Welcome to golf’s greatest week, at inarguably the most spectacular sporting venue on the planet, a place where every dogwood leaf and azalea blossom is flush with history and tradition. The first major championship of the year is as revered, as beloved, as treasured—and indeed, as bet-upon—as any other golf tournament anywhere in the world.
There are so many storylines to this year’s event, with Tiger Woods returning to Augusta National and the LIV Golf players set to go head-to-head against their rivals from the PGA Tour. But leading up to the tournament, the Masters first and foremost sets up a major showdown between the sport’s big three. That’s evident in the opening odds at golf betting sites, where defending champion Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy lead at +700 (7/1), just ahead of Jon Rahm at +900 (9/1).
That trio is head and shoulders above everybody else, given that you have to go down to +1600 (16/1) Jordan Spieth to find the next player in the market. Scheffler is aiming to become the first Masters champion to go back-to-back since Woods in 2001-02. Woods, a +6500 (65/1) bet to win on betting sites, is back for just his second tournament of the year (and on the heels of shooting under par in the final two rounds at the Genesis Invitational in February). Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson, both at +2200 (22/1) on golf betting apps, lead the LIV Golf assault.
Augusta National for the pros plays as a 7,545-yard par-72, and regular viewers of the Masters know all the nooks and crannies by heart. Although the fairways are wide and the rough—excuse us, the “second cut”—is hardly penalizing, this remains a second-shot course with an emphasis on holding greens and converting lightning-fast putts. That’s never truer than on the par-5s, which all present scoring opportunities and where the Masters can be won or lost.
To that end, there’s a new wrinkle for this year. The par-5 13th hole, the azalea-lined bookend to Amen Corner, has been lengthened to 545 yards, with the tee box pushed back nearly 40 yards. Known appropriately as “Azalea,” the 13th was the easiest hole on the course last year. Tournament organizers hope the added distance will prevent big hitters from cutting the corner of the hole’s right-to-left dogleg, restoring the challenge of carrying Rae’s Creek and reaching the green in two shots.
The added distance at No. 13 means Augusta National will play longer this year than it ever has, as the course continues to try to keep up with golf technology. But so many other things remain the same as they ever were at this course designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie in 1932—from the swirling winds over the par-3 12th to the greenside bunker at No. 18 to the undulating green of the par-3 16th. It is timeless Augusta National, after all.
2022: Scottie Scheffler
2021: Hideki Matsuyama
2020: Dustin Johnson
2019: Tiger Woods
2018: Patrick Reed
2017: Sergio Garcia
2016: Danny Willett
2015: Jordan Spieth
2014: Bubba Watson
2013: Adam Scott
The Masters is unique in so many ways, one being that it’s the lone major golf championship played on the same course every year. And while Augusta National has been tweaked and lengthened over time, the fundamentals of playing the course remain the same. That means bettors have volumes of information on players in the field, making it easy to separate those who have solid Masters track records from those who don’t.
The player with the best average finish in the 2023 field is +3500 (35/1) bet Will Zalatoris, who’s been T6 and solo second in two previous appearances. Scheffler is right behind with a victory, a T18 and a T19 in three Masters starts. Rahm had a run of four straight finishes of ninth or better snapped by a T27 last season, while McIlroy has been top 10 in seven of his last nine starts, a span that includes a solo second last season.
LIV Golf standard-bearer Smith has been outstanding at Augusta, with a T3, a T10 and a T2 over his last three starts. Justin Thomas, a +2000 (20/1) bet with USA sports betting sites, has a solo fourth and a T8 in his last three appearances. Sungjae Im, with +3500 (35/1) odds, was T2 in 2020 and T8 last year, with a missed cut in between. Corey Conners, the winner of last week’s Valero Texas Open, has recorded three straight top 10s at Augusta, and is a +4000 (40/1) bet on sports betting apps this week. And as for Woods? His opening-round 71 in 2022 showed what he’s still capable of at Augusta, where he’s certain to arrive in better fighting shape than he was last year.
Rory McIlroy to Win, +700 (7/1)
While McIlroy has been all over the map so far this year—T2 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, missed cut at The Players Championship, a great run in the WGC Match Play—Augusta brings out his best. He’s done everything at the Masters but win, taking second last year after his amazing hole-out from the sand on 18. The game is there, the course suits him, and the spotlight will be bright with the LIV guys in the field. The career slam still awaits McIlroy—if not now, when?
Cameron Smith Top 5, +500 (5/1)
How will competing on a guaranteed-money, no-cut tour affect LIV Golf’s best player in the majors? We’re about to find out. Smith has been sixth or better in three of his last five LIV starts dating back to last year, for whatever that’s worth. But his record at the Masters is simply awesome, and don’t overlook how he stared down Rory at the Open Championship last year. If there’s any player who can contend for a green jacket after finishing 29th last week at LIV Orlando, it’s the Australian who doesn’t seem to care what anybody else thinks.
Brooks Koepka Top 20, +140 (7/5)
Wait, the same Brooks Koepka who’s missed the cut at Augusta in each of the last two years? Indeed. Koepka seems to have rediscovered his game somewhat in the netherworld of the LIV tour, where he won last week and has shot in the 60s in five of his last six rounds. OK, maybe LIV doesn’t play at the most challenging courses. But this is still a guy who finished T7 and T2 in consecutive years at the Masters back when he was healthy.
Thursday and Friday, ESPN from 3-7:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday, CBS from 3-7 p.m.; Sunday, CBS from 2-7 p.m. Streaming coverage available at Masters.com beginning Thursday and Friday at 8:30 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.