The Masters: Once In a Lifetime
We look at six players who can count The Masters as their only Major success
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The past 25 years have seen six players triumph at The Masters who can count it as their only Major success to date. We look back at these wins and the subsequent careers of those golfers who all boast a solitary Major on their golfing CV
1991 – Ian Woosnam
Ian Woosnam made it four British wins in a row in 1991 with a one-shot Masters victory over Jose Maria Olazabal. He stood on the 18th tee in a three-way tie for the lead on 11-under – level with the Spaniard who was in the group ahead, as well as his playing partner, Tom Watson. Olazabal bogied and Watson eventually made a double after finding the trees on the right. Woosie also missed the fairway but managed to make a par to spark those famous celebrations.
To some it may seem like a bit of a one-off result but Woosnam went into the tournament as World No.1, a position he held for 50 weeks. He managed 28 other victories on the European Tour, which puts him sixth on the all-time list. His last win came at the 1997 Volvo PGA Championship but he came close to a surprising swansong in 2001 when he finished T3 at the Open, despite suffering a two-shot penalty for carrying an extra club in his bag – an error blamed on caddie Miles Byrne.
He remains the only Welsh player to win a Major championship.
1992 – Fred Couples
A large slice of luck played its part in Freddie Couples’ only Major victory in 1992. His tee shot on the 12th looked to be heading for a watery grave but somehow stuck on the bank on the far side of Rae’s Creek. Talking to Golf Monthly last year, he recalled: “I was pretty sure it was going to go in the water. I knew it was going to land on the bank, but it hit so far down the bank that it didn’t pick up much speed.”
He managed to capitalise on this good fortune finishing two-shots clear of compatriot Ray Floyd to take the title.
Couples has come close on a number of occasions to bagging another Major, finishing second at the 1990 USPGA and tied third at the Open Championship in 1991 and 2005, and the 1991 US Open. But it was always the Masters where Freddie seemed to shine brightest. He missed out to Mark O’Meara in 1998 and also came close in 2006 and 2010, however both times the aging star came up against an inspired Phil Mickelson.
2003 – Mike Weir
In a rain-affected tournament Mike Weir became the first Canadian Major champion in an unlikely play-off with journeyman American Len Mattiace. The New Yorker shot a final-round 65 to force the play-off but came up short on the first extra hole. Mattiace had made only one previous appearance at Augusta, missing the cut as an amateur in 1988.
Weir’s achievement was even more impressive as he was not known as a big hitter and the course was playing longer than ever due to the wet conditions. He became the first left-hander to take the Green Jacket and the first to win a Major since Bob Charles at the 1963 Open.
He went on to finish T3 at the US Open that year and spent 110 weeks in the world’s top ten between 2001 and 2005. The last of his eight PGA Tour wins came at the 2007 Fry’s Electronics Open and since then he has struggled with form and injury. In 2015 he announced he was taking an indefinite break from the game for personal reasons but made a comeback earlier this year and will be teeing it up at Augusta later this week.
2008 – Trevor Immelman
Perhaps the most unlikely winner in our list, Immelman battled strong winds to overcome Tiger Woods by three shots and become the first South African to win the title since Gary Player 30 years previously. He had decent form up to 2006, winning three European Tour events and being named 2006 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after winning the Cialis Western Open, but illness struck at the 2007 Masters and this eventually led to a benign tumor being removed from his diaphragm later that year. He began the 2008 season barely able to swing a club and had missed four cuts in eight starts coming into the Masters. However the 28-year-old led wire-to-wire, overcoming a late double bogey to finish on 8-under and take the title.
Since his win Immelman has struggled with form and fitness. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since Augusta and in 2013 he was forced to play in the Web.com Tour Finals after his five-year exemption for winning the Masters expired. He regained his Tour card for 2014 but currently sits at 1,669th in the World Ranking, having peaked at 12 in 2007.
2011 – Charl Schwartzel
Charl Schwartzel became the next unlikely South African to take the title after benefiting from Rory McIlroy’s famous meltdown. He birdied the final four holes to shoot a six-under-par 66 and finish on 14-under, two shots ahead of Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott. McIlroy finished with an eight-over-par 80 having begun the day four shots ahead, and the image of him among the cabins on the 10th, where he shot a triple bogey, will remain long in the memory.
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As for Schwartzel, his finishing four birdies was an unprecedented feat in the history of the Masters and catapulted him up to 11th in the world. Since then he has registered four wins on the European Tour (all in South Africa) and won the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour earlier this year. Still only 31, and in great form this year, there’s plenty of time for Schwartzel to erase his name from this list with another Major title.
2013 – Adam Scott
Adam Scott became the first Australian to win at Augusta with a play-off victory over Angel Cabrera in near darkness. Australians had finished runner-up on eight previous occasions – three of those being Greg Norman – but Scott managed to go one better holing a 12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. This win helped Scott erase the memory of his own Major meltdown at Lytham the previous year, where he bogeyed the final four holes to lose the Open by one shot to Ernie Els.
Scott is perhaps the most likely to remove himself from this list as he comes into this year’s event in fine form with recent back-to-back high-profile wins on the PGA Tour and his putting woes seemingly behind him. Many feared the anchoring ban would spell the end for the 35-year-old’s Major hopes but Scott predicted it would not be a big deal and so far he’s right. He’s back up to 7 in the world and goes in to Masters week as many people’s favourite for the title.
David joined Golf Monthly in 2015 as a content editor for the magazine and regularly contributes to the website. He has worked in magazine publishing and editing since 2003. He is a keen golfer and up until recently was a member of Blackmoor Golf Club in Hampshire. He has covered various big events and tournaments for GM, the highlight of which was witnessing Tiger Woods win his 15th Major at Augusta in 2019. Email: email@example.com
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