Being in final pair not guarantee of success
Being in the final pairing on Masters Sunday used to be the place to be. It was such a sure thing that the winner would emerge from that twosome that tournament officials could start estimating their green jacket size in anticipation of the winner’s ceremony on the putting green.
Through 2010, 19 of the past 20 winners had come out of the final group. The lone exception was Zach Johnson in 2007, who came from the third-to-last group to win.
For today’s last pairing, recent history is against the final two. The past three Masters champions – Charl Schwartzel in 2011, Bubba Watson in 2012 and Adam Scott in 2013 – have not come out of the final pairing.
This new trend hasn’t stopped Masters veterans from wanting to be at the end of the field on Sunday.
“If you look at the tradition in the history of the Masters, it’s a pretty good place to be,” said Brandt Snedeker, who has been in the final pairing twice: 2008 when he finished tied for third, and last
year when he tied for sixth.
“Your odds of winning increase dramatically if you’re there,” Snedeker said.
Those odds have gone down recently. In the past three years, the closest anyone in the final pairing has come to winning was last year, when Angel Cabrera lost in a sudden-death playoff to Scott.
Cabrera, however, took advantage of one of the many benefits of being in the final group: You know what you have to do on the final hole to win. After Scott, playing in the group ahead of Cabrera, made birdie on No. 18, the Argentine knew he’d have to match that to get in a playoff, which he did.
All three of Phil Mickelson’s victories – in 2004, 2006 and 2010 – have come from the final pairing.
There’s more to it than just having a lead, according to Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. It has to do with the fact that the final pairing normally goes off about 3 p.m. (it is 2:45 p.m. today), meaning they hit the second nine just after 5 p.m.
“What I have found is that at 5 p.m. the wind dies down,” Mickelson said. “If you can play the back nine without wind, those holes are birdieable. But you try playing 10, 11 and 12 with a swirling wind and all of a sudden you’re fighting for pars, there’s
a lot of doubles out there.
“So to play in the last group where you tee off almost 3 p.m., you’re going around Amen Corner in no wind, the leaders have a distinct advantage,” he said.
Crenshaw, who was in the final pairing when he won his second Masters in 1995, said the temperature is usually higher, too.
“If you have warmth out there, the ball travels a good ways and it makes a huge difference,” he said.
Being in the final group has its downside, Crenshaw said.
“The anticipation just kills you,” he said. “You want to get out so bad when you’re in contention. It’s a lot of time. To plan the evening before and just try to stay in bed as long as you can, it drove me nuts.”
In the early years of the Masters, players weren’t paired by their aggregate scores for the final round. Leaders and top players were staggered throughout the day, and two-time winner Byron Nelson was asked to play with the 54-hole leader after he retired from competition in the late 1940s.
In 1956, however, Nelson did not play with leader Ken Venturi because Nelson was one of Venturi’s instructors and Jones didn’t think it would be appropriate. So Venturi played with Sam Snead.
The Masters began putting
the leader in the final pairing beginning in 1969, but the other player wasn’t always in second place. In the early 1980s, the tournament paired golfers by score and has done so ever since.
PLACE TO BE?
Nineteen of the past 23 Masters Tournament winners have come from the final pairing in the fourth round, including 16 in a row through 2006. But in the past 10 years, the winners have come out of the final pairing only six times:
2013: Angel Cabrera (runner-up) and Brandt Snedeker (tied for sixth)
2012: Phil Mickelson (tied for third) and Peter Hanson (tied for third)
2011: Rory McIlroy (tied for 15th) and Angel Cabrera (seventh)
2010: Phil Mickelson (won) and Lee Westwood (runner-up)
2009: Angel Cabrera (won) and Kenny Perry (lost in three-way playoff)
2008: Trevor Immelman (won) and Brandt Snedeker (tied for third)
2007: Stuart Appleby (tied for seventh) and Tiger Woods (tied for second)
2006: Phil Mickelson (won) and Fred Couples (tied for third)
2005: Tiger Woods (won) and Chris DiMarco (lost in playoff to Woods)
2004: Phil Mickelson (won) and Chris DiMarco (tied for sixth)