I think the biggest reason is that the casual fan is drawn to that event. Most of my friends are at least casual golf fans, if for no other reason than they are sports fans. You know the type. They follow golf to the degree that ESPN plugs it, etc. All of them know that I follow golf like few others, and they pepper me with the question. "Who's going to win the Masters?"
The answer I give them is fairly anti-climactic. "I have no idea." But, what I can do is apply the history of the Masters to help narrow the field down to determine a smaller sample size that will very likely include the winner.
This is the third year I've utilized this formula, and I've been very happy with the results the first two years. To be clear, this formula eliminates numerous players who have enormous fantasy value for many games. The regular Preview and Power Ranking will deal with those questions.
For those that only care about the winner, this is what the ghost of Bobby Jones tells us to be true.
Start with 98 players. (I've already removed Tim Clark from the field per his announcement that he would not compete.)
Eliminate all players who are Masters rookies and second-year players. (I acknowledge that Charl Schwartzel's win in his second year was the very rare exception to this rule.) Say goodbye to Jonas Blixt, Erik Compton, Corey Connors, Matias Dominguez, Victor Dubuisson, Matt Every, Stephen Gallacher, James Hahn, Brian Harman, Scott Harvey, Charley Hoffman, Morgan Hoffmann, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Mikko Illonen, Chris Kirk, Brooks Koepka, Anirban Lahiri, Shane Lowry, Joost Luiten, Ben Martin, Byron Meth, Antonio Murdaca, Bradley Neil, Seung-yul Noh, Patrick Reed, JORDAN SPIETH, Kevin Stadler, Robert Streb, Brendon Todd, Cameron Tringale, Jimmy Walker, Bernd Weisberger, Danny Willett and Gunn Yang.
That cuts 35 players out of it immediately, lowering the remaining number to 63. (At this point in 2013 we had 64 remaining, and had 63 remaining at this point last year.) I believe this to be an important eliminator because there are some many nuances to Augusta National and so much aura to overcome that it takes a little getting used to. It's scary to eliminate Jordan Spieth from any list, so I guess he'll just have to finish second.
Next, we can eliminate all players that didn't make the cut in the 2014 Masters. You have to go all the way back to Tiger Woods in 1997 to find an example of a player who won the Masters without seeing the weekend in the previous year's tournament. That axes Sang-moon Bae, Keegan Bradley, Angel Cabrera, Ben Crenshaw, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Padraig Harrington, Trevor Immelman, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Geoff Ogilvy, Mark O'Meara, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ryan Palmer, Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Camilo Villegas, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Ian Woosnam.
That cuts another 29 players and leaves us with 34 contenders for the crown. This time in 2014 we had 41 on the list and still had 39 remaining in 2013.
The next eliminator is the Mark O'Meara rule. O'Meara won the Masters in his 15th try, so I eliminate all players who have teed it up more than 14 times without a win. I guess if it hasn't happened by trip number 15, it just isn't going to happen. That's bad news for Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Lee Westwood.
Down to 31 (37 in 2014 and 36 in 2013).
A player's history in the Masters cannot include more missed cuts than made at the time of his first Masters win, thus killing off Ben Crane, Thongchai Jaidee, Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen John Senden and Kevin Streelman. We are now down to 27 (34 in '14 and 31 in '13).
With the exception of Tiger Woods, you don't go back-to-back in the Masters. Sorry Bubba. That leaves 24.
Father time gets the final cut. The oldest player to win a major is Julius Boros at 48 years, 8 months and 14 days. The gig is up for Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Larry Mize, and Vijay Singh. We now have 19 remaining.
So who's left that can win? They are Thomas Bjorn, Paul Casey, Darren Clarke, Jason Day, Jamie Donaldson, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, Russell Henley, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Mike Weir and Gary Woodland.
There are obviously several names on here that will not win. But, if history rings true, the winner is one of those 19 listed above.
We will return soon with a typical preview as well as a power ranking later in the week. Until then, have a little fun with this list.