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Bubba Watson will try to become the rare repeat Masters winner.With three wins this year, Tiger Woods has regained the No. 1 ranking in the world and dominated the headlines entering the Masters. But 18 majors have been played since Woods last won one, so let’s examine the “Front Nine” and key storylines surrounding other players with a chance to put on the Green Jacket Sunday afternoon.
Don’t Expect Bubba Watson to Repeat
In fact, each of the last six Masters champions has finished outside the Top 15 each the following year. Considering Watson has just three Top 10s in 20 majors, don’t be surprised to see this trend continue.
The fall – and rise? – of McIlroy
Following a highly publicized equipment switch this season, McIlroy’s game was a work in progress to being the season.
Winners by Country
Last 10 Majors
In 2012, McIlroy had five Top-3 finishes and a scoring average of 68.3 entering the Masters. Over his first five events, he did not post a Top-3 finish and his scoring average was nearly three strokes worse than 2012. That was until a runner-up finish in the Valero Texas Open where McIlroy led the field in greens-in-regulation and shot a final round 66.
While McIlroy's game appears to be rounding into form, McIlroy too has had his problems on the weekend at Augusta, putting up Saturday-Sunday scores of 150 and 153 the last two years.
Phil Mickelson looks to equal Arnie and Tiger
Phil Mickelson has his own chase with history going. Mickelson is looking for his fourth Masters title, which is the same number Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have.
Most Consecutive Cuts Made
Active Streaks at Masters
Since 2001, Mickelson has three wins and nine Top-5 finishes at Augusta, which is the same number of wins and one more Top-5 finish than Woods has in that span.
Mickelson’s biggest problem lately? Getting off to a good start.
In his last 11 majors, Mickelson has been over par after the first round in nine of them. His average position on the leaderboard after Round One—62nd.
The two are linked by near misses both at Augusta and last year at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
Snedeker led after 36 holes, while Scott led by four on the back nine before his historic collapse. But their time is coming.
Scott made the cut in all four majors last year and had the best cumulative score of those players which did. He’s been in the Top 15 in six of the last eight majors and leads the TOUR in par 5 birdie-or-better percentage, an all important stat at Augusta.
If Snedeker is healthy, he also could capture his first major. In his last 16 events, Snedeker has a better scoring average and the same number of Top-5 finishes than Tiger Woods does in that stretch.
If you have won, forget about winning. And if you win, forget about winning
Each of the last six Masters winners did not have a win prior to the Masters the year they won the event. And for the last five Masters champions, it has been a struggle since.
The last five Masters champions have combined for three wins (all by Phil Mickelson) in 327 events since their Masters win.
The last Masters winner not named Mickelson to have a win since capturing the Green Jacket? 2007 winner Zach Johnson.
Luke Donald - Masters Career
Donald has been a very poor starter in majors, as just five of his last 44 rounds on Thursday and Friday have been under par (31 have been over par). As a result, not surprisingly, Donald has missed the cut or finished outside the Top 20 in 26 of his 38 majors.
Westwood on the other hand has 7 Top 3 finishes in majors since 2008, which is the most by any player in history without a major title. Westwood led the Masters after the first round last year, but given he is 115th in strokes gained putting this year, his putter again could be his undoing.
Greens, Greens and more Greens
If there is one stat which has been the biggest harbinger of Masters success lately, it has been greens in regulation.
Ten of the last 13 Masters champions have been in the Top 4 in GIR for the tournament. And the three which were not – Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir – were each in the Top 12 in putting.
Some notable names atop the GIR ranking this year include 2012 winner Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.
Someone new again?
The last 17 majors have been won by 16 different players – only Rory McIlroy has two in that span. And nine of the last eleven major winners were first-time major winners.
Also interesting, since 2009, three players ranked inside the Top 10 have won a major and three players outside the Top 100 have won a major.
Runner-up Need Not Apply
Like Louis Oosthuizen’s chances after losing in a playoff last year?
After reading this, your hopes may be tempered some.
Just once in the last 40 years has someone won the Masters the year after finishing second. That was Ben Crenshaw in 1984. Before that? Jack Nicklaus in 1972.
So while Oosthuizen’s game stamps him as a contender. History says otherwise.