As Dustin Johnson walked away from the 18th green towards the clubhouse last week after his third successive tournament win, there was a sense that this is the man to beat going into the Masters at Augusta next week.
But this outlook for the world number one may not hold up to scrutiny; history as well as statistics seem to suggest an unhappier outcome at Augusta for the best player in golf. In winning the World Matchplay final, Dustin Johnson became only the second player ever after Tiger Woods to win four or more WGC titles (for the record Tiger has won an incredible eighteen).
For the casual punter there are several criteria people tend to look for to predict future Masters success. One of these trends is likely to be current form; with a win ratio of 100% in his last three events, Dustin Johnson would look a confident bet to the uninitiated. A closer look at recent history would suggest otherwise.
Over the course of the last 20 years, only four Masters winners were coming off the back of a recent win in the four weeks leading up to the competition. Three of these victories belonged to Tiger, while Spieth also achieved it in 2015 when winning at Valspar, prior to success at Augusta.
While we are sure Dustin is not one to dwell on statistics such as these, he may very well be aware of them. For example, after his victory last week he was likely informed that no winner of the WGC match play has ever gone on to win the Masters. In fact, from 2001 to 2005 Tiger won three WGC Championships and two Masters titles – none of them in the same year. Dustin has also won the Mexico Championship in recent weeks, and only Tiger has ever successfully doubled a win in Mexico with the Masters title.
Another strange reality for Dustin is his current ranking in the world standings. In achieving his current world number one ranking, Dustin will have accomplished a long-held aspiration. Perhaps unbeknownst to him however, his ascent now means that if he were to win, he would become the only player in the last twenty years (outside of Tiger) to win as a world number one.
To summarise, Dustin Johnson is deservingly the top ranked professional golfer in the world, with his ascent to that position achieved through a litany of incredible performances. However, if he is to win the coveted green jacket of Augusta he will have defied heritage and broken new ground. There is no question he can win, but is he as hot a favourite as current odds of 6/1 with BetBright would seem to suggest? Not even close.
What will the week hold for defending champion Danny Willet? Is he the challenger most likely to throw down the gauntlet and cause an upset? The answer is yes and no: seven of the last 20 winners at the Masters have won the event in the past, this would suggest that BetBright’s odds of 70/1 is an enormous price for a former winner on this course.
That is before you realise that if Willet were to achieve this feat he would be adding his name among only three others in history; Nicklaus, Faldo and Tiger. Rarefied indeed. When Willett won it last year he was the first Briton to do so in twenty years. A British golfer has only taken the Masters crown on six other occasions (three have been Nick Faldo), so despite his heroic exploits of last year (or perhaps even because of them) he looks unlikely to repeat his success at Augusta.
Of the others who make up the rest of the field, how many can realistically aspire to come away from Augusta as a champion? There are several interesting traits that winners tend to have in common.
For example, every Masters winner since 2000 has made the cut in the same competition the previous year. If this trend is to remain it would rule out big names such as Mickelson (25/1), Rahm (22/1), Fowler (25/1) and Schwartzel (80/1), all priced by BetBright.
BetBright has selected several criteria which they believe gives you a good chance of predicting the outcome:
There is one player in the field who meets these criteria. Interested in knowing who? It may also be interesting to note that he is a former world number one who has tasted success here in the past. His performances so far this year have not been up to the standard he expects of himself, but the argument could be made that this is true of most Masters champions throughout history. At 6/1, punters would be hard pressed to see any value in backing Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott at 33/1 is a different story.