The old adage that the Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday is only partly-true. Round one is very important, and while you can’t win it on day one you can certainly lose it.
The key stat connected to round one is this: the last nine winners have all been in the top ten after the first day. Augusta National, increasingly, is not a catch-up course. So that leaves us with the following to choose from: Jordan Spieth, Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Russell Henley, Sergio Garcia, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson, Paul Casey and Ryan Palmer.
Time to eliminate a few of those. The last over-40 winner was Mark O’Meara, so out, sadly, goes Els. Making the cut the previous year is also key, so we lose Garcia and Simpson. The previous major, last year’s PGA Championship, is also a pointer – if you made the cut there your chances appear to increase. Bye bye Hoffman, Henley, Casey and Spieth. Spieth would also drop out because first-round leaders have a terrible record of going on to collect the green jacket.
We’re now left with Rose, Day, Haas and Palmer. Seventeen of the last 23 winners had a previous top ten finish at Augusta, so this is where we say farewell to Haas, whose previous best is 20th. Rose then drops out because the last five for scoring average that season.
And then there were two: Jason Day and Ryan Palmer. Which, amazingly, was exactly what we said, based on completely different stats, before the tournament even began…
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