History says Watch out for Tiger Woods and Charles Howell at the Masters

More than any other course and annual tournament – Augusta National and the Masters identifies the best player(s) in the world. Since the inception of the Sony World Rankings in 1985, it is uncanny how often the #1 ranked player has either won or almost won the Masters.

Bernhard Langer was the 1st golfer given the #1 rank in 1985 – a year in which he won the Masters. Jack Nicklaus, maybe the greatest player ever, barely held off the top two ranked players in the world (Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros), in winning the 1986 Masters. In 1987, Seve and Greg again came close – losing in a playoff to unheralded Larry Mize. Sandy Lyle was the best player in the world in 1988 – the same year he took home his only green jacket. Nick Faldo won back to back in 1989 and 90 – in an age where he was clearly the best player in the world. In 1991, Ian Woosnam was the #1 ranked player in the world, and yes – he won the Masters that very year. Fred Couples was the #1 ranked player in 1992 when he won his only green jacket. Are you starting to see the pattern?

That trend of the best player winning or almost winning has continued through today. We have Tiger Woods with 4 wins. Phil Mckelson with 2 wins – both at times when he was clearly the hottest player in the world. Mark O’Meara won the year he was the hottest player. Vijay Singh, a former #1, has a green jacket. David Duval and Ernie Els had many chances to win in their stretches as top three players. Basically, if you’re the best player in the world or playing the best heading into Augusta – you’ve got chances.

I believe the reason for this is the golf course. Bobby Jones wanted to pay homage to St. Andrews when he built Augusta National – because he believed it was the greatest course in the world. He believed to be considered a great player – you had to win at St. Andrews. I believe in some respect, the same is true with Augusta today. Because it allows for recovery – the best players have chances to succeed – no matter what. If they aren’t hitting it well, they can make do with an imaginative short game. If they aren’t driving it straight, they can make do with improvisational trouble shots. And in theory – that’s what the best player in the world should do and be – adaptable and well rounded. They should be capable in all facets of the game and deficient in none. And in looking at the list of past champions at Augusta, you would be hard pressed to find a one-dimensional player.

So, if precedent holds true in 2007, my two picks are Tiger Woods (clearly the best player) and Charles Howell (possibly the most consistently good player this year). If I were a betting man, I would take those two against the field. Who’s your pick this coming week?

Check out this interesting Photo Essay on the Masters

Leave a Reply