Who will win the 2023 Masters? Using our FRACAS model, we look at the key 2023 Masters predictions ahead of the action at Augusta National Golf Club.
It’s the Masters. It’s the Masters regardless of the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf drama. It’s the Masters even if Fred Couples vs. Phil Mickelson means something different than it used to.
As it does every year, Augusta National Golf Club hosts the first major of the year. Playing up to 7,545 yards this year, the par 72 is a fair test of every facet of a player’s game. With seven holes that have a projected bogey or worse rate of more than 25%, Augusta National blends holes where your goal is to survive with par with iconic scorable par 5s, a handful of par 3s and par 4s where birdie isn’t unlikely. With wide fairways and very little rough, driving distance is usually a huge advantage at Augusta, though weather conditions can throw a wrench into the skill set needed to come out victorious. We’ve seen shorter hitters Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson and Danny Willett wear the green jacket in years when weather has played a role.
Looking at the course layout, it’s the back nine of the Georgia track that generates the most excitement. Historically, holes 12, 13, 15 and 16 have seen the highest variability of scores per expected stroke. In other words, the average shot on those four holes are the most impactful on the course. It should be noted that the tee box on 13 has been moved back 35 yards, so there is a chance the hole plays with less excitement than it used to.
With only 88 golfers in the field, and about a dozen of them past champs or amateurs with very little chance of winning, the Masters’ strength of field is top heavy, but not particularly deep. A Masters win is all about prestige. From a probability standpoint, there have been five tournaments this year that are harder to win, though modeling does have trouble accounting for the mental stress of winning a tournament like the Masters. There are golf tournaments, and then there is the Masters.
Who Will Win the 2023 Masters? The FRACAS Picks
After 100,000 simulations of the tournament, Jon Rahm sits atop our modeled win percentage. Rahm tees off with Cameron Young and 2022 PGA Championship champion Justin Thomas at 10:42 a.m. ET in a string of four strong trios that also includes Tiger Woods, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im. Rahm feels a little like a forgotten man after World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler’s recent run of success, but he’s won thrice in 2023 with his worst performance coming at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he put a couple of tee shots into the water. He averages almost 14 more yards off the tee than the average golfer so has the length needed to find success at Augusta National. He also performs highly on both types of par 3s, with the highest projected strokes gained on the less-variable par 3s, and behind only Collin Morikawa on the more-variable par 3s. He also leads the field in projected scoring on short and less-variable par 4s as well as long and more-variable par 4s. While he’s faded from view over the last month, his 2023 has thus far been worthy of a Masters champion.
Ahead of the first round, here’s the FRACAS top 10:
Rory McIlroy was last year’s runner-up and is the closest to Rahm in projected win percentage. As usual, it’s McIlroy’s variability that gives him an edge over the rest of the top five. He has a lower projected made-cut percentage than both players behind him, but few golfers have the ceiling of McIlroy. The Masters is all McIlroy needs to complete the career grand slam, and his next attempt at a green jacket begins in Thursday’s second-to-last grouping with Sam Burns and Tom Kim just ahead of Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau.
Patrick Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler are virtually tied for our third most likely golfer to win. Scheffler, who’s attempting to become the first golfer to win back-to-back Masters tournaments since Tiger Woods in 2002 after winning last year’s Masters by three strokes, has been a ball-striking machine since the start of the year, gaining almost two shots per round with the driver and irons. As we discussed in our Players Championship preview, we use some longer-term baselines for the tournament simulations, so while he’s been on a tear lately, McIlroy’s and Rahm’s success over longer periods of time give them the edge. Scheffler is grouped with Max Homa and amateur Sam Bennett on Thursday afternoon.
Cantlay has, thus far, been a disappointment at major championships. He has just three top-10 finishes since 2018 and missed the cut in two of his five Masters appearances as a professional. His T19 at the Players Championship was a bit underwhelming, but it would have likely been a T6 had he not putted the ball into the water on Friday. His ability to score on par 5s and his consistency on long and difficult par 4s is why the model likes him this week.
Xander Schauffele – who’s teeing off with five-time Masters winner Tiger Woods and Viktor Hovland on Thursday morning – and Justin Thomas have had similarly disappointing starts to 2023. Both have dealt with, and may still be dealing with, injuries and Thomas in particular has been dreadful with the putter. While neither are in great form, Augusta National is a course Schauffele has had some success at with two top-three finishes, while Thomas is making his second Masters appearance with Jim “Bones” Mackay as his caddy. “Bones” was Phil Mickelson’s long-time caddy and has crucial experience at Augusta National that could help propel Thomas to another top finish.
Tony Finau and Viktor Hovland are both premier ball-strikers who struggle with short game. Finau frequently struggles with the putter, while Hovland is generally dreadful around the greens. Touch on and around the greens is critical at Augusta, but so is ball-striking, and either player could ride some hot iron play to the top of the leaderboard.
The projected top 10 rounds out with Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. Johnson – who tees off with last week’s Valero Texas Open winner Corey Conners and Justin Rose – is our only LIV golfer in the top 10. Sorry, Brooks Koepka, FRACAS hasn’t forgotten about that +6 last year. Johnson hasn’t been as dominant as he probably should be on the LIV circuit, but our long-term baselines still see him as a top-10 golfer in the world. He’s also had a ton of success at Augusta National with five top-10 finishes, including a win at the November Masters in COVID-altered 2020. Morikawa falls into the Finau/Hovland bucket of premier ball-strikers who struggle around the greens. With two major championships in his trophy case already, a green jacket would propel Morikawa into rarified air.
The 2023 Masters Predictions: FRACAS Value Picks
Here in the early part of the week, the odds aren’t too favorable for any golfers. We’re currently seeing consensus odds total 165% of true win percentages. That means the total win percentages being presented by the sportsbooks is 165%, instead of the actual 100%. Usually we see that number around 150%, so as the week progresses we should see some numbers falling to get to that 150% marker.
Viktor Hovland is the first golfer we’ll be keeping an eye on. Right now, the consensus market has Hovland around 33/1, and we’re looking for that number to get closer to 40/1. As we discussed above, it will have to be Hovland’s ball-striking propelling him to the top. Looking at hole types, there isn’t a specific type of hole where Hovland truly excels or underperforms. For a course like Augusta National, this can be an advantage because of how well-rounded the course is. If Hovland comes in well above the field average in hitting greens, he can hide his around-the-green deficiencies.
Further down the board we’re also keeping an eye on the odds of Keegan Bradley. Bradley hasn’t qualified for a Masters tournament since 2019 but has rounded into form in the last two years. Like Hovland, he’s a ball-striker who struggles around the green, with no real strengths or weaknesses in the hole types. He’s projected to score just slightly higher than field average on the par 3s and par 5s, but his par-saving ability on the par 4s should keep him from bottoming out. Bradley’s true skill level is probably a little too low to finish at the top of the leaderboard, but we do like him as a placement option, particularly the 2.8/1 we’re seeing for him to finish top 20.
Alex Noren is another placement option we love. He’s one of the least variable golfers in the field, so his low ceiling probably keeps him off the podium, but stringing together four rounds of decent golf could get him hovering around the top 10. The par 5s will be where he either succeeds or fails this week. He’s projected for more birdies than the average golfer in the field on par 5s but is also projected for more bogeys. Staying in the red on those par 5s will be crucial. He’s 12/1 to finish top 10 and 4/1 to finish top 20, and we like both of those numbers.
Our final pick is a real dark horse. Gordon Sargent is currently the top-ranked amateur in the world, and is the first amateur to accept a special invitation to the Masters in more than 20 years. Just a sophomore, Sargent – who’s grouped with Zach Johnson and Jason Day – has been nearly unstoppable in the college ranks this year. He is currently gaining 4.71 strokes over the field per round in his college tournaments. Yes, it’s college golf, but playing at Vanderbilt he usually plays against the other top schools in the country. We give him a higher chance of finishing in the top 20 than PGA staples Scott Stallings, Harold Varner III (formerly PGA) and K.H. Lee. He already projects as a well-above-average PGA Tour player, and we’re excited to watch him tee it off this week. Sargent is 20/1 to finish top 10 and 8.5/12 to finish top 20, and we think both of those numbers are stellar.
Don’t see the golfer you wanted numbers for in this piece? For the data on Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Sergio García, Bryson DeChambeau, Will Zalatoris, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen and everyone else, check out the entire Augusta National Golf Club-specific projections.