The Masters 2022: Florida results could help find answer to Green Jacket conundrum

History says the big performers on this year’s Florida Swing could have an edge at Augusta National this week.

The PGA Tour's month-long jaunt through Florida in February and March produced the usual array of fascinating storylines.

Austrian Sepp Straka caused a shock by landing The Honda Classic, Scottie Scheffler continued the hot form that would take him to World No.1 with victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Aussie Cameron Smith produced an inspired display to land the prestigious Players Championship and Sam Burns made a successful defence of the Valspar Championship.

While this year's Florida Swing is now in the history books, clues may have been left behind that could be extremely important for those betting on this week's Masters.

Why? Results in Florida can be a portent for something much bigger: glory at Augusta National.

Proximity is one obvious reason. When Burns completed victory in the Valspar, a check of the calendar showed that the start of The Masters was just 18 days away.

Secondly, Florida and Georgia share a border. Indeed, it's notable how many golfers from the Southern States have won at Augusta. South Carolina's Dustin Johnson was the latest to add to that trend when winning the 2020 Masters. Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson were other examples.

A study of recent Masters winners certainly helps nail the Florida-Georgia link. Here's a key stat:

Six of the last 10 Masters winners had posted a top three on the Florida Swing earlier that same season.

So let's list all the players who banked a top-three finish on this year's Florida Swing to see who pops up.

Top 3 on 2022 Florida Swing

Honda Classic: 1st Sepp Straka, 2nd Shane Lowry, 3rd Kurt Kitayama.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: 1st Scottie Scheffler, T2nd Viktor Hovland, Billy Horschel, Tyrrell Hatton.

The Players Championship: 1st Cameron Smith, 2nd Anirban Lahiri, 3rd Paul Casey.

The Valspar Championship: 1st Sam Burns, 2nd Davis Riley, T3rd Justin Thomas, Brian Harman.

Scottie Scheffler, Bay Hill 2020

That's 14 players, with no-one appearing twice.

Kitayama, Lahiri and Riley aren't in the Masters field which means, using that top three rule, this year's Florida Swing has produced a list of 11 potential Augusta winners. Let's list them in world ranking order.

Florida pearls challenging for the Green Jacket

Scottie Scheffler - The World No.1 has played in two Masters, finishing tied 19th on debut in 2020 and tied 18th last year. He's the hottest player in golf after three wins in his last five starts and looks to have the game for Augusta National.

Viktor Hovland - Currently at World No.4, the Norwegian ended 2021 with back-to-back wins and added another in the Dubai Desert Classic in January. He was Low Amateur (T32) on his Masters debut in 2019 and T21 on his second appearance last year.

Cameron Smith - Up from 21st at the end of 2021 to a career-high 6th in the world rankings, the Aussie won the season-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions and last time out captured the prestigious Players Championship. He also boasts Augusta form of 10-2-51-5 in the last four years.

Justin Thomas - Always on the shortlist for Augusta glory, he's made the top 22 in each of the last five Masters but only had a single top 10 (fourth in 2020). The World No.7 hasn't posted a win since Sawgrass 13 months ago.

Justin Thomas watches his tee shot on 17 during the Memorial Tournament

Sam Burns - The World No.11 is coming off a successful defence of the Valspar and appears to have the game to compete for the Green Jacket but this is Burns' first Augusta start and no-one has won The Masters on debut since 1979.

Billy Horschel - Now World No.13, the Floridian has been climbing up the rankings in the last couple of seasons and is definitely a form horse. The negative is a modest Masters record: one top 35 in seven appearances (T17 in 2016).

Tyrrell Hatton - The Englishman has rather been bamboozled by Augusta after finishes of MC-44-56-MC on his first four starts although a closing 68 last time, his first round better than 71, took him to tied 18th. The World No.16 went 2-13-21 on the Florida Swing.

Paul Casey - After a T4 and a T7 in two of last year's Majors, the World No. 25 hasn't given up hope of a first victory at the very highest level. Augusta has perhaps always offered his best chance and Casey has four top sixes at The Masters.

Shane Lowry - The 2019 Open champion has struggled to make an impact in six Augusta appearances but he's starting to crack the code after T25 and T21 in the last two editions. A wonderful short game suggests the World No. 35 has the tools to succeed.

Shane Lowry at the 2021 Houston Open

Brian Harman - Left-handers have a great record at Augusta and Harman battled away well to finish tied 12th last year on just his third Masters appearance. A runner-up in the 2017 US Open, the World No. 53 had three top 20s in the Majors in 2021.

Sepp Straka - The surprise winner of the Honda Classic jumped from 176th in the world to 83rd with that victory and he's backed it up with T9 in the Players Championship and now sits 72nd in the OWGR. This will be his Masters debut.

READ MORE: The Masters and Majlis connection: More to it than victories for Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia?

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