Claire Komarek, CBS Sports

The data has been studied, the votes have been tallied, and we have reduced the number of players who can actually win the 2024 Masters to just nine (well, and a bonus golfer). You would get some short odds on this group of nine against the field. Heck, you'd get short odds on the first player on this list against the field.

While one of these nine might not win a green jacket this year, this to us is the most likely group the winner will emerge from on Sunday. It's not just the top nine players in the world, nor is it the most statistically relevant at Augusta National. No, these are the nine that have made themselves known for a variety of reasons, ranging from the historical to the recent.

The Masters winner has come from this exercise each of the last two seasons, and plenty of other times before that. Plus, our CBS Sports experts have put together their detailed 2024 Masters picks and predictions ahead of the start of play Thursday, and Kyle Porter has painstakingly ranked all 89 golfers in the Masters field to give you a better perspective once play begins.

Let's take a look at the list from which your 2024 Masters champion will likely be crowned.

Watch all four rounds of the 2024 Masters starting Thursday with Masters Live as we follow the best golfers in the world through Augusta National with Featured Groups, check in at the famed Amen Corner and see leaders round the turn on holes 15 & 16. Watch live on, the CBS Sports app and Paramount+.

2024 Masters predictions, favorites

1. Scottie Scheffler: Let's start at the easiest place to start -- the best player on the planet. "Scottie vs. the field" is suddenly not a crazy question, and any group of players who are being considered as potential Masters winners absolutely must include him. One could choose between any number of eye-popping statistics, but the one that stands out the most to me -- because of how predictive Augusta National's history has been -- is that he is No. 1 in approach play at the Masters over the last three years (since the numbers were officially tracked) by a wide margin over No. 2 Corey Conners. His lead here is equivalent to a full stroke per tournament over the next best guy in the most important statistic when it comes to winning this tournament. That's a big deal. Odds: 4-1

2. Xander Schauffele: Say what you want about his ability to close, but he's statistically been the second-best player in the world so far in 2024, and it's not even really all that close. He's also had success in majors and has three top 10s and four top 20s in his last five starts at Augusta National. So, even if he can't close, he's almost certainly going to be in the mix come the weekend at this tournament. I wouldn't pick him to actually win, and I don't know if he's a threat to claim the green jacket, but to not have him on this list of players who at least have the best chance of winning would be pretty foolish. Odds: 14-1

3. Brooks Koepka: I'm still in shock from finding out that his odds to win this year's event are just barely better than Joaquin Niemann and Ludvig Aberg. Brooks Koepka! The major killer! In eight trips to Augusta National, he has three top-seven finishes, and they have all been in his last four starts there. It would be foolish to look at his recent history because as he has proven over and again, his recent history -- as it relates to regular season golf -- does not matter at all. That's true for Koepka more than any other golfer as this chart from Data Golf clearly shows (the Y-axis shows major performance, the X-axis shows non-major performance). Odds: 16-1

Data Golf

4. Jordan Spieth: If his name was anything other than "Jordan Spieth," he absolutely would not be on this list. Some things cannot be explained, though, and Spieth at Augusta National might be one of those things. Even when he's played poorly, he's been incredible at that venue. This year, though he's not exactly thriving, he's certainly not playing poorly either. If past history at Augusta is any indication -- and it is, especially with him -- he should finish around the top 10 this year with at least a chance to win the tournament. Odds: 25-1

5. Jon Rahm: No one has gone back to back at the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2001-02, but Rahm deserves to be in the conversation for best chance to do it since. It's not just last year's victory; he's been tremendous throughout his career at Augusta National. Four of his last six stats at the Masters have been top-nine finishes. Plus, according to Rick Gehman's data, Rahm is flushing it. His ball-striking has been terrific so far on LIV Golf, and he's simply not making putts. That's a profile one can work with at the Masters, and I expect Rahm to make the best bid at repeating since Spieth in 2016. Odds: 11-1

The First Cut crew alongside Joe Musso gives you one final preview ahead of the 88th Masters Tournament. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

6. Rory McIlroy: I don't feel as confident about Rory's chances this year as I did last year. Of course, he also missed the cut last year so maybe this is a good thing. Rory has been ... fine ... so far in 2024. Nothing special for him, and there is not a lot of momentum headed to Augusta National. Strangely, his statistical profile reminds me a bit of what Tiger's was in 2019 when he headed to the Masters. Some good, some bad, some excellent ball-striking (at times). And then he won the Masters.

The difference? That Tiger was doing it with his iron play in 2019, and Rory is doing it with his driver. But the concept is the same. Both have done the majority of their work in one category and put forth a lot of top 20-ish finishes along the way. Rory would be just the second golfer to win his first Masters after his 15th start at Augusta (this is No. 16 for Rory). Odds: 10-1

Tiger Woods entering the 2019 Masters. Data Golf
Rory McIlroy entering the 2024 Masters. Data Golf

7. Hideki Matsuyama: He's had a quietly great season and already proven he can win this golf tournament. Going into the Texas Open, he was one of just six golfers averaging at least 1.7 strokes gained tee to green since Jan. 1, a number 10 of the last 12 champions have attained (coincidentally, Hideki was one of the two who did not when he won in 2021). He's been excellent on difficult golf courses and is flushing his irons. There doesn't seem to be enough buzz around Matsuyama to win his second Masters. Odds: 18-1

8. Wyndham Clark: A debutante has not won the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but Clark is no ordinary debutante. He would also be the hottest player in the world if Scheffler wasn't playing this year. Clark has runner-up finishes at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship to go with his win at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he shot 60 on Saturday to win it. It is bizarre to me that he's still 28-1 to win the Masters behind players like Ludvig Aberg and Joaquin Niemann who, respectively, have never played in a major and never contended in one. Clark's big right miss could be an issue on some of the holes at Augusta, but if you do have a miss, that's the one you want to have there. The bigger concern right now as it relates to Clark is probably the back injury he mentioned at the Houston Open. Odds: 40-1 

9. Ludvig Aberg: I really wanted to put Viktor Hovland in this spot, and I thought about putting Justin Thomas here as well. But I'm rolling with Aberg, even though he's never played in a major championship before. His skillset could not fit Augusta better, and he's been excellent at a couple of the big boy events so far this year (8th at the Players, 2nd at the Pebble Beach Pro Am and T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open). It feels dumb to put somebody who was playing the Calusa Cup this time a year ago on this list, but I believe in his disposition, his lack of scar tissue and of course his driver, one of the most important weapons in this entire event. Odds: 30-1

Bonus -- Viktor Hovland: While Hovland didn't make the cut for for the primary group, he was so great here last year that I have to include him as a legitimate contender for a green jacket. However, I do have some concerns that he's searching a bit for his golf swing and enters not as locked in as he was last year. Still, he's one of the best ball-strikers in the world on a course that demands it and was one of the three best major championship players in golf in 2023. Odds: 35-1

Who will win the 2024 Masters, and which longshots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed 10 golf majors, including last year's Masters and Open Championship.