Making a Masters champion: Our comprehensive tips for Augusta 2017
We've crunched the numbers and come up with four names poised to challenge for the green jacket...
Where in the world?
The best golfer does not always win the Masters.
Tiger Woods is the only No. 1 ranked player in the past 20 years to claim the green jacket – something he achieved on three occasions.
In fact, since Woods’ last triumph in 2005, only two players have carried a top-four ranking into Augusta and won: Phil Mickelson in 2006 and 2010 and Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Rarer than a top-four champion, however, is a rank outsider coming through to win.
In only four of the last 20 years has the Masters been won by a player ranked outside of the top 30, one of whom was Woods, making just his third appearance at the age of 21.
That means that while Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy aren’t certain to contend, players like Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and Daniel Berger should be left alone.
Golf is increasingly becoming a young man’s game, but that is not necessarily the case at Augusta.
Over the past 20 years, the Masters has been won the majority of the time by golfers in the prime of their careers.
There have only been five winners in the last 20 years under the age of 28, and just four older than 35.
Spieth is the second-youngest winner ever, and his past success at Augusta means he cannot be ruled out just because he is 23.
But fellow 23-year-old Justin Thomas and 25-year-old Hideki Matsuyama are probably too young – and inexperienced – to win this year.
Similarly, it’s hard to believe that Phil Mickelson, now 46, will win his first Masters since 2006, while Sergio Garcia (37) and Lee Westwood (43) are difficult to back.
Instead, it’s best to pick a player who has had a few runs at Augusta, but still has the athleticism to contend for four full days.
USA, you say?
As tempting as it is to lump on Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose or any other British player this weekend, history suggests the green jacket won’t be leaving the USA.
Americans have won the Masters in 12 of the last 20 years, while Danny Willett’s triumph last year was the first for a British player in over two decades.
There has been some success for players in other parts of the world in more recent years, with two South Africans, one Argentine and an Australian champion since 2008.
Europeans are to be avoided, though.
Other than Willett, Jose Maria Olazabal is the only player from the continent to have won at Augusta since 1996.
Augusta isn’t a course for first-timers.
The challenging pin positions and super-fast greens are a massive challenge, and it is no surprise that players tend to need several cracks at the tournament before winning it.
Some Masters success in the past is a must, then, with 12 of the last 20 champions earning at least a top-five finish at Augusta by the time they won.
So while Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton are great young players in fine form, they should be avoided on their Augusta debuts.
Winning for a second time is particularly difficult, too.
Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Jose Maria Olazabal are the only repeat winners of the past 20 years, while Woods is the only player in that time to have won back-to-back green jackets.
That’s bad news for Danny Willett.
So who will win?
Johnson ( ) is the obvious choice, providing he recovers from his back injury. The American fits the age profile of a winner and has improved at Augusta in recent years, finishing fourth last year and sixth in 2015.
The fact that a world No. 1 hasn’t won since 2005 is not enough to discount him, and if fit, he looks almost certain to contend on Sunday.
Rickie Fowler ( ) is another player who fits plenty of the criteria.
The 28-year-old American has already won once this season at the Honda Classic, and has six Masters starts to his name, including a fifth place in 2014.
Fowler missed the cut last year, but his form has improved since then.
Two outsiders from outside of the USA also fit the bill nicely.
Marc Leishman ( ) is in good form after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month, and his current ranking of 27th means he slots nicely into the ideal range.
The 33-year-old also earned a fourth-place finish at Augusta in 2013, although he did miss the cut last season.
Finally, Louis Oosthuizen ( ) is poised for another good weekend after three consecutive top-25s at Augusta.
The South African finished second here in 2012, is 34 years of age, currently 28th in the world rankings and has been in decent form this year.
Three best bets for our round leader offer:
Bet on any player to win the Masters and we will pay out if they lead at the end of any round. Here are our top selections to take advantage of the offer:
Casey ( ) loves the Masters, with four top-10 finishes in 10 appearances at Augusta, including a sixth-place in 2015 and fourth last year.
He’s also in fine form, having reached the last 16 at the Dell Match Play a fortnight ago.
Currently ranking fourth in round-one scoring average on the PGA Tour, he’s capable of getting off to a fast start and leading early on.
Henley ( ) earned his trip to the Masters with a fantastic display of putting at the Houston Open last week.
The American was on fire on the greens, and is clearly in good form after finishing with a seven-under-par 64 on the final day.
He’s the PGA Tour’s third-ranked player in round-one scoring, and looks poised to carry his momentum through to Augusta.
Westwood’s ( ) Sunday struggles are well-documented, but the Englishman is always good value at the Masters.
He has placed in the top 11 in six of his last seven starts at Augusta, and finished three shots behind Willett last year in second place.
At this stage of his career, it’s hard to trust Westwood to get over the line, but a lead before moving day is not beyond him.