2023 is already into its fourth month, but to many, the Masters represents the real start of the professional golf season.

The season’s first major is upon us with the 87th playing of the legendary event at Augusta National. Plenty of storylines abound, making this event one of the more anticipated in recent memory.

Here are the seven most intriguing storylines to watch in Georgia this week.


Rory’s never-ending quest for Grand Slam

The last time Rory McIlroy hit a shot at Augusta National, this was the result:

With an outrageous hole out from the bunker on 18 for a closing birdie, McIlroy matched the lowest final round in Masters history via an 8-under 64. It was a good enough charge for him to finish in second place and bring endless positive vibes into this year’s event.

While there are plenty of big events on the golf calendar, none hold more importance for the four-time major winner than the Masters. It remains the only major he hasn’t won, with the green jacket eluding him and keeping him one shy of the Grand Slam since 2015. It’s tough to remember a better chance for McIlroy than this year’s tournament, as he’s fresh off a third-place showing at the Match Play and secured top-10 finishes in all four majors last season. Given his rise to an even more prominent position in the sport over the last 12 months due to the emergence of LIV Golf, a McIlroy win Sunday would be very popular at the PGA TOUR headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Florida.


Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The LIV versus PGA TOUR rivalry wasn’t really up and running at last year’s Masters – Phil Mickelson’s absence was really the only reminder of the rival tour. That couldn’t be further from the truth this time around, as 18 members of LIV Golf are in the field this week at Augusta.

Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, and Bubba Watson have insisted all is fine and there’s no drama between members of the two circuits, while Joaquin Niemann said quite the opposite.

“I think it’s going to be more fun knowing that they hate us,” Niemann told Golf Magazine’s Josh Sens. “Then go to the majors and beat them.”

To add further intrigue, the club and its chairman, Fred Ridley, were named in LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the PGA TOUR. While only Bryson DeChambeau remains attached to that suit among players at the Masters, that certainly won’t make the other members the most welcome people on the grounds this week in Georgia.

While it likely won’t be highlighted on the broadcast, you can bet there’ll be constant monitoring of the leaderboard to see how the representatives from LIV fare against the PGA TOUR’s best.

Scottie gunning for repeat

Last April, Scottie Scheffler came to the Masters red-hot and walked away with a dominant victory and his first major title. This year is playing out almost the exact same way, with the World No. 1 once again descending on Augusta in outstanding form.

Scheffler played seven times this calendar year and already has a repeat victory in Phoenix and a runaway triumph at The Players to his name. Believe it or not, he’s actually playing better this time around than he was last year. The 26-year-old gained 3.05 strokes per round since Jan. 1, a steady improvement from the 2.50 he’d gained this time last year.

Scheffler certainly doesn’t need any extra motivation for the week, but he’s likely aware of his shot at joining an elite club with a victory. Only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Nick Faldo won the Masters in back-to-back years, and only Woods claimed both The Players and the Masters in the same season.

Tiger in his 25th Masters

David Cannon / David Cannon Collection / Getty

Speaking of Woods, the five-time winner is somehow flying under the radar a bit entering play. That will surely change when he strikes his first tee ball Thursday to begin his quest to match Nicklaus’ record of six green jackets.

Woods recorded a 1-under 71 in last year’s opening round, one of the more remarkable feats in his astonishing career considering it was his first tournament action since almost losing his leg in a near-fatal car crash. He’d make the cut and finish 47th – an incredible showing given the circumstances around his health.

The 47-year-old certainly appears healthier this time around, with his last appearance a 45th-place showing at the Genesis Invitational in February. If Woods’ health holds up, there’s no reason to think the veteran superstar can’t make some noise once again in his 25th start at Augusta National.

The new 13th hole

Amen Corner is arguably the most iconic stretch of golf in the world, but the finishing leg of the three-hole stretch will look considerably different in this year’s event. Augusta National made the decision to lengthen the par-5 13th by 40-plus yards, making it much tougher to decide whether to lay up on the hole or attempt to reach the tricky green in two.

That will add a ton of spice to the risk-reward hole – one that’s become a must-birdie recently. Thirteen champions finished the week 4-under on the 13th hole, a feat that will be much more difficult in 2023 than in previous years. Even Dustin Johnson, one of the longer hitters in the field, said Monday that he’s likely to lay up on the hole all four days.

Can Spieth recapture Augusta magic?

Patrick Smith / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Jordan Spieth has supplied so many memorable moments at Augusta National over the years that it seems unbelievable he’s only claimed one green jacket. Spieth is a wizard around the challenging layout, with five top-three finishes in his nine professional starts in the Masters. Despite all that previous success, the 29-year-old missed the cut for the first time at the event last year. The three-time major winner looks to have turned things around this year, with three top-six finishes in his last five stroke-play events. His iron game is as strong as ever, with a balky putter the only thing to have kept him out of the winner’s circle this season. The familiar greens at Augusta should help him immensely in that regard.

Rahm’s major form

Jon Rahm is without question one of the most consistent golfers in the game, with seven straight top-eight finishes to begin this calendar year. That run included wins at the Tournament of Champions, the American Express, and the Genesis Invitational. Unfortunately for Rahm, the last few events have looked very different, with a 39th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a withdrawal at The Players, and elimination in the group stages at the Match Play. Those results look more like Rahm’s major season last year over his absurd finishes from 2021.

Rahm failed to post a top-10 finish in last year’s four majors for the first time since his first full year as a professional in 2017. While he made all four cuts at the majors, a T12 at the U.S. Open represented his only top-25 finish. His first chance to turn that train around comes this week at Augusta, a place that’s been very kind to Spanish golfers in the past.

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