History points to Kuchar potentially being the one to beat at Masters
The common saying is that a major can’t be won over the opening 18 holes, yet it can certainly be lost. However, looking at the outcomes of the four tournaments last year, a strong first round is essential to being a major champion.
Bubba Watson was in a share of fourth, two shots off the lead in the Masters, Rory McIlroy had to make up just one shot at the PGA Championship and Ernie Els was three back in a share of sixth at the British Open.
Obviously, the one exception came at the US Open, where Webb Simpson was six off the pace after 18 holes.
Meanwhile, in the last seven years at the Masters since Tiger Woods’ mammoth comeback to thwart Chris DiMarco in 2005, every winner at Augusta has been no worse than seventh after the opening round.
Keeping with this formula, this year we are looking at one of the nine players to have shot four-under or better in the opening round of the Masters.
Since 1990, only Trevor Immelman has led the Masters after the opening round and still been there after 72 holes, which does not make great reading for Mark Leishman or Sergio Garcia.
Dustin Johnson has never finished better than 30th in his three previous Masters visits, which suggests he may have a bad round along the way, while the fact that there has been no European winner this century rules out England’s David Lynn and Garcia’s compatriot Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Jack Nicklaus remains the oldest Masters winner at age 46 in 1986 and no player has won any of the four majors when older than 48.
Therefore, 53-year-old Fred Couples has his work cut out.
This leaves Immelman (50/1), Rickie Fowler (20/1) and Matt Kuchar (12/1) and preference is for the latter as he finished third at Augusta last year, when co-leading the field in terms of scoring average on the par fours and hitting greens.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.