NewsApril 5, 2016

Why I'm picking Bryson DeChambeau, golf's new superhero, to win the Masters

My child-like (childish?) prediction: NCAA-U.S. Am champ will wear the geen jacket
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Sometimes it’s all about me. Truth be told, it has to do with Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (look it up on WebMD). So a lot of the way I relate to the world is as a 4-year-old. Which makes me a lot of fun -- or a complete jackass -- in staff meetings. (Editor's note: The latter.)

Maybe that's why I think my formula for picking the winners of major championships is correct, even though the formula makes no sense and is always completely unsuccessful. But I identify with, or respect, or at least am intrigued by those who think the world is all about them. Millennials, for instance.

It’s not necessarily why I’m picking Bryson DeChambeau to win the Masters this week. But it is why I’m OK with it, even though the evidence supporting that assessment is about as flimsy as my understanding of human flight at age 5, particularly as it related to a certain playground jungle gym.

But when we are young we learn hard lessons. Well, some of us do.

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DeChambeau is a fascinating case. He either has discovered a new kind of golf, a new style of dress, a perfect set of golf clubs, the Grand Unified Theory, a complex theory of consciousness or invented a new spiritual awakening, or all of the above. And is about to turn pro after an amateur career equivalent to that of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Or Ryan Moore. He is a weird golf-ian superbeing that at once combines Stephen Hawking and Ben Hogan.

In short, he is as they used to say about Ferris Bueller: A righteous dude.

But before he does take the money and turn pro next week, I’ve got him winning the Masters. As in my past predictions for major championships dating to the 2014 Masters, I base the selection on statistical patterns. Specifically, I looked at driving distance, scrambling and putting. My theory is that those three elements will define the Masters champion. (Anybody who doesn't think you need as much Bubba Watson as you need Ben Crenshaw hasn't watched enough Sundays in early April at Augusta National, and let's not forget the short-game aptitude in recent years of Zach Johnson, Trevor Immelman and Phil Mickelson that shows finesse around the greens is of paramount importance.)

I took the last 10 Masters winners, and then noted their statistical ranking in each of those categories headed into the Masters for the year they won. Then I took the average of those three category ranks to produce an average rank. The median ranking for the last 10 Masters winners turned out to be 53.33. Remember that number.

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Then, because I have a child-like grasp of numbers and statistics, I reasoned that this year’s Masters champ would be the player whose average ranking in those three areas works out to be as close to that number as possible. I say close because nobody ever gets the number exactly correct. That would be miraculous, otherworldly, mind-altering.

Certainly the field at this year’s Masters has different levels of data to produce their statistical ranking. DeChambeau, for instance, only has played one tournament. A real statistician would suggest this disqualifies him from my formula. But I’m as much a real statistician as well your 6-year-old is Batman just because he’s wearing the cape. But you tell him he’s not Batman.

And you tell me DeChambeau’s not going to win. Jim Nantz told Golf Digest, “It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see this young man contend. ...Bryson is the one who has the capacity to utterly change golf.” I trust Jim Nantz even more than I trust my numbers.

Of course, if you’re really into numbers, it’s at least interesting that the 10 lowest statistical averages, based on my distance-scrambling-putting formula are, in order: Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, Danny Willett, Jordan Spieth. That’s a pretty fair top 10.

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But DeChambeau is the one who had the magic number. How close was he to my mythical 53.33? DeChambeau’s current stats averaged exactly 53.33. And when I say exactly, I mean it matched the decimal point to infinity.

Piaget notwithstanding, that’s my admittedly child-like assessment of this year’s Masters. Infinity is about how far you'd have to go on the outlandish scale if DeChambeau won on Sunday. If I were him and that happened, I’d just retire from golf and go onto other challenges like terrorism, global warming and world peace.

Because at that point, he probably could do it. Because he’s a superhero. But an amateur kind of superhero. Like Batman.


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