This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
One of golf’s most-frustrating qualities is how seldom it puts the game’s biggest stars in one-on-one situations, specifically at majors. The sport’s randomness lends itself to unexpected contenders and strange finishes, like Y.E. Yang taking down Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. It’s part of the reason there’s no real rivalries in golf, because they don’t really have a chance to develop in a traditional way.
Prior to the 2009 final round, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods had only been paired together once at Augusta, and it was well before any serious “rivalry” existed. The duo faced off in 2001, and Woods came out on top. Eight years later, each at the height of their careers, they met again, and the duel delivered.
No, neither Tiger nor Phil won, but they provided enough electricity to make it feel like they were the only pairing that mattered on the golf course. Ultimately, the 2009 Masters will be remembered for what happened to Kenny Perry, and Angel Cabrera’s second major title, but it was the epic Tiger-Phil battle that made this final round so memorable. Here’s everything that stood out during our rewatch.
1. Not surprisingly, the broadcast opened with the handshake between Woods and Mickelson on the first tee. No smiles were exchanged. Despite both being seven shots back, there was no question that this was the main event on Easter Sunday 2009, at least until the leaders got to the back nine.
Not since the final round in 2001 had Lefty and Big Cat been paired together at Augusta National. That day, Woods closed out his second Masters victory with a final-round 68, while Mickelson shot 70 and finished three back. In 2009, they each birdied the par-5 second, which put them within six of the lead. Phil then birdied No. 3 to pull within five, while Woods settled for par. Early-round energy at an all-time high.
2. PEAK conditions. 70 degrees, sunny, no breeze, not a cloud in the sky. “Just spectacular,” said CBS anchor Jim Nantz. “Sunday at the Masters, it really doesn’t get any better than this. I hope you’re watching with someone special.” I’m actually watching with my fiancee, who was equally as overwhelmed by the conditions and Nantz’s dulcet tones as I was. “I can’t get over how beautiful it is. What year is this? Where is this? What is this?” Good lord. Wedding has been called off.
3. Our first glimpse of Japan’s Shingo Katayama comes at the par-3 fourth green, where he cleans up a par putt. Don’t think you’ll find a better outfit from any of these Masters rewatches than Katayama’s in 2009. Iconic:
The par at No. 4 has Katayama just four off the lead. This won’t be the last we see of him. I promise.
4. Thirty-four minutes into the broadcast and the leaders are finally off. Angel Cabrera, 39 at the time, absolutely walloped his tee shot. Kenny Perry, 48, found the fairway as well. Perry is looking to become the oldest player to win the Masters. What a story that would be (gulp).
5. The epic Tiger-Phil duel we were promised is just the Phil show so far. Lefty birdies the difficult par-4 fifth and is suddenly only four off the lead. Tiger’s card is still clean thanks to a lengthy par conversion, but he has just one birdie and sits six back and two behind Phil. At the par-3 sixth, Mickelson STUFFS an 8-iron and makes his fourth birdie in six holes. Woods hits 7-iron 20 feet left of the pin. Great shot, but he gets a few golf claps while Mickelson got a nice Sunday roar. Tiger, who wound up settling for par, is being left in the dust.
6. These rewatches always produce a ton of “what-ifs” (see: David Duval in 1998). There are at least a million “what-ifs” still to come on this broadcast, but my first one is: What if Steve Stricker, one of the greatest putters ever, made two short early birdie putts he had at the first and second holes? We’re talking routine stuff for the Strick show. Those would have gotten him to nine under, two off the lead, with 16 holes to play. Instead, he shot 37 on the front and never made a real push. One of many chances at majors that Stricker let get away. That’s why whenever a top player has a close call at a major now and someone says “he’ll get plenty more chances,” I always think … uhhh, will he? Stricker, Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Colin Montgomerie, etc., etc. You only get a handful of real cracks at it. OK, thanks for allowing this tangent.
Speaking of having a billion chances in majors, Jim Furyk is obviously in contention. Talk about an all-time great Wikipedia majors section:
7. Nothing going for Tiger. At the seventh, he hits his approach and immediately starts berating the wind gust off the right. “How ‘bout that gust? HOW ‘BOUT THAT GUST?!” he shouts. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Seconds later, Mickelson almost holes out by playing a snap hook from the rough around a few trees. That set up his fifth birdie of the day, which put him at nine under, two off the lead after being seven back a half hour ago. He’s beating Woods like a drum right now.
8. “He needs to make something happen. Force the issue,” says Peter Oosterhuis as Tiger prepares to hit his second at the par-5 eighth. Woods responds by uncorking a 3-wood and doing that recoil-backpedal move he made famous. The shot was worthy of the recoil, finding the green and setting up a long look at eagle, which he banged in the back of the cup to get to seven under. Big fist pump, big roar. Phil follows with his fourth consecutive birdie to reach 10 under. “What a sight this is to see,” says David Feherty. GAME ON!!
9. Cabrera strikes first in the final group, making birdie at the third to grab the solo lead at 12 under. Perry opens with three straight pars to remain at 11 under. Does anyone even care what’s going on with these two?
10. The golf gods put the kibosh on all the fun at the ninth tee, where Woods and Mickelson each hit wayward drives and scramble for par. It was the equivalent of a NBA team calling a timeout after giving up a 20-0 run. Phil did still shoot a 30, tying the front-nine record at Augusta, and Tiger made a great par save, but it felt like the party was over.
11. The action came to a screeching halt at the 10th, where Tiger and Phil each scrambled for another par. Back in the final group, Perry took the solo lead thanks to back-to-back bogeys from Cabrera, while Chad Campbell remained one back. “There’s no excitement here, there’s no energy,” says Peter Kostis of the final two pairings. Tell us how you really feel, Pete!
We do get a highlight at the 11th from … Hunter Mahan! Remember him? He had made double bogey on the 11th twice that week, but on Sunday, from off the front of the green, he holed a birdie putt from long distance to get to six under. He made one more birdie at the 15th and finished with a 69, eventually earning a T-10 result. Mahan finished T-8 at Augusta the following year and added a T-9 in 2015. In 2016, he finished 54th. He hasn’t played in a major since.
12. After two more pars at 11, Tiger and Phil take their sweet, sweet time on the 12th tee and absolutely no one is complaining. It was fascinating to watch them both map it out in their brains in such a tense situation. Woods passed the test, playing a cut to the center of the green and setting up a good look at birdie. Mickelson failed, pulling it right of the flag and watching as his ball rolled back into Rae’s Creek. Any hopes of a miraculous final-round 63 for Lefty died at the 12th tee, where countless dreams of a green jacket have suffered a similar fate.
As for Woods, he two-putted for par to remain at seven under, one back of Mickelson at eight under. Too little, too late for these two.
13. Oh my. Dustin Johnson—24-year-old, two-time PGA Tour winner, soul-patch Dustin Johnson—makes eagle at the par-5 13th and then holes out for another eagle at the 14th, making him just the second player in Masters history to make consecutive eagles. This kid is gonna be good.
14. Perry hits an excellent bunker shot at the par-4 ninth, setting up a six-footer for par. CBS gives us the snake view of his putt and I’m reminded that the Ping Craz-E putter was the GOAT putter of that era:
Perry, of course, went on to make the putt because it was impossible to miss a putt with that thing. He also had the TaylorMade R9 driver in the bag. The R9 and the Craz-E is like having Kobe and Shaq in their primes. No wonder he had the solo lead after making nine straight pars to begin his final round. It’s Kenny’s day. I’m sure of it.
15. How about John Merrick? He finishes off the round of the day, a six-under 66, with a par at the 72nd green, giving him the clubhouse lead at eight under. John Merrick, people! He made just 10 starts in majors in his career and finished in the top 10 three times. That, plus a victory at Riviera, is a pretty decent career if you ask us.
Back at 10, Cabrera continues to leak oil, making another bogey to fall to nine under. Perry makes pars at 10 and 11 and continues to cruise along. Barring a surge from Campbell, whose swing Nantz called “Hogan-esque” just now (a thing that 100 percent happened), this is Perry’s to lose.
16. We’ve now reached peak Masters Sunday at the 15th, where Tiger finds the green in two and sets up a 20-footer for eagle, and Phil follows by putting it to four feet. A pair of eagles here and the place is going to shake …
Nope. We can’t have nice things. Woods’ just narrowly misses, and Mickelson hit one of the worst putts of his career. Not sure you’ll ever see four more disappointing birdies than the four these two combined for at 13 and 15. At least Tiger’s birdie yielded this screenshot:
17. BANG! Tiger makes another birdie at 16 to reach 10 under, tying him with Mickelson, who made par. They are now one back, thanks to going a combined 12 under through 16 holes. In comparison, the final two pairings were three over at that point. Sadly, they both ran out of time and they both stumbled home, Tiger going bogey-bogey to finish with a 68 and Phil going par-bogey, including a short birdie miss at 17, to shoot a 67. While they both made valiant efforts, it was Phil who had the real shot. The double at 12, the missed four-footer for eagle at 15, the short miss at 17. He should absolutely have finished at 12 under (maybe even 13), while the best Tiger could have done was probably 11 under.
18. Understandably, CBS was laser-focused on the Tiger-Phil duel all day. When our attention was finally turned to Perry-Cabrera, Perry answered with a birdie conversion from off the back of the green at the par-3 12th to get to 12 under. It’s HIS time!!
__19.__Apparently, Campbell just made consecutive birdies to get to 11 under. Perry parred 13 and Cabrera made birdie to get to 10 under in the group after. I remember this whole scene like it was yesterday, when the energy was completely sucked from this tournament. Yes, some very wild things still hadn’t happened yet, but the Tiger-Phil duel ending (and the way it ended) really put a damper on things.
20. Campbell ties Perry with a birdie at the 15th, then damn near dunks one with a 7-iron at the 16th. He went on to miss from less than 10 feet, which probably still keeps him up at night considering had it gone in, he would have won by one.
21. I said we’d see plenty more of Shingo. I was wrong. CBS showed us his par putt at the fourth hole and we didn’t see him again until the 17th, where he got up and down for par from a greenside bunker. Later at the 18th green he holed a birdie putt for a 68 to get to 10 under. A 68 to finish in solo fourth, in one of the great outfits in Masters history and we saw him hit four total shots. Tough to get screen time with Tiger and Phil making a Sunday charge, but c’mon, you gotta show more Shingo.
Being informed that Shingo’s hat was “all the rage” at the 2001 PGA Championship, where he also finished in fourth. Forgive me, I was 9 years old and probably busy playing outside and being a kid.
22. After they both made birdies at 15, Cabrera goes before Perry at the 16th, and I just remembered how not a single person on the property (or at home watching, for that matter) was rooting for Cabrera. The 2007 U.S. Open winner hit an excellent tee shot and you could hear a pin drop. Perry followed by almost making a hole-in-one and sending the crowd into a frenzy. “The shot of his life!” screamed Verne Lundqvist. This was Perry’s “it’s over” Vince Carter moment. Perry tapped in to get to 14 under, putting him two ahead of Cabrera, who made his birdie putt, and Campbell with two to play. Ball game.
23. Welp, this is even harder to watch knowing what happens than watching it live. Perry was mistake-free all day. Couldn’t miss a shot. He was playing like a man that knew that was his last real opportunity to win a major. Just as he had one arm inside of the green jacket already, he promptly fell apart. A poor approach at 17 led to an even worse third shot that skidded past the hole and off the front of the green. Bogey. At the 18th he hit perhaps his worst drive of the day, finding the first fairway bunker down the left side. From there he snap-hooked his approach left of the green, then chipped 15 feet past the hole. Bogey. You hate to be cliche and say the pressure of winning a major got to him but that is pretty much exactly what happened. And still, he had a chance in a three-way playoff with Campbell and Cabrera.
By the way, on Cabrera’s short four-footer to get into the playoff, Nantz asked Faldo, “What do you see here?” Faldo’s response: “I don’t know Jim.” That’s why they pay him the big bucks.
24. Looking back, it’s almost impossible to fathom that Cabrera won this. He was two over through 12. Then he was two back on the 17th tee. Then, after somehow squeaking into a playoff, he butchered the first hole of sudden death, hitting his drive behind a tree and then hitting a tree with his punch out. Meanwhile, Perry and Campbell had 155 yards left to the pin from the middle of the fairway. If this was 2019, a graphic of Cabrera’s “win probability” would flash on the screen, and it would read “0.01 percent.”
We know what happened next. Cabrera stuck his third and made the putt. Perry’s chip came up just short. Campbell failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker, and on Perry and Cabrera went to the 10th, where the Argentinian wrapped it up with a low-energy two-putt victory. It was a final round worthy of a truly wild finish, but you can’t have it all, not even at the Masters.
2009 Masters—Final Round Broadcast