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The Masters Preview

The Masters Preview

All eyes will be on the Augusta National this week as the first Major Championship of the year takes place. The Masters build-up has risen to fever pitch with the surprise news of Tiger Woods making his comeback following a horrific car accident 14 months ago, and one that at the time appeared to be career ending for the 15-time Major Champion. Make no mistake, Tiger is back and wouldn't be taking part if he felt he wouldn't be around on Sunday challenging for a 6th Green Jacket. With the Azaleas in full bloom and the gallery in full voice, the 86th edition of this glorious event could exceed all expectations. Check out our preview and predictions for what should be a thrilling four days of top-class golf.


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The Masters 2022

Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian winner of the Masters last April in a truly iconic event. 

The now 30-year-old held on to his lead to oust Will Zalatoris by a single stroke despite shooting a nervy 1-over final round, though his bid to emulate the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in becoming just the fourth player to win successive Masters has taken a blow as he enters this event with a slight injury concern. 

Augusta National is up there with the most iconic sporting venues in the world, and being the only Major Championship that’s played at the same course year in, year out, trends are even more imperative here than at any of the three other Majors.



Tiger Returns!

As things stand, Tiger Woods is set to compete here after his lengthy recovery and is reportedly striking it ‘exceptionally’, according to Golf Digest. 

He comes in at a relatively lengthier price than he’ll be accustomed too though considering the circumstances, it doesn’t seem nearly long enough. 

His career so far would suggest that you’d be a fool to write him off entirely, though the man is only human, and victory here would go down in history as, undoubtedly, the greatest golfing achievement of all time.

Though Tiger is a special case, considering him to win this seems absurd, especially when looking at the following trends we’ve picked out in finding a Masters Champion. Matsuyama met all five course trend criteria before his victory last year.



Course Trends To Consider

Top-35 – At Augusta the cream usually rises to the top. Zach Johnson in 2007 and Angel Cabrera in 2009 bucked the trend as the only winners since 1985 to be ranked outside the top-35. That said, the Argentinean had already proven his quality with a US Open, whilst Zach went on to win an Open at St. Andrews.

Played in at least TWO Masters – In 2015, Spieth became the second winner after Tiger to not to have made at least two appearances since Nick Faldo in 1989. Willett then repeated this feat a year later, suggesting that we shouldn’t completely discount those that aren’t yet household names, but we still think course experience counts for a lot around here.

Negative for: Sam Burns, Will Zalatoris, Talor Gooch

Younger than 40 – Although experience is an asset, age does seem to be a bit of a barrier. Tiger Woods was the first player to win in their 40’s since Mark O’Meara in 1998. 

Negative for: Paul Casey

A top-five finish at Augusta – In the Bentgrass era (since 1981), 26 of 41 winners had previously had a top-five finish at Augusta (63%), including seven of the last nine.

Negative for: Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Sam Burns, Billy Horschel, Abraham Ancer, Tyrrell Hatton, Bryson DeChambeau, Joaquin Niemann, Daniel Berger, Harris English, Matt Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Corey Conners, Talor Gooch, Shane Lowry

Made the cut the previous year – Fond recent memories are key: Tiger and Reed remain the only players since 1997 to win the year after a missed cut (and Tiger was still an amateur in 1996!) Furthermore, since 1981 only 16 players have made the top-three having missed the cut the previous year. (Debutants excluded from this bracket)

Negative for: Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, SungJae Im, Kevin Kisner.



Stats To Consider

Average rank of the last 15 winners:

Driving Distance: 22

Driving Accuracy: 26.7 

Greens in Regulation: 6.3 

Scrambling: 10.3 

Putting Average: 11.3

This has long been considered a second shot course, and the stats go a long way to backing up that theory. Greens in Regulation and Scrambling, as a rule of thumb, are the stats to focus on here.



Bombers have also gone well here in recent years, with the four par fives on offer very much an opportunity to knock shots off your score. The winners of the past 15 years have gone, on average, 8.6 under par on the longer holes, compared to just -1.8 on the par 4s and -0.3 on the par 3s.

It’s therefore no surprise that three of the last five winners have ranked in the top-6 for Driving Distance over the week, especially considering the par-4 fifth hole was extended 40 yards in 2019.

Furthermore, extra length has been added this year with 15 and 20 yards added to the 11th and 15th holes, respectively. However, while that does give the likes of Bryson DeChambeau a slight advantage, it’s really the best iron players in the game that excel here, and Matsuyama proved that yet again when ranking seventh for GIR and eighth for scrambling on his way to victory. 



Patrick Reed’s 2018 win was an anomaly, having ranked 21st for GIR, though he led the field in putting accuracy that week which is always going to give you a good chance of taking home the gold. Either side of that victory, nine of the last 10 winners have ranked in the top-seven for GIR, with DJ and Tiger leading the field in that regard in their recent victories.

With how hard the course threatens to play this week, scrambling could be just as important as ever. 11 of the last 14 winners have ranked in the top 10 for scrambling, so we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the best short game players on tour.



Form To Consider

Form is absolutely crucial coming into this event, and that has been truer than ever in recent years. Although nobody has won this event off the back of a victory for 16 years now (over to you Sam Burns) five of the last eight winners had a victory already that season. In truth, DJ had far more opportunities to win having had till November, though it’s difficult to ignore form of 2-1-2-3-6-2 heading into the week.

Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods and Hideki Matsuyama are the exceptions to that rule, though Reed had come second at the Valspar, seventh at the Arnold Palmer before coming to Georgia, Woods had a top-10 in Mexico before a quarters run at the World Match Play while Matsuyama had finished second in Houston.

Therefore, eight of the last 10 champions have recorded at least one top-10 finish in any of their three stroke-play starts before Augusta, while 11 of 12 winners since 2009 have made the cut in each of their previous three starts.



The Field

We’ve looked at the world’s top 35 in depth and broken down whether they meet the nine requirements that have stood the test of time at Augusta:

- Five course trends

- Top-25 on tour this season for GIR and Scrambling

- Three form trends

Matsuyama was something of ana anomaly last year with regard to stat and form trends as he didn’t score a single point in either. Though his experience shone through having been playing in his 10th Masters, and with that pedigree and the fact he managed to get his putter to behave for the most part, he was a worthy winner.

That victory alone isn’t enough to shake up the requirements just yet, and we still believe that proof of quality approaching and around the greens so far in the season, as well as some strong recent results to accompany is a good formula to picking a winner. Therefore, the requirements for the shortlist is as follows:

- At least 4 out of 5 course trends

- At least 1 of 2 stats

- At least 1 of 3 form trends

 

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