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  • Writer's pictureMax Milstein

The Masters is becoming a more international tournament.

A Masters like no other

It’s been a long wait for the third golf major of 2020. The Masters, typically the first major of the year, has been delayed six months from its usual spot in April. With The Open cancelled due to coronavirus, this week at Augusta will be the final golf major we see until 2021. With cooler temperatures, shorter days and no crowds, this Masters will have a very different look to the sun-soaked grandstand-packed affair that we are used to.

The rise of non-US winners in the Masters

This year will be the 82nd Masters. For the most part, the Masters has been dominated by US golfers who have won a total of 59 times (73% of the time). However, over the last few years, there has been a sharp rise in winners from the rest of the world.

It is particularly interesting to split the timespan of the Masters in half and look at the distribution of winners from the first 42 US Masters (1936-1978) and the next 41 US Masters (1979-2019). In the first half, the US were dominant, winning 92.9% of the time. The only non-US golfer to win was Gary Player, who won three times for South Africa in that period. Whereas the distribution of winners for the next 41 US Masters looks vastly different as American golfers have only managed to win 53.7% of the time. Although still the majority, this represents a decline of nearly 40% on the prior period. In the most recent 41 US Masters golfers from 12 different countries have donned the famous green jacket, compared to just 2 in the first 42 years of the competition.

The primary reason there have been more international winners is that now more than ever, there are more international players playing in the tournament. In 1956 (the first year we could find data of the Masters field with the golfer’s nationality) there were only 5 non-US golfers making up 6% of that year’s line up. Since then, the share of international competitors has steadily increased with 2007 being the first year that more non-US golfers entered the Masters than US golfers.

So, what is going to happen this year?

Of the 94 golfers listed in the 2020 Masters field, only 42 of them are Americans making up 44.7% of the field, the third lowest share of US golfers in the competition’s history. There are golfers from 22 other countries (besides the US) competing this year with the nation’s most represented being England (9), South Africa (7) and Australia (5).

Playing in November is going to bring different weather conditions than April. It has already been predicted that the first few days may be a little wet due to Tropical Storm Eta. Additionally, there will be stronger winds than usual, but weather forecasts are suggesting the temperature will only be slightly lower than the springtime conditions to which the players are accustomed. With these conditions, some golf fans will think back to 2007 in which players had to battle against strong winds and unusually cold temperatures. With all players struggling to keep their shots under control, even the winner, Zach Johnson, finished one over par. This was one of just three occasions that the champions at the Masters finished with a score over par (with the last one happening 50 years prior).

Entering the Masters in 2020, three of the top 5 favourites are Americans: Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. However, the Masters is notoriously hard to predict and with the added uncertainty of November weather, it could be anyone’s year.

Do you think the winner of the US Masters 2020 will be American? Let us know in the comments below!

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