Hoping to Master the Masters, Again …

Emabis previews the 2015 Masters and, having backed the winner in each of the last two years, highlights the statistics and trends leading him to three early picks this year. 

I love watching the Masters. It's an annual event in my house, sitting around the TV to admire the beautiful backdrop of Georgia whilst the dulcet tones of Peter Alliss welcome in longer days and the promise of summer sun. Freddie Couples rolling back the years in a real life plot-lift from the film "Cocoon". And, in the end, drama is never far away as likely winners fall and a battle of the strongest unfolds. If all that's not enough, it's an event I always have a bet on to enhance my interest in the journey of certain players. But which ones? Well it varies year on year but fortunately included Scott in 2012 and Bubba last year.  This year, I’m hoping to make it 3 winners in 3 years but, as always, it's much easier said than done.

So what do I look for in an ante-post pick? Besides players who like the course, there are two guiding factors I generally take into account. Firstly the player must hold strong performance statistics in ‘Driving Distance’; ‘Driving Percentage 300+’ and ‘Going for Green’. And secondly, he has to have had strong finishes over the past 12 months in the following:

The Masters (prior year): 8 of the last 8 winners finished 55th place or better although only 2 have finished in the Top 10 (Adam Scott in 2012 & Phil Mickelson in 2009);

WGC-Cadillac Championship: 4 of the last 5 winners (excluding 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel) have finished in the Top 15, with the last 3 Masters’ winners (Bubba twice) finishing in the Top 3;

WGC-HSBC Champions: 4 of the last 5 winners (excluding 2012 winner Bubba Watson) have finished in the Top 20;

Deutsche Bank Championship: 8 of the last 8 winners played the most recent event with 7 of the 8 finishing in 30th place or better (2008 winner Trevor Immelman the exception with a 50th place finish); &

Northern Trust Open: 4 of the last 6 winners (excluding Charl Schwartzel & 2010 winner Phil Mickelson) finished in the Top 15 of the Northern Trust Open.

In addition to the above, I think it’s worthwhile keeping onside some general principles relating to past Master’s winners:

  • Defending “first-time” champions are best avoided as they generally seem to handle the return to Augusta badly (assumingly due to commitments like the media, Champions dinner etc); &
  • Returning Champions of 2 years ago have historically tended to do well.

So based on the above, my selections for this year’s Masters are:

Bubba Watson (11/1)

Rating high in all three performance statistics I like to focus upon, the defending Masters’ champion finished 3rd in the WGC-Cadillac (something he also did on both occasions he won the Masters before); 1st in the WGG-HSBC; 29th in the Deutsche Bank Championship and 12th in the Northern Trust Open.

Not only that, he excels at Augusta and thrives under the pressure.

Even at 11/1 (Bet365 & Betway), I’d have him as a far stronger favourite for the event than Rory (at 11/2). And when you consider Jordan Spieth is 12/1 and Jason Day is 14/1, at least Bubba’s short price is well supported.


Adam Scott (22/1)

I have to confess a weakness for Scott having made serious money on him when he won the Masters in 2012. But Scottie isn’t a sentimental addition this year.

Rating high in all three performance statistics, Scott came 4th in the WGC-Cadillac, 12th in WGC-HSBC and 16th in the Deutsche Bank Championship. He did not play the Northern Trust Open.

And the fact he’s a returning Champion of two years ago only enhances his appeal.

Some will point to Scott’s recent conversion to a short-stick putter as a reason to avoid him. But putting was never his strength (even with the long putter) and I thought he looked fine with it in the WGC-Cadillac.

And whilst it’s certainly a concern when backing Scott, as it always has been, it’s fully reflected in his price of 22/1. A great price for a genuine contender.

Dustin Johnson (18/1)

Okay, my third selection breaks my general principles on related tournament finishes in the past 12 months. But for this selection, that’s a given. On an extended sabbatical from the game which ran from end July 2014 (after the Canadian Open) to the start of February (the Farmers Insurance Open), Johnson was ineligible to play in the majority of them. And if he couldn’t play, he couldn’t place. So I’m willing to overlook that and focus on the fact that he won the only one he could play, the WGC-Cadillac – an event which the last three champions (Bubba twice) earned a Top 3 in before their win.

The only finish which is a concern is the Missed Cut in last year’s Masters. But a 13th place finish in 2013 shows he can play well there and it is hoped last year was a blip. He certainly has the game to do well there as he ranks high in the performance statistics I rate.

Available at 18/1 in places (PaddyPower, SkyBet & Sportingbet), I’d prefer have DJ in my portfolio than not. But maybe for smaller stakes than the other two.