Let me assure you: This brings me no joy. Like a parent grounding a teenager or the assistant principal handing out detention or, well, an apologist for a Final Four officiating crew, my usual crazy Masters prediction that follows will be either a crushing disappointment or vivid example of unwavering incompetence, or, likely, both. Regardless, like all the other bizarro-calculus prognostications I’ve made for major championships since the dawn of recorded time (specifically, June 2013, by my accounting), my choice will not, can not win.
Unless, of course, you believe in the impossible. Which, given that Jim Nantz has seemed to have that effect on March Madness, why shouldn’t the Voice have the same effect on that member-guest once known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament? Note: Good decision to change the name. Something some restaurants might consider, like the three different places I saw called Sophie’s Choice, the Mexican places in Ocean City, Md. (Tequila Mockingbird) and Long Island (Aunt Chilada’s), or Baguetteaboutit!, which features six flavors of North Carolina-made sausage and a choice of eight hand-crafted sauces.
(And by the way, when did hand-crafted become such a selling point for food? By my last accounting, salmonella and lysteria are pretty much hand-crafted specialties, too.)
But I digress. My winning choice is again the result of calculations, ruminations, number theory and, well, guessing. Which is how I would suggest you do your taxes. Because, frankly, the way I do my taxes resulted in a small lien being placed on my left kidney (the good one). The refreshing thing about making calculations is that they always give you an answer, but like a quick pick of Powerball numbers or Googling “dog psychotherapy,” the results will likely lead to confusion and disappointment. Which, coincidentally, were the names I thought of for my first dogs until the first time I called them to come back in the house. Explains a lot, I know.
Still, of all the majors, the Masters should be the easiest to predict. Same course, small field, certain styles routinely rewarded. I say the same thing every year, and it’s wrong every year. But maybe not this time.
The criteria in my process seemed straightforward enough. Review the last five winners of the Masters and their relative skill levels in key statistical areas leading up to the Masters. Put those numbers in a blender, and presto, there’s your winner. I focused on five key areas:
1: Age, because the Masters likes guys who’ve been around or at least have old heads;
2: Best Masters finish, because playing well here is no accident, it’s a repeatable skill;
3: Par-5 Birdie or Better scoring: Four par 5s, all more or less in the realm of reachable. Duh.
4: Strokes-gained/approach: It’s a second-shot golf course, and each of the last five Masters winners have been considerably on the plus side in this category.
5: Strokes-gained/putting (last event): Knowing you’re putting well seems to me a great way to enter Magnolia Drive.
My process involves taking the average of average ranks for the recent winners to come up with a single number. That number is then compared to the overall averages for the players in the current field. It’s a number I’ve used several times in the past as the Super Rank, most memorably here and here and here. Where I was wrong and wrong and wrong.
Now, all that would have been fine, but I got distracted by the burdens of numerology, which as it turns out, is not “science” in the way "Pepto Bismol" is not “how to get through the afternoon.” Trouble was, I noticed that each of the last five Masters winners seemed to have shortish surnames. No one longer than seven letters, but none shorter than five. Indeed, the median for the length of the last name of the winner of the Masters since 2000 is six letters—even with three "Mickelson"s and a "Schwartzel," which strangely enough is not one of the required movements in Olympic Ice Dancing. But oh, it should be, dear children, it should be.
Sanity prevailed (sort of), so I didn’t weight these six criteria equally. Shrewdly (or so I thought), strokes-gained/approach, strokes-gained/putting, Par 5 Birdie or Better and Best Masters Finish accounted for 90 percent of your final score. But it doesn’t seem accidental that my choice has a six-letter last name. Now that you mention it, it seems kind of creepy. Like if Jordan Peele were picking the winner of the Masters, or if he were hosting your Masters party. Or if he were just at your house, cutting out coupons with a really big pair of golden scissors. Well, maybe not that creepy.
In fact, now that I think about it my pick is pretty obvious and disappointing at the same time. (In other words, it's my usual crazy pick.) Still, he's a great player, former beloved champion, still comfortably in his prime. Then again, I’m not even sure he wants to be a tour player anymore, even though he has two top-fives this year and six top-20s (the same number he had the last time he won). But I mean the guy recently said that he hoped to be an assistant captain on the Presidents Cup team that goes to Australia in December—not be on the team, mind you, just drive a cart. Heck, the guy’s in the top 20 in both Par 5 Birdie or Better for the season and strokes-gained/putting for his last event, hits it 400 yards (look it up) and currently is ranked ahead of last year’s Masters champ in the Official World Golf Ranking. That's of golfers, not cart drivers. And he wants to be in charge of getting Gatorade and Vegemite sandwiches for the caddies? Really. C’mon, Bubba, step up.
Yeah, I’m picking Bubba Watson to win his third green jacket. All my numbers say it’s going to happen. Including the number of letters in his last name.