Ernie Els will enter the Masters next week full of confidence, thanks to his back-to-back wins in Florida the past two weeks.
If he's reading this, he may want to stop right now.
Over the last twenty years, only four Masters winners won any of the three tournaments leading up to Augusta. The eventual Masters winners missed nine cuts in those sixty tournaments, and combined for just thirteen top-ten finishes. Eleven of the twenty Masters champions failed to finish in the top ten in any of the three prior tournaments.
The four who won in the weeks before the Masters were Phil Mickelson in 2006 (won the week before), Tiger Woods in 2001 (won two and three weeks prior), Fred Couples in 1992 (three weeks before), and Ian Woosnam in 1991 (three weeks before).
If we consider the performance at the Masters of the winners of those sixty tournaments, the picture is less discouraging but muddy at best. Three of the tournament winners did not qualify for the Masters; two players took two of three on the way to Augusta (Woods, 2001; Duval, 1999 -- he tied for sixth in the Masters that year). Of the fifty-five individual winners who qualified, fourteen missed the Masters cut. Besides the four winners, there were three second-place finishes (Woods, tied for second in 2007; Goosen in 2002; Davis Love III in 1995), and twenty-one top ten finishes in the Masters.
The good news for Els is that, in overall terms, he's probably more like the Mickelson-Woods-Couples-Woosnam group than the likes of Jodie Mudd, Robert Gamez, Mike Standly, Craig Perks, or Rod Pampling, all of whom won their way into Augusta and were barely heard from once they got there. In the five Masters since Phil Mickelson rolled in the birdie on 18 to win his first major and avoid a playoff with Els, Ernie has finished 47th, tied for 27th, and missed the last three cuts. Considering that, four winners out of twenty probably sounds like pretty good odds to him.