Masters 2012: Top 10 Most Dominant Performances at Augusta
Sometimes, the Masters is a tooth-and-nail battle to the bitter end, with the outcome in doubt until the very last putt drops.
Other times, the stars align, and for four days in early spring, someone just annihilates the competition.
There have been any number of incredible performances at the Masters, but there are some that are simply astonishing in terms of utter domination by one man over the entire field.
Here is a countdown of the top 10 most dominant performances at the Masters.
1993: Bernhard Langer Coasts
If it is possible to win the Masters by four strokes without any fanfare, leave it to Germany's greatest golfer.
The unassuming Bernhard Langer coasted to victory in 1993 while never shooting a score higher than 70.
It was his second green jacket and his second major title.
The domination didn't really begin until Saturday, when Langer took the lead on the second hole and never let it go.
He was one of only three men to shoot two rounds under par that weekend, and his total of 139 over that period was better than the next best score by three strokes in the same time frame.
On a weekend when no one could get anything going, the steady German played his game to the tune of the 10th most dominating victory ever at the Masters.
2011: Schwartzel on Sunday
Entering the final round of the 2011 Masters, Charl Schwartzel was four back of the lead held by Rory McIlroy.
Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two over Jason Day and Adam Scott.
Day and Scott did not play badly, shooting 68 and 67, respectively, but on a day when everyone was playing well and when eight different players had a share of the lead at one time or another, Schwartzel shot the lowest round of the day, a 66.
In a turn of events that was eerily similar to Greg Norman's collapse 15 years prior, McIlroy melted down after his tee shot on the 10th was so far left that he could have asked to borrow a cup of milk from an occupant of one of the bungalows that sits in the woods next to the fairway.
The resulting triple bogey led to a complete collapse by the young Northern Irishman, who would go on to finish tied for 15th after taking a four-stroke lead into the final day.
The day, however, belonged to Schwartzel, who birdied the first hole with a chip-in, made an eagle on the par-four third and birdied the final four holes to win by two.
It was only fitting that on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player becoming the first international male golfer to win the Masters, his fellow countryman dominated the field to take his first major victory.
1980: Seve Ballesteros Begins the European Invasion
It's not easy being the first to do something.
Not many have handled it better than Seve Ballesteros did in 1980.
Not only did he become the youngest man to win the Masters (a mark later eclipsed by Tiger Woods), but he was the first man from Europe to win it.
Over the next 20 years, men from England, Wales, Scotland, Germany and Spain would win the Masters 11 times.
In 1980, Seve opened with a 66 to take a share of the lead he would never relinquish. He led after the second round by four and after the third round by seven.
Halfway through the final round, Seve had a lead of 10, but struggled early on the back nine. His lead nearly evaporated, shrinking to three strokes.
Being the gritty competitor he was, however, he recovered and ended up winning by four.
1948: Claude Harmon Wins His Only Major
Claude Harmon is hardly a household name. In fact, you probably recognize his son more than you do him. Claude "Butch" Harmon Jr. was the one-time coach of Tiger Woods.
Claude Harmon was an excellent player in his own right, though. He finished in the top 10 at the Masters twice, including his win, as well as two top-10 finishes in the U.S. Open.
Harmon never shot a score higher than 70 during the 1948 Masters, building a resounding five-stroke margin of victory.
His performance set a record for the lowest score at the Masters at the time.
It wound up being Harmon's only win on tour, but what a win it was.
1996: The Disaster at the Masters
Imagine you are standing on the ninth tee at Augusta on Masters Sunday and you have a three-stroke lead.
You haven't been playing great that day. You are two-over par for the day, while your playing partner, who has won this tournament twice before, is one-under par.
You started the day with a six-stroke lead. Are you still confident you are going to win the tournament?
For most professional golfers, the answer would be yes.
That is, of course, unless the man you are playing is five-time major champion Nick Faldo, and you are Greg Norman.
Some people like to think that it was Norman collapsing that was the story, but consider this: If Norman had simply played par golf for the last 10 holes, he still would have been in a playoff.
Faldo not only made up the six-stroke deficit he was facing at the start of the round; he ended up winning the tournament by five strokes!
That is as dominating a round of golf as you will ever see. To think that Faldo posted the sixth-largest margin of victory after facing the largest deficit in a major ever, and did it by shooting the best score of the day, is remarkable.
1964: The King Wins His Last in Style
Arnold Palmer is known as The King, and rightfully so. The man not only won a lot of golf tournaments (72 PGA and Champions Tour events), but he won the Masters four times. All of this while single-handedly changing the image of golf from a rich man's, elitist game to a blue-collar sport for the masses.
Palmer entered the 1964 Masters tied for the most wins in the event with Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead. He would surpass them in dominating fashion.
He became the first man to win the Masters four times by firing three straight rounds in the 60s to open the tournament, and he cruised to victory by six strokes over Dave Marr and a portly kid from Ohio named Jack Nicklaus.
This was also Arnold's third win at the Masters in five years. In fact, it was during the seven-year stretch from 1960 to 1966 that if you were not named Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Gary Player, you did not win the Masters. That level of domination by three players in a single event has never been replicated.
The 1964 win was The King's seventh major championship title, but it would also be his last.
Long live The King!
1955: Cary Middlecoff Runs Away for His Lone Masters
Dr. Cary Middlecoff, DDS gave up his dental practice to pursue his dream of playing golf for a living.
He would eventually win 40 tournaments, including the 1955 Masters.
That Masters victory, sandwiched between U.S. Open victories in 1949 and 1956, was a remarkable win for Doc.
The domination began in the second round, when Doc Middlecoff fired a blistering 65. On the opening nine of that round, Middlecoff laid down a smooth 31, a nine-hole record score for the Masters at the time.
The great round propelled Middlecoff to a four-stroke lead after three rounds, which he expanded to seven over the immortal Ben Hogan.
The 1955 Masters was remarkable not only for Middlecoff's performance, but also for the Masters debut of one of only three men to win the Masters four or more times. You might have heard of him; his name is Arnold Palmer.
1976: Ray Floyd Cruises
People often forget Ray Floyd when they are listing the greatest players ever. Floyd won four majors (as many as Mickelson), including the 1976 Masters.
Floyd didn't always have it easy in the tournaments he won. Of his 22 PGA Tour wins, 16 of them came by two or fewer strokes or in a playoff.
For one week in April 1976, however, Floyd caught lightning in a bottle.
On his way to tying Jack Nicklaus for the lowest four-round score in the Masters, Floyd also set records for lowest opening round by an eventual champion (65), best score after 36 holes (131) and lowest score for 54 holes (201).
Floyd took control of the tournament from the opening tee shot and never let up.
His eventual margin of victory, eight strokes, was the third-best ever in the Masters and the largest margin of victory Floyd ever won by.
1965: The Emergence of a Legend
Jack Nicklaus is a golf immortal. His place in history has been cemented by his utter domination of every other player on earth for more than 20 years.
He has won more majors (18) and more Masters (six) than anyone. He has more second-place finishes in major championships than Tiger and Phil have combined wins.
His first win in a major, as well as his first ever win on tour, was the 1962 U.S. Open.
But, his first dominating win, and the largest margin of victory the Golden Bear ever had in a major, came in 1965 at Augusta.
Jack started slowly, shooting 67-71 in the first two rounds, but in Round 3, he demonstrated the incredible level of play he would become known for over the next 20 years.
Rolling in putt after putt, Jack posted a third-round 64 to tie the course record. The remarkable round left Jack five clear of Gary Player and eight ahead of Arnold Palmer, who would finish third and second, respectively.
Jack also broke Ben Hogan's record for the tournament, eclipsing Hogan's record of 274 by three strokes.
That record would stand for 32 years, until some guy named Woods came along.
1997: Tiger Wins by a Dozen
Tiger Woods did not have a very auspicious start to his career at Augusta.
In 1995, as an amateur, he finished the tournament five-over and in 41st place. A year later, he missed the cut, shooting six-over for two rounds.
Even his record-breaking start to his 1997 Masters was not terrific. During a front-nine 40 on Thursday, he bogeyed the first hole and three holes after that, including the par-five eighth.
His bogey on the ninth on Thursday was the last bogey he would make for 50 holes.
By the time it was all said and done, Woods had lapped the field in what can only be called the single most dominating performance ever witnessed at Augusta.
Woods' 12-shot margin of victory was so great that he could have played three more holes than anyone else in the field and probably still would have been tied for the lead.
On Friday, when he took control of the tournament, he played the four par-five holes at five-under.
On Saturday, he made seven birdies against no bogeys while shooting 65.
On Sunday, a day which saw Woods begin with a nine-stroke lead, Woods bogeyed the fifth and seventh holes against five birdies. If Woods had bogeyed the other 11 holes, he still would have won by one stroke.
If you are looking for a player to walk out and strangle the life out of a golf course, Woods is your man. He has clearly shown that he is capable of decimating a course and a field, leaving them, and us, in awe.
That ability was on full display in April 1997.
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