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The Masters, more than any of the four major championships, can be calculated through trends. Some of that is because Augusta National is the only major that's held at the same course every year, which makes its past history more valuable than the other majors. According to the statisticians who run Data Golf, a player's past results there have a disproportionate bearing on his current performance compared to regular PGA Tour events.

We have not seen a first-time player at Augusta National win the Masters since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and given the importance of both experience at Augusta and the fact that players who are playing their second, third, fourth (and so on) Masters are probably just better at golf than those playing their first, we are unlikely to in 2024.

That's far from the only trend, though, and not the most important one as it relates to trying to figure out a champion.

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One trend that has been consistent is the eventual champion of a given Masters being in the top 10 after the first day of play. That has happened now each of the last 18 years except for Tiger Woods in 2019 (Woods was T11 that year) and 2005 (well outside the top 10). In other words, nobody not named Tiger has won the Masters from outside the top 10 after Round 1 since 2004. 

Other emerging trends happen because there is a more natural lead-in to this major than some of the others. Golfers play constantly, so there is a lot of data to parse through. That leads us to another trend that recently caught my eye.

Of the last 12 Masters champions, 10 of them gained 1.7 strokes or better from tee to green in the three months leading into the event. The only ones who did not: Patrick Reed in 2018 and Hideki Matsuyama in 2021.

Here's a look at the SG tee to green from Jan. 1 leading into Masters week for the last 12 winners.

YearWinnerSG T2G


Jon Rahm



Scottie Scheffler



Hideki Matsuyama



Dustin Johnson



Tiger Woods



Patrick Reed



Sergio Garcia



Danny Willett



Jordan Spieth



Bubba Watson



Adam Scott



Bubba Watson


~ Only two measured events

This make sense. The players who were striking the ball best in the weeks leading into the first massive event of the year continued to strike the ball well at that event. We know the Masters is won (as all majors are won) with ball-striking. Traditionally, iron play has been the most important factor, and that is certainly accounted for in these tee to green numbers.

It's fun to be able to narrow down the list of players who could win this year's Masters. It's not definitive, but like we said earlier, the Masters seems to be more trend-related than the other major championships. This year, that list of players gaining 1.7 SG tee to green or better is only six players long.

Here's a look at all the golfers who are at 1.7 SG tee to green or better since Jan. 1 entering the 88th Masters.

GolferTournamentsSG tee to green

Scottie Scheffler



Xander Schauffele



Hideki Matsuyama



Si Woo Kim



Rory McIlroy



Justin Thomas



This data does not include LIV Golf players. Although they have released some shot-level data, Data Golf does not include it yet, and it seems important to keep this as clean and straightforward as possible. We can presume that Rahm and Joaquin Niemann would be included in this list, though, based on how well they have been hitting the ball.

The top is not surprising. Scheffler, Schauffele and Matsuyama have all been excellent so far this year, though only Scheffler and Matsuyama have won. The next three might be surprising. Kim is flying under the radar. The narrative around McIlroy is that he's a little lost (he's not), and Thomas has been bad of late. But the numbers are the numbers, and all six make the cut here. 

When you pair my stat above with this one about who has been gaining the most strokes in the most recent four tournaments, the list gets even shorter. Of course, all the data more or less points to the same thing: this tournament is Scheffler's to lose. 

If he does lose it, though, remember the names on this list. One of them has a tremendous chance to clean up behind him and win a first (or second) green jacket.