked up three top 10s in his last four starts on TOUR so he's clearly in form.

    I don't think he'll be distracted by his San Diego State Aztecs Monday night in the NCAA title game, as it appears not much bothers Xander Schauffele (+2200). His cool demeanor plays well through the high-stress weekends on the second nine. In the mix (T2) when Tiger Woods did Tiger Woods things in 2019 and tried to run down Hideki Matsuyama (T3) in 2021. Those experiences cannot be taught.

    When ball-striking is on the menu it's not surprising that number next to Collin Morikawa (+2200) shrinks. His debut in November of 2020 (T44) came after he already won his first major, the PGA Championship at Harding Park. His best finish at Augusta National, solo fifth in 2022 after closing with 67, came after his second major championship at Royal St George's. Enters this week T13 or better in four of seven with three top six paydays to his name.

    2020 champion Dustin Johnson (+2500) will look to add to his run of T12 or better in six of his last seven visits. ... Jason Day (+2500) is healthy and on fire with top 10 paychecks from five of his last six on TOUR and is racking up top 25 results for fun. Only outside T22 once in his first eight visits but MC in his last two trips in 2020 and 2021. ... Max Homa (+2500) makes his fourth start and is looking to eclipse T48 last year as his only weekend rounds. The Farmers Insurance champ has five top 10s from seven starts this year and only one result (T39) outside T14. Everything in his game is on the way up. ... Tony Finau (+2500) answered the questions last season about where and when the next victory would come from as he won in back-to-back weeks and three times in two months. Last year was the first season he had not hit the top 10 in AT LEAST two majors since 2017. He's five-for-five here with three top 10s including T10-T5 on his first two visits.

    Here's a look at some other notable odds from the 88-man field heading into tournament week, via BetMGM:

    +3000: Cameron Young

    +3300: Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im, Sam Burns, Viktor Hovland, Will Zalatoris

    +4000: Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton

    +5000: Shane Lowry

    +6600: Joaquin Niemann, Min Woo Lee, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose

    +8000: Tom Kim

    +9000: Louis Oosthuizen

    +10000: Adam Scott, Abraham Ancer, Bryson DeChambeau, Keegan Bradley, Keith Mitchell, Mito Pereira, Sahith Theegala, Si Woo Kim, Tom Hoge

    +12500: Kurt Kitayama, Russell Henley, Seamus Power, Sergio Garcia, Talor Gooch, Thomas Pieters

    +15000: Brian Harman, Bubba Watson, Chris Kirk, Danny Willett, Jason Kokrak, Ryan Fox, Taylor Moore

    +17500: Billy Horschel, Harold Varner III

    +20000: Cameron Champ, Charl Schwartzel, Gary Woodland, J.T. Poston, Kevin Na, Phil Mickelson

    +25000: Adam Svensson, Adrian Meronk, Alex Noren, Francesco Molinari, Harris English, Mackenzie Hughes, Sepp Straka

    +30000: K.H. Lee, Scott Stallings

    +35000: Kazuki Higa, Kevin Kisner

    +40000: Zach Johnson

    The green jacket will be slipped on the winner Sunday evening in Butler Cabin by 2022 champ Scottie Scheffler. The prize pool and winner's share will be determined later this week.

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