The greatest Masters performances of all time

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

April 5th, 2021

The Masters is the tournament professional golfers dream of winning. Nothing else compares to taming the iconic Augusta National course and then donning that famous green jacket.

53 players have done just that since the first tournament in 1934, but these five performances stand out as the greatest of all time.

5. Jordan Spieth (2015)

Spieth’s achievement in 2015 is remarkable. Not only did he become only the fifth player in tournament history to hold the sole lead after all four rounds, set the new 54-hole record of -16, and tie the tournament record at the time of -18, he did it all at the age of 21. When I was 21, I was waking up over the weekend in trashed student houses with a cold slice of pizza on the pillow next to me. Spieth was out here putting in one of the all-time great Augusta performances.

Spieth hit a 64 on Thursday to give himself a three-shot lead, and that became five after a 66 on Friday – Charley Hoffman was his closest pursuer. A 70 on Saturday kept him four shots ahead of the chasing pack, and he could have set the scoring record on Sunday at the 18th, but he missed an eight-footer for par. He finished on -18, four shots clear of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

4. Nick Faldo (1996)

The 1996 Masters is remembered more for the fact that Greg Norman bottled it, but let’s turn that perception on its head and applaud a hell of a performance from Nick Faldo.

Norman was six shots clear of Faldo going into the final round, but an incredible 11-shot swing meant Faldo won by five. It was as much Norman’s collapse as it was a fantastic charge by Faldo, who had matched Norman’s score of 140 across Friday and Saturday.

Faldo had cut the six-shot deficit to two after a score of -2 on the opening nine was complimented by Norman’s +2. As Faldo cranked up the pressure the Aussie crumbled, and Norman bogeyed the 10th and the 11th to fall into a tie with Faldo. Norman found the water at 12 and 16 as Faldo kept his cool to lead by four. A birdie on the 18th put the cherry on the cake as Faldo won his third green jacket.

3. Jack Nicklaus (1965)

The 1963 Masters champ, Jack Nicklaus was dominating the sport, and in 1965 won his second of six Masters titles with a performance that was, at the time, a tournament record -17. That record stood for more than three decades before a certain Tiger roared into action...

The story of the 1965 Masters was all about Saturday. After two rounds, golf’s "Big Three" of Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player were tied for the lead at -6. But a faultless third round by Nicklaus saw him hit eight birdies and tie the 18-hole record at the time, shooting a 64.

This put him five shots ahead of Player and eight clear of Palmer as Sunday turned into a procession. Nicklaus played the final round at three-under, ended the tournament on -17, and beat Palmer and Player, who tied for second by nine shots.

The tournament average over four rounds that year was more than 20 shots behind Nicklaus.

2. Dustin Johnson (2020)

DJ rewrote the record books 12 months ago as he put in one of the all-time great Masters performances. The World No. 1 set a record -20 score as he won by five shots – the biggest margin of victory in the Masters in 23 years.

But the records didn’t stop there.

Johnson made just four bogeys over the entire tournament – the fewest ever by a Masters champion, and became the first player in Masters history to shoot two rounds of 65 or better in the same tournament.

Johnson's dominance came to the fore on Saturday. After the first two rounds he was in a five-way tie for the lead on -9 and there were another five players on -8. But on Saturday, DJ hit a faultless round of 65 to jump to a four-shot lead and tie Spieth’s 54-hole record of -16 from 2015.   

1. Tiger Woods (1997)

There are a lot of landmarks in Tiger Woods’ first Masters victory. Not only was he the youngest player to win the event at 21, but he also become the first non-white player to win at Augusta. This performance went beyond just golf.

But it was the manner of the win as well. Woods won by 12 shots – the most dominant Masters performance ever. The score of -18 was a record that was still intact up until Dustin Johnson’s effort last year.

Incredibly, Woods got off to a bad start. He hit four bogeys on his opening nine holes and was +4 as he turned to the back nine. He recovered well and ended the day -2, three shots adrift of leader John Huston.

But nobody shot better scores on day two or three than Tiger, as Woods hit a 66 and 65 to open up a commanding nine-shot lead. He only made one bogey across those 36 holes as he sprinted away from the field. Sunday was a coronation for Tiger as he extended his lead to win by 12 shots – A Masters record and the biggest win in any golf Major for 135 years.

After the tournament, Woods told reporters, "I never played a full tournament with my A game, this was pretty close."