Yes, with the new PGA Tour schedule, the season technically started in October 2013. But let's be honest -- the PGA Tour season really starts Thursday in Augusta, Ga., with the Masters Tournament.
It's that time of year, when the azaleas are in bloom and the grass begins to green (or become visible, if you're here in Connecticut). The Masters, along with MLB's Opening Day and vicious goose attacks here at the Worldwide Leader, are everlasting symbols of spring.
That also means the pundits and gurus are in full force with picks and predictions aplenty. Some people will browse through statistics before making an educated guess. Others will go with their gut and take a hunch. Many will just pick Tiger Woods, regardless of the fact that he's not in this year's field.
I've come to do things a little differently. Instead of picking a sole winner, I like to take the alternate approach, using a mix of historical trends and statistics to tell you why all but one golfer in the field cannot slip on the green jacket come Sunday evening. I call this method "The Eliminator."
Let's start by looking back to last year's Masters results. That's because each of the past 16 Masters winners played in and made the cut in the previous year's tournament. The last player to win after missing the previous year's cut? That would be Tiger Woods in 1997. Let's eliminate 50 players right off the bat, including notables such as Jordan Spieth, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.
Next, let's go international. Since the left-most digit of the year turned to a 2, there hasn't been a European to win at Augusta, a streak that started after Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal won in 1999. Another 15 Europeans are crossed off my list, and, yes, that includes Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
Next, we play the age game. No 40-year-old has won the Masters since Mark O'Meara in 1998. And just so you don't think I'm picking on the old guys, no player under 25 has won the Masters since Woods in 1997. Between those two steps, another 11 players are out of consideration, much to the dismay of Phil Mickelson fans.
Let's really pare this list down by looking at performance in all majors last year, not just the Masters. Each of the past three Masters champions made the cut in each of the previous season's four majors. We entered this step with 20 left and leave with 14 fewer. My apologies to Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler, but this isn't your year.
We'll finish this off with one more step. Each of the past five major winners finished eighth or better in the previous World Golf Championship event. It's close but no cigar for Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker.
This year, I'm going with a player who put up a top-15 finish in last year's Masters and is overdue for a major championship. Start fitting Dustin Johnson for a green jacket, because he's The Eliminator's pick.
Remember, the numbers don't lie.
Masters Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1. The past 16 Masters winners made the cut at the previous year's Masters.
(51 eliminated, 45 remaining)
Brendon de Jonge
Miguel Angel Jimenez
2. No European has won the Masters since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
(15 eliminated, 30 remaining)
Jose Maria Olazabal
3. No golfer 40 or older has won the Masters since Mark O'Meara in 1998.
(10 eliminated, 20 remaining)
4. No golfer under 25 years old has won the Masters since Tiger Woods in 1997.
(1 eliminated, 20 remaining)
5. Each of the past three Masters winners made the cut in all four of the previous year's majors.
(14 eliminated, 6 remaining)
Zach Johnson Marc Leishman
6. Each of the past five major winners finished eighth or better in the last World Golf Championship event.
(5 eliminated, 1 remaining)
Your winner: Dustin Johnson