Jimmy Walker’s win at Baltusrol in last year's PGA Championship stretched a run of first-time major winners to five.
This is the first time there has been a stretch of five straight first-time major winners since the 2010 U.S. Open (Graeme McDowell) through the 2012 U.S. Open (Webb Simpson), nine straight first-time winners. And the 2016 season was the first time since 2011 that all four majors went to first-timers.
Walker’s win at Baltusrol snapped a streak in which players ranked in the top 30 had won 16 straight majors. Still, 16 of the past 17 have been gone to players in the top 30, and eight of the past 10 have been won by players in the top 12. Seven of the past 10 Masters winners were first-time major winners.
So which potential winners at this year's Masters fit that first-time mold?
Rickie Fowler enjoyed a breakout season in 2014, posting top-five finishes in all four majors. Since then, he’s failed to record a top-10 finish in any of his eight major appearances and missed the cut in two of the four majors last year. Fowler's best finish in the past two years is tied for 12th in the 2015 Masters. He was a combined 32 under in 2014 and is 21 over in the past two years.
Only three players have made the cut in all eight majors since the start of 2015: Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Lee Westwood. Day and Spieth have been in the top 20 in six of the eight.
Spieth can become the second player to finish in the top two at the Masters in four straight years. Jack Nicklaus is the only player to accomplish that feat. Spieth is already one of just seven players to have three straight top-two finishes at the Masters.
The one area at Augusta National where Spieth has struggled is the par-3 12th hole, where he famously made a 7 last year in the final round. But it’s been a final-round thing in all three Masters appearances for Spieth, as he is 6 over on the 12th hole in the final round with two bogeys and a quadruple bogey. In the first three rounds, Spieth is 3 under on 12 with three birdies and six pars.
After finishing in the top 10 on the PGA Tour each of the past two years in strokes gained putting, Spieth has taken a slight step back this year, as he is 39th on Tour in that metric.
Of the five players in the Masters era with career Grand Slams, none needed more than three starts in his last remaining major to finish off the Slam after winning the first three distinct tournaments. Rory McIlroy's third attempt at the career Grand Slam will come at the Masters. So while McIlroy seemingly has many more shots to finish the career Slam off, history says if you don’t finish it off quickly, you never will.
Since entering the final round in 2011 with a 4-shot lead and shooting a fourth-round 80, McIlroy hasn’t been much of a factor on the weekend at the Masters. He hasn’t entered Sunday closer than five back in any of the five years. Last year McIlroy entered the weekend one back of leader Spieth but shot a 5-over 77 on Saturday and entered Sunday five shots back. Since winning back-to-back majors to finish 2014, only once has McIlroy been better than 11th entering the final round in any major.
Why hasn’t McIlroy contended at Augusta lately? Maybe the bad memories of holes 10-12 on Sunday in 2011 are still on his mind. Since that final round, he is 26 over par on 10-12 (63 total holes played). He has made one birdie on 10 in his 30 career rounds at Augusta National. At last year's Masters, McIlroy played those holes in 7 over (+2 on 10, +5 on 11, E on 12).
Since Tiger Woods last won the Masters in 2005, the Masters average winner profile is as follows -- 32 years old, No. 22 in the world ranking and likely not to have won a major. This week’s No. 22 is 36-year-old Brandt Snedeker, who is seeking his first major championship.
You don’t have to be leading after the first round to win the Masters, but each of the past 11 champions has been in the top 10 and within four shots of the lead after 18 holes. Last year, Danny Willett shot a 2-under 70 in the first round. Each of the previous eight Masters winners shot 69 or better in the first round.
No Masters rookie -- meaning he hasn’t even played as an amateur -- has won the tournament since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, and only three have ever won it on a first try. Spieth gave it a run in 2014, finishing tied for second.
Since missing the cut in the 2014 Masters, Dustin Johnson has been a mainstay in the top 10 at the majors. In 10 majors, Johnson has finished worse than 12th just twice, with seven top-nine finishes. In his 49th-place finish at The Open in 2015, Johnson led after 36 holes. Over those 10 majors, he has led in more rounds (seven) than he has been outside the top 15 (five).
Johnson is the first player to win three consecutive events entering a major since Hubert Green in 1976. That year, Green won at Doral, Jacksonville and Harbor Town leading up to the Masters. Green was in contention entering the weekend after going 71-66 and trailed Ray Floyd by 6 shots. Green would sputter to a 78-77 on the weekend and finished tied for 19th, and Floyd won going away by 8 shots over Ben Crenshaw.