Did you know: One of the longest Masters records fell at Augusta National in the November Masters
The old saw about Augusta National is that it’s a par 68 for the long hitters, the assumption being the bombers can dismantle the course’s four par 5s. However, since the Masters began in 1934, there was something that has never happened during the tournament until the November 2020 edition. Something that many people likely will find difficult to believe, but it’s true. Since the first time it was played in 1934, over 6,600 golfers teed it up and more than 4,200 of them have played all four rounds of the tournament.
Not one of them, however, had shot four rounds in the 60s in one Masters until Cameron Smith did it—and he didn't even win the tournament (Dustin Johnson did).
Still, no one has done it in a spring Masters. The course that made going low in major-championship golf fashionable has also been remarkably stingy in doing so for four straight tournament rounds. How miserly is Augusta? Consider that it has happened on 50 occasions in the other three majors: 41 times at the PGA Championship (including six alone at TPC Harding Park), 13 times at the Open Championship and even five times in the U.S. Open, generally considered the stingiest major in terms of rounds in relation to par.
In fact, there’s not another event on the PGA Tour calendar where shooting four sub-70 rounds has not occurred. Even new events such as the Bermuda Championship and Zozo Championship have seen it happen in their inaugural playings.
But not at the Masters. It’s was 83 events and running until the November 2020 Masters. Consider that even some of the longest droughts in sports haven’t lasted that long. The Cleveland Indians have been without a World Series title for 74 years; the Detroit Lions have gone 65 years without an NFL title. Lengthy, to be sure, but nowhere near the mark Augusta National was putting up.
Not that there haven’t been some close calls. Forty-seven times in Masters history has a player shot three rounds in the 60s, a feat accomplished by 38 different golfers. Included among them is Phil Mickelson, who has done it four separate occasions, as well as Patrick Reed in 2018 who looked like a real possibility to end the drought by going 69-66-67 before finishing with a 71.
Thirteen times before Smith players had a chance heading into the final round to conquer golf’s version of Mount Everest. Some failed epicly; Craig Parry’s 78 in 1992 and Ed Sneed’s 76 in 1979 being the biggest breakdowns. A trio of players have come ever-so-close, shooting 70 in the final round. Arnold Palmer needed a final-nine 34 in 1964, and after birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 he was just one shy as he played the final holes. A 71st-hole bogey ended his hopes, although Palmer made birdie at the last and walked off with his fourth green jacket in seven years.
There was no such consolation for Mickelson in 2001. Chasing Tiger Woods, who was going after the “Tiger Slam,” Lefty was one shot in arrears coming to 16. But his 7-iron shot hung up on the ridge, and he raced his putt past the hole and missed coming back for a deflating bogey.
“Sixteen was the real killer,” Mickelson said.
In more ways than one. Mickelson parred the final two holes for a 70 to come up three short of Woods and a single shot short of making history.
Which just puts him alongside those 6,600-plus other Masters participants. While Smith's feat is never to be overlooked, we're still waiting for someone to do this in April.