The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom at Augusta National, nature’s announcement of the start of golf’s most heralded tournament, the Masters. Beginning Thursday morning, Georgia will be the epicenter of professional golf, with icons and upstarts from the PGA and LIV tours among the field competing to don a green jacket and place their name alongside the game’s greats.
Established in 1934, the Masters has only seen three native Georgians, Claude Harmon (1948), Tommy Aaron (1973) and, most recently, Larry Mize (1987) win the tournament.
While the pairings will contain only one Georgian with a green jacket in his closet, the field is packed with adopted Georgians to make golf’s Holy Grail a Peach State-centric event.
The excitement will certainly lead to some casual wagering among friends and coworkers, but Masters betting in Georgia is still at least a year off, so none of that will be in play during the 2023 Masters.
Larry Mize, winner of the 1987 Masters, said this will be his final time teeing it up for the major. Mize, 64, spoke to Golf Digest about his decision to make this Masters his last and how the course design is geared toward younger golfers.
“Yes, this will be my last Masters. It’s time,” Mize said. “I’m 64 and the golf course is getting longer, and I have found that I have not gotten longer as I get older. It is a young man’s golf course, there’s no doubt.”
Mize is already inscribed in the annals of Georgia sports history. Watching him compete for a final time at Augusta National should be one of the hallmarks of the 2023 Masters.
Bubba Watson is always a name you circle ahead of the Masters, but this year will be a bit different. Having jettisoned the PGA Tour for LIV, Watson enters the 2023 Masters with a different narrative surrounding his entrance into the tournament. The beloved Georgia Bulldog will be playing in his first Masters since joining the LIV Tour, pitting him against his former rivals on the PGA Tour.
While Watson cites the competition between PGA and LIV players as “only awkward in the media,” he will serve as one of LIV’s most visible presences in the tournament, along with fellow PGA defector Phil Mickelson. Whether media-driven or not, there will be a meta-competition between players of each respective tour.
Although born in Iowa, St. Simons Island resident and 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson gets the adopted Georgian tag. Johnson will be seeking his third major victory, having also won and the British Open in 2015 – his last win on tour.
If you’re looking for an underdog rooting interest, you’ve got your guy in Georgia Southern’s Ben Carr. Having only played Augusta National three times, the 22-year-old Carr will participate in his first-ever Masters. A Columbus, Georgia, resident, Carr finished second in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring (70.81) and will be teaming up with Mize and Russell Henley in the Par 3 Challenge before the start of the tournament.
Another University of Georgia product and Columbus resident, Henley’s best finish at the Masters was a tie for 11th in 2017. He notched his fourth PGA Tour win last November at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. He will be making his fifth Masters appearance.
The Georgia Bulldogs sure do produce many PGA Tour products, don’t they? Valdosta native Harris English will be participating in his fourth Masters tournament, with his top finish coming in 2021 when he finished tied for 21st. He’s got eight PGA wins under his belt, with his highest ranking at 10th in the world in 2021.
Masters tees off Thursday
The 2023 Masters gets underway in earnest Thursday morning, with defending Masters champion and recent Players Championship winner Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy both sitting at +700 to win the tournament.
As noted, sports betting is still illegal in Georgia. That, however, did not stop PlayGeorgia from imagining an Augusta National sportsbook. Check that out to get a vision of a possible future of Georgia sports betting while you lock into uninterrupted golf excellence this weekend.
Photo Credit: Joe Benton / AP