It’s never easy to predict winners in golf, and it’s infinitely harder at the Masters. Forget about the points system the organized tour has had in place since 1986; only four times in the history of the sport’s preeminent tournament has the designated World Number One managed to claim the coveted Green Jacket. Not coincidentally, Tiger Woods was the last to do so; in 2002, he succeeded in defending his title as the prohibitive favorite. And not coincidentally, his odds are pegged at 12/1, the same as that of current rankings pacesetter Justin Rose.
To be sure, form has as much to do with oddsmakers’ assessments as function. Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are seen to be in the best position to excel given their recent performances, followed by Rose. That said, Woods’s addition to the mix seems to be more a reflection of both sentiment and experience; his sterling resume backstopped by undeniable knowledge of Augusta National’s challenging fairways and greens make him a certified threat. The same with two-time winner Jordan Spieth, whose inconsistency of late is seen to be offset by his familiarity with the layout.
It bears, noting, though, that the Masters is nothing if not unpredictable. It’s why final-nine charges have been a staple, and why proceedings have invariably made for compelling, edge-of-seat fare. Patrick Reed, last year’s winner, was not a pre-event name being bandied to contend. Neither was he a popular choice, given his penchant for courting controversy with seemingly unsportsmanlike actions. And yet he delivered in the clutch, no doubt drawing on his me-against-everybody-else mindset to silence naysayers.
Which, in the end, proves one thing: When it comes to guessing the outcome, it’s always safest to choose the field. And for all the wattage of those angling for a podium finish, they’re winding up second, anyway. Augusta National’s the star. Always has been, and always will be.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Basic Energy Corp.