Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Corey Conners won his second Valero Texas Open for his second career PGA Tour victory.
Conners led the Valero field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+14.95), Strokes Gained: Approach (+9.73), and Greens-in-Regulation (77.78%).
Conners is the first player since K.H. Lee (2021-2022 AT&T Byron Nelson) to record his first two PGA Tour wins at the same event.
Patrick Rodgers entered the final round with a one-stroke lead but shot a 73 (+1) and finished solo 5th.
Rodgers still seeks his first career win on the PGA Tour (has made 235 starts).
Rookie Sam Stevens finished runner-up thanks to his six-under 66 in the final round in which he made two eagles.
Stevens finished T3 last week at the Corales Puntacana Championship (missed the cut in five of his first seven starts this season).
Following the 2nd place finish at Valero, Stevens moved up from 278th to 127th in the OWGR. He’s also now 43rd in the FedExCup.
Sam Ryder used a six-under 66 in Sunday’s final round to finish T3 at Valero.
Ryder ranked 4th in SG: Approach (+7.42) and 3rd in SG: Putting (+7.47) for the event. He’s now 36th in the FedExCup Standings.
Matt Kuchar (T3) ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (+11.56) at Valero.
Rickie Fowler finished T10 at Valero for his fourth top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season. Fowler had just one top-10 in each of the past two seasons.
51-year-old Padraig Harrington also finished T10.
Andrew Novak (solo 9th) posted his first career top-10 on the PGA Tour. He led the field in SG: Putting (+7.72).
Nicolai Hojgaard (T28) and Ryan Gerard (T56) both earned Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour.
Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia
Event #25 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Major Championship #1 of 2023!!
Invitational Field (88 players)
It’s here. The 2023 Masters Tournament. An event that almost certainly does not need any sort of introduction or overview.
The Masters started back in 1934, founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts with the help of golf course architect Alister MacKenzie. The tournament, of course, has a rich history, full of incredible winners–Jack Nicklaus a six-time Masters champion, Tiger Woods a five-time champion, and Arnold Palmer a four-time champ.
Unlike the other three majors that rotate venues each year, The Masters is always played at Augusta National Golf Club. ANGC (a private golf club) hosts the entire event, whereas all of the other majors are hosted by larger public golf organizations. Augusta National is notoriously strict with its rules and policies, which helps maintain a traditional or classical golf atmosphere.
One of the other main distinctions of this major event is that The Masters is a smaller invitational field. Only around 90 golfers (88 this year) compete at Augusta each year. The top 50 and ties after the first two rounds make the cut (so it’s a relatively easy cut to make in professional golf once you’re there). And of those roughly 90 golfers, around 15-20 end up being comprised of amateurs and past champions.
Another important thing to note on The Masters field this year–which I’m sure 99.999% of people know by now–is that Augusta National has extended invites to players involved with LIV Golf. While they’re banned from competing in PGA Tour events, they’re NOT banned from competing in major championships like The Masters.
While we saw PGA Tour and LIV players competing against each other at the end of last major season, this will be the first time that these leagues are battling it out on the grounds of Augusta National. What more needs to be said? There’s an endless number of fascinating and dramatic storylines going into this year’s Masters and it will hopefully result in riveting theater.
Augusta National is perhaps the most well-known golf course in the world. As most know, Augusta is celebrated for how pristine and well-manicured the grounds are–seemingly not a single blade of grass is ever out of place. No other course quite "pops" on the television broadcast each year like Augusta.
One of the defining features is that Augusta is a very long course and is seemingly always being lengthened a bit more. Augusta ranked as the 4th longest course (out of 38) on the PGA Tour schedule last season, with about 100 more yards being added to the scorecard this year.
Some of that additional yardage is coming at Augusta National's par-5 13th where they built a completely new tee box farther back. A hole that used to be one of the easiest to score on is now likely to play a bit tougher. Dustin Johnson, one of the longer hitters, has already said that he's likely to lay up at the 13th hole this week.
Naturally then, the length of Augusta tends to favor longer hitters and it could favor them even more if the weather ends up cooler and rainy like the forecasts suggest it might.
Additionally, Augusta has some of the widest fairways out there. Augusta's fairways ranked as the 37th widest in each of the past two years. So players are both asked to hit it a long way while not having to worry too much about the big miss.
Because of the leeway off the tee, Augusta National is often referred to as a second-shot course. Hitting approach shots into the proper parts of the greens is essential given how challenging and tricky the Augusta greens are to putt on. This is also partially why having previous experience playing at Augusta tends to be more important here than at other venues.
Augusta National is known for its incredibly lightning-fast and undulated greens, which are some of the most difficult greens to putt on each year. And regardless of the weather conditions, Augusta's sub-air system allows them to keep the course firm and fast.
Overall, Augusta presents a really great test of major championship golf. It might favor longer hitters, but at the same time, players need to have all parts of their game really dialed in, and players need to be sharp strategically in order to navigate their way around Augusta National.
Click here if you want to check out The Masters website's hole-by-hole breakdown with course flyovers.
Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones (1933)
Yards: 7,545 (Par 72)
Avg. green size: 6,486 sq. ft.
Sand Bunkers: 44
Number of Water Hazards: 6
Number of Holes Water is in Play: 5
Course Scoring Stats:
In 2022, Augusta National ranked as the 3rd most difficult course on the PGA Tour in terms of scoring average, behind only The Country Club (U.S. Open) and Southern Hills CC (PGA Championship).
2022 Scoring Average: 73.95 (+1.95)
2021 Scoring Average: 73.06 (+1.06)
2020 Scoring Average: 71.75 (-0.25)--Fall Masters
2019 Scoring Average: 71.87 (-0.13)
2018 Scoring Average: 72.93 (+0.93)
Winning Scores last ten years:
2022: Scottie Scheffler -10
2021: Hideki Matsuyama -10
2020: Dustin Johnson -20
2019: Tiger Woods -13
2018: Patrick Reed -15
2017: Sergio Garcia -9
2016: Danny Willett -5
2015: Jordan Spieth -18
2014: Bubba Watson -8
2013: Adam Scott -9
How Scottie Scheffler gained strokes on the field in 2022:
SG Total: +17.44
SG T2G: +14.56 (2nd)
SG OTT: +3.04 (9th)
SG APP: +5.76 (6th)
SG ARG: +5.76 (2nd)
SG PUTT: +2.84 (13th)
How Hideki Matsuyama gained strokes on the field in 2021:
SG Total: +13.92
SG T2G: +13.00 (2nd)
SG OTT: +1.40 (17th)
SG APP: +6.00 (4th)
SG ARG: +5.60 (4th)
SG PUTT: +0.92 (23rd)
Field Changes (-): Aaron Wise withdrew on 3/31.
Field Changes (+): No one added.
Click here to see how each player in the field qualified for this year's Masters Tournament.
If interested, also check out News & Notes on the Entire Field.
Will Zalatoris (illness)
Zalatoris conceded his final match of the WGC-Dell Match Play (3/24) due to an illness. Sitting at an 0-2 record in pool play and already eliminated from the tournament, Zalatoris decided to withdraw rather than compete in a match that would have no impact on his own event result.
Zalatoris played a practice round at Augusta National on Monday, so it appears he's good to go for this week's Masters tournament.
Tyrrell Hatton (hand)
Hatton felt pain in his hand after hitting a shot on the driving range before his opening match of the WGC-Dell Match Play (3/22). The Englishman took Advil before the match and managed to play with limited pain.
The following week at the Valero Texas Open, Hatton missed the cut though told the media in his pre-tournament press conference that he had not felt any pain in his hand since that first match at Austin Country Club the week prior. Hatton has insisted that this was just a weird occurrence and not any sort of real injury, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on at Augusta this week.
Hatton arrived at Augusta National on Sunday and immediately started his preparations. He also played a practice round on Monday, so it appears Hatton is fine for The Masters.
Hideki Matsuyama (neck)
Matsuyama conceded his final match of the WGC-Dell Match Play due to a neck injury (3/24). He said he felt stiffness in his neck while warming up on the driving range prior to the match and then decided to concede as a precautionary measure.
Matsuyama has dealt with this neck issue off and on since last season and seems to just be a day-to-day problem that needs to be monitored.
He did ultimately play all four rounds at last week's Valero Texas Open and finished T15 without any significant problems. It's unlikely Matsuyama would have played Valero at all the week before The Masters if he had serious concerns about his neck. Matsuyama also played a practice round at Augusta National on Tuesday. These are all positive signs, though it's important to remember that this neck injury could pop up again.
Tiger Woods (ankle, foot)
The five-time Masters champion is preparing to play in his second event in 2023. Woods managed to play all four rounds at The Genesis Invitational in February as he continues to deal with his surgically repaired ankle and also plantar fasciitis. Following Genesis, Tiger made it clear that the goal was to make sure his body was physically ready to compete in all four majors this year.
Tiger arrived at Augusta on Sunday to begin his preparations for this year's Masters Tournament. He played a practiced round on Monday alongside Rory McIlroy, Fred Couples, and Tom Kim.
We know Tiger will never be the same physically as he was before the back and leg surgeries. That said, his performance at Genesis proved that the ball striking and skill on and around the green is still there. The question health-wise is just durability from walking around Augusta National for a full week.
Bubba Watson (knee)
Watson was sidelined for about eight months after underdoing surgery for a torn meniscus in May of 2022.
He returned to action at the Saudi International event in Febraury where he mised the cut. Watson then made three starts on LIV where he finished 40th at Mayakoba, 23rd at Tucson, and 40th last week in Orlando.
Matt Fitzpatrick (neck)
Fitzpatrick enters this year's Masters tournament having missed the cut in three of his last four starts in stroke play events on the PGA Tour, and he also failed to advance out of the group stages of the WGC-Dell Match Play.
Fitz had a neck injury pop up for the first time at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at the end of January. He's yet to miss any time and it's unclear if Fitzpatrick's recent dip in play is due to the injury lingering or just a bad run of form. He didn't show any real signs of pain or discomfort during the four starts he made in March.
Fitzpatrick was seen playing a practice round at Augusta National on Monday.
Louis Oosthuizen (elbow)
Oosthuizen recently revealed to SI Golf’s Alex Miceli that he’s been playing through a tendon tear in his elbow this year on the LIV tour. According to Miceli’s report, Oosthuizen has dealt with this elbow issue for the past three years but managed the pain well with cortisone shots. Before LIV’s new season, Oosthuizen sent his MRI results to Dr. Keith Meister, head physician for the Texas Rangers, who told him that he can play through the pain without making it any worse. While surgery would mean being out for 3-5 months, it appears Oosthuizen is going to continue to manage the issue this year and play through it.
Oosthuizen nearly won a few weeks ago at LIV Tucson, losing in a four-way playoff, after nearly withdrawing due to pain in his elbow. But he also finished 42nd at LIV Mayakoba and 42nd at LIV Orlando. Check out the full report here.
NOT IN FIELD
Aaron Wise (personal)
Wise announced in an Instagram story last Friday that he would not be playing in The Masters. He is stepping away from golf to focus on his mental health.
“Golf is just as much a mental game as it is one of physical skill, and the mental piece of it has been a struggle for me recently. I don’t take the significance of playing at Augusta lightly, but know that I need to take some time away to focus on my mental health so I can get back to compete at a level I am proud of.”
Daniel Berger (back)
Berger is hopeful to make his return to the PGA Tour sometime in May, per Daniel Rapaport of Barstool Sports. The four-time winner has been sidelined since the 2022 U.S. Open. Berger tried to play through this injury last season but said “that was definitely not the answer.” Instead, Berger has opted to take a more patient approach in his recovery. According to Rapaport, Berger has begun ramping up practice, and though he’s set no official timeline for a return it appears Berger could come back to the TOUR in May.
Masters Tournament golfers with the highest “True Strokes Gained” (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at Augusta National (min. two starts):
Will Zalatoris +3.51 (8 rounds)
Scottie Scheffler +2.84 (12)
Jordan Spieth +2.75 (34)
Jon Rahm +2.56 (24)
Tiger Woods +2.54 (60)
Phil Mickelson +2.25 (68)
Justin Rose +2.15 (60)
Rory McIlroy +2.13 (52)
Dustin Johnson +2.09 (44)
Cameron Smith +2.05 (24)
Justin Thomas +1.99 (28)
Notable first-timers at Augusta National in 2023:
Ryan Fox (OWGR 37th)
Kazuki Higa (OWGR 82nd)
Tom Kim (OWGR 19th)
Adrian Meronk (OWGR 59th)
Mito Pereira (OWGR 53rd)
Adam Svensson (OWGR 56th)
Sahith Theegala (OWGR 30th)
**Be mindful these stats mostly exclude LIV golfers because they just don't have the same data to use compared to PGA Tour players.**
Most Total "True Strokes Gained" over the last 3 months (per Data Golf):
Scottie Scheffler +3.05
Jon Rahm +2.86
Jason Day +2.55
Max Homa +2.41
Patrick Cantlay +2.30
Rory McIlroy +2.26
Tony Finau +2.19
Collin Morikawa +2.12
Xander Schauffele +2.01
Cameron Young +1.91
Most Strokes Gained Ball Striking (SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach) over the last 3 months (per Data Golf):
Scottie Scheffler +2.41
Rory McIlroy +1.99
Viktor Hovland +1.84
Collin Morikawa +1.84
Patrick Cantlay +1.81
Cameron Young +1.80
Tony Finau +1.65
Gary Woodland +1.51
Corey Conners +1.47
Jon Rahm +1.44
Tyrrell Hatton +1.43
Max Homa +1.42