Commentary

The NEXT: Surprise Masters winner

Zach Johnson. Trevor Immelman. Who could be the next surprise Masters winner?

Updated: April 9, 2009, 5:31 PM ET
By Judd Spicer | ESPN Insider

The green jacket has become the new Wanamaker Trophy.

From 1988-2003, the PGA Championship's Wanamaker Trophy was etched with the names of 13 first-time major winners. In 2003 and '04, the newbie torch was briefly passed over to the British Open; from 2003-07, the U.S. Open sported a first-timer on four occasions.

Getty ImagesYou expect to see this at Augusta every year. But if you don't, who else might be putting on such an exuberant display?

In the past two years, it's been Augusta National, where Zach Johnson in '07 and Trevor Immelman in '08 came from seemingly nowhere to win. Their similarities are very important.

Johnson was 31 at the time of his victory; Immelman was 28. Johnson entered the tournament ranked a respectable 56th in the world, while Immelman was a slightly more recognizable 29th. Both men began their respective weeks with less than $8 million in career earnings, and exactly one career PGA win, along with precisely 15 top-10s to their credit. Each man had turned professional 10 years earlier and had pedestrian success at the Masters in previous years: Johnson with one cut made in two previous efforts and Immelman with one top-10 in five previous runs at the jacket. Despite the lack of hardware, however, both men entered their winning season coming off of a year in which he competed with a national team (Ryder Cup for Johnson in '06; President's Cup and World Cup for Immelman in '07).

From a statistical standpoint, a crossover look at each man's numbers from the year before their win finds both ranked in the top 100 in each of these five categories: driving accuracy, greens in regulation, scoring average, ball striking and approach shots from 200 yards out or further.

Here's a look at four Masters invitees who most closely mirror the criteria laid out by Johnson and Immelman, with Augusta rookies conveniently excluded, as Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) is the only rook to win since the tournament's first two years of play:

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