Commentary

Eliminate all but Keegan Bradley

Updated: April 10, 2013, 9:08 PM ET
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com

Sure there's been plenty of golf played so far, but the 2013 major season officially tees off Thursday in Augusta, Ga.

But earlier in the week starts the official Masters prediction season. Pundits away!

The next few days, you'll see, read and hear many picks. Some will look at statistics and pore over numbers. Others will play a hunch or go with their gut. Most will simply pick Tiger Woods.

I like to approach things a little differently, using the Eliminator system. Instead of telling you why I think one golfer will win, I tell you why all but one cannot win, using a mix of statistics, trends and historical streaks.

To start, look no further than last year's Masters. Each of the past 15, and 32 of the past 33, Masters winners had made the cut at the previous year's event. The only one who didn't in that time was Tiger Woods, who was playing his first major as a professional.

That gets rid of 49 golfers right off the bat because I don't see them slipping on a green jacket Sunday afternoon.

Another ongoing streak at the Masters concerns European players. After winning eight of 12 Masters from 1988 to 1999, Europeans haven't won in the past 13 years. That will trim another 17 off the list of potential winners, among them Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald.

The Masters has become a young man's game, as the past 14 winners have all been under 40. You'll have to go back to Mark O'Meara in 1998 to find the last Masters winner that old. So let's cross off everyone who has celebrated a 40th birthday, and yes, that includes Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker.

Make sure to look back to 2012 when you pick for 2013. Each of the past three Masters winners had made the cut in every major he had played the previous year (the only exception being Mickelson, who skipped the 2009 British Open).

We entered Step 4 with 19 golfers left, but that fact trims it down to just five.

Seventeen of the past 21 Masters winners had had a top-5 finish that season on the PGA Tour. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson haven't notched a top-5 this year, so they'll depart and leave us with three.

The résumé of recent major winners have been somewhat sparse. In fact, 10 of the past 11 major winners entered the event with three or fewer career PGA Tour wins. Woods and Adam Scott have simply won too much to slip on the green jacket Sunday.

And that leaves us with just one.

On Sunday, look for Keegan Bradley to make history with his second major victory. Remember, the numbers don't lie.

Masters Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1. The past 15 Masters winners had made the cut at the previous year's Masters.
(49 eliminated, 44 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
K.J. Choi
Tim Clark
George Coetzee
Nicolas Colsaerts
Ben Crenshaw
Ben Curtis
Jason Day
Jamie Donaldson
Alan Dunbar
Ernie Els
Steven Fox
Hiroyuki Fujita
Robert Garrigus
Brian Gay
Lucas Glover
Branden Grace
Tianlang Guan
Russell Henley
John Huh
Ryo Ishikawa
Dustin Johnson
Bernhard Langer
Marc Leishman
Sandy Lyle
David Lynn
Matteo Manassero
John Merrick
Larry Mize
Ryan Moore
Mark O'Meara
Jose Maria Olazabal
Thorbjorn Olesen
John Peterson
Carl Pettersson
Scott Piercy
D.A. Points
Ted Potter Jr.
John Senden
Nathan Smith
Craig Stadler
Richard Sterne
Kevin Streelman
Michael Thompson
T.J. Vogel
Tom Watson
Michael Weaver
Mike Weir
Thaworn Wiratchant
Ian Woosnam

2.) No European has won the Masters since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
(17 eliminated, 27 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
Thomas Bjorn
Luke Donald
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Sergio Garcia
Peter Hanson
Padraig Harrington
Freddie Jacobson
Martin Kaymer
Martin Laird
Paul Lawrie
Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy
Francesco Molinari
Ian Poulter
Justin Rose
Henrik Stenson
Lee Westwood

3.) There hasn't been a Masters winner over 40 since Mark O'Meara in 1998.
(8 eliminated, 19 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
Angel Cabrera
Fred Couples
Jim Furyk
Phil Mickelson
Vijay Singh
Steve Stricker
David Toms
Y.E. Yang

4.) The past three Masters winners had made the cut in every major they had played the previous year.
(14 eliminated, 5 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
Stewart Cink
Rickie Fowler
Bill Haas
Trevor Immelman
Matt Kuchar
Hunter Mahan
Kevin Na
Louis Oosthuizen
Charl Schwartzel
Webb Simpson
Brandt Snedeker
Bo Van Pelt
Nick Watney
Bubba Watson

5.) Seventeen of the past 21 Masters winners had had a top-5 finish on the PGA Tour that season.
(2 eliminated, 3 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
Jason Dufner
Zach Johnson

6.) Ten of the past 11 major winners entered the event with three or fewer career PGA Tour wins.
(2 eliminated, 1 remaining)

Golfers eliminated:
Adam Scott
Tiger Woods

Your winner: Keegan Bradley

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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