One of my favorite parts about having this blog is that it challenges me to learn more about the history of the sports I write about. As you may remember (since it was only last month) I did a series of posts about the history of March Madness and the history of the major conference tournaments. It was great because it gave me not only the ability to educate our readers, but also to educate myself.
As the 2009 Masters prepares to tee off on Thursday, I now have the opportunity to do the same thing for the Greatest Spectacle in Golf. And golf, much like baseball in many ways, is hard to fully appreciate without understanding the proper historical context for contemporary accomplishments.
Tiger Woods will tee off around 2:00 on Thursday, gunning to become Masters Champion and Green Jacket Wearer for the fifth time. Why is this so important? Because it would break the current tie between Woods and the great Arnold Palmer for second on the all-time list of Masters Champions. It would also move Tiger to within one of the incomparable Jack Nicklaus for most Green Jackets ever.
But pretty much every golf fan knows that.
What about Phil Mickelson? Where can he place himself on the all-time Masters champion list this weekend? How about Ben Crenshaw and Jose Maria Olazabal? That is the purpose of this post.
First, we will run down the all-time list of Masters Champions, all the way back to the first Masters in 1934. Then, we’ll take a look at the list of men of who have won multiple Green Jackets and how they stack up against each other.
Masters History: List of Past Masters Champions
|Year||Masters Champion||72-Hole Score||Margin of Victory|
|1999||Jose Maria Olazabal||280||+2|
|1994||Jose Maria Olazabal||279||+2|
|1959||Art Wall Jr.||284||+1|
|1956||Jack Burke Jr.||289||+1|
This information above was taken from the official website for the Masters, where they provide a list of Masters champions that includes the 18-hold, 36-hole, 54-hole, and 72-hole totals for each champion. The above table is obviously just a snippet of that information.
Also provided at Masters.com is the list of multiple Masters champions, which looks like this:
- 6 – Jack Nicklaus: 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986
- 4 – Arnold Palmer: 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964
- 4 – Tiger Woods: 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005
- 3 – Jimmy Demaret: 1940, 1947, 1950
- 3 – Sam Snead: 1949, 1952, 1954
- 3 – Gary Player: 1961, 1974, 1978
- 3 – Nick Faldo: 1989, 1990, 1996
- 2 – Horton Smith: 1934, 1936
- 2 – Byron Nelson: 1937, 1942
- 2 – Ben Hogan: 1951, 1953
- 2 – Tom Watson: 1977, 1981
- 2 – Seve Ballesteros: 1980, 1983
- 2 – Bernhard Langer: 1985, 1993
- 2 – Ben Crenshaw: 1984, 1995
- 2 – Jose Maria Olazabal: 1994, 1999
- 2 – Phil Mickelson: 2004, 2006
And a few other interesting nuggets of Masters history:
- Only four players have been wire-to-wire champions: Craig Wood (1941), Arnold Palmer (1960), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Raymond Floyd (1976).
- Mark O’Meara set the record for the most number of attempts before winning his first Green Jacket in 1998: 15.
- Amazingly, Jack Nicklaus won his sixth Masters 28 years after his first Masters Tournament.
- The youngest Masters champion ever is, of course, Tiger Woods in 1997 when he was still only 21. Woods also shattered the course record that year in perhaps the greatest single 72-hole performance in golf history.
- The oldest Masters champion is Jack Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won Green Jacket #6 in 1986.
- The average age of a Masters champion is 32.57 years.
Looking at the list of past Masters champions, you cannot help but notice the amazing stretch from 1960-1966 when only three players donned Green Jackets: Jack Nicklaus (3), Arnold Palmer (3), Gary Player (1). That must have been an amazing time to be a golf fan — one that I am obviously not familiar with since it was about 20 years before I was even born. I would love to get the perspective of an older golf fan in the comments section as to what it was like to have those three (and especially Nicklaus and Palmer) pushing eachother to such great heights.
That has been the one thing conspicuously absent from Tiger’s dominance over the last 15 years: a legitimate rival. I know that Phil Mickelson has won two Masters in the last five years, but I don’t think anyone looks at Mickelson as being Arnold Palmer to Wood’s Nicklaus.
Perhaps as both move into the heart of their 30s, they can provide that kind of back-and-forth competitiveness and drama to eachother. We shall see. It certainly would be fun to see the two of them paired up together on Sunday, battling shot-for-shot for the 2009 Masters championship.