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Ranking the 5 best Masters performances of all-time: Jordan Spieth to Tiger Woods

The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club is home to the first major tournament every year that awards the winning player with the coveted green jacket.

Golf professionals always note the Masters in Augusta, Ga. when making their schedule for the year as they get the opportunity to walk through the historic Ben Hogan Bridge in the heart of Amen Corner, which highlights one of the most famous landmarks in the game.  

The Masters, which was formally changed from the Augusta National Invitational Tournament after four years in 1934, has been the site for some incredible performances that go down in history as some of the best golf is on display.

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Every year, unique storylines emerge at Augusta National from rookies and young phenoms outshining the field to amazing comebacks as the golf course is lined with beautiful fairways and flowers.

Here are the five best Masters performances before the 87th edition begins with first round play on April 6.

5. Jordan Spieth, 2015

Golf: Masters Tournament - First Round
Katie Goodale-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, Jordan Spieth made his second Masters appearance and was the runner-up the year before. His second-place finish in 2014 gave him the motivation to reach the top.

Spieth carded 8-under 64, the second-best first round score to start a Masters Tournament. He followed that up with a bogey-free 66 in the second round, which tied the major tournament record with 130 strokes through 36 holes.

Despite three bogeys and a double bogey, the 21-year-old Spieth was 2-under in the third round and gave him a four-shot lead and the new 54-hole record at the Masters. Spieth, who finished with an 18-under 270 score, came close to breaking the 72-hole Masters record but a bogey on the final hole prevented that.

Spieth, who started his Masters career with a third-place finish or better in four of his first five starts at Augusta was one of those young stars to capture a Masters victory early in his career.

4. Dustin Johnson, 2020

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Michael Holahan / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Masters 2020 was an unconventional one with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the event seven months back to November. With no fans walking around the course, players had the opportunity to hit the ball in certain spots where players were unable to with crowds.

One of those players to emerge from the field was Dustin Johnson as fall, leafless trees surrounded Augusta National, compared to the iconic spring-like colors. Johnson opened the 2020 Masters with a bogey-free 7-under 65. Starting fast and starting strong was key for Johnson as he did his best to follow Spieth’s footsteps from five years before.

Despite a couple of bogeys on the par-4 14th and the par-5 15th, Johnson recorded 4 birdies in a five-hole stretch in the second round before recording another bogey-free 65 in the third round.

After another stretch of back-to-back bogeys in the front nine of his final round, Johnson responded with three consecutive birdies to finish 20-under 268 for the lowest score in tournament history.

3. Tiger Woods, 2019

Syndication: Palm Beach Post

Tiger Woods had not won a major tournament in 11 years, let alone a green jacket in 14 years due to multiple injuries in different spots in his body.

However, in 2019, Woods, who was able to be able to return to form after previously winning the Tour Championship months before, returned to Augusta looking to be victorious and get within one green jacket of Jack Nicklaus.

When it comes to golf at Augusta National, the key is not only how you play, but your experience around the course is vital for success. That was the advantage for Woods as his opponents were either falling apart or inexperienced during the final round at the Masters.

Woods, who was under par all four rounds, did not even need to shoot really low during a round as his best came with a 5-under 67 on Saturday.

His experience guided him around the course with the knowledge of wind, pin placements and how much spin as he was able to win by one stroke and claim green jacket No. 5 in comeback fashion similar to likes of Ben Hogan returning to championship form following a series of injuries from a car crash.

Although we have yet to see Woods pull off a Masters victory following his 2021 single-car accident, his 2019 victory came after multiple surgeries that makes it similar to Hogan’s return some 70 years ago.

2. Tiger Woods, 1997

Golf: Masters Tournament - Final Round
Danielle Parhizkaran-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports

Years before Woods won his fifth legend, his mark on the game was made in his first Masters start in 1997, at 21 years old. Woods stole the show as he continued to get birdies as he continued to take shots off the leaderboard.

Although Woods did not start as fast as Spieth or Johnson in his first round, Woods turned it on as he recorded a 65 on Saturday’s moving day and continued to vault himself up the leaderboard.

Woods was able to cruise his way to victory winning by a dozen shots for the largest margin of victory and recording the then-scoring record at 18-under 270. Woods still holds the record for the best second, third and fourth rounds combined, best second and third round combined score and back nine score as he went 30-32-33-33 in a magical first walk around the property.

This dominant victory was one to remember as Woods would go on to win four more green jackets.

1. Jack Nicklaus, 1986

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Jack Nicklaus, who was at the back end of his career in 1986, was trying to rekindle his magic at Augusta National at the age of 46.

Nicklaus, who won his first green jacket at 23 years old and was the youngest Masters Champion at the time in 1962, was aiming for his first major victory in six years and already at the age of 40, time was getting to the Golden Bear.

However, during the 1986 Masters, did not get off get off to a great start, shooting over par in the first and brought his score down to +1 in order to make the cut and was within reach during the final round. Despite going even par through the first eight holes in the final round, Nicklaus was able to get the putter going, something he struggled with in the first round.

With 10 holes left, Nicklaus began his trek to the top with birdies on three consecutive holes. He added another birdie on 13 and was able to score an eagle on 15 and the crowd was realizing was the 46-year-old was doing at a place where we had previously won five Masters. Nicklaus continued his hot streak with a birdie on the par-3 16th.

Then came the inevitable 17th hole where he had an 18-footer for birdie and still have a chance. The iconic image on Nicklaus lifting his putter as ball drops into cup and eventually finished with a final round 7-under 65 to be at 9-under for the tournament. But the adrenaline rush was not over yet as other players still had to finish.

His remarkable 30 on the back nine of the championship would go down as one of the best finishes to a tournament as he won his sixth green jacket and his 18th major championship, the most of any player.  

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