The Masters 2017: Can Stats and Trends Identify the Champion?
Even for neutral observers with a passing interest in the sport, or punters simply looking for their next wager, The Masters remains golf’s premier occasion on which to have a flutter.
Why? Because it is the only one of the sport’s four majors to take place at the same course year after year: the stunning Augusta National in Texas.
This is a devilish test of credentials that comprehensively examines the players’ strength of body (it measures a not-inconsiderable 7,441 yards) and mind (the likes of Greg Norman and Jordan Spieth have suffered a meltdown here in the past), with the notorious ‘Amen Corner’ – a trio of golf’s toughest holes – ensuring a thrilling finale come Sunday evening.
And for what? That’s simple: a handsome payout, the honour of winning the calendar year’s first major and, most importantly, the chance to cement your place in the annals of the sport by donning the famous Green Jacket as so many of golf’s greats have done in the past.
The real beauty of The Masters is that we, the betting public, have stacks of stats, trends and patterns to work with in identifying a potential champion. These numbers date back decades, and while the nature of Augusta has changed over the years – it has been lengthened, tightened and tidied up more times than the average Hollywood actor’s laughter lines – the same parameters of success rear their head each year.
Here is the pick of the bunch:
Form is Temporary (but important)
As we know, good form tends to come and go in all sports, but heading into The Masters it is essential that your betting picks are in decent nick.
Each of the last five champions – Danny Willett, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Bubba again – had finished in the top five at least once in their four prior tournaments to The Masters.
As such, that narrows the field of potential champions this year somewhat. Applying this to the class of 2017 leaves 26 players still in the running for the Green Jacket.
Living for the Weekend
Each of the last five Masters champions had made the cut at Augusta in the year preceding their triumph.
That makes sense of course, because this is a track where repeat performance is often witnessed. Lee Westwood, not a prolific top-10 merchant these days, still hacks up rather well at Augusta. It is the perennial ‘horses for courses’ stretch.
Using this metric as another filter for the 2017 field, we lose some decent players who failed to make the grade 12 months ago: Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Charl Schwartzel being just three.
There are four majors in the golf calendar each year: The Masters, the US Open, the (British) Open and the PGA Championship. Three of the last four Masters champs had recorded a top-20 finish in their prior three major appearances before tasting victory at Augusta.
The anomaly – and he is one of life’s anomalies – is Bubba Watson. At the time of his 2014 triumph, Bubba had endured a horror stretch in the other majors, but he was already a Masters champion at this time having prevailed here in 2012.
And just prior to that success in ’12 he had delivered top-30s at The Open and the PGA, so we can conclude that this trend does hold weight.
This cuts our ever-dwindling shortlist for the 2017 renewal down to eight players: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Tyrrell Hatton, Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas, Martin Kaymer and Steve Stricker.
No debutant has won The Masters in over a decade; that shaves Hatton from the list.
Incredibly, no Masters champion in the past decade was world number one at the time of their triumph. Sorry, Dustin!
Young Man’s Game
Eight of the last ten Masters winners were aged under 40 at the time of their win. That eliminates Steve Stricker.
So, according to the stats, the Masters champion 2017 will be either Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Kevin Kisner, Bill Haas or Martin Kaymer! Let’s see how those stat-focused selections fare this week.