Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Heading into the 2014 Masters
It seems like just yesterday that Tiger Woods was summoned to Augusta National for an early morning reprimand and Adam Scott wore the green jacket in the Georgia rain. Alas, the 2014 Masters is here.
With the drama of whether Misters Woods and Mickelson will be teeing it up in the first major of 2014 (Woods: no, Mickelson: yes), we've been presented with a dramatic lead-in to Masters week. Now, we'll turn our eyes toward a more substantial question as the tournament nears: Who are the top 25 golfers heading into the 2014 Masters?
In this ranking last year, Nos. 5 through 1 read as follows: Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods.
Where will those golfers rank this year? Continue reading to find out.
25: Phil Mickelson
Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 5
Best of 2014: Phil Mickelson struggled with back and side injuries in 2013, which have hampered his performance. A week after withdrawing from the Valero Texas Open with a strained muscle, Mickelson put together four solid rounds at the Shell Houston Open en route to a T12 finish. Mickelson hasn't recorded a top-10 finish this year, but he has finished outside the top 20 only once.
Why He’s Here: With Tiger Woods out of the field for the Masters, Mickelson is likely the brightest star at Augusta. Even though he hasn't had a spectacular start to the season, he has done well considering his injuries and is coming off a rebound season.
Masters History: Mickelson has won the Masters three times, most recently in 2010. In addition to his wins, Lefty has finished inside the top 10 at Augusta 11 times. His T54 finish last year was his worst since 1997, however.
24. Keegan Bradley
Best of 2014: In 11 starts on tour in 2013, Keegan Bradley has recorded two top-10 finishes. Ranking 21st in the FedExCup standings, Bradley finished second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago. He finished tied for 43rd at the Shell Houston Open last week after showing promise with an opening-round 66.
Why He's Here: Bradley finds his way onto this list and ahead of Phil Mickelson due to his solid play this season. He has only missed one cut and has finished inside the top 25 seven times.
Masters History: The Vermont native has teed it up two times at Augusta National. His best finish was a tie for 27th in 2012.
23. Luke Donald
Best of 2014: Although he has only made six starts on the PGA Tour this season, Luke Donald has managed to record two top-10 finishes. After nearly a month off, the Englishman put a peg in the ground at the Shell Houston Open last week where he carded four consecutive rounds of 71 to finish tied for 24th.
Why He's Here: The symmetry of his last outing alone should earn Mr. Donald some accolades. He traditionally plays about 17 events on the PGA Tour. One third of the way to that number, Donald is six for six in cuts made. He finished outside of the top 25 only once in a stroke play event (his first start of the season).
Masters History: Donald has participated in the season's first major every year since 2005. His best finish came in his debut; he tied for third.
22. Justin Rose
Best of 2014: Like Luke Donald, Justin Rose has only made six starts so far this season. Also like Donald, Rose has finished inside the top 10 twice. The Englishman finished fifth at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November.
Why He's Here: A surprising missed cut his last time out at the Arnold Palmer Invitational has raised questions about the state of Rose's game. Given his form last season and a decent start to this one, the eighth-ranked golfer in the world slides into the 22nd spot on our list.
Masters History: In seven appearances at the Masters, Rose has finished inside of the top 10 twice. His best finish came in 2007 (T5).
21. Jordan Spieth
Best of 2014: Last season's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Jordan Spieth missed the cut his last time out at the Shell Houston Open. The Tour sophomore finished second at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and showed grit, finishing fifth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Why He's Here: The missed cut drops Spieth a few slots from where his otherwise quality play could have landed him. His continued good form has moved the golfer from 22nd to 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking this season. That trajectory places him nearly inside the top 20 here as well.
Masters History: This is Spieth's first Masters appearance.
20. Chris Kirk
Best of 2014: Winner of the McGladrey Classic, Chris Kirk has had an excellent season beyond his one victory. Kirk made the cut in all 12 of his starts on Tour and finished inside the top 25 in nearly half of his appearances.
Why He's Here: A win gets you a prominent position in this power ranking. Kirk's FedExCup rank is sixth, although his OWGR number has yet to catch up. As this is a “What have you done for me lately?” ranking, a win and solid play puts Kirk ahead of powerhouses like Mickelson, Bradley and Donald.
Masters History: This is Kirk’s first Masters appearance
19. Russell Henley
Best of 2014: Russell Henley captured the Honda Classic in a playoff. In addition to the victory, however, he recorded only one other top-10 finish. He has made eight of 13 cuts on tour this season and presently sits at 23rd in the FedExCup rankings.
Why He’s Here: Henley's aforementioned “other top-10 finish” came just last week at the Shell Houston Open. The strong showing recently plus heavier weight given to a win (especially of the playoff variety) sees the two-time Tour winner ahead of Chris Kirk in this ranking.
Masters History: Henley has only appeared in the Masters once. His victory at the Sony Open last year earned him an invitation to Augusta National where he missed the cut thanks to a second-round 81.
18. Jason Dufner
Best of 2014: Jason Dufner has made the cut in all seven of his starts on tour this season. In addition, he has finished inside the top 10 three times and inside the top 25 four times.
Why He's Here: Placing Dufner ahead of winners such as Henley and Kirk may surprise some. However, Dufner's percentage of strong finishes earns him a spot inside the top 20.
Masters History: Duf Daddy has played in the Masters three times. 2013 marked his best finish: a tie for 20th.
17. Graham DeLaet
Best of 2014: Our favorite (only?) bearded Canadian golfer on the PGA Tour, Graham DeLaet has been consistently very good this season. In 10 starts, he has made nine cuts, and he tied for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Why He's Here: In a word: consistency. DeLaet is 17th in the FedExCup rankings and rattled off a string of five straight top-10 finishes. He has also finished second twice.
Masters History: This is DeLaet's first Masters appearance.
16. Hunter Mahan
Best of 2014: Hunter Mahan has finished inside the top 10 half of the times he has teed it up thus far this season. The Ping staffer's best finish of 2013-2014? Sixth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Why He's Here: Mahan has only put his Titleist in play in significant tournaments thus far this year. With this in mind, a 50 percent rate of top 10s goes a long way, as does two T9 finishes in WGC events.
Masters History: Mahan has been both very good and very bad at Augusta. He has recorded two top 10s, as well as three missed cuts, in addition to T12 and T28 finishes.
15. Adam Scott
Best of 2014: Adam Scott has not played a ton of golf on the PGA Tour thus far this year. Still, he has been very good when he's inside the ropes, making the cut in all five of his starts and notching three top-10 finishes. He finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a final-round 76 cost him what seemed to be a sure victory.
Why He's Here: The near-miss at the Arnold Palmer, plus top-25 finishes in his other starts earns Scott a position in this ranking ahead of those who have played more golf this season.
Masters History: Well, he won the thing last year.
14. Rory McIlroy
Best of 2014: Like Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy has only played in five events this season. Like Scott, too, he has made the cut and finished inside the top 25 in all of those starts. McIlroy lost the Honda Classic in a playoff.
Why He's Here: A playoff loss and three top 10s in five starts prove that McIlroy is playing very solid golf to start the season. His final-round 65 at the Shell Houston Open (and T7 finish) indicate that the Ulsterman is heading in the right direction and could be moving up this list shortly.
Masters History: Young Rory has competed in five Masters. His best finish came in 2011 when he tied for 15th.
13. Graeme McDowell
Best of 2014: Graeme McDowell is finishing inside of the top 10 an incredible 84 percent of the time he enters a PGA Tour event. G-Mac finished third at the WGC-HSBC Champions to start his season and tied for fifth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship after an improbable run of staving off elimination.
Why He's Here: The percentage of the Ulsterman's top-10 finishes is greater than anyone else's on Tour. He finished tied for 10th his last time out at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. There are those who are playing more rounds of better golf than McDowell, and there are those who have won more. However, no golfer is finishing inside the top 10 with greater frequency.
Masters History: Three missed cuts, two top-15 finishes—the Masters have been a mixed bag for G-Mac.
12. Jason Day
Best of 2014: Jason Day won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. In addition, he won the Handa World Cup of Golf (a non-PGA Tour event) and tied for second at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Why He's Here: Although he has been hampered by a thumb issue lately, Day has been phenomenal thus far in the 2013-2014 season. If he had a larger volume of work, he'd certainly be inside the top 10 in this ranking.
Masters History: The two times Jason Day has played all 72 holes of the Masters Tournament, he has finished inside the top five. The Australian finished third last year.
11. Dustin Johnson
Best of 2014: Dustin Johnson's 2013-2014 season has been impressive: six of seven cuts made, a win and five top 10s, including two second-place finishes. He sits in the third spot of the FedExCup rankings.
Why He's Here: It may be more accurate to say Johnson's season “was” impressive until he fired an opening-round 80 at the Shell Houston Open and then bagged it without explanation. Every golfer is entitled to a bad round, but an apparent withdraw simply because you're not playing well is inexcusable and drops DJ in this ranking.
Masters History: Johnson has made the cut in all four of his starts at Augusta. His best finish is a tie for 13th last year.
10. Ryan Moore
Best of 2014: Winner of the CIMB Classic, Ryan Moore has made nine of 10 cuts this season and finished inside the top 10 four times. He's 10th in the season-long competition for the FedExCup.
Why He's Here: Beyond the fact that it seems appropriate given his FedExCup rank, Moore earns the 10th spot in this ranking thanks to top-25 finishes in seven of his 10 starts and the CIMB triumph.
Masters History: Moore was the low amateur in 2005 at Augusta when he finished tied for 13th. He has yet to improve upon that finish.
9. Sergio Garcia
Best of 2014: Sergio Garcia has improved his putting and thus improved his play over the past few seasons. The Spaniard has made six of six cuts and recorded four top-10 finishes. He has finished inside the top 25 every time out, as well.
Why He’s Here: Garcia is hot right now. Although his resume is limited in 2013-2014, his last five finishes read as follows: 4, T9, T8, T16, 3.
Masters History: Sergio and the Masters haven't been great friends. His best finish at Augusta is a tie for fourth in 2004.
8. Matt Kuchar
Best of 2014: Matt Kuchar has made eight of nine cuts this year. He finished second at the Shell Houston Open after losing to Matt Jones in improbable fashion. Kuchar has finished inside the top 10 in nearly 70 percent of his starts on tour this season.
Why He's Here: Bridesmaid of last week's tournament, Kuch let the Shell Houston Open slip through his fingers.
Masters History: Kuchar has finished inside the top 10 in his last two starts at Augusta National. His T3 finish in 2012 is his best showing at Bobby Jones' place.
7. Matt Every
Best of 2014: Every surprised everyone with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has been very good outside of that win, racking up five top-10 finishes and missing just one cut.
Why He's Here: Every earns a spot inside the top 10 with a win against one of the deepest fields thus far this season and seven top-25 finishes in 11 starts. He may not be a household name, but he's playing some of the best golf on tour right now.
Masters History: This is Every's first Masters appearance.
6. Zach Johnson
Best of 2014: Zach Johnson was victorious in Hawaii at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. In his 10 starts, he has finished inside the top 10 four times. The Iowa native also finished tied for third at the Humana Challenge.
Why He's Here: A winner already this season, Johnson has been one of the best on the fairways of the PGA Tour during the 2013-2014 season. His T6 finish at the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago bumps him ahead of Matt Every.
Masters History: Johnson won the green jacket in in 2007. Since then, he has made the cut at the tournament four of six times but hasn't threatened.
5. Webb Simpson
Best of 2014: Making nine of 10 cuts this season, Webb Simpson has been steady. He also recorded a victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and tied for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, two of his five top-10 finishes.
Why He's Here: The former U.S. Open champion moves into the fifth position in this ranking with a win and five top-10s
Masters History: Simpson hasn't impressed in his two starts at Augusta thus far, missing the cut once and finishing tied for 44th.
4. Harris English
Best of 2014: Harris English won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Further, he's impressively made the cut in all 13 of his starts, finishing inside the top 10 six times. He's currently fourth in the FedExCup rankings.
Why He’s Here: Win? Check. One hundred percent in cuts made? Check. Impressive list of top 10s? Check. Marks in all those boxes guarantee a golfer prominent placement here.
Masters History: This is English's first Masters appearance.
3. Bubba Watson
Best of 2014: Bagdad, Fla., native Bubba Watson has made seven of eight cuts this season, in addition to winning the difficult Northern Trust Open. He has also finished second twice and inside the top 10 a total of five times.
Why He's Here: Even though an opening-round 83 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and subsequent withdrawal have landed Watson in hot water, his 2013-2014 season has been first-rate so far. He's finishing inside the top 25 nearly 90 percent of the time he tees it up.
Masters History: Watson famously won the 2012 Masters in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen. He followed that up with an uninspired tie for 50th last year.
2. Patrick Reed
Best of 2014: Wins at the Humana Challenge and the WGC-Cadillac Championship have been the high water marks of Patrick Reed’s current campaign. Outside of the victories, he has made nine of 11 cuts and is second in the FedExCup rankings.
Why He’s Here: No player besides Reed and the No. 1 entry on this list has more than one victory to his name this season. Thus, Reed slides into the second spot.
Masters History: This is Reed's first Masters appearance.
1. Jimmy Walker
Best of 2014: Jimmy Walker has three wins: Frys.com Open, Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. That's not a bad rate of victory in 13 starts. Walker has also made 12 of 13 cuts and has finished inside the top 25 an impressive 11 times this season.
Why He's Here: See above.
Masters History: This is Walker's first Masters appearance.
+ All stats obtained via PGATour.com