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The Masters 2023: LIV Golf vs PGA Tour

Augusta US Masters

The Masters 2023 will be the first major of the year and the much-anticipated LIV Golf vs PGA Tour battle. Who will come out on top at Augusta?

After a brief hiatus working on his own golf game (with tepid results), Jack Holden returns with his take on the season’s first major, covering plots, subplots, LIV Golfers, Tiger Woods’ prospects, Phil Mickelson’s return and some surprising predictions.

Despite the efforts of Augusta’s Royal body to frame the sub-text of golf’s first major as the revamped 13th hole, the forthcoming ball revolution, and Rory McIlroy’s quest, the real elephant in the room is LIV’s prodigals vs the PGA’s favored sons.

McIlroy, his own personal quest notwithstanding, has the additional burden of the man with the white hat confronting the outliers, whose hopes seem to rest with Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith, as the most likely challengers.

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson

After watching the LIV players on the range earlier this week, DJ and Cameron’s tummies are more notable than their golf swings.

Smith’s swing looks the same, but DJs doesn’t look as tight. Seems some kind of lunge on the downswing, not evident in his glory days.

I attribute Smith’s weight gain a function of the good life, his self-described motivation to join LIV. One I can empathize with. More money, less pressure, and more time off. Who doesn’t want that?

It seems that from the LIV golfers’ Twitter feeds, they perceive Augusta as a testing ground. Though the pressure resides in both camps, I’m not sure that the financial guarantees and the softer schedule of the LIV Tour, prepares their players to compete with those who endure the crucible of the PGA Tour. Especially in a major.

Even in business, the hungriest men usually win out. Just wanting to prove a point may not be enough, other than for Patrick Reed perhaps, whose angst carries him 24/7 and might be the lone LIV golfer to make a run.

Patrick Reed PXG
(Credit: PXG)

Though filled with equal things-to-prove, Phil seems to have sent a virtual version of himself, absent a golf game or personality.

As for my prediction – which are whimsical at best, this is golf after all, and even great players can’t count on which swing will be there for them when they wake up in the morning – I’m going with the following:

TIGER: Between his sore leg and the nasty squalls predicted, overcoming Augusta’s hilly terrain is an impossible challenge. Making the cut would be a great accomplishment.

LIV vs PGA: As for the battle of the bands, I don’t see the LIV boys leaving their mark on Augusta’s cathedral. Maybe some early decent scores on Thursday and Friday, but I suspect that the PGA players, grounded in the grind of the PGA Tour, will dominate the scoreboard by the weekend.

BEST DRESSED GOLFER: Scottie Scheffler. Although the betting favorite, the cognoscenti of golf, who reside on the Golf Channel, have either prematurely crowned Rory McIlroy or picked players further down the world rankings. But if anyone can repeat at Augusta, I believe it’s Scottie.

He has the most complete game – power, irons, scrambling – is a sneaky fierce competitor, grounded in a higher power and, most of all, has a GREAT putting stroke. Looks like the ball is going in every time it leaves the putter-face.