Can a first time winner take the Masters? A trend has emerged: the last five majors have been won by first time major winners.
The last five major champs, working back: Jimmy Walker won the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol; Henrik Stenson took The Open last year at Royal Troon; Dustin Johnson finally claimed a major at the U.S. Open at Oakmont; Danny Willett mounted a late charge to win the Masters; and Jason Day found major success for the first time at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
The run ends with Zach Johnson, who collected his second major title at The Open at St Andrews in 2015, having won the Masters back in 2007.
The trend is not very surprising. It emphasises the enormous strength in depth at the top of the world game in the 21st century. A depth that has evolved over the decades and which continues, unrelenting.
At the top of the Masters leaderboard heading into today’s final round, six of the top-10 are yet to win a major, while four have been there already.
The six without a major are co-leader Sergio Garcia, second-placed Rickie Fowler, two more Americans Ryan Moore and Charlie Hoffman who are tied-fourth, and the duo tied ninth, England’s Lee Westwood and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.
The four in the top-10 with major wins secured are co-leader Justin Rose (2013 U.S. Open), Jordan Spieth in a tie for fourth (2015 Masters and U.S. Open), seventh-placed Adam Scott (2013 Masters) and eight-placed Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters).
The current run of five first-time major victors is the longest since 2010-2012, when a string of nine majors were won by first-timers: Graeme McDowell (2010 U.S. Open), Louise Oosthuizen (The Open), Martin Kaymer (PGA Championship), Schwartzel (2011 Masters), Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open), Darren Clarke (The Open), Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Bubba Watson (2012 Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open). That run ended with Ernie Els at The Open at Royal Lytham.
The top-10 golfers on the 2017 Masters final-round leaderboard are all the golfers under par at the time of writing, from Rose and Garcia on six-under-par, back to Westwood and Pieters on one-under. It would be unprecedented for tonight’s Masters champion to come from further back in the field, but stranger things have happened.
So will tonight’s Masters champ be a first-timer or not? If it comes down to holing the most putts – as tournaments normally do – Spieth could be hard to beat. It’s in the balance.