With Dustin Johnson’s hat-trick of wins, Rory McIlroy’s impressive injury comeback and the fine-form of many others heading to Augusta National next week, how much does Masters form actually count for?

This is how the winners of recent years have faired in the build-up to the year’s first major:

2016: Danny Willett (-5)
World ranking at entry: 12
Finishes before entry: T28/T22/T3/T45/1/T54/T4/T4/T28/T3

Willett had three significant career wins heading into the 2016 Masters, but had never come particularly close to contending in a major. So he had no top-of-major-leaderboard experience to fall back on for his victory.

2015: Jordan Spieth (-18)
World ranking at entry: 4
Finishes before entry: T2/2/1/T17/T4/T7/MC/T7/1/1/T3

A tied-second finish in 2014 gave Spieth all the knowledge he needed to compete around Augusta on a Sunday; eventually guiding him to a four-shot victory. Nonetheless, his form in the run-up here was exceptional.

2014: Bubba Watson (-8)
World ranking at entry: 12
Finishes before entry: WD/T2/T9/1/T2/T23/T30/T3/T8/T31

Watson had even greater Masters experience than Spieth for his 2014 win; a play-off win over Louis Oosthuizen in 2012.

2013: Adam Scott (-9)
World ranking at entry: 7
Finishes before entry: T30/T3/T33/T10/T14/1/T5/8/19/T6/T7

To this day this is Scott’s only ever major title, but he had a ranking points win every year dating back to 2001 to fall back on.

2012: Bubba Watson (-10 – play-off)
World ranking at entry: 18
Finishes before entry: T4/2/T17/T13/T5/T13/T18/T6/T12/T12

The first of Watson’s two Masters titles and the first of his two major titles. This was the most recent time a player has won the Masters without a win in their 10 last starts.

2011: Charl Schwartzel (-14)
World ranking at entry: 29
Finishes before entry: T30/T47/T24/T14/T17/T8/1/T4/4/T2

Overcoming a four-shot deficit into the final round, Schwartzel became the third South African winner of the Masters.

2010: Phil Mickelson (-16)
World ranking at entry: 3
Finishes before entry: T35/T30/T14/T24/T8/T45/19/1/T14/1

Mickelson’s third and most recent green jacket. By this point, seeing it out at Augusta was becoming almost second nature to Lefty.

2009: Angel Cabrera (-12 – play-off)
World ranking at entry: 69
Finishes before entry: MC/MC/T32/T33/T13/MC/T9/DQ/T15/T23

Cabrera had won a US Open title in 2007 and went on to lose to Scott in the 2013 Masters play-off, but this win should almost be seen as a fluke. With two missed cuts leading up to the event, and three of four cuts missed following, Cabrera showed no signs of game either side of winning his green jacket.

2008: Trevor Immelman (-8)
World ranking at entry: 29
Finishes before entry: MC/T40/T48/T65/MC/T17/MC/MC/WD/1

A missed cut at the Shell Houston Open the week prior to his sole major victory for Immelman could be a reassurance for Spieth this time around. Although, his form beforehand wasn’t much prettier, either.

2007: Zach Johnson (+1)
World ranking at entry: 56
Finishes before entry: T9/T42/T14/T33/WD/T45/16/T55/T45/T60

Johnson joins Cabrera and Watson in being one of few players to win the Masters without a win in 10 starts leading up to Augusta. No wins and only one top 10 in the lead-up – directly beforehand – shows that, without any real form, Johnson peaked at the exact right time.

2006-2000: Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Vijay Singh

From 2006 backwards Woods and Mickelson shared two green jackets apiece, showing the fine form consistent throughout their careers in the lead-up, with Weir winning within 10 starts prior and Singh only managing two top 10s in the 10 starts beforehand.

To answer the question, pre-Masters form means quite a lot really. Watson (2012), Cabrera, Johnson and Singh are the only players since 2000 to have won the Masters without a win in their 10 previous starts.

With that said, form does not have to be immaculate to claim a green jacket. Willett had five top 10s in the lead up but entered directly on the back of a tied 28th and tied 22nd finish. Schwartzel had a tied 30th, tied 47th and tied 24th leading up. In 2008, Immelmann missed two cuts and fell outside the top 30 in the five prior starts. Whilst Cabrera is the perfect example that you can look as far from your game as possible and still walk away with a green jacket.

More recently, though, Spieth took a tied-second, second and first to Augusta and Watson, in 2014, a tied second, tied 9th and first before a withdrawal before claiming their wins.

Fundamentally, you’re probably better off backing someone with a win this season to take home the 2017 Masters title, but don’t be insistent on pristine form.

Advertisements