Here we take a look at the very best amateur performances at Augusta, from Frank Stranahan in the late 1940s right through to Ryan Moore last decade and Bryson DeChambeau in 2016.
Best Masters Amateur Performances
Amateur golfers are held in high regard at the Masters and that’s because one of the club’s founders was Bobby Jones – the greatest amateur ever to play the game of golf.
Each year at Augusta, the invited amateurs are allowed to stay in the clubhouse for the week, they’re welcomed to the opening dinner and they play the first two rounds in the company of past champions.
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Other amateurs have made good showing in The Masters, Matt Kuchar in 1998 and Casey Wittenberg in 2004 for example. But, below are what we feel to be the 10 best amateur performances at Augusta.
Best Masters Amateur Performances
Ken Venturi: 2nd in 1956
In testing conditions, Venturi struggled and came home in 42 to card a closing 80. Jack Burke Jr posted a fine 71 to finish just one shot ahead of the young Venturi.
“Did I choke?” Venturi later said in his autobiography. “If you go by my score you can make that argument, but I choose to look at it differently.
Charlie Coe: T2 in 1961
Charlie Coe is the most successful amateur ever at The Masters. An Augusta member, he played 19 times and finished in the top-25 on nine occasions.
In 1961, the former WWII pilot was flying under the radar towards the end of the competition as Gary Player and Arnold Palmer fought for the title. Player emerged triumphant but, when Palmer double-bogeyed the final hole he fell back into a tie for second with 37-year-old Coe. The amateur had birdied the 13th, 14th and 15th holes to close with a fine 69.
Frank Stranahan: T2 in 1947
Coached by Byron Nelson as a junior, Stranahan won 70 amateur tournaments between 1936 and 1954. He was a great sportsman and had been a champion power lifter and then went on to be a long-distance runner after retiring from competitive golf.
In the 1947 Masters, Stranahan fired a superb final round of 68 to tie Byron Nelson for second place, two behind Jimmy Demaret.
Stranahan fell out with Augusta the following year and his invitation was revoked, although he returned the following year and nine further times subsequently. Stranahan also finished in second place in The Open Championship – behind Ben Hogan at Carnoustie in 1953.
Billy Joe Patton: 3rd in 1954
Billy Joe Patton led after two rounds in 1954, one stroke ahead of the great Ben Hogan, but it seemed his chance had gone as he struggled to a third round 75 that left him five adrift of “The Hawk.”
But Patton wasn’t finished. He raced to the turn in 32 in the final round, a run of holes that included a hole-in-one on the sixth. He found himself one ahead with just six holes to play.
On the par-5 13th, the 32-year-old faced a decision whether to go for the green or not. He decided to be aggressive and it cost him dearly. His second found the water and he walked off the hole with a 7. He finished one shot back of Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Snead went on to win the tournament in a playoff.
Harvie Ward: 4th in 1957
Ward, a former British and U.S. Amateur champion, trailed Sam Snead by a shot with 18 holes to play in 1957. He battled hard but couldn’t find the spark on the Sunday. Doug Ford deservedly took the title after a superb final round of 66 and Ward finished in fourth spot.
Jack Nicklaus: T7 in 1961
Having finished second in the 1960 U.S. Open, the American golfing public were excited to see how the 21-year-old would get on at Augusta in 1961. He played well, finishing in a tie for 7th. Amazingly though, he wasn’t the low amateur that year as Charlie Coe (see above) was tied for second.
Ryan Moore: T13 in 2005
Over the last 50 years, the standard of play in professional golf and at Augusta has steadily risen and it’s become tougher for amateurs to make an impact at The Masters. Ryan Moore managed it in 2005. He arrived at the tournament having enjoyed a stellar season on the amateur circuit in 2004. That year he won the NCAA Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Public Links and Western Amateur.
Moore continued that great form with a superb showing in the 2005 Masters. He played some excellent golf to finish in a tie for 13th.
Hideki Matsuyama: 27th in 2011
The current Asian number one made his Masters debut in 2011 as an amateur after winning the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. He finished at one-under-par to become the first amateur since Ryan Moore to shoot under par for the tournament. Just two amateur golfers (Moore and Matsuyama) have broken par since 1978.
Hideki shot a 68 on Saturday which was the second-lowest round of the day and matched 2010 winner Phil Mickelson’s score of one-under after four rounds.
What made his performance even more impressive was the fact that he wasn’t actually going to play in the tournament, as he had spent 3 weeks prior to the Masters helping back home in Japan after a devastating earthquake hit.
Guan Tianlang: 58th in 2013
Whilst Tianlang finished in a lowly 58th place at the 2013 Masters, he did capture the Silver Cup and, incredibly, did so at the age of 14.
He qualified by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and his record-breaking performance at Augusta saw him become the youngest player to ever make the cut in a men’s major and a PGA Tour event.
Bryson DeChambeau: 21st in 2016
The Golfing Scientist Bryson DeChambeau arrived on the world stage at Augusta two years ago fresh off a 2015 that saw him become just the fifth man in history to win the US Amateur and NCAA Division 1 Championship in the same year. The other four golfers to achieve that honour are Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore.
DeChambeau was just one back of the lead on the 18th tee on Friday before making a triple-bogey and then shot 77 on Saturday to end any hopes of being in contention in the final round. He closed with a level-par 72 to finish a highly respectable 21st and turned pro the next week at the RBC Heritage.
Viktor Hovland: T32nd in 2019
The Oklahoma State graduate entered Augusta as the reigning US Amateur champion and showed us all a glimpse into his very bright future.
He shot 72-71-71-71 to finish at 3-under par, beating Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz by a single stroke.
The Norwegian went onto win the low amateur honours in record fashion at the US Open before turning professional aged 21.
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