Golf

Ranking the Most Likely LIV Golf Masters Winners: Does Phil Mickelson Stand a Chance?

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Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith walk together during a LIV Golf event.

How can you not be excited about the Masters this year?

I know you’re excited for golf’s most iconic tournament every year, but this one just feels different. Not only do we have Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, and Jon Rahm operating at the peak of their powers, but 18 LIV Golf defectors are also gearing up to crash the party and steal the green jacket away from the PGA Tour.

One of those defectors will be Phil Mickelson, who returns to Augusta National Golf Club after missing last year’s tournament for the first time since 1994. If a LIV Golf player is going to win the Masters this year, which one has the best chance of pulling it off, and where does Mickelson fall on that list?

Let’s rank ’em.

Ranking the most likely Masters winners from LIV Golf

Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith walk together during a LIV Golf event.
Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson walk up the fifth hole during the 2022 LIV Golf Invitational – Miami Team Championship at Trump National Doral | GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images

The Pretenders

18. Phil Mickelson

Sorry, Phil, but the numbers don’t lie. In nine starts with LIV Golf, Mickelson has an average finish of 30th place. In a 48-player league! Lefty is 11 over par in 27 rounds since defecting to LIV Golf.

We’re not seeing a Kiawah miracle this week.

17. Kevin Na

Kevin Na has played well at the Masters in recent years with three straight top-14 finishes, but he’s never seriously contended for a major. That won’t start now at the age of 39.

16. Harold Varner III

This will be Harold Varner’s second career start at Augusta National. He finished T23 last year, but that’s still his best finish in a major championship.

15. Jason Kokrak

In 22 major starts, Jason Kokrak has finished inside the top 20 just three times. He also has just one top-18 finish in seven starts with LIV Golf.

14. Charl Schwartzel

Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural LIV Invitational in London last year, but he’s finished 35th and 46th in the first two events of the 2023 season. He’s not a threat to win his second green jacket.

13. Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia’s Masters victory in 2017 saved him from the “best player without a major” label, but he’s missed the cut here in three of four starts since then.

12. Talor Gooch

Talor Gooch made his Masters debut last season and impressed with a T14 finish. That’s his best finish in eight career major starts, so I can’t see him making the jump to winning this week.

11. Thomas Pieters

Thomas Pieters can look like the best player in the world when he’s on, but the inconsistency is impossible to ignore. After a T4 finish in his Masters debut, he’s missed the cut in his last two starts here.

10. Bryson DeChambeau

Remember when Bryson DeChambeau called Augusta National a par 67? Yeah, he has a scoring average of 73.5 at the Masters since that ludicrous comment, and he’s broken 67 — checks notes — zero times.

9. Brooks Koepka

There was a time not too long ago when Brooks Koepka was a lock to finish top five in every major championship. Those days seem to be behind him, as the big-hitting righty missed two cuts and didn’t finish better than 55th in four major starts last year. He’s also missed two straight cuts at the Masters.

8. Louis Oosthuizen

In his last seven starts at the Masters, Louis Oosthuizen has recorded four top-20 finishes and a runner-up in 2012. At 40 years of age, though, I don’t see him contending this year.

The Contenders

7. Abraham Ancer

Abraham Ancer was right in the mix through three days at the 2020 Masters, but a final-round 76 knocked him out of contention. It’s tough to see him putting four great rounds together.

6. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson may have been created in a lab by scientists attempting to crack the Augusta National code. The lefty has two green jackets in his locker and finished T5 at the Masters last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him near the top of the leaderboard all week.

5. Mito Pereira

What a shame that Mito Pereira’s legacy on the PGA Tour will always be his wonky swing on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship to blow the lead. The youngster still has the talent to contend at Augusta, but he can’t be trusted to close out a tournament of this magnitude.

4. Joaquin Niemann

Joaquin Niemann has all the talent in the world, but it just hasn’t clicked for him in major championships. The 24-year-old has never finished better than T23 in his 15 major starts, and his T35 at the Masters last year was his best finish in three tries.

3. Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed loves Augusta National. The polarizing star won a green jacket in 2018 and has recorded two top-10 finishes in his last three starts at the Masters.

The Top Dogs

2. Dustin Johnson

I believe only two LIV Golf defectors can win the Masters this year, and Dustin Johnson is surely one of them. DJ hasn’t played well in two starts this season, but he’s finished T12 or better in six of his last seven appearances at Augusta. Oh, and he won a green jacket just three years ago.

1. Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith is the best chance LIV Golf has of stealing a Masters title this year. The Australian is currently fifth on the odds board at +2100 to win, and he has three top-five finishes at Augusta in his last five starts. Smith proved his mettle last year with impressive wins at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship, and the Open Championship. No one would be surprised if he donned the green jacket on Sunday.