Is This Masters The Most Competitive In Memory?

Is This Masters The Most Competitive In Memory?

Is this Masters the most competitive in memory? The question has been the subject of a lot of discussion on golf broadcasts, podcasts and other media.

A look at some  of the odds that I archived here on GolfBlogger.Com offers a clue. Here are the top ten spots in the odds to win the Masters in 2008:

  1. Tiger : 3/2
  2. Mickelson 9/1
  3. Els 18/1
  4. Singh 22/1
  5. Harrington 28/1
  6. Goosen 28/1
  7. Furyk 33/1
  8. Ogilvy 33/1
  9. Scott 33/1
  10. Choi 33/1

There are some fine players — and more than a few Hall of Famers — in that list, but look at the odds spread.

Tiger was given an effective 40% chance of winning. Phil, an 10% chance. Els, an 5.3% So there was an 30 percentage point difference between 1 and 2. The spread from 1st to third was nearly 35 points. The difference between Woods and the tenth was 37 points.

Oddsmakers at the time did not, apparently, think it was a particularly competitive field.

The odds for the 2018 Masters seems to suggest that the field is much tighter, with many more having a chance to win.

  1. McIlroy 9/1
  2. Spieth 10/1
  3. Thomas 10/1
  4. DJ 11/1
  5. Tiger 11/10
  6. Watson 14/1
  7. Rose 14/1
  8. Day 16/1
  9. Mickelson 16/1
  10. Fowler 18/1

In 2018, then, the favorite is given a 10% chance of winning. That is just nine tenths of a percentage point higher than the second place, and only 5 points higher than the tenth most favored player (Fowler, who has been given an effective 5.3% chance of winning)

The perception, at least among oddsmakers, is that the 2018 Masters is a fairly competitive field.

What I have never been able to wrap my head around is whether Tiger made the rest of the fields look relatively weak because he was so dominant, or whether he was so dominant because of the relative weakness of the rest of the field. There is no data driven answer to that one that I know of. I’d love to know the answer, though.

Bettors obviously don’t have crystal balls, and the odds rarely match results. Here are the actual results from 2008, and the odds they were given to win:

  1. Trevor Immelman (80/1)
  2. Tiger Woods (3/2)
  3. Stewart Cink (50/1)
  4. Brandt Snedeker (125/1 or worse — I stopped recording at 125/1)
  5. Steve Flesch (125/1 or worse)
  6. Padraig Harrington (28/1)
  7. Phil Mickelson (9/1)
  8. Miguel Angel Jimenez (125/1 or wors1)
  9. Robert Karlsson (125/1 or wors1)
  10. Andres Romero (125/1 or wors1)

In the end, therefore, 2008 turned out to be much more competitive than predicted. Immelman, who was given a 1.2% chance of winning, put on the green jacket.

Will the 2018 edition of the Masters be more competitive. Only the final leaderboard will tell the tale. If the top players are bunched within a few shots of each other, it’s competitive. If one runs away with it, or a relative unknown separates himself from the pack, it was not.

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