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Masters Rewards Experience

March 29th, 2008 · No Comments

2008 Masters Coverage – Thru 4/15

Success begets success, and no major proves it like the Masters. Fifty Masters have been played since 1958 (the beginning of the Modern Era), and a whopping 48% of the winners have come from seven of the top eight players of the era.

Consider the table below. As a group, these players won 24 Masters, but only 11 U.S. Opens. They also won 24 British Opens, but only 13 PGAs, with nine of those belonging to Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

The most plausible explanation for these players’ success at the Masters is experience. The Masters is played on the same course every year, so the greats know every nook and cranny, and they are experts at putting that knowledge to work. Their previous victories at Augusta are invaluable when they are coming down the stretch as they have those positive experiences to draw from.

And, of course, the Masters has the thinnest field by far of any of the four majors. This reduces the odds of a longshot like Rich Beem appearing out of nowhere to steal the top prize, as he did from Woods at the 2002 PGA.

As for the British Open, the event is mostly held on a small group of courses (the rota), so the top players get to know them, although not as well as Augusta. The British Open has also showcased the best players’ talent for adapting to links golf, a transition that many otherwise top players have had trouble making.

Top Eight of the Modern Era
————————–M–US–BO–PGA
Jack Nicklaus —- 6—-4—-3—-5
Tiger Woods —– 4—-2—-3—-4
Arnold Palmer — 4—-1—-2—-0
Gary Player ——- 3—-1—-3—-2
Nick Faldo ——— 3—-0—-3—-0
Tom Watson —— 2—-1—-5—-0
Seve Ballesteros –2—-0—-3—-0
Lee Trevino ——– 0—-2—-2—-2

Since experience counts as Augusta, and previous champions count for such a high percentage of victories, that makes it easy to develop a short list of high probability picks. I know, Tiger Woods with his four titles is the odds on choice. Right now he is even money at Ladbrokes.com, the on line British oddsmakers.

Phil Mickelson is the only other player under 50 (in other words, with a chance of winning) who has won multiple titles, so he is the next in line at 8/1. Vijay Singh’s surprising reemergence at age 45 and his previous win in 2000 make him another good choice. As for the other winners of the Woods Era, Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Mark O’Meara all can be categorized as longshots.

The odds suggest that the winner will be Woods or Mickelson, who have gobbled up five of the last seven Masters, because the Masters has a way of rewarding success, and no two players have had more lately than these two at Augusta National.

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