Commentary

Eliminate all but Dustin Johnson

Updated: April 9, 2014, 8:57 AM ET
By Matt Willis | ESPN.com

Yes, with the new PGA Tour schedule, the season technically started in October 2013. But let's be honest -- the PGA Tour season really starts Thursday in Augusta, Ga., with the Masters Tournament.

It's that time of year, when the azaleas are in bloom and the grass begins to green (or become visible, if you're here in Connecticut). The Masters, along with MLB's Opening Day and vicious goose attacks here at the Worldwide Leader, are everlasting symbols of spring.

That also means the pundits and gurus are in full force with picks and predictions aplenty. Some people will browse through statistics before making an educated guess. Others will go with their gut and take a hunch. Many will just pick Tiger Woods, regardless of the fact that he's not in this year's field.


I've come to do things a little differently. Instead of picking a sole winner, I like to take the alternate approach, using a mix of historical trends and statistics to tell you why all but one golfer in the field cannot slip on the green jacket come Sunday evening. I call this method "The Eliminator."

Let's start by looking back to last year's Masters results. That's because each of the past 16 Masters winners played in and made the cut in the previous year's tournament. The last player to win after missing the previous year's cut? That would be Tiger Woods in 1997. Let's eliminate 50 players right off the bat, including notables such as Jordan Spieth, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell.

Next, let's go international. Since the left-most digit of the year turned to a 2, there hasn't been a European to win at Augusta, a streak that started after Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal won in 1999. Another 15 Europeans are crossed off my list, and, yes, that includes Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

Next, we play the age game. No 40-year-old has won the Masters since Mark O'Meara in 1998. And just so you don't think I'm picking on the old guys, no player under 25 has won the Masters since Woods in 1997. Between those two steps, another 11 players are out of consideration, much to the dismay of Phil Mickelson fans.

Let's really pare this list down by looking at performance in all majors last year, not just the Masters. Each of the past three Masters champions made the cut in each of the previous season's four majors. We entered this step with 20 left and leave with 14 fewer. My apologies to Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler, but this isn't your year.

We'll finish this off with one more step. Each of the past five major winners finished eighth or better in the previous World Golf Championship event. It's close but no cigar for Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker.

This year, I'm going with a player who put up a top-15 finish in last year's Masters and is overdue for a major championship. Start fitting Dustin Johnson for a green jacket, because he's The Eliminator's pick.

Remember, the numbers don't lie.

Masters Eliminator: Step-by-Step

1. The past 16 Masters winners made the cut at the previous year's Masters.
(51 eliminated, 45 remaining)

Golfers Eliminated:
Sang-Moon Bae
Jonas Blixt
Steven Bowditch
Roberto Castro
Darren Clarke
Ben Crenshaw
Brendon de Jonge
Graham DeLaet
Jamie Donaldson
Victor Dubuisson
Ken Duke
Harris English
Derek Ernst
Matt Every
Matthew Fitzpatrick
Stephen Gallacher
Oliver Goss
Russell Henley
Billy Horschel
Thongchai Jaidee
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Matt Jones
Chris Kirk
Lee Chang-woo
Joost Luiten
Hunter Mahan
Matteo Manassero
Hideki Matsuyama
Michael McCoy
Graeme McDowell
Larry Mize
Francesco Molinari
Jordan Niebrugge
Mark O'Meara
Louis Oosthuizen
Garrick Porteous
Ian Poulter
Patrick Reed
Webb Simpson
Jordan Spieth
Craig Stadler
Kevin Stadler
Scott Stallings
Kevin Streelman
Jimmy Walker
Tom Watson
Boo Weekley
Mike Weir
Gary Woodland
Ian Woosnam
Y.E. Yang

2. No European has won the Masters since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
(15 eliminated, 30 remaining)

Golfers Eliminated:
Thomas Bjorn
Luke Donald
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Sergio Garcia
Peter Hanson
Martin Kaymer
Bernhard Langer
Sandy Lyle
David Lynn
Rory McIlroy
Jose Maria Olazabal
Thorbjorn Olesen
Justin Rose
Henrik Stenson
Lee Westwood

3. No golfer 40 or older has won the Masters since Mark O'Meara in 1998.
(10 eliminated, 20 remaining)

Golfers Eliminated:
Angel Cabrera
K.J. Choi
Stewart Cink
Fred Couples
Ernie Els
Jim Furyk
Phil Mickelson
John Senden
Vijay Singh
Steve Stricker

4. No golfer under 25 years old has won the Masters since Tiger Woods in 1997.
(1 eliminated, 20 remaining)

Golfer Eliminated:
John Huh

5. Each of the past three Masters winners made the cut in all four of the previous year's majors.
(14 eliminated, 6 remaining)

Golfers Eliminated:
Keegan Bradley
Tim Clark
Rickie Fowler
Lucas Glover
Branden Grace
Bill Haas
Trevor Immelman
Zach Johnson Marc Leishman
Ryan Moore
D.A. Points
Charl Schwartzel
Nick Watney
Bubba Watson

6. Each of the past five major winners finished eighth or better in the last World Golf Championship event.
(5 eliminated, 1 remaining)

Golfers Eliminated:
Jason Day
Jason Dufner
Matt Kuchar
Adam Scott
Brandt Snedeker

Your winner: Dustin Johnson

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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