How To Spot A Masters Winner

What are the essential attributes and key trends that past Masters winners have possessed and how can they help us pick the 2022 champion

Justin Thomas possesses a lot of the attributes we're looking for when trying to pick the winner of the 2022 Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Of all four Majors, The Masters should be the easiest to pick the winner. After all, the course remains the same each year - give or take the odd minor update - and the limited field means there are less potential winners than in other Majors. But how do we go about narrowing the field down and homing in on a potential Masters winner? Let’s look at some key trends. 

Decent Recent Form

Since 2011, the winner of The Masters had posted a T5 or better that same calendar year, with Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Charl Schwarztel all winning. Dustin Johnson was also in great form before his November Masters victory in 2020, having won the FedEx Cup and Travelers Championship in the months before. 

That was until last year, when Hideki Matsuyama took the Green Jacket despite not having finished better than his 15th at the WGC-Workday Championship earlier in 2021. That was one of three top-20 finishes early last year however, including two back-to-back. He also had a second earlier in the season, at the Houston Open in November 2020, ironically a week before that year’s delayed Masters. 

Not The Defending Champion 

Bad news for Matsuyama fans - while he definitely does have the form going into this year’s Masters we’re looking for, having already won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, it’s 20 years since anyone went back-to-back at Augusta National. Spieth would have got the job done in 2016 were it not for his collapse on the 12th, but Willett's win meant that nobody had defended the Green Jacket since Tiger Woods in 2001-2002.

It also seems you have to be an all-time great to win two years running at The Masters. Before Tiger, only Sir Nick Faldo (1989-1990) and Jack Nicklaus (1965-1966) have pulled off the feat. Will Matsuyama win back-to-back? Despite him being in better form that the leading into last year’s tournament, the stats say probably not. 

 Not Ranked World No.1

Scottie Scheffler may be thrilled to be the new World No.1 after his victory in the WGC-Match Play, his third triumph of the year after wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Phoenix Open, but it’s bad news for his Masters chances, as the top ranked player generally doesn’t do well here. Dustin Johnson, in 2020, was the only World No.1 to win The Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002.

The likes of Angel Cabrera (ranked 69th in 2009), Zach Johnson (ranked 56th in 2007) and Trevor Immelman (ranked 29th in 2008) prove there is value to be had when betting further down the field. Matsuyama was ranked as high as No.2 in the world after his runner-up finish in the 2017 US Open, but started last year’s Masters with a world ranking of 25. 

Not A Rookie 

There’s no substitute for experience. Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 is the only rookie to have won the Masters since the second tournament, though Will Zalatoris came very close to upsetting the odds last year on his first appearance. Ultimately he came up just short, finishing one shot behind Matsuyama in second place. 

Foreign Players On The Up 

Japan’s Matsuyama became the first Asian player to don the Green Jacket with his victory last year, but foreign players have performed well of late. Of the last 14 winners, there have been seven American champions and seven foreign. Over that period there have been two South African winners and one each from Argentina, Australia, England, Spain and Japan. 

Not Aged Over 40 

Since the turn of the century, only Tiger Woods has slipped on the Green Jacket over the age of 40 with his memorable 2019 victory. Phil Mickelson in 2010 and Angel Cabrera in 2009 (both 39) were the oldest aside from Woods in recent years, while Reed, Willett, Spieth, Schwartzel and Immelmen all came in under 28-years-old. Mark O’Meara, in 1998, was the last over 40 to win at Augusta National, taking the title aged 41. The average of the Masters winner tends to be around 30 - Matsuyama was 29 when he won last year. 

Made The Cut The Previous Year 

Danny Willett was 38th on his debut and won the next year, while Spieth followed his debut 2nd finish with a win. Garcia (34th), Watson (50th), Adam Scott (8th), Watson (38th), Schwartzel (30th), Mickelson (5th), Cabrera (25th), Immelman (55th) and Johnson (32nd) all also made cut the year before they won. DJ was T2nd the year before he won, while Matsuyama was 13th in 2020 before his 2021 victory. 

This Year's Contenders

So who fits the profile for this year you ask? Zalatoris will be hoping to follow the kind of career trajectory that saw Spieth follow up his debut second place with victory the next year, but aged just 25 he’s a little on the young side to fully fit our profile, much like Colin Morikawa and Sam Burns despite their recent successes.

Jon Rahm has freed himself of the burden of the World No.1 ranking and was 5th last year. He’s had a couple of top three finishes this year on the PGA Tour but at 27, maybe he’s a little on the young side too. Justin Thomas was 21st in 2021, had had a couple of top 5 finishes this year and at 29 later this month, he seems to tick all the boxes,

Jeff Kimber
Freelance Staff Writer

Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!