Masters Predictions & (Some) Statistics — Podcast Bonus


See last Master’s year’s predictions here. Since not much has changed, I’m doing a lot of copying and pasting. The Podcast bonus is because of the screwed up time I ran it yesterday, causing most to miss it.

Here’s a view of the winning scores from par since the inception of the tournament.


As noted last year, the early years saw little variability, but since the 60s there were a lot more very high or low scores; variability increased. Jordan Spieth last year tied Tiger Woods biggest year in 1997 with 18 under, but poor Zach Johnson in a small typhoon in 2007 cleared with field with 1 over.

Using a simple model, I projected a 90% chance the score would be -4 to -15 under in 2015, but Spieth shot -18, showing how rotten that model was (it only gave a 5% chance for scores -16 or better; the model does not account for weather forecasts). This year the projection is -5 to -16 (with same 90% certainty). Spieth’s performance pushed this model down a full shot. Spieth is playing in this year’s tournament, but Woods (who is now 40) is not.

Like I said last year, youth does not have a significant, or at least overwhelming, advantage. Some 71% of the winners were 30 or older, and 14% 40 or older. The oldest was, as everybody knows, Jack Nicklaus who took home the Green Jacket at 46 in 1986. The youngest was a tie, Spieth and Tiger Woods, who were both 22. There isn’t an clear signal that suggests older or younger players are coming out ahead.

Don’t forget that many of the visible embedded “mini-trends” are from golfers winning more than one title, and necessarily aging in between victories.

Large margins of victory are still rare. Tiger Woods had the biggest, a 12-shot lead in 1997, followed by Jack Nicklaus with a 9-shot gap in 1965, with Raymond Floyd in third place with an 8-shot margin in 1976. Ties are common: 20% of time there is a sudden-death playoff. A 1-shot lead is the most usual outcome, happening 28% of the time, followed by a 2-shot lead at 23% of the time, and 3-shot victory at about 11%. Margins of victory of 5 or more shots only happen about 10% of the time.


The trend, if any, seems to be for closer margins of victory with the occasional break out. Yet the astonishing performances of Nicklaus, Floyd, and Woods would seem to belong to another era.

Here’s more indications age doesn’t play that much of a role in victories. There are no clear signals in age and the difference from par or the margin of victory (some jittering has been added to these plots to separate close points). Of course, age does play some role. There aren’t any 10-year-olds nor 60-year-olds making the cuts. Once a player gets past the cut, his age is not of much predictive value—however much it may mean to the player’s aching bones!


Players from these once Unite States took home about 3 out of every 4 Green Jackets, winning 75% of the time. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the next most winningest country is South African with just over 6% of the victories, followed closely by Spain, with about 5%. England—actually, just Nick Faldo who won thrice—took almost 4%, the Germans just under 3%. Only 7 other countries took anything. There were 11 winning countries in all: USA, Spain, South Africa, England, Germany, Wales, Scotland, Fiji (Vijay Singh), Canada, Australia, Argentina.

Most players have only won once: 65% of the tournaments were by a man who never repeated. About 19% of the time saw a golfer winning twice, around 10% were three-peaters, two men (Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods), or 4%, won 4 times, and only one time did anybody win 6. Jack Nicklaus, of course.

Last year I guessed Jordan Spieth had the best chance of winning. I give him less of a chance this year, because his confidence appears shaken, but if I had to pick the person with the best odds, I still say Spieth.


  1. Joy

    I’d say Wales and Scotland together with England would make Britain winninger than South Africa.

  2. Briggs


    Is there still a Britain? Or have separatest forces won out yet?

    Incidentally, Spieth opened with -6, which is still the lead.

  3. Steve E

    Sorry Joy, Britain would still be tied with South Africa with 5 wins.

  4. Joy

    No separatists will never win out.
    We’ll see if your prediction is correct.
    Steve E,
    True, and if we count the commonwealth that puts us in the lead!

  5. Briggs


    Looking good so far. After the first round, Spieth still up by 2 at -6.

  6. Bulldust

    The famous Greg Norman choke doesn’t warrant a mention? From 6 ahead on the last day to lose by a margin of 5 strokes take some special talent.

  7. Briggs


    Speaking of chokes, how about Els’s first hole? He played like I do.

  8. Nate

    I feel bad for Els. Talk about a cringe worthy performance. Nearly as bad as Cam Newton in the Super Bowl.

  9. Bulldust

    Well I guess Spieth did a Norman?

  10. Briggs


    Right in the drink, twice in a row! It caused me to spill my own.

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