The Burden of Winning The Masters

by Jeff Skinner

As The Masters inches closer millions of golf fans are forced to try and deal with the painful waiting, feeling like a kid with Christmas a few days away.  The expectations for a remarkable tournament are extremely high based on the fact that so many high profile players are playing so well going into The Masters.  Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald have all won this season and a case can be made for each of them sliding into a green jacket on Sunday evening.

The anticipation level kicked into warp speed when Tiger Woods won at The Arnold Palmer Invitational last month.  With the Woods win and a new bounce in his step comes the hopeful expectation from legions of fans that there will be a showdown between the biggest names in golf.

Anytime Tiger, Rory and Phil are in the mix makes a tournament special, when it comes at a major even more so.  If it happens at Augusta it will go off the charts.

But The Masters also has a history of lesser names sneaking through the pines and hills of Augusta to earn that coveted green jacket.  And in doing so many are not just earning their first Masters, they are winning their first major.

In the past ten years the Masters has had seven different winners and only five of them weren’t named Tiger and Phil.  Woods has four victories with two since 2002.  Phil won his first in 2004 and captured two more in 2006 and 2010.

Of the five other Masters winners since 2002 only 2009 winner Angel Cabrera had another major win on his resume, the ’07 U.S. Open.  The four remaining winners all earned their first major victory at The Masters.  Mike Weir ’03, Zack Johnson ’07, Trevor Immelman ’08 and Charl Schwartzel last year all found good fortune on the green grass of Augusta National.   But oddly enough none of them have been able to back up their first major with another one.

We never make it easy on our major champions.  If they win one we demand that they another win to prove it wasn’t a fluke.  It may be an unfair consequence of winning a major but we want our champions to be superhuman.  One major separates a golfer from the masses.  Multiple major wins puts a player in the rarified air of greatness and opens the door to the Hall of Fame.

Certainly Tiger and Phil have cemented their place in Masters Lore with multiple Masters victories.  Will any of the single Masters winners prove themselves worthy of another green jacket? Or will it be Phil or Tiger that grabs another piece of history?  Will a new first timer put on that green jacket and shoulder all the burdens and accolades that go with a major win?

The stage is set for a remarkable week of golf and as we have watched over the decades, The Masters rarely disappoints.


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