How to pick a Masters champion
Jack Green examines the trends from the past 25 years at the Masters and picks out which players have the best chance of claiming the Green Jacket.
After being moved to November in 2020, the Masters is back in its rightful spot as the first major of the golf season.
Just five months on from Dustin Johnson’s triumph, the best players in the world will return to Augusta to compete for the Green Jacket.
With several of the top contenders in fine form heading into the event – including the reigning champion – this year’s Masters looks wide open.
A look at the last 25 years of champions at Augusta reveals which players in the golf betting have the best chance of coming out on top this time around.
Golf is increasingly becoming a sport where youth and athleticism are huge advantages, but there’s still something to be said for experience at the Masters.
In the past 25 years, just two players under the age of 25 have triumphed at Augusta: Tiger Woods in 1997 and Jordan Spieth in 2015, both of whom were 21 at the time.
There are many, many great young golfers performing well on the PGA Tour at the moment, but history suggests that the winner at Augusta this time around will likely be 25 or above.
You can be too old to win the Masters, though, and it’s telling that just two players over the age of 40 have won the event in the past 25 years: Mark O’Meara in 1998 and Woods in his latest triumph in 2019.
So, while an experienced player like Lee Westwood will fancy his chances as he arrives at Augusta in great form, it’s worth avoiding the 47-year-old and instead backing a player under the age of 40.
Since 1996, Americans have dominated the Masters, winning 15 out of 25. During that period, no other nation has won more than two.
There was a 10-year period between 2008 and 2017 when only four players from the USA won the Green Jacket, but Americans have since taken back control of golf’s first major, winning each of the last three.
The majority of contenders at the top of the betting markets this year are American, and the trends suggest that they are again the likeliest winners.
It’s also very likely that this year’s Masters champion will be a player who is inside the top 30 of the world rankings.
There have been a few surprising winners in the past 25 years, including Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera in 2007 and 2009 respectively, but those are very much the exceptions to the rule.
Of the last 25 Masters champions, 21 were inside the top 30 in the world rankings at the time of their victory, including each of the last 11.
It’s also worth noting that 21 of the last 25 champions had also already recorded a top-five finish in the season of their triumph.
This year, then, we’re looking exclusively for players who are at the top of their game and have already had some success in 2021.
It’s also important that they’re coming off a decent showing when they head to Augusta, as 19 of the last 25 champions had made the cut in their last start before the Masters.
The Masters is the only major that is played at the same venue every year, so it’s possible to establish some course trends to help identify which players have the best chance.
For example, 18 of the last 25 Masters champions had previously made at least four appearances at Augusta. This course is a unique test, and players typically need a few attempts at it before winning their first Green Jacket.
It’s not enough to have just played at Augusta in the past, though. You need to have played well.
Of the last 25 champions, 16 had already posted a top-five finish at the Masters before their victory.
Finally, a player’s chances are also increased if they performed well at the previous year’s Masters.
Since 1996, 19 of the 25 Masters champions had made the cut at Augusta the year before their victory. It’s not imperative that they were in contention – just six were coming off a top-five finish – but they do need to have made it through to the weekend.
Taking all the above criteria into consideration, it’s possible to create an ideal profile of a Masters champion.
Five players fit the mould ahead of this year’s tournament.
Dustin Johnson is the reigning champion and again has a huge chance in 2021. The American is 36 years old, has already won once this year and is ranked No. 1 in the world. With 10 Masters starts to his name – including last year’s victory – he has the course form we’re looking for, too.
Justin Thomas looks another strong contender, having won the Players Championship already this year. At 27 years of age, the American fits the profile of a winner and is currently the No. 2 player in the world.
Thomas finished fourth at Augusta last year and has made five Masters starts to date.
Brooks Koepka finished second at the Masters in 2019 and seventh last year, and has now made five career appearances at Augusta.
The 30-year-old American is currently 12th in the world rankings and has two top-five finishes to his name this year, including a win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.
Patrick Reed , like Johnson, is a former Masters champion, having slipped on the Green Jacket in 2018. He’s 30 years old, American and ranked seventh in the world, and he won the Farmers Insurance Open in January.
Finally, Webb Simpson looks a strong contender to win his first major since 2012. He finished 10th at the Masters last year and fifth in 2019, and has made nine career starts at Augusta.
The former US Open champion fits the age bracket at 35, and recorded a top-five finish earlier this season at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Keep an eye on all four players in their final starts ahead of Augusta, as those posting good results will perfectly fit the profile of a winner.