Does The Masters Have The Weakest Field? Does It Matter?

Does The Masters Have The Weakest Field? Does It Matter?

I’ve been following some interesting threads on golf social media in which the claim is made that The Masters has the weakest field of the Majors. It might on paper, but I am not sure that the paper matters.

The detractor’s claim is that the first Major of the year would be improved by expanding the field from the top 50 to the top 60 or 80 in the Official World Golf Rankings. The thought is that by expanding the field (and perhaps cutting out many past champions) more players with a chance to win would tee it up.

Expanding the field might make sense if Masters Champions regularly emerged from the group of players ranked 40 to 50. If players in the lower 20% of the field were contenders, then players further down the OWGR lists might also have a chance.

That’s not what has happened over the past thirty years, though.

The average OWGR position of Masters Champions at the beginning of the year in which they won is 17.8.

Just three of the Champions fell outside the top 40: Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir. However, all three of those were inside the top 40 in September of the previous year: Cabrera was 28th heading into September 2008; Johnson was 38th in September 2005; Weir was 27th in September 2002.

Just six of the winners were outside the top 30 (including the three above).

A full 70% of the winners were in the top 20 in January of the year in which they became the Masters Champion.

There is no reason, therefore, to believe that adding players 51 – 80 would have any impact on which players are expected to win. Players ranked 40 – 50 have won only 10% of the time (and even then, those three likely were inside the top 40 by another measure). Aside from flukes (which no one except the winner would be happy about), the 60th ranked player is not going to crack a winner’s circle dominated by players 1 – 20.

The chart below shows the masters Champion for each of the last 30 years and their Official World Golf Rank in January of the year of their victory.

YearChampionOWGR In January of
Winning Year
2022Scottie Scheffler13
2021Hideki Matsuyama19
2020Dustin Johnson5
2019Tiger Woods14
2018Patrick Reed25
2017Sergio Garcia14
2016Danny Willett19
2015Jordan Spieth9
2014Bubba Watson28
2013Adam Scott5
2012Bubba Watson22
2011Charl Schwartzel34
2010Phil Mickelson2
2009Angel Cabrera42
2008Trevor Immelman20
2007Zach Johnson54
2006Phil Mickelson3
2005Tiger Woods2
2004Phil Mickelson14
2003Mike Weir48
2002Tiger Woods1
2001Tiger Woods1
2000Vijay Singh6
1999José María Olazábal25
1998Mark O’Meara10
1997Tiger Woods33
1996Nick Faldo7
1995Ben Crenshaw34
1994José María Olazábal15
1993Bernhard Langer6
1992Fred Couples5
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