Sergio Garcia's victory in last year's US Masters was regarded as a little unexpected although, from a trends viewpoint, he was actually a very good fit.
He had plenty of experience at Augusta National, a previous top four finish there, had won earlier in the season and boasted a high world ranking. His current form in the build-up was strong, too.
In this preview last year, Sergio didn't make it through due to him being over 35 and a European.
Given that he became the second straight Euro winner and the sixth 30-something in the last 10 years, I'm going to tinker with those two categories this year. Europeans won't get ruled out and I'll raise the age limit to under 40. Sorry Tiger and Phil!
As usual, though, the Masters is the best major for a trends piece given that it's played at the same course every year.
So, for each of the last 10 winners, I've listed the following categories that were correct at the time of their victory - age, world ranking, how many Masters they'd played, best finish at Augusta, Masters finish the previous year and best result they'd recorded that season.
2017 - Sergio Garcia (Age: 37, WR: 11th, Played: 18, Masters Best: 4th, Previous year: 34th, 2017 Best: Win)
2016 - Danny Willett (Age: 28, WR: 12th, Played: 1, Masters Best: 38th, Previous year: 38th, 2016 Best: Win)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (Age: 21, WR: 4th, Played: 1, Masters Best: 2nd, Previous year: 2nd, 2015 Best: Win)
2014 - Bubba Watson (Age: 35, WR: 12th, Played: 5, Masters Best: Win, Previous year: 50th, 2014 Best: Win)
2013 - Adam Scott (Age: 32, WR: 7th, Played: 11, Masters Best: 2nd, Low 18: 67, Previous year: 8th, 2013 Best: T3)
2012 - Bubba Watson (Age: 33, WR: 18th, Played: 3, Masters Best: 20th, Low 18: 67, Previous year: 38th, 2012 Best: 2nd)
2011 - Charl Schwartzel (Age: 26, WR: 29th, Played: 1, Masters Best: 30th, Low 18: 69, Previous year: 30th, 2011 Best: Win)
2010 - Phil Mickelson (Age: 39, WR: 3rd, Played: 17, Masters Best: Win, Low 18: 65, Previous year: 5th, 2010 Best: T8)
2009 - Angel Cabrera (Age: 39, WR: 69th, Played: 9, Masters Best: 8th, Previous year: 25th, 2009 Best: T9)
2008 - Trevor Immelman (Age: 28, WR: 29th, Played: 5, Masters Best: 5th, Previous year: 55th, 2008 Best: T17)
- 6 of last 10 were in their 30s
- 10 of last 10 were aged under 40
- 7 of last 10 were aged 35 or under
- 7 of last 10 had been ranked in world's top 20
- 9 of last 10 had been ranked in world's top 30
- 7 of last 10 had played in at least 3 Masters
- 10 of last 10 had played in at least 1 Masters
- 2 of last 10 had won it before
- 7 of last 10 had posted a top 10 at Augusta
- 8 of last 10 had posted a top 20 at Augusta
- 9 of last 10 had posted a top 30 at Augusta
- 10 of last 10 had posted a top 38 at Augusta
- 10 of last 10 had made the cut at Augusta the previous year
- 5 of last 10 had already won earlier that season
- 7 of last 10 had posted a top 3 earlier that season
- 9 of last 10 had posted a top 10 earlier that season
- 10 of last 10 winners were not the defending champion
- 10 of last 10 winners were not the World No.1
Most powerful qualification criteria
(Each of the below apply to at least 9 of the last 10 Masters winners)
- Aged under 40
- Ranked in world's top 30
- Played in at least one Masters
- Had top 30 at Augusta
- Made the cut at Augusta the previous year
- Posted a top 10 earlier that season
- Not the defending champion
- Not World No.1
Let's add some more filters that focus on current form...
A look at the last 10 winners shows that eight had finished in the top 30 in at least one of their two starts before arriving at Augusta National.
Two more trends I've picked up on since last year are:
- 9 of 10 had 2 x top 15s that season
- 8 of last 10 had a top 15 in a strokeplay event in March/April
The latter gets rid of Jon Rahm, whose last top 15 was T11 at the Phoenix Open in early February. Adios.
Hideki Matsuyama's last decent result (T12) was in January's Farmers Insurance Open. Sayonara.
I'll also use this stat again.
- 9 of the last 10 Masters winners had played six, seven or eight pre-Augusta tournaments that year and between 19 and 30 rounds.
In other words, you want to be fresh but don't want to be under-cooked.
Jordan Spieth is playing in Houston which will be his ninth tournament of the year while Justin Thomas has played 31 rounds. Too many.
Jason Day has played just four events and 15 rounds. Too few.
Okay, who's dodged these stats bullets so far? There are four players still standing - Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Marc Leishman.
This is a surprising one given that it seems high-class players tend to win the Green Jacket. However....
- 8 of the last 10 Masters winners had an SP of 20/1 or higher. Yep, Bubba (twice), Adam Scott and Sergio were both bigger than that.
That eliminates Thomas, Rose and McIlroy. Harsh perhaps but it's the numbers rather than me pulling the trigger.
It means just two players survive.
If the trends play out, your Masters winner this year is either Rickie Fowler or Marc Leishman.
Fowler is 29-years-old, ranked World No.8 and has played in seven Masters, finishing T5 in 2014, T12 in 2015 and T11 last year. He has three top 15s this season, including T14 at Bay Hill in mid-March. Fowler will also tee it up in Houston this week, his seventh event of the season after he sat out the WGC-Dell Match Play.
Leishman is 34 and sits 16th in the world rankings. He was tied seventh in the Arnold Palmer Invitational two starts ago, tied fourth in the 2013 US Masters and made the cut at Augusta National last year. The Aussie has played eight events this year and 29 rounds, also finishing T7 at the Tournament of Champions and T8 at Torrey Pines.
Rickie Fowler at 26.025/1
Marc Leishman at 70.069/1