07 Apr 2019

Predicting a Masters winner…? Expect the Unexpected

Golf tournaments often provide a shock or a sting in the tail and The Masters is no exception. While Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have seven Green Jackets between them since 1997, the last four winners have all been first timers and with the depth in the game currently, with none of the current Top Ten in the world rankings a Masters winner, the chances are that there will be another new name to add to the roll of honour. Let’s look back at some of the really surprising winners over the last 20 years.

Mike Weir (2003)

Canadian left-hander Weir, who won in a play-off against Len Mattiace, hit his career peak that year with two wins on the PGA Tour before his Major moment in April. He went on to win two more PGA Tour titles (eight in total), played in five Presidents Cups and is currently two years away from joining the Seniors.

Zach Johnson (2007)

This was the first time since 1990 that the Masters champion did not come from the final pair – and that year’s last group included Tiger Woods who was one back from Stuart Appleby. The previous three winners were Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Mickelson again, so fans in 2007 were stunned when Johnson emerged victorious at the end of a cold and windy week with a sunday 69 for a 1-over-par total. Johnson, who had only previously won one PGA Tour title and was playing in his third Masters, laid up on every par-5 over the four days and played them in 11-under-par.

Zach Johnson sinks a biride putt en route to victory in 2007.
Zach Johnson helps Trevor Immelman into the Green Jacket in 2008.

Trevor Immelman (2008)

The South African joined his hero Gary Player as a Green Jacket owner but his career has been beset by injuries. His gutsy win at a cold and damp Masters – by three-strokes from Tiger Woods – is one of only three career top-10 finishes in a Major. He has a lifetime invitation to compete at The Masters but hasn’t qualified for any of the other three Majors since 2012.



Angel Cabrera (2009)

The Argentine did have a Major under his belt with a standout win in the 2007 US Open at a ridiculously tough Oakmont, but two years later he was ranked 69th in the world as he played The Masters and without a win since. He found himself in a play-off with Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry – hardly two golfing behemoths – and won it when Perry got clumsy with a chip. In 2013 he almost won again but was denied by Adam Scott in a play-off.

Angel Cabrera celebrates after defeating Kenny Perry in a play-off in 2009.

Charl Schwartzel (2011) 

South Africa had its third Masters Champion when Charl Schwartzel won during a topsy-turvy final day. Four strokes behind Rory McIlroy at the start, by the time he pitched in for eagle on the par-4 third he had a share of the lead. He then cooled off before delivering an unprecedented four birdies in a row from the 15th for a two-stroke win over Australian pair Adam Scott and Jason Day while McIlroy collapsed on the 10th and then around Amen Corner to shoot 80.

Charl Schwartzel receives the Green Jacket from Phil Mickelson in 2011 after winning with birdies on the closing four holes.

Danny Willett (2016)

It’s hard to class Danny Willett as an outsider as he was ranked 12th in the world heading into the 2016 Masters with a win at the Dubai Desert Classic already that year. Yet the manner of his victory, during which he treaded water in the top 10 (opening 70-74-72) before erupting on the final day with a 67 to step into contention when Jordan Spieth fell apart on the 12th, came as a shock. With a leaderboard that featured Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson, it surprised everyone to see the confident Englishman power home and become the first Brit since Sir Nick Faldo in 1996 to win at Augusta National.

Danny Willett fires a 5-under-par 67 on Masters Sunday to win in 2016.


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