By Stephen Delaney Hale
Photos courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

Just about anybody in this select field of Masters invitees is capable of winning a Green Jacket. Knowing that, and as a shameless attempt to cover ourselves, this space has added some immensely talented players who could walk away Masters Sunday (a proper noun in Augusta) with their own trophy and the great honor of being called a Masters Champion in perpetuity. With those sentiments in mind, this list could be much longer, and everybody in the field has a plan to join the elite group of winners at the Masters Tournament. 

World Golf Rankings as of February 8, 2023 

Collin Morikawa, photo courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club.

Collin Morikawa | World Golf Ranking 7

Collin Morikawa had a sterling amateur career, reaching No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. The 26-year-old Los Angeles, Calif. native turned pro for the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, where he tied for 14th and finished tied for 2nd at the 3M Open. In July, he tied for 4th at the John Deere Classic, which earned him a PGA Tour card. He proved a fast learner when, two weeks later, he won the Barracuda Championship. 

In June 2020, Morikawa was tied for the lead in the Charles Schwab Challenge but lost a playoff to Daniel Berger. He took home the title at the Workday Charity Open in July, after beating Justin Thomas in a playoff. In his second major championship start, Morikawa won the 2020 PGA Championship. Early in 2021, Morikawa defended his title in the WGC–Workday Championship at The Concession. Again, playing in another major for the first time, he won the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, this time by two shots over Jordan Spieth. 

Morikawa had a 3-0-1 record for the victorious 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup team. In 2021, he won the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, and became the first American to win the Race to Dubai. In February 2022, he lost by two to Joaquin Niemann at the Genesis Invitational. He led for 3 1/2 rounds, but fell short again at the 2023 opening Sentry Tournament of Champions by two strokes to John Rahm. Morikawa has five PGA Tour wins and 28 top-10 finishes. He finished 5th in the 2022 Masters.

Tony Finau at the Masters. Photo courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club.

Tony Finau | World Golf Ranking 13

Tony Finau is the only player on tour of Pacific Islands heritage. At six-foot-four, he had college basketball offers but turned pro in golf at the age of 17, and he played in several mini-tours to get started. 

He won the 2014 Stonebrae Classic on the Tour. His strong finishes on the developmental tour and his 12th place finish in the tour finals earned Finau his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. He won his first PGA Tour title at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. In 2018, Finau qualified for his first Masters, where he finished tied for 10th. He improved on that with a 5th place showing at the U.S. Open. 

From mini-tours to sixth in the FedExCup, Finau earned $5.6 million in the 2017-18 season. He was one of captain Jim Furyk’s picks for the 2018 Ryder Cup, played at Le Golf National near Paris, France. The U.S. lost in a lopsided 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 score, but Finau went 2-1-0, including a Sunday singles win over previously undefeated Tommy Fleetwood. 

In October 2018, Finau lost a playoff to Xander Schauffele at the WGC–HSBC Champions in China. He finished 5th at the 2019 Masters. In December 2019, he played for the winning U.S. Team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. He won the 2021 Northern Trust in a playoff over Cameron Smith. Last year he won the 3M Open, the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Cadence Bank Houston Open. He has finished tied for 10th twice and tied for 5th in his five Masters appearances. 

Viktor Hovland, photo courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club.

Viktor Hovland | World Golf Ranking 11

Viktor Hovland , from Norway, has heard the call to play in several tours around the world, with victories and high finishes in cities across the globe. He rose as high as No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings last year and sits at number 11 in early February 2023.

 In 2014, Hovland won the Norwegian Amateur before coming to the United States to play for collegiate powerhouse Oklahoma State University. In 2018, he won the U.S. Amateur, which earned him invitations to play in the 2019 Open Championship and the 2019 Masters; he finished as low amateur. At the 2019 U.S. Open, he also took the low amateur honors and broke a 59-year-old scoring record set by Jack Nicklaus. 

Hovland turned professional in June 2019 and soon secured his PGA Tour card for the Covid-altered 2019-20 season. In February 2020, he won the Puerto Rico Open; later that year he won the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. He won on the European Tour in June 2021 at the BMW International Open and played on the European Ryder Cup Team in September. He again won the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in November 2021 and then won the Hero World Challenge by one stroke over Scottie Scheffler, where he made back-to-back eagles on Sunday. 

In early 2022, Hovland won the Dubai Desert Classic, which lifted him to No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings. Hovland again won the Hero World Challenge in December, over Scottie Scheffler. He has just one top-10 finish in a major, a tie for 4th at last year’s Open Championship, but Hovland is clearly a player on the rise. 

Tom King at the Masters. Photo courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club.

Tom King | World Golf Ranking 14

At just 20 years old, Tom Kim has seven worldwide wins on three tours. That may be why he looks so happy all the time. Although the young Korean, a.k.a. Kim Joo-hyung, laughs through his ups and downs.

He turned pro at age 15 and has filled his time with seven international victories. He has two PGA Tour wins, the Shriners Children’s Open during the 2021-22 season and the Wyndham Championship during the 2022-23 season. He has five other victories on the Korean or Asian tours. He joined the PGA Tour after playing in The Open Championship in summer 2022 and won the Wyndham Championship, just three starts after joining the tour. That made him the second player since World War II to win a PGA Tour event before the age of 20. Jordan Spieth was the first at the 2013 John Deere Classic. 

Kim played in the 2020 Presidents Cup, where he won two and lost three of his matches. Kim then won the Shriners Children’s Open. He already has ties for 5th and 6th this year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The American Express. 

Get ready to be charmed by this young man at his first Masters, and to be impressed with his game. We may be witnessing the emergence of one of the brightest stars in golf. 

Photo courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club

Jordan Spieth | World Golf Ranking 17

It is hard to envision 2015 Masters Champion Jordan Spieth as not among the “not so dark horses” to win the Masters. His victory was among the most dominant performances in Augusta — the second-youngest champion to Tiger Woods (both were 21) was bookended by ties for second. 

Sadly, for Spieth, that victory was followed by the most dramatic collapses in golf lore. Leading by five strokes at the 2016 Masters and just nine holes to go, by the time he picked his ball out of the cup, Spieth was three strokes behind. He finished in second tied with Westwood, three shots behind Englishman Danny Willett. Comparisons to the great golfers of all time have become routine for the Texas native. 

Two months after winning the Masters, Spieth made birdie on the 72nd hole to finish out a dramatic U.S. Open victory by one stroke over Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. That made him the sixth person in history to win the Masters and the U.S. Open back-to-back, joining Hall of Fame members: Tiger Woods, Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. The victory also made him the youngest winner of the U.S. Open since the immortal Bobby Jones in 1923. 

In his first three Masters starts, Spieth’s worst finishes were two ties for second. Although he has slipped to 17th in the World Golf Rankings (he suffered a bone chip in his left hand), there isn’t anybody more suited to win the Masters, and we expect to see him challenge again this year.

Appears in the April 2023 issue of Augusta Magazine

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