The Masters is one of very few sporting events of any – ever – that can be associated with something as all encompassing as the changing of a season. Baseball and summertime go hand in hand. Football is linked with the fall and colder temperatures. Other than this, I can only think of The Masters as a sporting event that metaphorically ushers in such a change in scenery. For many, the golf season begins with The Masters and so too is the spring season a time of new beginning, new growth, new life awakening after the bleak and colorless dormancy of winter. The Masters is springtime personified. It is glorious and radiant and here in bloom once again – and the 82nd edition is probably the most highly anticipated Major Golf Championship most of us can ever remember.
Like handicapping springtime and what to expect out of it each year, we can also expect a pattern of events to take place at The Masters on a regular basis. This Major Championship is played on the same golf course every year, so when going back ten, twenty, thirty years, we will find that many of the same recipes for success have held true over a long time. It takes experience. Most recent Masters winners have played the tournament at least six times. It takes current form. Most recent winners have at least one Top 10 finish for the year, coming in. It takes course form. Recent winners have had a finish inside the Top 30 at some point at The Masters and have made the cut the prior year.
From a skill set perspective, it generally comes down to doing four things well. One must be long enough off of the tee in order to set up manageable approach shots into the greens. One must have tremendous creativity and touch around the greens in order to scramble at a high level for the week. The putter must be hot and finally, mistakes must be held to an elite level minimum. Statistically speaking, this translates into hitting greens in regulation, scrambling incredibly well, putting well and not three-putting, and avoiding making bogies. Rank in the Top 10 in the field for this all week at Augusta National Golf Club and you might find yourself hosting the champions dinner in spring of 2019.
Jordan Spieth (+10.16 Bookmaker) The Masters Whisperer. He bucks the trend of needing experience here, doesn’t he? In just four appearances, he’s gone 2nd-1st-2nd-and-11th. The bad news has been his putting this season as he ranks 185th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting but he definitely showed signs last week in Houston, finishing 3rd.
Rory McIlroy (+12.51 Bookmaker) It was 2011 when Rory began his back nine on Sunday at Augusta and was bitten historically badly by the 10th hole. He went on to shoot 80 and finish 15th. He comes in this season off of a monumental victory at Bay Hill just three weeks ago that saw him go 8-under par over the last 13-holes.
Dustin Johnson (+13.60 Pinnacle) The number one player in the world was arguably never better than he was coming to Augusta last year. He fell down the stairs where he was staying, hurt his back, and never got the chance to hit a shot. This year he is ranked 1st on Tour in 3-Putt Avoidance, 1st in Par 5 Scoring, 1st in Putting Average, and 2nd in Bogey Avoidance.
Tiger Woods (14.19 Pinnacle) The four-time Masters winner is back, healthy, playing well, and already making noise at the practice rounds. Even if you feel Tiger’s true odds are closer to 20-1, that is still a darn good shot to win this week. His short game and experience are massive weapons. He’ll need to avoid the mistakes in order to make a serious push.
Bubba Watson (19.17 Bookmaker) Bubba’s Masters track record looks like a Phil Mickelson scorecard – a roller coaster of high’s and low’s. Since 2009 he hasn’t cracked the Top 35 here but twice – and when he did, he won. This year looks like a peak and not a valley as he comes in with victories at The Match Play and The Genesis Open.
Phil Mickelson (+20.79 Bookmaker) Speaking of Mickelson, you are talking about one of the most successful Masters champions of all time. In 25-appearances, he has fifteen Top 10 finishes and as evidenced by a win at The WGC Mexico, Mickelson is playing his best golf in quite some time. His age is the hurdle he’ll need to get over as Mark O’Meara in 1998 was the last winner over 40 years old.
The Long Shots
Matt Kuchar (+54.46 Pinnacle) Kuchar has only missed one cut at Augusta in eleven tries and has four Top 10 finishes here in the last six years. Enough said to justify a 50-1 shot? He was also 50-1 at last year’s British Open when he led Jordan Spieth by a shot with five holes left to play.
Marc Leishman (+65.04 Pinnacle) The Aussie checks a lot of boxes in our Masters Success Chart but he’ll need to cut down on the bogies. Leishman was 4th here in 2013 and has racked up three Top 10 finishes at The British Open in the last four years. He’s close.
Zach Johnson (+12500 5Dimes) About the only box the 2007 Masters Champion doesn’t check is having made the cut the prior year. In fact, he’s missed the cut here in three out of the last four years. He finished 9th in 2015 and went on to win The British Open that year – in a playoff over Leishman. Other than the recent missed cuts at Augusta, Zach is playing tremendous golf right now and ought to have a good week.
Justin Rose (+16.43 Pinnacle) Last year’s runner up to Sergio Garcia in a playoff, hasn’t ever missed a cut at The Masters in twelve tries. He has five Top 10 finishes here including two 2nd place finishes in the last three years. The U.S. Open Champion and Gold Medalist has always been known as a superior ball striker. Well this year, the putter is hot too as he ranks 11th on Tour in Putting Average. In addition, Rose is 8th in Scrambling and 7th in Bogey Avoidance. He was 3rd at Bay Hill, 5th at The Valspar, and 8th back in January at Torrey Pines. Going back to late October and November of 2017, Rose had two wins, a 4th, and a 10th place finish on The European Tour. Along with Justin Thomas, this Justin is playing the best golf in the world over the last six months. For whom many will say is the number one nicest guy in the game of golf, let’s also make him your 2018 Masters Champion.
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