Golf tips: How to pick a winner at the Masters
Jack Green examines the trends from the past 20 years at the Masters and picks out three players who fit the profile of a winner.
Back any player to win the Masters and Betway will pay out if they lead at the end of round one.
The Masters is finally here, seven months later than usual.
And, just like the 2020 PGA Championship and US Open, this year’s tournament is going to be very different thanks to the switch from April to November.
The weather will be much more of a factor, while players’ preparation has also been affected by the PGA Tour season starting just a couple of months ago.
There are still plenty of trends from the past 20 years at Augusta, however, that can help to predict who takes the Green Jacket this week.
Our profile picked the winner of the US Open in September, as Bryson DeChambeau came through to win at 22/1 having fit all the criteria of a potential champion.
The first criteria to examine at the Masters this week is the age of previous champions. Of the last 20 players to win the Green Jacket, 18 were between the ages of 25 and 40.
Tiger Woods bucked that trend by winning at the age of 43 last year, as did Jordan Spieth when he triumphed as a 21-year-old in 2015, but history suggests that it’s best to back a player in the prime of their career.
While experience isn’t necessarily everything at Augusta, it’s important for a player to have had a few cracks at this tournament to be in with a chance of winning.
Only three players in the Masters’ 86-year history have won on debut – two of which came in the first two years of the tournament – and 16 of the last 20 champions had previously made at least three Masters starts.
It’s not enough to have just played at the Masters, though. History suggests it’s important to have played well at this venue at least once before, and preferably recently.
Since 2000, 18 of the 20 Masters winners had at least one previous top-30 finish at Augusta. That can be narrowed down even further as 13 of those 18 had a top-10 finish to their name.
Of those same 20 champions since 2000, 19 had made the cut at the previous year’s Masters, with Patrick Reed – who won in 2018 – the only exception.
This week, then, we’re looking for a player who has made at least three starts at the Masters, has at least one top-10 at the event and made the cut at Augusta last year.
While the Masters isn’t a gruelling test like the US Open typically is, Augusta is still a demanding course and the pressure of competing for the Green Jacket means this event usually rewards only the best players in the world.
All but two of the last 20 champions were ranked inside the world’s top 30 at the time of their victory, including all of the last 10.
Being at the top of your game heading into Augusta is imperative – only one of the last 10 champions had failed to finish in the top 35 in their last start before the Masters.
That means anyone who struggled at last week’s Houston Open can be ruled out.
Finally, it’s worth looking only at players who are yet to win a major.
As illogical as that may seem, seven of the last 10 Masters champions had never previously won a major.
That trend also extends to all four major championships over the past few years, as 13 of the last 18 have been won by first-timers, including both the PGA Championship and US Open this year.
Taking all the above criteria into account, three players fit the bill.
Jon Rahm is among the favourites to win this week, and it’s easy to see why. The 25-year-old Spaniard has played at Augusta three times in the past, including a T9 last year and a personal best of fourth in 2018.
Rahm is the world No. 2, is coming off a T2 finish at the ZOZO Championship and is arguably the best player yet to win a major.
Hideki Matsuyama also looks a strong contender after finishing T2 in Houston last week.
The world No. 18 has made eight starts at the Masters, finishing fifth in 2015 and T32 last year. At 28, he fits the age profile of a champion and is yet to win a major.
Matthew Fitzpatrick is 26 years old, ranked 20th in the world and is also yet to win his first major.
The Englishman has played at Augusta five times, making the cut on the last four occasions. He finished T21 last year and landed a T7 back in 2016.
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