The 8 Best Masters Tournaments Since 2000

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2021

The 8 Best Masters Tournaments Since 2000

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In the past 20 years, the Masters has featured a wide variety of stories. There's been Tiger Woods' dominance and recovery, Phil Mickelson's first major victory, a handful of playoffs and both dramatic rises and epic collapses in the final round.

    And when the most iconic event on the PGA Tour calendar has an exciting finish, it becomes a piece of golf history.

    As the 2021 Masters begins, we're reminiscing about several of the best tournaments at Augusta National Golf Club during the past two decades. For both tournament-specific and historical reasons, these battles for a green jacket are remembered well.

    While the choices are subjective, the list is organized chronologically.

2001: The Tiger Slam

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    AMY SANCETTA/Associated Press

    In the second of his five Masters wins, Tiger Woods made a little history. He completed the Tiger Slam, winning all four major championships in a row.

    Woods held off a hard-charging David Duval, who posted a five-under 67 on Sunday. Woods opened the final round with a bogey, but he responded with six birdies and just one dropped shot the rest of the way. He edged Duval by two strokes and Phil Mickelson by three.

    Finishing at 16 under par, Woods added the fourth-lowest score in Masters history to his record 18-under performance in 1997.

2004: Phil Mickelson Gets His Major

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Finally.

    That's the short version of Mickelson's win at Augusta in 2004. Heading into the Masters, he'd started 46 major tournaments but never brought home the trophy. Finally, the drought ended.

    Mickelson trailed by five shots after Thursday. But in the next two rounds, Lefty carded three-under 69s and entered Sunday tied atop the leaderboard. Ernie Els notched a 67 and headed to the clubhouse at eight under par, putting pressure on Mickelson, who made the turn two over for the day. 

    That set the stage for an iconic back nine. 

    After birdies on 12, 13, 14 and 16, he stepped onto the 18th tee in a tie with Els. Mickelson gave himself an 18-footer for the win, sank the putt and celebrated with a now-legendary leap.

2005: Tiger's Chip-In, Playoff Win

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    While the 2004 Masters is remembered for Phil's Leap, the 2005 tournament is immortal because of Tiger's Chip. His incredible birdie on the 16th hole is one of golf's most famous shots.

    But it's easy to forget that Tiger's heroics didn't actually clinch his fourth green jacket.

    Following the chip-in, Woods held a two-stroke lead on Chris DiMarco with two holes to play. Tiger bogeyed both 17 and 18, while DiMarco's third shot on 18 struck the pin before bouncing away. They needed a playoff to crown a champion.

    Woods and DiMarco returned to the 18th tee. DiMarco's second shot rolled off the green, but Woods stuck his approach to 15 feet. DiMarco left himself a tap-in par, but Tiger drilled the birdie putt.

2009: Angel Cabrera Navigates Playoff

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The 2009 tournament isn't as famous, but Sunday's storylines were outstanding.

    Entering the round, co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry shared a seven-shot advantage over Woods and Mickelson. Paired together, though, the stars both reached 10 under par and forced their way into the conversation. Both players dipped late, yet the Masters still had an epic three-player finish.

    Then, similar to Woods in 2005, Perry squandered a two-shot advantage on the last two holes. The slide allowed Cabrera and Chad Campbell to force a playoff.

    Perry and Cabrera both parred the 18th—the first playoff hole—which eliminated Campbell. Then on the par-four 10th, Perry could not scramble for a par and watched Cabrera safely two-putt his way to a green jacket.

2011: Charl Schwartzel's Scorching Finish

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    Dave Martin/Associated Press

    One year after and before legendary shots from Mickelson and Bubba Watson in their wins, respectively, Charl Schwartzel put together a spectacular Sunday charge. Rory McIlory, on the other hand, endured a stunning Sunday collapse.

    That juxtaposition of triumph and disappointment is the lasting memory of the 2011 tournament.

    McIlroy began Sunday's round holding a four-shot lead, but a triple bogey on 10 and a double on 12 sent the then-rising star to a disastrous eight-over 80. He finished 10 strokes back, opening the door for a highly competitive finish. Eight different players held the lead at some point Sunday.

    But the victory went to Schwartzel.

    He birdied the first, eagled the third and birdied the last four holes to seal the victory at 14 under par. Schwartzel bested both Jason Day and Adam Scott by two strokes.

2013: Adam Scott's Playoff Triumph

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Two years following his runner-up finish to Schwartzel, Scott earned his moment in the spotlight.

    Well, moonlight.

    Scott—with Steve Williams, Tiger's former caddie, on the bag—survived an entertaining finish to become the first-ever Masters champion from Australia. For a moment, it seemed his countryman Jason Day would be the winner. Two late bogeys ruined Day's chances, however.

    Scott and Cabrera, the 2009 winner, both birdied the 18th hole to force a playoff. After pars apiece on 18, Scott drained a 15-foot birdie on No. 10 to beat Cabrera's par.

    As dusk settled on Augusta National, Scott slipped on a green jacket for his only major title to date.

2016: Danny Willett Wins After Jordan Spieth's Collapse

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    Through three rounds and nine holes in 2016, Jordan Spieth seemed to be cruising toward back-to-back Masters wins. He arrived on the back nine holding a commanding five-shot lead.

    Disaster struck on holes 10-12, though. After bogeys on both 10 and 11, Spieth splashed two balls in Rae’s Creek on 12 and ended with a quadruple bogey. Within 45 real-time minutes, he'd given back six shots and plummeted to fourth place.

    Danny Willett took full advantage of his unexpected moment.

    With a bogey-free 67—including birdies on three of the last six holes—Willett soared atop the leaderboard. And when Dustin Johnson gave back two shots on 17 and Spieth bogeyed the hole, Willett had the victory locked up.

2019: Tiger Completes the Comeback

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    From 1997 to 2008, Woods won 14 majors and became the strongest force in golf history.

    Throughout the next decade, though, both personal issues and health problems contributed to a drought. There was even a four-year period when he appeared in just six of 16 possible majors—and made the cut in only two.

    The dream of a 15th major appeared to be fading. But at Augusta in 2019, he made it a reality.

    During the final round, he dropped in birdies at 13, 15 and 16. Everyone else played their way out of the leading spot. Francesco Molinari (twice), Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau and Ian Poulter found the water. Late bogeys eliminated Watson. Johnson, Xander Schauffele and Day all charged but fell short.

    Tiger needed only a bogey on 18 to secure his fifth green jacket. He did exactly that, completing both a metaphorical and competitive comeback.