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2023 Masters Preview

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to take a stroll down Magnolia Lane for this week’s Masters.

This is the first major championship of the season and it’s the only major played annually at the same venue.

The Masters also features one of the smaller fields we see all year, at least when it comes to events with a cutline. There are fewer than 90 golfers (88) to start the week with the Low 50 and Ties playing the weekend.

The Course

Augusta National Golf Club is one of the most well-known courses in the world, despite it being one of the most private.

Glancing at the scorecard we see a par 72 that now stretches to 7,545 yards. The most notable change since last year is the addition of a new tee box at the par-5 13th. The iconic hole has yielded the most eagles and birdies in recent years (40% birdie rate, 3% eagle rate) but we should see a dip in those numbers in 2023 as the option to go for the green becomes a bit more interesting when you move the tee box back 35 yards.

Off the tee, golfers see tree-lined corridors with overseeded ryegrass turf from tee to green. Power is a critical tool to have in your bag since the first cut of rough is just 3/8th of an inch. Even the longest of rough is just an inch longer than that.

On approach, golfers are faced with average-sized greens but the effective size is much smaller due to heavy undulations and runoffs. Even if you do land the greens sometimes you are left with an extremely difficult task just to two-putt.

Those runoffs stress the importance of course management and short game in general. If you are missing in the wrong spots then there is no amount of short-game magic that will save you. However, if you miss in the right spots, you will still need a strong short game, but the scrambling is at least manageable from those zones.

Once they’ve reached the bentgrass greens, golfers will see the fastest green speeds they see all season. They don’t publish official stimp meter readings but it’s generally estimated to be 13 feet or faster. The shorter putts are actually relatively easy because they roll so true but lag putting is definitely a preferred skill because that can be the difference between an eight-foot, par-saving attempt and one that is four or five feet. Those certainly add up over the course of 72 holes.

Don’t be fooled by all of the eagles and birdie runs, the overall scoring environment is very tough. While the TOUR average bogey or worse rate sits around 16 percent, it’s closer to 23 percent at Augusta National. So, while there will be some low rounds recorded most days, the course will just as easy steal your lunch if you are not dialed in.

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Patrick Cantlay in 2022: “I love fast, old-school putting greens. And so this is the, you know, apex of that. It’s the most undulated, in general, fastest greens we play all year.”

Jason Day in 2022: “I know it’s very much a second-shot golf course. I’ve played with countless older generation players and younger generation players, and you can definitely tell that the more you play here, the better your course management gets around this golf course.”

Tony Finau in 2021: “Some of the fairways are pretty tight, but the landing area is big. I had a certain number in my head. If you can fly the ball 315 yards comfortably, you’re going to turn that course into a different one.”

Bubba Watson in 2018: “The lies in the fairway, you got all kind of different angles and slopes and things, so the lies above your feet, below your feet, uphill, downhill, rumor is they cut the grass towards us, so it’s into the grain when you hit, so the quality of iron shots, you got to be pinpoint or you’re going to look pretty bad on the iron shots because it’s hard to get a crisp hit on it.”

As Jason Day pointed out, this is a course where you can get a good headstart with the driver but it’s still a second-shot course as you can tank your round or week with poor approach or around-the-green play.

Correlated Courses

Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week’s host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:

Riviera CC
Torrey Pines
TPC Boston
TPC Scottsdale

Pound drivers off the tee, that’s the main that stands out to me (and speedy greens).

The Weather

Thursday: Partly sunny with a high of 83 degrees. Winds at 5 to 10 MPH.

Friday: Cloudy with a chance of light rain, high of 69 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.

Day one looks good but the weather dwindles from there with lots of rain in the weekend forecast in addition to sub-60 temperatures.