The five most exciting Masters playoffs

There have been 16 playoffs in the history of the Masters, here are five of the best

Larry Mize beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987
Larry Mize beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With so many of the top players showing fine form, this year’s Masters promises to be a close one. Could we see another playoff? Here are five of the most exciting ever.

The best players in world golf are in Augusta, Georgia this week to do battle over one of golf’s most iconic courses for the first Major title of the 2016 season. Jordan Spieth defends his U.S. Masters title and many of the world’s best are heading into the event full of confidence and on fine form. Fine margins tend to decide the year’s first Major and on no fewer than 16 occasions a playoff has been required to find a winner. Here we look at five of the most exciting playoffs in the history of The Masters.

The five most exciting Masters playoffs

5. 1954 – Sam Snead beats Ben Hogan

Sam Snead beat Ben Hogan in 1954

Sam Snead beat Ben Hogan in 1954


The pair tied on one-over par for 72 holes after Hogan had struggled to a final round of 75. At that time, the playoff was contested over 18 holes so Ben Hogan and Sam Snead returned the following day to battle it out. Between them, they had won four of the previous five Masters and Hogan was defending champion. It was to be a showdown between the two most famous golfers in the world at that time.

"The Hawk" had lost a playoff to Byron Nelson for the 1942 Masters and was determined not to let it happen again.

He and Snead were tied through nine holes of the playoff but Snead took the lead with a chip-in birdie on the 10th. He gave his one shot advantage back with a bogey on the 12th but he then took control on the par-5 13th. Hogan played cautiously and laid up with his second then Snead went for it, finding the green and two putting for a simple birdie, Hogan couldn’t get up-and-down and Snead edged ahead.

On the 16th, Hogan had a chance to square it after hitting a great tee shot and facing a short birdie putt. He missed it and then missed the one back to allow Snead a two-shot cushion. Snead played the final hole carefully and made a bogey to win by one. In a great match, Snead had scored 70 to Hogan’s 71.

4. 1989 – Nick Faldo beats Scott Hoch

Nick Faldo beat Scott Hoch in 1989

Nick Faldo beat Scott Hoch in 1989


The final round was a thriller with Nick Faldo blasting through the field with a fabulous 65. He’d struggled to a 77 in round three and looked to be out of the running. But he changed putter for Sunday and it worked a treat; he made eight birdies and posted a five-under-par total that no-one could better. Only Scott Hoch could match him and the pair headed to the 10th tee to decide the tournament by sudden-death playoff.

Faldo’s approach found sand and Hoch played a good second to leave 25-feet for birdie. Faldo blasted out and faced about 12 feet for his par. Hoch’s birdie try missed and when Faldo failed to knock his par putt home, the American had a two-foot putt to win the Masters. Incredibly he missed it and Faldo’s hopes were still alive.

Hole more short putts:

On the difficult 11th, Faldo rolled home a 25-foot putt for birdie and victory. It was the first of his three Masters wins.

3. 1979 – Fuzzy Zoeller beats Ed Sneed and Tom Watson

This was the first sudden-death playoff at The Masters and it was won by first time participant Fuzzy Zoeller. He remains one of only three men to win the tournament on their debut – Horton Smith won the first event in 1934 and Gene Sarazen won in 1935, having not played the year before.

Ed Sneed should have won the tournament in regulation play but he bogeyed the last three holes to fall back into a tie with Zoeller and Tom Watson.

On the first extra hole, the 10th, all three men had birdie putts. All three missed and they moved on to the 11th. Sneed found sand with his second and blasted out for three, Watson missed a putt for a three then Zoeller, showing nerves of steel, rolled his birdie putt home from six feet.

2. 1987 - Larry Mize beats Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros

Larry Mize beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987

Larry Mize beat Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987


Greg Norman had just missed out the year before when Jack Nicklaus won and he faced a 20-foot putt on the 72nd green to make amends and take the title in 1987. But it missed and he ended tied with Larry Mize and Seve Ballesteros.

On the first extra hole, the 10th, Seve was eliminated when he failed to get down in two from the fringe. Norman and Mize both made par and so moved on to the 11th. Both found the fairway from the tee but Mize then flayed his second well right of the green. Norman played to the right side of the green with a view that par might just be good enough.

Mize weighed up his chip shot and then struck it towards the pin. It rolled inexorably towards its target and dropped into the hole. Mize leapt into the air in disbelief and a shell-shocked Norman then missed his putt to tie. It was one of Norman’s many tales of Major woe.

1. 2012 - Bubba Watson beats Louis Oosthuizen

Bubba Watson beat Louis Oosthuizen in 2012

Bubba Watson beat Louis Oosthuizen in 2012


The last round had been a thriller with Louis Oosthuizen racing ahead with a stunning albatross two at the par-5 second. But Bubba Watson pegged him back with four straight birdies on the back nine. Both had putts to win outright on the final green but both missed.

The playoff started on the 18th where Watson, again found himself with a putt to win. But it never looked like going in and, after both had tapped in for par, they moved to the 10th.

Both men hit poor drives down the right side but Bubba was seemingly in more trouble than the South African – way into the woods. Oosthuizen’s second ended short of the green before attention focused on the left-hander, who looked sure to chip out. But Bubba had other ideas. He hooked a wedge shot through a gap in the trees that turned some 60 degrees in the air and landed on the green. It had so much side spin on it that it actually spun up the hill to within 10 feet of the cup. When Oosthuizen missed his par effort, Bubba had two for it. With that incredible shot, Bubba claimed his first green jacket and secured his place in Masters history.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?