Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MANGAN | Masters Will Cap An Exciting, Contentious Golf Season

March is coming to an end, which is good news for all golf fans because it means the 2023 Masters Tournament is less than two weeks away. The tournament will begin Thursday, April 6 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., and will conclude with the final round Sunday, April 9. There are countless storylines to follow coming in, with Scottie Scheffler’s March 12 win at The Players Championship placing him in prime position to defend his title.

From his victory at last year’s Masters to January, Scheffler had played stellar golf. He was runner-up at the US Open in June 2022 and followed that with five more top-10 finishes coming into the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month. Despite strong play, Scheffler seemed to be dipping off the radars of golf fans and commentators. Jon Rahm and Max Homa had already won multiple times since the start of the season in Sept. 2022, and the light was shining on them coming into Phoenix. 

But Scheffler played steadily, making just two bogies all week. He won comfortably, finishing two shots clear of second place and five shots ahead of third place. He backed this performance up with another dominant week at The Players, breaking 70 in all four rounds and finishing five shots in front of second place. Scheffler is playing the most consistent golf on the planet and hasn’t finished outside the top 12 in his last nine worldwide events. 

He is the number one player in the world right now, but can this steady play outlast a peaking Jon Rahm?

Rahm seems to be coming into this year’s Masters in similar form to Scheffler last year, as he has dominated the first half of the PGA Tour season, earning three pre-Masters victories on Tour, just as Scheffler did in 2022. Rahm has won five of his last 11 worldwide events and has never played better golf in his career. He has four top-10 finishes in six Masters starts and, at 7-1, he is currently the odds-on favorite to win in Georgia.

Rory McIlroy has had a lot more to focus on than just golf for the past 12 months. He has spearheaded the PGA Tour’s changes in response to the creation of LIV Golf, the breakaway tour funded by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund. McIlroy attended a meeting at the Players to discuss the PGA Tour’s announced schedule changes next season for over seven hours, and it is safe to say he hasn’t been 100 percent focused on golf. McIlroy did play well coming into this year, winning the FedEx Cup in Aug. 2022, CJ Cup in Oct. 2022, and Dubai Desert Classic in January. 

Yet he missed the cut at The Players and putted horribly. The Masters is the tournament that undoubtedly means the most to McIlroy, as he needs a victory there to complete the Career Grand Slam. Only five players have ever done this, and his collapse down the stretch in 2011 along with his poor play in the final group in 2018 means there is some scar tissue there as well. 

However, his runner-up finish at Augusta last year was encouraging, and Rory has recently been reported to be making some equipment changes, including a new driver shaft and a putter switch. Social media rumors suggest that at a practice round last week at Augusta National he may have had 19 putts in 18 holes, a drastic improvement from 31 during his first round at The Players.

The other major storyline coming into this year’s Masters is the performance of the players from LIV Golf. Past champions like Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, along with 2022 British Open Champion Cameron Smith, will all be playing in the Masters for the first time since they resigned their PGA Tour membership to join the Saudi-backed LIV. 

LIV events have just 48 players, 54 holes and no cut, all very different from the Masters, which has a cut, is 72 holes and has a field size of generally around 100 players. Players on LIV have also played considerably less competitive golf than their peers on the PGA Tour, as LIV has held just two events since November of last year.

There has been bad blood between players on the PGA Tour and those on LIV. Many past champions, notably Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Scottie Scheffler, have all publicly denounced LIV. Patrick Reed was seen throwing a tee at Rory McIlroy on the range of a European Tour event in January. LIV Golf has also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour and its players, further agitating relations between the two sides. 

The Masters never fails to excite on the back nine on Sunday, and the LIV Golf drama will only draw more eyes.

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