The first men’s major championship of 2023 is here.
The green and gold-hued tournament known as the Masters is in its 87th edition.
Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, is the annual host. It’s undergone plenty of redesign and lengthening over the decades while retaining its iconic features and atmosphere.
The Masters has the most exclusive field of the four majors.
It truly is a meaningful accomplishment to get an invitation to compete on some of the sport’s most hallowed grounds.
There are 88 players teeing it up this week looking to make the cut of top 50 and ties after 36 holes.
When you eliminate the past champions and amateurs, the crop of who can actually win begins to dwindle. Not to mention, no first-timer has won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. That drought is due to end at some point given the youth movement in golf, but experience is still crucial here.
Perhaps more crucial than at any other venue on the schedule.
Speaking of venue, here are some quick bases on ANGC: The ultra-private club was established in 1933 and began hosting the Masters a year later.
The Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie design has gone through countless changes over the years, including a reversal of nines, while still maintaining the heart and soul of the golden age of architecture’s crown jewel.
It plays to a par 72 and in modern day stretches to 7,545 yards after the 13th hole was lengthened over the winter.
Beginning last year, ANGC started to feature more tightly mown areas, which can send wayward shots repelling farther.
Bombers may have an advantage this week based on the weather forecast. It expects to be dry for most of the practice sessions, but rain is a possibility on all four tournament days.
The course could play softer than normal.
Keys to success when scouting which players to back this week include a few things. Elite iron play is essential to grab the birdies that are out there at this tournament without falling into the traps that lurk around every corner.
Playing to the right portions of the greens, getting up and down when you need to, and having a hot putter are big advantages.
That’s enough preamble. I’ll let you get to the power rankings while I’m off dreaming of pimento cheese sandwiches and azaleas.
Last year, I deemed Sam Burns as having the best shot of anyone at winning the Masters on their first attempt since the 1970s. That clearly didn’t pan out, as he missed the cut.
He did only MC by one after respectable scores of 75-74.
I like the way Burns is trending coming to his return to Augusta National, so I expect a reversal of fortune.
The LSU alum is feeling good about his women’s basketball team, as well as the state of his game. Burns won his fifth career PGA Tour title by age 26 with a victory at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in his last start a couple weeks ago.
Burns won his group by taking down Adam Hadwin 3 & 2, Adam Scott 1 Up, and Seamus Power 2 Up. In the knockout stages, Burns beat Patrick Cantlay 2 & 1, Mackenzie Hughes 3 & 2, defending champion Scottie Scheffler 1 Up in 21 holes, and Cameron Young 6 & 5.
Other high finishes this PGA Tour season include top-10s at the CJ Cup (T-7th), WM Phoenix Open (T-6th), and Valspar Championship (6th), as well as T-11th at The American Express.
Burns had a new Callaway driver in play in Austin. He also said earlier in March he was battling some swing issues, but things appear to be ironed out.
His trusty putter has been right all season. Burns is 10th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting per round (.719). He’s sixth in putting from inside 10 feet (91.11%), which is crucial to keep momentum going in majors.
Speaking of majors, this will be his 11th start if you count the 2021 PGA Championship where he withdrew on Thursday with a back injury. In the other nine starts, Burns has made a respectable six cuts. The next step is logging a top-10, which I envision this week.
Burns made progress last year, finishing T-42nd or better in three of the four and posting a career-best T-20th at the PGA Championship.