Predicting the Masters


Frank, Thank you for all you do for the game of golf and I really enjoyed your book.

Because you have been so intimately involved in golf for so long, I look to you for some considered insight about the Masters this year. Also, who do you think will win?

– Derek

I do appreciate your kind words and I am pleased you enjoyed my book.

Yes, I have been involved in golf for some time but this doesn’t give me any particular advantage in predicting the winner of the Masters this year. I do, however, know that good putting is essential and if my friend Ernie Els can get his putting stroke working for him, he has a very good chance. The greens will be fast – about 11 to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter – but fair.

When I look into my crystal ball I do see some slightly disturbing things as well as an interesting forecast about the long term future winner of the Masters.

I have for some time been recording and analyzing the scoring at the Masters to determine how the game is being affected by advances in equipment and whether the field is getting stronger. I decided to use Augusta National as the test site so meaningful comparisons can be made with some sound conclusions and forecasts.

Unfortunately, there have been many changes to the course which makes it difficult to present an accurate accounting of the effect of the variables. However, I have been able to draw some very interesting conclusions from my data.

First, we can conclude that scoring is changing very slowly: the winning scores are coming down at about 0.09 strokes a year and the 25th place scores are coming down at about  0.17 strokes a year. We don’t see any significant rate change in scoring during the years when the square grooves were being used – between 1984 until 2009.

Masters Scores 1934-2009

When we plotted the 25th place scores against the winning scores and extrapolated this graph – something we should not have done unless you want to look into the future with some degree of uncertainty – we were astounded at what we found. This was, that if a golfer did not like the publicity that goes along with being a contender he can, by staying in 25th place for long enough win the Masters after the year 2144 when the winning scores will be equal to the 25th place scores.

Masters Scores 25th place 1934-2008

This reminds me of my neighbor who, after he heard that 80% of car accidents happen within three miles of one’s home, decided to move.

Derek, I know what will happen in 2144, but nobody can predict the outcome this year, even if Tiger is in the field. He has to win some friends back first. Hope this helps you win a beer on Sunday .

– Frank


Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email