Ranking the 10 Most Dominant Performances in Masters History

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIApril 8, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Dominant Performances in Masters History

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    Bobby Jones dominated the golf world, winning 13 major championships in just an eight-year span. He envisioned the Augusta National Golf Club and along with Clifford Roberts founded the club.

    He also started the tournament that would become known as the Masters.

    There have been many dominating and unforgettable performances in the Masters over its 89-year history.

    We will try to rank 10 of the most memorable.

No 10: Byron Nelson's Birdie-Eagle

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    Byron Nelson is one of the most legendary figures in golf history and won the 1937 Masters.

    He trailed fellow Texan Ralph Guldahl by six strokes at the start of the final round that year.

    Guldahl found trouble at Nos. 12 and 13 making a double-bogey at the par-three No. 12 and a bogey on the par-five No. 13.

    Nelson made up the six-shot deficit playing the same two holes in birdie-eagle and won the tournament by two shots.

    The 1937 Masters was Nelson's third PGA victory and the first of his five major championship wins.

    The bridge on No. 13 at Augusta National Golf Club was named the Nelson Bridge in honor of his miraculous accomplishment in the 1937 Masters.

No. 9: Phil Mickelson Finally Breaks Through in 2004

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    Phil Mickelson joined the PGA Tour in 1992 and amassed 22 regular tour wins before he won his first major at the 2004 Masters.

    In the three years prior to his win Mickelson had finished in the third spot each year. Golf fans and media alike began to wonder if he would ever win a major.

    Tied for the lead after 71 holes, he made a birdie putt at the 18th hole to secure the win by one shot over Ernie Els.

    Mickelson has since won two more Masters, as well as, the 2005 PGA Championship.

    His win in 2004 at the Masters eased the pressure to get his first major and put him among the elite golfers with multiple major wins.  

No. 8: Ben Hogan Dominated in 1951

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    Ben Hogan won the Masters in 1951 and again in 1953. It could be argued that either was dominating and important to Hogan's career totals.

    The win in 1951, however, was his first Masters title and came after finishing in the top 10 at the Masters on eight previous occasions including two runners-up. 

    It also came after returning from severe injuries suffered in a horrific car accident in 1949.

    Hogan had trailed the leader by one shot at the beginning of the final round in 1951 but posted a near perfect four-under par 68 to win by two shots.

    The bridge at No. 12 connecting the tee to the green was dedicated as the Hogan Bridge in 1958.

No. 7: Gary Player Became the First International Masters Winner

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    Gary Player won three green jackets in his career and was the first non-American golfer to win the Masters in its 25-year history.

    Player was only 5'6" and 150 pounds but was able to compete at the difficult Augusta National Golf Club due to his positive mental attitude and belief in physical fitness. 

    He was the only player not named Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus to win the Masters from 1960 to 1966. He beat Palmer by a just single shot in 1961 to claim his first major title.

    Player won a total of nine majors throughout his career and is one of only five professional players to have won all four major titles

No. 6: Sam Snead Beat Ben Hogan in 1954

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    Sam Snead won the seventh and last major title of his career at the 1954 Masters.

    It was the third time that Snead had won the Masters and either Ben Hogan or Snead won the Green Jacket from 1951-1954.

    Snead and Hogan dueled head to head throughout the week and the final outcome was never finally decided until an 18-hole playoff on Monday. In the playoff Snead's 70 beat Hogan's 71 by a single shot.

    Even though Snead continued to play competitively on the PGA Tour and won his last tournament at age 52 in 1965, his win in the 1954 Masters brought to an end the domination of the "American Triumvirate" of Hogan, Nelson and Snead.

    Snead won 82 career PGA titles in his illustrious career, but none was so sweet as beating his friend and arch-nemesis Ben Hogan in one of the best Masters of all time. 

No. 5: Charl Schwartzel Finished with Four Birdies to Win in 2011

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    Charl Schwartzel became the third South African to win the Masters. Gary Player won three green jackets throughout his career and Trevor Immelman won in 2008.

    Schwartzel had played primarily on the Sunshine and European Tours. The 2011 Masters was just his second appearance at Augusta National.

    Rory McIlroy had led the tournament through 54 holes, but struggled on the final nine holes allowing eight different players a chance for the win on Sunday.

    Schwartzel birdied his final four holes on Sunday to shoot a final round 66 and post 14-under par, two shots better than Adam Scott and Jason Day.

    His win at the 2011 Masters has propelled Schwartzel to become one of the most dominant players in the world over the past two years.

No. 4: Arnold Palmer Won His First Green Jacket in 1958

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    Arnold Palmer won his first major title and the first of his three Masters titles in 1958.

    He had joined the PGA Tour in 1955 and his win at the Masters cemented his status as a golf icon and helped propel him to superstar status.

    Palmer's one-shot win over defending Masters champion Doug Ford, Fred Hawkins and Stan Leonard gave golf fans a new hero and ushered in the advent of television coverage for golf.

    Born and raised as a hard-working greens-keeper's son from Pennsylvania, Palmer came to exemplify the everyday working man and brought millions of new fans to golf.

    Palmer went on to win 62 career PGA Tour titles, seven majors and became the most beloved golfer of all time. 

No. 3: Gene Sarazen Hit the "Shot Heard Round the World" in 1935

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    Gene Sarazen won 39 PGA tournaments in his career, but none was more significant than his win at the 1935 Masters.

    Sarazen was three shots behind the leader Craig Wood heading to the par-five 15th hole in the last round of the tournament.

    From 235 yards he struck a perfect 4-wood that found the cup for a double-eagle and became known as "the shot heard round the world."

    The Albatross at No. 15 allowed Sarazen to tie Wood after regulation play ended and he went on to beat Wood the next day in a 36-hole playoff.

    It was Sarazen's seventh and last major title of his career but it completed his career Grand Slam. He is one of only five golfers, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to have won all four professional major championships in their career. 

    Sarazen's famous shot will forever be remembered at the Augusta National Golf Club by a bridge named in his honor. 

No. 2: Jack Nicklaus Shot 30 on the Back Nine on Sunday

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    Jack Nicklaus was 46 years old when won his sixth green jacket at the 1986 Masters. 

    He shot a six-under par 30 on the back nine in the final round on Sunday. Over his last 10 holes, Nicklaus made bogey at No. 12, two pars at No. 14 and 18, six birdies and an eagle at No. 15.

    It was truly a round for the ages and the fact that he produced this feat at the difficult Augusta National Golf Club only solidifies his claim to golfing greatness.

    Most golf pundits had declared the Golden Bear's golfing career dead and buried. He proved the prognosticators wrong and collected his 18th major title.

No. 1: Tiger Woods Won by 12 Strokes in 1997

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    Tiger Woods won his first major title at the 1997 Masters by an unbelievable twelve shots. It was one of the most dominating performances ever recorded in competition.

    He shot a four-over par 40 in his first nine holes on Thursday but came back in six-under par 30 on the back nine to post a two-under par 70. He finished just two shots behind the leader after the first round.

    His final three rounds of 66-65-69 left him at 18-under par for the week and 12 shots clear of Tom Kite, who finished in second place. 

    Woods' win at the 1997 Masters in just his third appearance at Augusta National announced to the world that he was a cut above mere mortal golfers and would continue to dominate golf tournaments.