Out of all four of the majors on the PGA Tour, the Masters Tournament is the one that people look forward to the most. The main reason is that it’s the only major where the venue doesn’t change. Each April, the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is home to the Masters Tournament, with the winner receiving the famed green jacket.
There have been some close calls as well as dominant performances. Today, we focus on the latter category and look at the five most dominating performances in Masters history. Before we begin the list, here are some of the performances that just missed the cut (no pun intended): Claude Harmon (1948), Dustin Johnson (2020), Phil Mickelson (2010), and Ben Hogan (1953).
Arnold Palmer (1964)
The first performance on the list isn’t close to the top of the list in terms of the best overall score, but few were able to leap ahead of the field as the legendary Arnold Palmer did in 1964. After a decent first round that saw him tied for first at -3, Palmer went off in the second round as he shot four-under while nobody else could improve on the first-round scores.
With a four-stroke advantage heading into the third round, Palmer extended his lead by one stroke, even as Australian Bruce Devlin had an amazing day that brought him to -5. It was too little too late for Devlin and the rest of the field as Palmer gained another stroke on everyone else in the final round. He would finish with a score of -12, six strokes ahead of Dave Marr and Jack Nicklaus.
Cary Middlecoff (1955)
While most of the dominating performances on the list included a strong first round, that wasn’t the case for Cary Middlecoff in 1955. He finished with an even 72 that day, putting him one stroke behind Julius Boros and Mike Souchak and a whopping five strokes behind Jack Burke Jr. Burke faded in the second round, though, as Middlecoff had a tremendous performance on cut day, finishing seven under par.
Middlecoff stayed at -7 during the third round, but so did pretty much everyone in the field with some tough conditions. During the final round, nobody threatened Middlecoff and he extended his lead to six strokes heading to the 18th hole. Middlecoff birdied the final hole and finished -9, seven strokes ahead of Ben Hogan.
Raymond Floyd (1976)
The conditions for the 1976 Masters were amazing for the first two rounds and the golfers were able to put up some staggering numbers. Raymond Floyd finished the first round at -7, which was still only able to give him a one-stroke lead above Andy North. Floyd extended his lead with a -6 performance in the second round, and his -13 was five strokes ahead of Jack Nicklaus.
As conditions got a bit tougher, Floyd increased his lead to eight strokes after the third round as he was the only one to improve his overall score. Nobody had a chance to catch him on the last day and that eight-stroke lead he took into Sunday would remain as he finished -17 with Ben Crenshaw taking the runner-up spot.
Jack Nicklaus (1965)
The legendary Jack Nicklaus has been in the top three for a lot of the most dominant performances, and in 1965 he was the one that was doing the dominating. Interestingly enough, though, Nicklaus didn’t have the lead to himself heading into the weekend. Nicklaus (-5) was two strokes behind Gary Player after the first round, then tied with Player and Arnold Palmer at -6 following the second.
Nicklaus raced through the course on Saturday, putting up a 64 to bring his total to -14, separating himself from Player by five strokes. He then shot -3 in the final round while Palmer and Player reunited at second place. Nicklaus finished -17, including a birdie on the final hole for the cherry on top.
Tiger Woods (1997)
We might never see a margin of victory at the Masters like the one that Tiger Woods was able to put up in 1997. Tiger shot a 70 in the first round, which actually put him three strokes behind leader John Huston. The other three days would be an entirely different story, however. After the first nine holes of the tournament, Woods was +4 overall, but following the second day he was -8, giving him a -12 performance over 27 holes.
Woods didn’t look back and extended his lead to nine strokes after the third round, then cruised in the final round with a 69. Woods finished -18 while Tom Kite was a distant second at -6. By the final day, the question was who would finish runner-up as it was a $100,000 difference between second and third.