LONG ISLAND, New York – It’s not hard to come up with a list of favorites to win The Masters this week at Augusta National Golf Club. It’s a course that tends to separate the men from the boys on the PGA Tours. If you look at the top 10 in the past four Masters (excluding the 2020 event that was canceled by COVID), it’s like an All-Star lineup year after year.
It is rare when a player repeats at Augusta. It only has happened three times in 87 years, including Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02), three of the all-time great major champions. But I believe 2022 champion Scottie Scheffler, who currently ranks No. 1 in the world, is perfectly positioned to repeat. Nobody has been hotter than Scheffler for the past year on Tour. He already has repeated at Phoenix back in February, and he added The Players Championship, known as the “fifth major” in March. Scheffler is No. 1 in greens in regulation, a critical category at Augusta, and he is No. 2 in scoring average and total shots gained just behind Jon Rahm. Scheffler also has finished T12 or better in his past seven events.
That record makes Scheffler a dominant presence, but No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Rahm also figure to have a say. McIlroy has three T-5 Masters finishes in his past four events plus a T-21, and Rahm has three T-10 finishes in the past four Masters. So the top three in the world are the chalk choices to win, including Scheffler and McIlroy at +700 and Rahm at +900. It gets a little more tricky after that, but we’re still focused on big-name players.
Much has been made about the fact that the 88-player field includes 18 members of the breakaway LIV Golf League that is competing with the PGA Tour. There was some suggestion relationships might be tense, especially after Fred Couples described three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson as a “nutbag.” Some have speculated the pressure might be too much for the LIV players, but I totally disagree. I am looking at Cameron Smith, who has three T-5 finishes in the past four Masters and won the 2022 Players and British Open. I also love Brooks Koepka, who has two T-10 finishes in the past four Masters and who became the first player to win for the second time on the LIV tour last week.
His recent performance suggests Koepka might be past his physical issues. And how often do you get a chance to bet a four-time major champion at +3300 odds? If you’re just trying to pick a winner, I also like 2021 Masters champ Dustin Johnson, a LIV player (+2500) who is T-12 or better in six of his past seven appearances at August. Justin Thomas (+2000) has four straight T17 finishes or better in the Masters, and Jason Day (+2500) has two T-20 finishes in four years and has played great this season.
Now for the hard part, which is picking a six-man Draft Kings team on a $50,000 salary scale. Scheffler and Smith cost $20,900. Then Tom Kim ($7,700), Koepka ($7,600), Mito Pereira ($6,900) and Danny Willett ($6,600). Sometimes, you just have to get lucky. Of course there are a lot more combinations, but how much can you invest?
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