It’s here. Cue the music, CBS. The opening shot of the 2014 Masters is less than a week away and it’s time to ease into our coverage of the season’s first major.
Each major represents something different in my mind and, growing up roughly 2-1/2 hours from the pearly gates of Augusta National, the Masters ranks as my personal favorite. I've had the incredible fortune to attend four tournament rounds and a practice round, and will make my sixth trip on Wednesday of this week for my first look at the par 3 tournament.
We took our kids to Disney World in January, and the feeling I get when I walk past the golf shop/souvenir shop and onto the course at Augusta National is probably the same feeling my kids get when the gates open at the Magic Kingdom and they walk onto Main Street USA.
It’s something I hope all of you experience at some point.
One of the things I did in last year’s coverage that I found both fun and ultimately useful was to look back at historical similarities between Masters winners currently still active to try and identify players that are primed for a victory. Here is a look at that post http://thegolfaficionado.blogspot.com/2013/04/masters-preview.html.
The Cliff’s Notes version is that I used process of elimination to rule out guys that would be outside the norm of recent Masters champs. After my final cut, I was left with 29 players. Included in that group were Adam Scott, and his playoff partner Angel Cabrera.
Here is how that same formula plays out for 2014. Please note, this would not include anyone that would qualify by winning the Shell Houston Open later this weekend.
Begin with 95 players. Eliminate all players who are Masters rookies and those in their second trip. (Note, Schwartzel won in his second trip but is an exception to the rule.)
Say goodbye to Bae, Blixt, Bowditch, Castro, de Jonge, DeLaet, Donaldson, Dubuisson, Duke, English, Ernst, Every, Fitzpatrick, Gallacher, Goss, Grace, Henley, Horschel, Huh, Kirk, Lee, Luiten, Lynn, McCoy, Niebrugge, Olesen, Porteous, Reed, Spieth, Stadler, K., Stallings and FedExCup leader, Jimmy Walker.
That eliminates 32 players, or 1/3 of the field, leaving us with 63 (last year at this point we had 64).
Next, we eliminated any player that didn't make the cut in the 2013 Masters. You have to go back to Tiger Woods in 1997 to find a winner who missed the cut in the previous year’s Masters.
Adios to Clarke, Crenshaw, Jaidee, Jiminez, Mahan, Manassero, Matsuyama, McDowell, Mize, Molinari, O’Meara, Oosthuizen, Poulter, Simpson, Stadler, C., Streelman, Watson, T., Weekley, Weir, Woodland, Woosnam, Yang.
That cuts 22 more, leaving us with 41 (last year at this point we had 39).
Eliminate all of those with more than 14 starts under their belt without a win. I call that the Mark O’Meara rule, as he won his first (and only) Masters in his 15th start.
Out the door are Cink, Els, Furyk and Garcia, leaving us with 37 (36 this time last year).
Of all the former Masters winners in the field, none of them have ever missed more cuts than they've made at Augusta National before recording their first win.
Those snared by that net are Kaymer, Senden and Stricker. With those three out, we have 34 (31 this time last year).
I'm eliminating one thing from last year. That is the the exclusion for top 10s from last year's Masters. That spares Day, Kuchar, Leishman, Snedeker and Westwood.
There aren't any Masters winners in the field that have gone back-to-back, since Woods is out due to injury, so say goodbye to Adam Scott. Now we have 33 (28 this time last year).
The oldest major winner is Julius Boros at 48 years, eight months and 14 days. That means father time has run out for Couples, Langer, Lyle, Olazabal and Singh.
That’s our final cut. We have identified 28 players that could win the Masters without breaking the mold. (Last year’s final list was 26.)
History tells us that one of these 28 players will likely slip on the green jacket. They are Keegan Bradley, Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, Tim Clark, Jason Day, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Bill Haas, Peter Hanson, Trevor Immelman, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, D.A. Points, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood.
Obviously guys like Glover and Points won’t come close to cracking our power ranking for this tournament, but it’s not hard to imagine a Bradley, Dufner, Haas, DJ, McIlroy, Mickelson, Rose, Schwartzel or Watson winning the season’s first major.
We will return with a more traditional preview on Sunday. Until then, happy research!