The Masters Is the Easiest Major Championship to Win

Fred AltvaterContributor IIApril 10, 2014

Rory McIlroy is looking for a third major victory at the 2014 Masters.
Rory McIlroy is looking for a third major victory at the 2014 Masters.Matt Slocum

You have heard the prognosticators drone on and on about the favorites to win the 2014 Masters. Perhaps 20-25 men have a realistic chance to win the tournament this week at Augusta National.

The other side of the equation is there are several in the field this week that do not.

History has shown that first-time participants in the Masters do not normally win. Harris English, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker all have PGA Tour wins, but are playing in their first Masters.

English from the University of Georgia and Reed from Augusta State are both familiar with Augusta National having played it on numerous occasions while in college. Stadler’s father was the Masters Champion in 1982, but Kevin was only two years old at the time.

A Masters record 18 professionals plus six amateurs will be playing for the first time this week. If history can be used to predict future results, these 24 names can be deducted from the field of 97 of possible winners this week.

Of the remaining 73 professional golfers, 25-28 are battling injury or their game is just not in the proper place right now to be a factor in the tournament. That leaves only approximately 45 golfers that have any chance to win this week.

If rookies have a disadvantage, veterans should have an advantage over the bulk of the field. Past champions have already experienced the intense pressure of the final round and may have a slight advantage.

There are 19 past champions in the field of the 2014 Masters. Ten of whom are over the age of 50, Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson, Larry Mize, Sandy Lyle, Mark O’Meara, Ian Woosnam, Vijay Singh and Craig Stadler. Of this group possibly Fred Couples or Bernhard Langer have even a remote chance of finding the leaderboard on Sunday.

Miguel Angel Jimenez is another player over the age of 50, who qualified for the tournament, but will find it difficult to score on Augusta National. In 14 previous Masters’ appearances he only has three top-10 finishes and none in the past five years.

Major championships are simply not won by men over the age of 50.

Subtract another nine players from the 45 veterans and 36 possible winners remain.

Another fact is that very few players win the Masters after the age of 40. Jack Nicklaus and a couple others are the exception to this rule, but probably only 44-year-old Phil Mickelson and 2009 Masters Champion, Angel Cabrera, who is also 44, are contenders.

Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Mike Weir, Steve Stricker and Jose Maria Olazabal are all over the age of 40.

Although Clarke and Els won Open Championships while in their 40’s, one would not expect that to happen at Augusta this week.

Westwood and Stricker both have a hole in their impressive resumes and would love to win at least one major championship, before they put away their clubs, but it probably won't happen this week.

Els has won two U.S. Opens and two Open Championships, but is still looking for the elusive green jacket.

Fitness also plays a role at Augusta National. It is extremely hilly and a very tough walk. For older players just traversing the grounds for four days takes a toll on feet, ankles, legs and backs.

Of this group of nine 40-somethings, possibly two have a real shot of winning. Subtract another seven from 36 and you are left with 29 golfers that have a reasonable chance of donning the green jacket on Sunday evening.

Justin Rose, Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan have been dealing with nagging injuries throughout the early part of 2014. The question becomes are they healthy enough to compete this week?

Long hitters like Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson may have an advantage this year because of the trees that were lost to the ice storms that hit the south late in the winter.

Scott is the defending champion, but few have been able to win consecutive green jackets. McIlroy struggled last year, but is playing much better thus far in 2014. Johnson has been very close on three other occasions in major championships and Watson won here in 2012.

Driving lanes and landing areas have been essentially widened which will allow these bombers to exploit their huge advantage off the tee box.

If the course returns to the firm, fast conditions that are expected, former winners, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen also may have an advantage due to their knowledge and experience.

A firm golf course could help the short-game guru, Luke Donald, get his first major win.

The other major championships, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship all have 144-man fields and require a stringent qualification process to gain entry. The players performing the best at the moment are in the field and there are a larger number of players to beat.

Once you subtract all of the non-contenders from the field in the 2014 Masters only a handful of participants actually have a realistic chance to win.

That is the reason we see the big names at the top of the leaderboard every year on Sunday afternoon as the leaders make the turn and head to the back nine.

Augusta National offers a perfect setting for a major championship. Its history and traditions are unquestioned, but it is the easiest major championship to win.