Masters 2020: Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth lead golfers with the best command of Augusta National

USATSI

Augusta National Golf Club is the one course that everyone knows. Sure, every eight years, fans are reminded how much they know or remember about the Old Course at St. Andrews or Pebble Beach, but in terms of ubiquity, Augusta National stands alone.

This is not a new theme, but that’s part of what makes the Masters so special. We know what No. 2 is going to look like on Saturday afternoon and where the pin is going to be on No. 16 on Sunday. We remember exactly how Tiger Woods played the 15th hole in 2019, and we can’t shake that footage of Jordan Spieth at No. 12 in 2016.

This is not only true for patrons but for players, too. It’s part of the matrix they’re attempting to solve year over year. The familiarity is part of the allure. I’ve seen this course at a high level 40 times, why can’t I figure out how to play it? Some, though, have figured out how to play it better than others. 

When I started diving into the all-time numbers on scoring averages at Augusta National, I was surprised by what I found. It’s a fascinating — and never-ending — well of information. You can dive in and swim around for a long, long time. First, let’s look at who has played this course the best throughout their career. Here are all the golfers who have a subpar scoring average (courtesy of Justin Ray).

Jordan Spieth

24

70.17

Tiger Woods

86

70.83

Phil Mickelson

102

71.26

Jason Day

33

71.27

Rickie Fowler

34

71.50

Dustin Johnson

34

71.50

Rory McIlroy

42

71.52

Charley Hoffman

24

71.58

Justin Rose

54

71.81

Hideki Matsuyama 30 71.90
Bubba Watson 42 71.90
Matt Kuchar 50 71.96
Jerry Pate 28 71.96
Jack Nicklaus 163 71.98

There is a lot going on here.

  • Spieth is more than a stroke better per round than somebody with three green jackets (Mickelson) who doesn’t yet have a stack of post-50-year-old rounds is simply astonishing. Spieth is nearly in the 60s!
  • Woods’ number is about what you would expect. It will balloon a bit as he ages, but he has been stout there throughout his entire career. 
  • I bet you didn’t see Fowler over McIlroy coming. Rory does have a slight edge if you look at strokes gained, but Fowler has been underrated and good at Augusta. 
  • Nicklaus’ number is astonishing considering how many rounds he’s played. If Matthew Wolff played every Masters from right now until he turned 60 and never missed a cut, he would still have fewer Masters rounds than Nicklaus. And to stay under par until the end is a joke, considering he only broke par in one round over his last five Masters.
  • If you cut Nicklaus off after the 1988 Masters, he fits in just after Mickelson, but the strokes gained number is higher than Woods, which tells you a lot about how much lower scores are now than they used to be (especially when you get deeper into the field). In fact, Nicklaus currently has the fourth-best strokes-gained number ever behind Spieth, Woods and Mickelson.
  • A Charley Hoffman sighting!
  • Ending your career under par at Augusta National if you’re a former champion (and thus lifetime invite) is next to impossible. Of golfers with over 100 rounds played, only Fred Couples is even close to Nicklaus. He’s played 126 rounds and is at 72.02. That number will surely go up, as will all of the numbers for past champions. It should be fascinating to see if Spieth, Woods and Mickelson can keep company with Nicklaus in the sub-72 group over the next few years.


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