Admittedly we aren’t quite technically half-way through the Masters yet after Thursday’s storm has knocked timings back a little bit. But who needs punctuality when the golf is so good? We have a seriously stacked leaderboard, and despite pre-tournament market-leader Bryson DeChambeau in danger of missing the cut after some wayward drives, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas are all in the mix.
At the time of writing there is a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard with debutant Abraham Ancer, Aussie Cameron Smith, Justin Thomas and DJ locked on nine-under-par. Hideki Matsuyama is just a shot behind with three holes to play of his second round, while world number two John Rahm is also just a shot behind with a birdie opportunity on hole 13 waiting for him on Saturday morning.
It is tighter than Brooks Koepka’s t-shirt! The weekend is set-up to be a thrilling and enthralling battle with plenty of names still in with a shout, but who can we write off based on the trends?
Well, to be blunt, history will narrow the field down to a list that you could almost count on your fingers. Firstly, anyone who is more than six shots back can be written off now. Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Cameron Champ, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Tony Finau and more. Gone. Nobody in the last 64 years has gone on to win after being more than six strokes back at half-way.
In fact, you really want somebody to be within three of the lead. In the last 10 years only two winners have come from further back and they’ve relied on outside forces to help them. Danny Willett came from four shots back at half-way to win courtesy of Jordan Spieth’s double-dip in Rae’s Creek on the final round in 2016.
Five years earlier Charl Schwartzel came from six shots off the lead at half-way to win after Rory McIlroy infamously hit the ball into someone’s porch on his final round and then suffered 45 minutes where his body physically forgot how to play the game of golf. If there’s no Masters meltdown then you have to be within three of the lead at this point.
Three is the magic number
Going back to Schwartzel, he was tied for 12th after 36 holes in 2011 when he went on to win, and nobody has been lower than 12th at half-way and won the Green Jacket since Jack Nicklaus who was tied for 17th in 1986.
That’s bad news for Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson. Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Tiger Woods would also need to get a shuffle on if they don’t want to fall foul of this trend.
So, if you’re on the hunt for a winner in-play, you’re looking for someone within three shots of the lead who is preferably top 12. Good news if you’re already on any of the leaders – particularly as four of the last six leaders after 36 holes went on to win the green jacket.
A Major collapse is always a possibility
Don’t count your chickens just yet though – as a leader can collapse. Jason Duffner was top of the shop on Friday night in 2012 and dropped to 24th, Charley Hoffman was in a four-way tie at the top in 2017 and tumbled down to 22nd, while just last year Louis Oosthuizen held top spot after 36 holes and plummeted to 29th. Even the each-way money isn’t safe!
Four leaders in the last decade have all fallen out of the top 10 which would send the place part of your bet up in smoke, even with Paddy’s generous pre-tournament terms. Hard to believe you wouldn’t be collecting anything despite the amount of gloating you could do in the WhatsApp groups on Friday night.
Not all is lost for the slow starters
Some positivity if your pre-tournament pick is floundering though, or if you want to reinvest with Paddy paying five places; there is always a flyer up the board who captures some place money. In three of the last six years someone outside the top 20 at half-way has snuck into the places, and they were all at least six shots off the pace after 36 holes.
In 2014 our favourite cigar-smoking golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez was tied for 37th and 10 shots off the lead on Friday night, but shot up the leaderboard to finish fourth. Just 12 months later and Rory McIlroy was 12 shots off the lead at half-way in a tie for 19th and managed to get up to fourth as well. All is not lost.
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