Masters week is here, after a shorter wait than usual.
Golf’s first major has reclaimed its rightful place as a spring staple, just five months after the COVID-19 pandemic moved the 2020 Masters to November. The azeleas will be back in full bloom when the 2021 tournament tees off Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club.
One of the reasons we love the Masters so much is how familiar it is. We know the course, we know the holes, we know the traditions, and we know the players who typically have success. Unsurprisingly, that familiarity leads to trends that develop over the years.
After digging through some of the research across golf internet, a few trends stand out. Let’s try to parse out a winner just by looking at recent trends.
—The last 11 Masters winners have been inside the top 30 of the World Golf Rankings
|Dustin Johnson||Justin Thomas||Jon Rahm||Collin Morikawa||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Xander Schauffele||Patrick Reed||Tyrrell Hatton||Webb Simpson||Patrick Cantlay|
|Brooks Koepka||Rory McIlroy||Tony Finau||Viktor Hovland||Daniel Berger|
|Matthew Fitzpatrick||Billy Horschel||Paul Casey||Sungjae Im||Lee Westwood|
|Harris English||Scottie Scheffler||Matthew Wolff||Tommy Fleetwood||Hideki Matsuyama|
|Joaquin Niemann||Ryan Palmer||Louis Oosthuizen||Victor Perez||Cameron Smith|
— There hasn’t been a repeat winner since 2002 (Tiger Woods)
Sorry, Dustin Johnson.
— The betting favorite hasn’t won in the last 10 years
Bryson DeChambeau, the co-favorite with Johnson, is out, too.
— Only one
first-timer debutant has won the Masters
No one gets eliminated; all of the remaining players have been here before
— Fourteen of the previous 22 winners have had at least one top-10 finish in their previous three starts
Better luck next year, Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton, Harris English, Matthew Wolff, Hideki Matsuyama, Joaquin Niemann and Ryan Palmer.
— Nine straight champions have had at least two top-15 finishes in their three tournaments entering the Masters.
Go ahead and eliminate the following: Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Daniel Berger, Billy Horschel, Sungjae Im, Lee Westwood, Scottie Scheffler and Louis Oosthuizen.
That leaves six of the top 30 players in the world left to be eliminated from Masters contention based solely upon relatively arbitrary criteria: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez.
That also brings us to the final trend:
— Eleven of the previous 22 winners have won a tournament within the last four months
The only player remaining on the list is … Justin Thomas.
There are far worse names this unscientific experiment could have spit out than Thomas, who comes in with somewhere around the third- or fourth-best odds to wins the Masters. He’s also trending in the right direction at Augusta National. Thomas has four straight top-20 finishes at the Masters, improving his finish in each of those years. He finished tied for 12th in 2019 before a solo fourth-place finish last fall.
Don’t be surprised if JT is slipping on the green jacket Sunday afternoon.