Five Of The Biggest Final-Round Comebacks In Masters History

Anything can happen on the final day of the Masters...

Five Of The Biggest Final-Round Comebacks In Masters History
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Five Of The Biggest Final-Round Comebacks In Masters History

As the only Major to return to the same course every year, The Masters (opens in new tab) and Augusta National (opens in new tab) has seen it all. Unexpected victories, drama, outstanding golf, and also comebacks. The tournament is never over, especially when you consider some of the treacherous holes players have to face coming down the stretch. 

As we've seen in the past, anything can happen on Sunday at Augusta National so here we have taken a look back at five of the biggest comebacks in Masters history.

Jack Burke Jr wins the 1956 Masters

Jack Burke Jr receives the green jacket from 1955 champion Cary Middlecoff

Jack Burke Jr, 1956 Masters - eight shots

In the final Masters played without a cut, Jack Burke Jr overturned an eight-stroke deficit to defeat Ken Venturi by a single shot. Venturi, a 24-year-old amateur at the time, had led the whole way having posted an opening-round 66 – the lowest score ever at the Masters by an amateur.

However, on a difficult final day in which Burke Jr’s 71 was one of only two under-par rounds, Venturi carded a disappointing 80 to finish in second place, a shot behind his fellow American.

Tom Watson putting a green jacket on Gary Player

Defending champion Tom Watson helping Gary Player into the green jacket in 1978

Gary Player, 1978 Masters - seven shots

Gary Player captured his ninth and final major championship at the 1978 Masters, producing one of the greatest final-round comebacks in history.

The South African trailed Hubert Green by seven shots after three rounds at Augusta National, but a brilliant 64, that included seven birdies in his final 10 holes, was good enough to clinch his third green jacket by a single shot.

Also spare a thought for Tom Watson, who bogeyed the 72nd hole to miss out on a playoff, and then he had to present Player with the Green Jacket (opens in new tab) after winning in 1977. 

Fuzzy Zoeller celebrating victory

Fuzzy Zoeller celebrates after birdieing the second playoff hole to win the Masters

Fuzzy Zoeller, 1979 Masters - six shots

At the 1979 Masters, Ed Sneed took a commanding five-stroke lead over Tom Watson and Craig Stadler into the final day. But it was another famous name who would triumph at Augusta National.

Playing in his first Masters, Fuzzy Zoeller came from six back to post eight-under in the clubhouse. This got him into a playoff after Sneed bogeyed the final three holes. 

Tom Watson also joined the pair in a playoff but it would be Zoeller who emerged victorious. After all parring the 10th hole, the group moved to the 11th, a notoriously tough hole. Zoeller made it look easy though, converting a six-foot birdie putt to win the first of his two Major titles. 

greg norman 15th hole augusta

Norman falls to his knees at the 15th hole in 1996

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sir Nick Faldo, 1996 Masters - six shots

Now we come to arguably the most well-known comeback in Masters history. Back in 1996 Greg Norman surrendered a six-shot lead to Nick Faldo. The Englishman was looking to win his third green jacket and put himself in the best position, birdieing the 17th in round three to all but book his place in the final group.

Looking back, Norman says he should have realised his timing was off as early as the fourth hole, when his tee shot into the long par-3 came up short. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

As the players turned for home, the Australian still held a two-stroke lead but that was all about to change. Two consecutive bogeys and things were level heading to the treacherous 12th. Sensing what was unfolding, Faldo played what he described as a “defensively smart” shot into the heart of the par-3 green, before Norman’s weak effort drifted right and into Rae’s Creek. The resultant double-bogey gave Faldo a two-shot advantage of his own and he never looked back.

By the time the pair walked up 18, Norman trailed by four, with Faldo striking one final blow on the 72nd green. A closing birdie wrapped up an impressive 67 for the Englishman, who beat his playing partner by 11 on the day to win his third and final Masters title by five.

Charl Schwartzel wins the 2011 Masters

Charl Schwartzel turns to the crowd after birdieing the final hole to win in 2011

Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters - four shots

In a similar vein to 1996, the final round of the 2011 Masters will live long in the memory. Having been in a league of one for the opening 54 holes, Rory McIlroy led by four over Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, Jason Day and Charl Schwartzel.

However, the Northern Irishman’s back-nine collapse – in which he dropped six shots in three holes from 10-12 – paved the way for the rest to battle it out on one of the most dramatic final days in the tournament’s history.

Schwartzel emerged as the champion thanks to birdies on the final four holes en route to a two-shot victory Day and Adam Scott.

More Masters Content

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Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6

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