Sobel: Ranking the 2019 Masters Field From 1 to 87
Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Justin Thomas
- The 2019 Masters starts on April 11 at Augusta National Golf Club.
- Jason Sobel ranks the entire Masters field, 1 to 86, so both bettors and DFS players know which players to back and which to fade.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – I’ve been ranking the entire Masters field for about 15 years now. As I always tell people, I’m not going to stop until I get the whole damn thing right someday. I ain’t holding my breath, either.
Oh, sure. Every once in a while, I might nail exactly which player finishes in ninth place, or which one languishes in 46th. But I’ll get a few wrong, too. Probably more than a few.
That doesn’t mean I can’t be smart about this and make some informed selections.
One thing I’ve learned during all this time: By every measure, the Masters remains the easiest of the four majors to predict — and it still isn’t easy. Unlike the other three majors, this one has a limited field that includes a half-dozen amateurs and a bevy of past champions who really don’t stand much chance of contending.
Based on the numbers alone, it’s much easier; throw in the fact that it’s the only one which repeats at the same course every year and that historical knowledge certainly helps, too.
Another thing I’ve learned: Chalk doesn’t cash. The same people who insist they absolutely, positively can’t see a way Rory McIlroy doesn’t win this week — unless he’s thwarted by Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson — are the same ones shell-shocked when Duke and North Carolina get bounced before the Final Four. In the past decade, exactly zero pre-tournament favorites have won the Masters.
And one last thing: You can’t find your game at Augusta. Check the results tables of those recent champions and while none were favored, all of them had achieved some semblance of success prior to driving down Magnolia Lane. It’s almost guaranteed that the man wearing a green jacket on Sunday will have climbed a handful of leaderboards over the year’s first three months.
Keep in mind: These are predictions, not projections. One man’s view of how the 2019 Masters could finish up, based on a combination of analytical models, player interviews, recent form, course history and a healthy dose of educated hunches.
2019 Masters Field Rankings
1. Rickie Fowler (Best Finish: 2nd, 2018)
If you’ve been picking him to win majors over the past decade — and yes, I’m guilty of it on a few occasions, too — then you’ve been shut out so far, but that doesn’t mean the drought will continue. Now 30, Fowler has matured into one of the world’s top players. A strong start to 2019, coupled with a runner-up result last year, could result in his long-awaited first major title this week.
2. Justin Thomas (Best Finish: T-17, 2018)
A record of three Masters results all outside the top 15 and three straight recent starts outside the top 20 might keep you off the scent, but I’d be surprised if Thomas isn’t sniffing around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon. At third in total strokes gained this season, all facets of his game are good enough to seriously contend anyplace, anytime — especially here.
3. Rory McIlroy (Best Finish: 4th, 2015)
Look, he’s the favorite for a reason: Easily the world’s hottest player right now, McIlroy owns five consecutive top-10 finishes at this tournament. Needing a green jacket to complete the career grand slam, though, is even tougher than it sounds.
I’m not convinced all of the scar tissue from last year’s final-round foible has healed up. He’s the one guy who could boat-race the field, but he’s yet to exorcise his Augusta demons.
4. Jon Rahm (Best Finish: 4th, 2018)
Many have suggested that until he tempers his tantrums, Rahm will never win a major. Well, he has matured inside the ropes a bit this year — and he’s going to win majors anyway, his temperament notwithstanding. Following last year’s fourth-place result, this feels like the right place to put him again, though we shouldn’t be surprised if this one includes a more serious run at the title.
5. Hideki Matsuyama (Best Finish: 5th, 2015)
It scares me to place him any higher on this list, but it scares me to place him any lower, too — if that makes any sense. The fact is, Matsuyama is too good a ball-striker to not find some modicum of success here. But that putter … oh, that putter. He ranks 183rd of 215 measured players in strokes gained putting, a number which keeps me from moving him any higher up.
6. Tiger Woods (Best Finish: Win, 1997/2001/2002/2005)
Some Tiger fans will look at this with their red-and-black blinders on, aghast at how their guy could be ranked outside the top five. Instead, though, see it for what it is: I’m still giving a 43-year-old off four back surgeries the sixth-best chance of winning this event.
There’s a recent trend at Augusta for Tiger. When we expect him to play well, he doesn’t — and when we don’t, he does.
7. Matt Kuchar (Best Finish: T-3, 2012)
Let’s not overthink this: Kuchar is playing the best golf of his life this year and returns to a course where he’s finished eighth or better in four of his last seven starts. It’s been a year of Kuchtroversies — from caddie payments to a non-conceded putt — but really, it’s even more impressive that he continues to play so well despite all the exterior noise around him.
8. Justin Rose (Best Finish: 2nd, 2015/2017)
Every other year, Rose seriously contends here. With runner-up finishes in each of the previous two odd-numbered years, it’s difficult to envision him not being in the mix this week, as well. He’s clearly figured something out at Augusta, despite not being able to get over the runner-up hump yet.
And his last two starts, both top-10s, proved that he’s in form to make another strong run.
9. Ian Poulter (Best Finish: T-6, 2015)
When he’s playing his best golf, Poulter has fared nicely at this tournament. Granted, he’s endured some ups and downs throughout his playing career, but with four top-six results already this year, his game is certainly trending in the same direction that it was during his three top-10s at the Masters earlier this decade. Don’t be surprised to see him up there again.
10. Marc Leishman (Best Finish: T-4, 2013)
Temperatures are forecasted in the low-to-mid 80s for the tournament rounds, which should have the fairways running fast and firm, which should in turn be music to Leishman’s ears. I always like this low-ball hitter better on tracks where he can use the ground to his advantage. But that’s probably too simplistic. He’s good enough to contend, no matter the conditions.
11. Dustin Johnson (Best Finish: T-4, 2016)
In the past four years, he owns three top 10s and an unlucky encounter with some stairs. Assuming DJ doesn’t slip and fall again, you’ve got to like his chances on a track which, for him, could be a par-68 with four reachable par 5s.
12. Paul Casey (Best Finish: T-4, 2016)
One year ago, Casey won the Valspar Championship, then parlayed it into a T-15 at the Masters a few weeks later. Now that he’s won the Valspar again, expect a similar result, if not just a little bit better.
13. Jason Day (Best Finish: T-2, 2011)
Recurring back injuries might scare away the masses, but that’s not what bothers me here. Instead, it’s a Masters record which shows top-three results in two of his first three starts, followed by a negative regression ever since.
14. Kevin Kisner (Best Finish: T-28, 2018)
I was rooting against him on the weekend of the WGC-Match Play, only because his win negated any notion of being a dark-horse selection. But his form has been tremendous lately, with seven straight finishes of 28th or better.
15. Sergio Garcia (Best Finish: Win, 2017)
One year after winning, Garcia made headlines once again when he carded an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole. Memories of that score could keep some away from Sergio, but he remains an elite ball-striker, which works here.
16. Adam Scott (Best Finish: Win, 2013)
Not a surprise: He ranks 41st in strokes gained on approach shots this year, a solid number for a solid ball-striker. Surprise: He’s even better in the putting category, at 14th so far. Don’t get fooled into thinking he can’t putt well enough to win.
17. Francesco Molinari (Best Finish: T-19, 2012)
Yes, you read that number right. In seven trips to Augusta, Molinari has never been better than T-19. He’s a better player now than he was for much of that, but I see him being way too popular among the crowd this week.
18. Bubba Watson (Best Finish: Win, 2012/2014)
Buyer beware: Bubba owns two victories here, of course, but until last year’s T-5 had never pulled another result better than 20th in seven other starts. That said, he’s a creature of habit and already playing well this year.
19. Matt Wallace (Best Finish: N/A)
He’s making his Masters debut, but the world’s 36th-ranked player enters this week in strong recent form. I could easily envision him jumping out to a low one in the opening round, before dropping back to the pack afterward.
20. Cameron Smith (Best Finish: T-5, 2018)
Zach Johnson once won this tournament by laying up on every par 5. While Smith can knock it a decent length, he owns a similar wedge game that could mean birdie on any hole — especially if he needs to lay up on those big par 5s.
21. Henrik Stenson (Best Finish: T-5, 2018)
Last year, in his 14th trip to Augusta, he finally finished inside the top 10. That’s a curious record for a guy who should ostensibly hit that laser-beam 3-wood down the middle of every single fairway.
22. Jordan Spieth (Best Finish: Win, 2015)
The toughest player for me to rank in this field. His record here is impeccable, but I keep coming back to one of my original points: You can’t find your game at Augusta — and his best stroke-play finish this year is just T-30.
23. Louis Oosthuizen (Best Finish: 2nd, 2012)
Strange but true: He owns runner-up results in all four major championships.
Stranger but true: Despite being a world-class player for years, he’s never won a single professional event in the United States.
24. Tony Finau (Best Finish: T-10, 2018)
Conventional logic states that a 10th-place finish on a badly sprained ankle in his debut should mean something even better when fully healthy, but logic should also consider the fact that he doesn’t own a single top 10 yet this year.
25. Tommy Fleetwood (Best Finish: T-17, 2018)
He’s started to prove himself as a guy whose game rises for the major championships, but it still might be less suited for the Masters than the other three of ‘em.
26. Bryson DeChambeau (Best Finish: T-21, 2016)
Three months ago, after four wins in nine starts, DeChambeau certainly would’ve ranked much higher on this list. Since then, though, he’s looked extremely ordinary, with four results between 20th and 56th in his last four starts.
27. Matthew Fitzpatrick (Best Finish: T-7, 2016)
He’s cooled off since a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but I still think the 24-year-old can make a nice run this week. That share of seventh place three years ago proves he has the stuff to contend here.
28.Charley Hoffman (Best Finish: T-9, 2015)
Everyone’s favorite first-round leader bet is heating up at the right time, arriving in Augusta fresh off a runner-up result at the Valero Texas Open. Don’t be surprised to see his name on the early leaderboard once again.
29. Xander Schauffele (Best Finish: T-50, 2018)
A proven big-game hunter who tends to play his best golf at the biggest events, he already owns three top-six finishes in just seven career major championship starts.
30. Brooks Koepka (Best Finish: T-11, 2017)
I should know better than to fade Koepka at any major championship, considering he’s won three of the last seven of ‘em, but finishes of 56th-56th-MC in his last three starts suggest he might have to wait longer to contend for that fourth.
31. Phil Mickelson (Best Finish: Win, 2004/2006/2010)
If Spieth was the toughest player to rank in this field, then Mickelson was a close second. He obviously possesses the ability to win this tournament, but could equally fizzle early, get too aggressive and be heading home Friday evening.
32. Webb Simpson (Best Finish: T-20, 2018)
Not too hard to spot the trend here: In 30 career major appearances, he owns a win at the 2012 U.S. Open, a T-10 at last year’s U.S. Open and nothing else inside the top 10, including a very mediocre record at the Masters.
33. Charles Howell III (Best Finish: T-13, 2004)
Poor CH3. The Augusta native played in every Masters from 2002-08, then only once (2012) in the past 10 years, including missing the last six straight, often finishing excruciatingly close to the cut-off number without getting in.
34. Patrick Reed (Best Finish: Win, 2018)
Last year, he entered this tournament fresh off three consecutive top-10 results. This year? His last three top 10s have occurred over his past 21 starts.
35.Branden Grace (Best Finish: T-18, 2013)
Had a nice run at big events in 2015-17, with four top-six results in majors, though mustered only a T-27 and two MCs here at the Masters during that time.
36. Eddie Pepperell (Best Finish: N/A)
The best tweeter of all professional golfers also owns plenty of game on the course, as evidenced by his T-3 finish at The Players last month. Never know how a guy will play in his Masters debut, but I think he’ll start strong.
37. Patrick Cantlay (Best Finish: T-47, 2012)
One fellow pro told me he’d pick Cantlay as a sleeper this week, but I can’t get past the fact that his immense talent has yet to equate to better results, especially in majors, where he’s never had a top 10, though in only six pro starts.
38. Brandt Snedeker (Best Finish: T-3, 2008)
It’s been 11 years since Snedeker went into the final round just two strokes back, only to post a closing 77, leaving him distraught in the aftermath. He hasn’t gotten back to that level here since, but does own some nice history.
39. Rafa Cabrera Bello (Best Finish: T-17, 2016)
He tends to play par-5 holes very well, which should help him on this course. Form is decent right now, though nothing stands out to show he’ll contend this week.
40. Emiliano Grillo (Best Finish: T-17, 2016)
Superb ball-striker, but hasn’t quite risen to the level yet which some expected for him. Meanwhile, his major record is a curious mix of experience working in reverse. He made the cut in his first six, but MC’d in five of his last six.
41. Billy Horschel (Best Finish: T-17, 2016)
Until last week, he’d made the cut in 17 straight starts. So, he’s either a good bet to reach the weekend based on that number or a bad bet based on that latest result.
42. Kevin Na (Best Finish: T-12, 2012/2015)
His T-5 finish for reaching the quarterfinals of the WGC-Match Play in his most recent start two weeks ago was his first top 10 since winning at the Greenbrier last summer.
43. Gary Woodland (Best Finish: T-24, 2011)
All of the tools are there: He hits the ball a long way, owns some nice form and is coming off his first career top 10 in a major at last year’s PGA Championship. And yet, that past Masters record strongly suggests a fade.
44. Haotong Li (Best Finish: T-32, 2018)
Played well in his debut last year after getting into the field via a T-3 at The Open during the previous year.
45. Keegan Bradley (Best Finish: T-22, 2015)
Consistency, thy name is Keegan. He’s been consistent this year and consistent overall in his career at Augusta, though not terrific in either form or course history.
46. Lucas Bjerregaard (Best Finish: N/A)
Strong performance at the WGC-Match Play, including a win over Tiger, put him firmly on the radar.
47. Si Woo Kim (T-24, 2018)
Golf’s most inconsistent player should absolutely finish somewhere between first and 87th this week.
48. Danny Willett (Best Finish: Win, 2016)
After losing his swing for a while, Willett has shown recent signs of a return to form.
49. Keith Mitchell (Best Finish: N/A)
Product of the University of Georgia tends to play some of his best golf on Southeastern courses.
50. Tyrrell Hatton (Best Finish: T-44, 2018)
His last seven global starts include three top-20 finishes and three missed cuts.
51. Zach Johnson (Best Finish: Win, 2007)
It’s been a dozen years since his Masters victory, and it’ll take similar wedge-work to contend again.
52. Thorbjorn Olesen (Best Finish: T-6, 2013)
Returning for the first time in a half-decade, Thunderbear at least has a top-10 here already on his resume.
53. Corey Conners (Best Finish: N/A)
The previous three last-man-in-the-field winners from the prior week finished 44th-11th-MC.
54. J.B. Holmes (Best Finish: T-4, 2016)
Since his win at Riviera two months ago, Holmes hasn’t seen a Sunday final round.
55. Vijay Singh (Best Finish: Win, 2000)
The popular picks for low over-50 guy are Couples and Langer, but I like Singh, who was T-6 at the Honda recently.
56. Alex Noren (Best Finish: MC, 2017/2018)
Nobody in the field ranks worse in stroked gained on approach shots, as he gives up more than a half-stroke in every round.
57. Jimmy Walker (Best Finish: T-8, 2014)
His lone major win at the 2016 PGA came after he’d been trending in the right direction, but form is an issue now.
58. Shane Lowry (Best Finish: T-39, 2016)
Currently 50th in the world, he’ll attempt to even out a mark of one made cut against two missed.
59. Martin Kaymer (Best Finish: T-16, 2017)
Years ago, he famously overhauled his swing to fit Augusta National. The result? It didn’t work.
60. Stewart Cink (Best Finish: T-3, 2008)
Fun fact: Cink is in this week’s field based only on a T-4 at last year’s PGA Championship.
61. Charl Schwartzel (Best Finish: Win, 2011)
Eight years after his Masters win, Schwartzel has really been struggling with his game.
62. Aaron Wise (Best Finish: N/A)
Rounded into form around this time last year, but hasn’t quite gotten there yet this year.
63. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Best Finish: T-15, 2016)
Has a habit of starting strong and finishing slow, if that helps your Barnrat bets for the week.
64. Bernhard Langer (Best Finish: Win, 1985/1993)
He’s now 61, but Langer still has plenty of game, as he claimed his 39th career senior circuit victory this year.
65. Fred Couples (Best Finish: Win, 1992)
Everybody’s favorite sentimental selection, Freddie will have plenty of backers for making the weekend again.
66. Justin Harding (Best Finish: N/A)
The South African is just now getting some attention after five worldwide wins in the past 12 months.
67. Patton Kizzire (Best Finish: MC, 2018)
Following his two wins last season, Kizzire got into three of the four majors — and MC’d in each of them.
68. Andrew Landry (Best Finish: N/A)
Strong wind player, if it happens, as evidenced by last year’s Valero Texas Open victory.
69. a-Viktor Hovland (Best Finish: N/A)
Always fun to bet on guys who can’t make money themselves. He’s my best bet to claim low-amateur honors.
70. Kyle Stanley (Best Finish: 52nd, 2018)
Solid ball-striker whose career was on the rise until a flurry of MCs this year.
71. Satoshi Kodaira (Best Finish: T-28, 2018)
Lost two of three matches at the recent WGC-Match Play, but at least grabbed a tie with Webb Simpson.
72. Kevin Tway (Best Finish: N/A)
Six consecutive MCs is no way to go into your first career Masters start.
73. Adam Long (Best Finish: N/A)
We just saw Conners go from Monday qualifier playoff survivor to winner — and he wasn’t as much of a longshot to get here as Long.
74. Trevor Immelman (Best Finish: Win, 2006)
More commentator than golfer these days, he still finished T-3 at the Scottish Open last year.
75. Michael Kim (Best Finish: N/A)
Since his John Deere win last year, has 13 MCs in 18 starts and a best finish of T-32 — which came in a 33-man field.
76. Angel Cabrera (Best Finish: Win, 2009)
Past champ is now 1,575 in the world and has MC’d on four different tours in his last seven starts.
77. Shugo Imahira (Best Finish: N/A)
He received a special invitation into the field, but has competed in only three events this year.
78. a-Devon Bling (Best Finish: N/A)
The UCLA golfer has been practicing for Augusta by rolling putts on a hardwood floor.
79. Mike Weir (Best Finish: Win, 2003)
Even if he was still in his prime, this might be too much golf course for the little lefty these days.
80. Sandy Lyle (Best Finish: Win, 1988)
Back-to-back made cuts in 2013-’14 have given way to MCs in each of the last four years.
81. a-Alvaro Ortiz (Best Finish: N/A)
Brother of Carlos, who is a full-fledged PGA Tour member.
82. Ian Woosnam (Win, 1991)
Last made cut came 11 years ago — and that one was his first in nine years.
83. a-Jovan Rebula (Best Finish: N/A)
Ernie Els’ nephew is in the awkward situation of playing his first Masters when Uncle Ernie didn’t qualify.
84. a-Takumi Kanaya (Best Finish: N/A)
Won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to become the first Japan native to win since Matsuyama.
85. Jose Maria Olazabal (Best Finish: 1994/1999)
As recently as 13 years ago, Olazabal finished T-3 here, but this year has a top finish of T-25 on the senior tour.
86. a-Kevin O’Connell (Best Finish: N/A)
Defending Mid-Am champion is 30 years old and played his college golf at North Carolina.
87. Larry Mize (Best Finish: Win, 1987)
I don’t actually think Mize will finish last in the field this week. But unlike every other pick on this list, I’m going with what the books are offering. Since I hate having to place anyone in DFL before it even starts, I’m simply putting Mize here because he’s listed with the biggest number at +250000. But if you can get him in a non-DFL prop, gobble it up.