It's the most open field in years, but a look back at the last 20 years at Augusta suggests a course specialist is primed to take the green jacket.
This is the most open Masters in years, with several contenders at the top of the market that are definitely capable of winning the green jacket.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose are all in excellent form, Augusta specialists Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson have had ominously good results in the past month, and then, of course, there’s Tiger.
With no clear favourite, it should be tougher than ever to pick a winner this week.
But a look at Masters champions over the past 20 years still gives a good indication as to who is best placed to triumph.
Unlike the Open Championship, the Masters is very much a young man’s tournament.
Sergio Garcia’s win last year at 37 years old made him the oldest player to win the green jacket since Phil Mickelson in 2010.
He is one of only five players over the age of 35 to win the Masters during the last 20 years, with no winners over the age of 40 since Mark O’Meara in 1998.
The world rankings are also a decent indicator as to who has a chance, with 17 of the last 20 winners occupying a top-30 spot when they triumphed in Georgia.
Form is also clearly important when coming into a major tournament.
Of the last 20 Masters champions, 13 had finished in the top 35 in their last start before the tournament, while 16 had earned at least one top-five in the calendar year before arriving at Augusta.
Course form is the final and, perhaps, most crucial factor to consider when picking a Masters winner, given this is the only major that is played at the same venue every year.
The last 20 champions all made the cut at the previous year’s tournament, and 16 of those had at least one top-20 finish in the past.
Augusta is a really difficult course to master – pun intended – and that’s evident in the fact that 17 of the last 20 winners had at least two starts here to their name.
All of which explains why no one has won on debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
Of the contenders priced at 25/1 or shorter this week, only two fulfil all seven criteria: last year’s winner Garcia and 2015 champion Spieth.
Given that no player has gone back-to-back since Woods in 2002, it’s probably safe to rule out the Spaniard.
So that leaves SPIETH, whose T3 at the Houston Open last week suggests that he’s close to his formidable best.
The American – currently priced at – led wire-to-wire on his way to victory in 2015, and would have followed that up a year later but for a run of bogey-bogey-quadruple bogey on the final day that saw him lose a five-shot lead and finish second to Danny Willett.
With Augusta figures of 2-1-2-11, no player has shown such an ability to handle this course at the age of 24 since Tiger.
Spieth ranked first in approach play in Houston last week and 15th in short game, and has got to be considered the frontrunner if he finds his usual magic on the greens.
He fits the champion’s profile in terms of age, form and course history, and has proven that he can do what it takes to win the green jacket.
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