In the weeks prior to the year’s first Major, fans and pundits alike will go back and forth on who’s chances they rate, whether their early-season form will translate into momentum that will be needed to claim victory at The Masters®.
With under five weeks to go until all eyes turn to Augusta National®, potential Green Jacket winners seem aplenty. With Dustin Johnson now the world’s leading player, many feel he is the man to beat, while others view course specialist Jordan Spieth, who’s record reads 2-1-2 at Magnolia Lane, primed to make up for his 2016 meltdown.
For those of you looking for some pointers on who you should pick, we took stock of recent winners to see what factors most likely lead to a Masters® win.
- Each of the last six winners made the cut the year before they won their Masters. No debutant has won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
- Top-60 on tour for scoring average: The cream generally rises to the top at Augusta, and the last six winners ranked inside the top-60 on tour for this
- Top-60 on tour for driving distance: When Jordan Spieth won in 2015, he played Augusta’s par-5’s in 12-under, while the years previous both Bubba Watson and Adam Scott were 8-under through the long holes for their recent wins. Having length off the tee is a huge plus, and five of the last six winners ranked inside the top-60 on tour for driving distance.
- 10 of last 10 were aged under 40
- 6 of the last 7 winners had been ranked in world's top 20
- 8 of last 10 had been ranked in world's top 30
- 10 of last 10 had played in at least 1 Masters before their win
- 8 of last 10 had posted a top 20 finish at Augusta
- 9 of last 10 had posted a top 10 finish earlier that season
- 9 of last 10 winners were not European
- 10 of last 10 winners were not the defending champion
- 10 of last 10 winners were not the World No.1
When it comes to early-season form, six of the past ten champions failed to win prior to The Masters®. Since 2000, for those who did win in the early months of their championship year, March has proven to be the most fruitful month. Just two champions have won twice or more prior to winning at Augusta, Tiger Woods in 2001 and Mike Weir in 2003.
Whose Green Jacket Will It Be?
So, with all of this in mind, who fits the bill? After filtering the above criteria, a total of 8 golfers remained*: Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day and Bubba Watson.
(*Jordan Spieth is currently 104th in driving distance, while Rory McIlroy has played just one event so far this season, so both do not meet the criteria – but we are certainly not ruling them out!)
History has shown that early-season form does not necessarily work in players favor, so for this reason both Thomas and Matsuyama are out (both multiple winners so far this season). While Danny Willett claimed an unlikely victory in 2016, Europeans have not been too hot at Augusta in the past ten outings, so out go Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
That leaves us with four: Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Bubba Watson.
On current form, I am ruling out two-time winner Bubba Watson. Though he finished 6th at the Hero World Challenge, this was an unofficial PGA TOUR event. Three remain.
For me, the answer lies in experience at Augusta. Yes, Adam Scott won here in 2013, but Jason Day’s recent record speaks volumes. He knows his way around the famous old course having posted finishes of T2, 3 and T10 in three of his last six starts. Though he has had a stop-start season to date, the Australian looks like he possesses all the tools to claim his first Green Jacket.
(Editor’s note: Write-off Jordan Spieth at your peril).
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