The US Masters is possibly the finest tournament in golf. The history, the tradition and the setting capture the imagination every year. The Masters at Augusta, Georgia mark the start of the summer every year, and it's the one golf tournament you should watch.
Six of the last ten Masters winners have been in the top 15 in driving distance for the week. Augusta is a very long course, and those that score well make the most ground on the par fives.
It's interesting that of the bookies favourites Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are all included in the top 10 for the average driving distance on the PGA tour for the 2015 season so far.
Other contenders of note are Jimmy Walker (17th), Paul Casey (31st), Hideki Matsuyama (35th), Phil Mickelson (37th), Jordan Spieth (55th), Henrik Stenson (122th), Chris Kirk (125th), and Matt Kuchar (147th)
Not shown is Rory McIlroy, who hasn't played enough this season, but has an average drive of 305 yards that puts him at 10th. That's not as much as Adam Scott who also isn't included and has an average drive of 309 yards that would put him joint second with Bubba Watson. Outsider Fred Couples, who has an average drive of 272.5 yards.
But the longest driver that isn't included is Tiger Woods who would leapfrog Dustin Johnson with an astonishing average drive length of 323 yards, but he hasn't played anywhere near enough this season.
Greens In Regulation
Golf is a simple game. Playing the tee to green well means you score well. Stray from the fairways and greens puts you in trouble. Especially at Augusta. Greens in Regulation is when a golfer is able to put his ball on the green in time for a birdie putt. The more birdie putts they have, the better they should score right?
It find it strange that a number of the longer hitters don't have the accuracy necessary to score highly in GIR. So far, Jason Day is the only player in the field that scores highly in both statistics. Henrik Stenson and Hideki Matsuyama are also interestingly high in this metric.
Others: Paul Casey (24th), Jimmy Walker (27th), Jordan Spieth (103th), Matt Kuchar (108th), Dustin Johnson (112th), Chris Kirk (114th), Bubba Watson (130th), Phil Mickelson (160th).
Not Included: Rory McIlroy (67. 22%, would be 68th), Tiger Woods (50%, 207th), Adam Scott (73.93%, 1st), Fred Couples (53.57%, 207th)
As previous winners Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have shown, it's not just about how many birdies you can make, it's about the pars you can save from tricky positions. Those two are two of the most interesting players to watch and capable of producing magic when they are caught in trouble. It means that if they aren't great at getting on the green in regulation that they will be able to minimise the damage.
The Masters requires a magic touch around the greens. Bubba Watson's scrambling is very good, as is seen by his position in the top 10 scrambling stat. Jason Day is in the top 10 in another key stat, while Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed are two other interesting players that feature heavily.
Others: Matt Kuchar (14th), Hideki Matsuyama (19th), Jordan Spieth (30th), Chris Kirk (49th), Jimmy Walker (84th), Phil Mickelson (112nd), Dustin Johnson (122nd), Paul Casey (170th)
Not Included: Rory McIlroy (188th ,52.54%), Tiger Woods (207th , 27.28%), Fred Couples (104th , 58.82%), Adam Scott (192nd , 50.82%)
Putting From 5 to 10 Feet
Augusta's greens aren't like the greens at your local golf club. The speed and contours trip up the the pros on a regular basis.
Chips and long putts that would normally lands within a tap in distance are suddenly left with slightly longer putts. The players who can hole out from this tricky distance will do well around Augusta. It looks like it would favour McIlroy whose putting from that distance is deadly. No other contenders are in the top 10 at all. Bubba Watson is next best at 13th, before Jimmy Walker comes in at 33rd. There's no sign of the previous leader of the stats in Jason Day, who is down at 127th at 54.88% of putts made at that distance.
Others: Jordan Spieth (40th), Phil Mickleson (41st), Matt Kuchar (42nd), Paul Casey (70th), Chris Kirk (112nd), Hideki Matsuyama (118th), Dustin Johnson (181st)
Not included: Rory McIlroy (1st, 75%), Tiger Woods (181th, 50%), Fred Couples (14th, 63.64%), Adam Scott (49th, 59.38%)
Augusta, more than any other course, is one where previous form on the hallowed grounds matters. That's why the same players do well every year. It's why rookies have only won the tournament three times in it's history, one of which being the very first running of the championship. It's how players like Freddie Couples can have five top 20s for the last five years despite not playing on the regular tour anymore.
Of the players who ranked well in the other four stats, Jason Day has a great record with top top 3's, a top 20 in his four appearances. The other year saw Day suffer an injury which severally limited his year. McIlroy has contended twice in the past, but his final results aren't great and he's prone to big mistakes around the course.
Bubba Watson is a top time champion, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are also former champions and that experience will help their cause for more green jackets.
So who will win? Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott all score really highly, while in form Jimmy Walker also has good scores in all key attributes. Matsuyama is a good long shot for those who fancy a bigger flutter.
These stats help our tips of Walker, McIlroy, Kuchar and Couples; while also throwing up a few other players to keep an eye on.
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