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Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Eliminating all but Bill Haas

By Matt Willis
ESPN Stats & Info

The 2012 PGA Tour season is well under way, but the major season gets started Thursday with the Masters. It's a chance for fame, fortune, prestige and one of those nifty green jackets.

I, like so many other people, am here to give you my pick to win the Masters. Or, more accurately, my system's pick to win. Let me explain.

Most people will just pick a winner. Some will use some numbers and statistics, others will follow a hunch, many will just pick Tiger Woods.

Bill Haas
Bill Haas tees it up in his third Masters starting Thursday and according to the Eliminator system, might be adding to his wardrobe on Sunday night.

But instead of picking a winner, I use a system to pick losers, finding reasons why everyone in the field just cannot win, using a mix of history, statistics and trends. Well, everyone except one. By process of elimination, that golfer will be the Masters champion. I call it The Eliminator.

Let's start by saying that some measure of success last year is a necessity to win at Augusta National. In fact, each of the past 13 Masters champions made the cut in the previous year's Masters. Let's immediately take out 56 of the 96-man field, including golfers such as Martin Kaymer, Hunter Mahan and Johnson Wagner.

Europeans might be dominating the golf world right now, but they haven't taken over Augusta yet. No European has won the Masters since 1999, a stretch of a dozen tournaments. That takes out 13 more, including Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Current season success also plays a role. Each of the past 11 major winners had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour that same year. The remaining 27 get trimmed to 16 with the elimination of golfers such as Jason Day, Adam Scott and Y.E. Yang.

Let's cross another nine off the list. Seven of the past eight Masters winners had a top-25 finish at the last major played, the previous year's PGA Championship. Some guy named Tiger Woods is among those taken out.

Golf, especially the majors, is becoming a young man's game. Six of the past seven majors played were won by players under the age of 30. Five more are eliminated: Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Matt Kuchar and David Toms, leaving us with two.

Variety has been the name of the game at majors lately. The past 13 majors have been won by 13 different golfers, and each of the past seven victors won his first career major. That's enough evidence for me to take out last year's Masters winner, Charl Schwartzel, which leaves us with one.

He might shock the world this Sunday, but not if you read this column first. The Eliminator likes Bill Haas to win his first major at Augusta. Better start measuring him for that jacket.

The Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1. Each of the past 13 Masters winners made the cut at the previous year's Masters. 56 eliminated, 41 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Sang-moon Bae
Thomas Bjorn
Keegan Bradley
Jonathan Byrd
Patrick Cantlay
Kevin Chappell
Stewart Cink
Tim Clark
Darren Clarke
Ben Crane
Ben Crenshaw
Jason Dufner
Simon Dyson
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Harrison Frazar
Robert Garrigus
Lucas Glover
Anders Hansen
Peter Hanson
Padraig Harrington
Charles Howell III
Fredrik Jacobson
Zach Johnson
Martin Kaymer
Kelly Kraft
Bernhard Langer
Paul Lawrie
Randal Lewis
Sandy Lyle
Bryden Macpherson
Hunter Mahan
Graeme McDowell
Corbin Mills
Larry Mize
Francesco Molinari
Kevin Na
Sean O'Hair
Mark O'Meara
Jose Maria Olazabal
Louis Oosthuizen
Chez Reavie
Rory Sabbatini
John Senden
Webb Simpson
Vijay Singh
Craig Stadler
Scott Stallings
Kyle Stanley
Brendan Steele
Henrik Stenson
Scott Verplank
Johnson Wagner
Tom Watson
Mike Weir
Mark Wilson
Ian Woosnam

2. No European has won the Masters since 1999. 13 eliminated, 28 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Paul Casey
Luke Donald
Ross Fisher
Sergio Garcia
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Robert Karlsson
Martin Laird
Rory McIlroy
Edoardo Molinari
Ian Poulter
Alvaro Quiros
Justin Rose
Lee Westwood

3. The past 11 major winners had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour that year. 11 eliminated, 17 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Angel Cabrera
Fred Couples
Jason Day
Trevor Immelman
K.T. Kim
Hideki Matsuyama
Geoff Ogilvy
Ryan Palmer
Adam Scott
Gary Woodland
Y.E. Yang

4. Seven of the past eight Masters winners finished in the top 25 in the previous year's PGA Championship. 9 eliminated, 7 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Aaron Baddeley
K.J. Choi
Rickie Fowler
Jim Furyk
Ryo Ishikawa

Brandt Snedeker
Bo Van Pelt
Bubba Watson
Tiger Woods

5. Six of the past seven majors have been won by players 30 or younger. 5 eliminated, 2 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Matt Kuchar
Phil Mickelson
Steve Stricker
David Toms
Nick Watney

6. We've had 13 straight different major winners, the past seven all winning their first major. 1 eliminated, 1 remaining
Golfers Eliminated:
Charl Schwartzel

Winner: Bill Haas

Matt Willis has been a researcher with the ESPN Stats & Information Group since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows.