Golf tips: How to pick a Masters champion
Jack Green examines the 20-year trends from the Masters, with four players primed for success at Augusta this week.
The Masters is one of the toughest tests in golf, so it’s no surprise that winners of the year’s first major tend to be top-class players.
Of the last 20 Masters champions, 17 were ranked inside the top 40 in the world at the time of their victory.
Recent history would suggest, however, that the pressure of coming into the tournament expected to win it is perhaps too much to overcome.
None of the last 13 winners were ranked inside the top two in the world, while eight of the last 10 went off at odds of at least 20/1.
Augusta is also a place where great players make their major championship breakthrough, particularly in recent years.
Since Phil Mickelson triumphed in 2010, seven of the eight Masters champions had not previously won a major, including the last four winners: Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed.
It makes sense, then, that younger players have fared well at the Masters for a while.
Every winner in the past 20 years has been under the age of 40, while Garcia – who was 38 when he triumphed two years ago – is the only player since 2010 to win while over 35.
That means that this week we’re looking for a player inside the world’s top 40 who is in, or close to, their prime and has yet to win a major.
It’s important to come into the Masters in good form, as Augusta is the kind of unforgiving course that can demoralise a struggling player.
Of the last 20 winners, just five had missed the cut in their last start before the tournament.
Four of the last 20 champions, meanwhile, were without a top-five finish in the season of their victory, so it’s important to have played well in the weeks leading up to the major.
Augusta is unique compared to the courses players tee up at on the PGA Tour, so it’s rare that a player wins here without having had a few cracks – and good results – at the venue in the past.
In the past 20 years, 17 champions had made at least two previous Masters appearances, while 15 had finished inside the top 20 at Augusta in the past.
And while 19 of the last 20 Masters winners made the cut in the tournament in the previous year, history would suggest it’s hard to go close to winning at Augusta before triumphing 12 months later.
Just two of the last 14 champions finished inside the top five in the year before their victory.
Four players in this week’s field fit all our criteria for a Masters champion.
Tommy Fleetwood has been inside the top 40 of the world rankings for over two years now, and he seems poised to win his first major at Augusta.
The 28-year-old has two top-five finishes to his name already this season and earned his best Masters finish ever in his second start last season, finishing T17.
Hideki Matsuyama finished T5 at Augusta in 2015 and has now placed inside the top 20 in four successive years.
The world No. 26 finished T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this season and, at 27, fits the age profile for a Masters champion.
Marc Leishman has gone close at the Masters in the past and finished T9 last year.
The 35-year-old Australian is ranked 20th in the world following a T9 at the WGC Dell Match Play in his last start and already has three top-five finishes in 2019.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello has struggled to convert chances into wins over the past couple of years, but the world No. 31 looks a good each-way bet this week, having finished T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.
The Spaniard’s best Masters finish to date is a T17 in 2016, but he made the cut last year and also fits the bill for a potential surprise contender at the age at 34.
Visit Betway's golf betting page.