The premier golf sporting spectacle begins this Thursday at Augusta National golf course.
The Masters may not be representative of our new modern age, it may not endorse product placement or pesky rebellious youngsters wearing their baseball caps backwards, but it always serves as an illustration of the direction of the game and a measuring stick for an individual player's pretensions of a legacy.
It embraced the iconic dominance of Woods and Mickelson—and Nicklaus before them. Announcing and then punctuating their place among golf leviathans.
This year, however, it will just as quickly usher in a new dawn of parity, offering up a new pretender.
Finding that man, however, is an unenviable task, such is the depth in this year's field. Sifting through the deluge of contenders in the hope of finding a prospective 2011 Masters champion is like finding a standout candidate from a list of job hopefuls, all with no previous work experience.
It seems we can add the golfing gods to sports books' arsenal of impediments aimed at thwarting the cunning gambler.
Despite this there remains one indispensable weapon at our disposal allowing us to reduce some of the considerable leverage sports books possess. In an attempt to rank contenders and nominate a winner from the 2011 Masters field, only statistics allow us to find our way past any sight-based prejudice.
This should be the basis for any objective analysis. As Sherlock Holmes once said, "It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. One begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."
So in order to reduce the starting field to a small pool of contenders we must assess the performance variables that are imperative in conquering Augusta National.
First and foremost, the last time a debutant won at Augusta was 32 years ago. Also, since 1980, all Masters winners have finished in the top 10 already that season. In fact, only Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman had not achieved a top-five finish prior to winning in ’07 and ’08, respectively.
These two statistics allow us to eliminate 44 of the 99 competitors. Another extremely important variable is GIR’s. The importance of hitting greens in regulation around Masters is emphasised by the fact that since 2000 only three winners have not ranked in the top two for GIR percentage at the tournaments conclusion.
Finally, two other indicators of success lie in mastering Augusta’s greens and par fives.
Where low scoring is rare, maximising opportunities on Augusta’s relatively short par fives can prove pivotal. The lush, slick greens have been well-documented and if a player cannot display touch putting off his car bonnet, he is unlikely to excel at the Masters this weekend.
So, march on as we attempt to breakdown the top 12 contenders to leave Augusta, Georgia, wearing a sparkly new green blazer.