Mastering the Masters

The Masters, the first major of the golfing season tees off this Thursday with the world’s best players all vying for the coveted green jacket. For me no golf tournament captures the imagination like it, and Augusta National’s lush green grass and beautifully manicured rhododendrons provide the perfect backdrop to each year’s drama.

This year’s tournament is set to be a doozy with the new “Big Three of Golf” Jason Day, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy having won five of the last six majors. Searching for a career grand slam of majors, Rory is the only player in the world’s top 6 not to have won a tournament this season but he does have two top four finishes in his last two outings. Could he be the first European to don the green jacket since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999?

The only major to be played at the same venue every year, it is the familiarity with the course makes it a feast for player and spectator alike. We know the players, we know the holes, we know the history. It is because of this that the Masters lends itself to statistical analysis like no other tournament in golf and by examining these trends we theoretically can come close to predicting a winner. At Airton Risk we specialise in analysing the likely outcome of sports events and the US Masters is our favourite golf tournament of the year bar none.

 Let’s look at some simple historical trends over the last ten years and whittle the field of 90 down to just a couple of contenders. 

 In the last ten years the World Number 1 has not won the tournament, and the reigning champion has only twice ever defended their crown (Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus) so we can remove Jason Day and Jordan Speith from the list. No debutant has won the tournament since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 so we can omit them too.

No European has won the tournament for the last ten years, ten of the last ten winners were aged under 40, ten of the last ten winners made the cut at Augusta the previous year and all ten of the most recent tournament winners had a top 32 finish in the Masters.



 Ok – so we have stripped the field back based on the above criteria, now let’s really refine the list. Nine of the last ten winners had posted a Top 10 finish already in that season, eight of the past ten had posted a Top 20 at Augusta and seven of the last ten winners had previously posted a Top 10 in the Masters. The 7 winners prior to Spieth last year were in the top 60 for driving distance on Tour (> 290 yards over the season). The top 10 in 2013 all averaged over 285 yards so this leads to the conclusion that you can’t be too short

 Finally, I like a player who has gotten over this finish line recently and won a tournament. It gives confidence, shows temperament and is obviously a clear demonstration of form.


 This leaves me with three names – Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama. From a betting perspective Matsuyama represents the best value of these selections with 40/1 available in the Market and both Scott and Bubba at 12/1.  Charles Schwartzel also ticks the boxes and at 35/1 represents decent value. Enjoy.

David Lyons