Professional men’s golf is enjoying rude health after Jimmy Walker made it a clean sweep for first-time Major winners in 2016 and it’s a trend that could keep on rolling next year.
Factoring in runner-up Jason Day’s own US PGA Championship success a year prior, golf’s quartet of coveted trophies have now passed into fresh hands five times in succession.
Striking as that may seem with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth threatening an era of dominance until recently – picking up four of the eight majors staged across 2014 and 2015 between them – Walker’s win hasn’t set any precedent in terms of that virginal streak.
Through 2010 – 2012 no fewer than nine first-time champions were crowned, a run that began and ended with US Open wins, firstly for Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach and latterly Webb Simpson’s triumph at the Olympic Club.
Although the likes of McIlroy, who has compiled four, Spieth (2), Phil Mickelson (2), Bubba Watson (2) and Martin Kaymer (2) have all collected more than a single ‘biggy’ since the start of 2010, the most significant factor at play is clearly the decline of 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods.
Woods hasn’t added to his phenomenal tally since 2008 and it looks set to stay that way with a string of debilitating injuries and off-course issues plaguing the legendary American.
With a raft of extremely good players around as opposed to one all-time great, the door is constantly ajar and, the next most likely man to walk through it could well be the first from his country to achieve such a success.
Hideki Matsuyama is a 33/1 shot with us to win the Masters in 2016 and although that event is merely a speck on the horizon right now (with a Ryder Cup to steal the golfing limelight in between) it might be one of the shrewder ante-post bets.
The Japanese number one is a two-time PGA Tour winner since picking up his card in 2014 and has been extremely impressive on the biggest stage of all.
In his previous 15 Major starts he has posted eight top-20 finishes, five of those coming inside the top 10, where he just signed off with a fourth place at Baltusrol.
Crucially though, his rock-solid approach play is ideally suited to Augusta’s famous greens – Matsuyama ranks third on tour for shots-gained approaching the green this season – and many experts have already tipped him up to receive a Green Jacket sooner rather than later.
This is reflected in his most recent finishes of seventh and fifth at the Masters.
Matsuyama looks as good a bet as any to continue this first-time winner trend into next year.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.