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Masters Betting History: 5 Defining Moments

A tradition unlike any other: Betting on the Masters. Even though it’s only legally been available online for five editions of the tournament, people have been laying scratch on the PGA Tour’s biggest event as long as there has been a Masters and a gaggle of bookies ready to take bets. Here we’ll look at the top 5 defining moments in Masters history and Masters betting history — the moments that shook the golf world (and yes, there is going to be a lot of Tiger Woods on this list).

Top 5 Defining Moments in Masters Betting History

5. Larry Mize Wins From 140 Feet Away (1987)

As far as insanity of a shot goes, this takes the cake; it’s only in the No. 5 spot because Larry Mize doesn’t carry a fraction of the impact on the sport of the others on this list. He didn’t even have the name value of the two guys he beat in the playoffs and thus swung a lot of Masters bets: Five-time major champ Steve Ballesteros and two-time major winner Greg Norman.

The fact that someone can make a 140-foot clip to basically walk off the Masters is pretty unfathomable in this day and age, but it happened when there was color TV and everything. Words can’t really do it justice, so just check out the clip:

That one chip alone kept many a bookie up at night in the pre-online sports betting era. This was not only Mize’s lone major, it was one of only four PGA Tour wins his entire career. But as Humphrey Bogart once said, “Larry Mize will always have Augusta 1987.”

4. First Masters With Legal Sports Betting (2019)

Though betting online in the state of Georgia is still not legal as of 2024, residents of legal sports betting states have been able to bet the Masters since the 2019 edition. The Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) in May of 2018, roughly a month after the 2018 Masters, so 2019 was the first chance to bet the biggest tournament in golf.

And boy howdy, what a monumental tournament it ended up being. The favorites heading in were Rory McIlroy (+700), Dustin Johnson (+1000), Justin Rose (+1200), Tiger Woods (+1400) and Jon Rahm (+1600). Woods was still trying to get his comeback rolling along, having made 16 of 18 cuts the year before but winning only once. Leading up to the 2019 Masters, he had placed top 30 in all four singles standard-cut tournaments, but his best finish was a tie for 10th at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

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Alas, Woods was in 11th after Round 1 and sixth after Round 2. On Saturday, however, he got himself up to second with a 67 and sat just two strokes back of the leader, Francesco Molinari.

The fourth round is when things became a betting paradise — all of the stars climbed the leaderboard on Sunday. Johnson, Woods, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele were all in the hunt down the stretch, but Tiger rewarded those bettors who grabbed him at +1400 pre-tournament by shooting 2 under and winning by a single stroke.

Is there a better way to celebrate a first Masters of sports betting than with a star-studded leaderboard capped by a Tiger comeback win?

3. Tiger’s First Win (1997)

We’re not through with Tiger yet by a longshot. Speaking of longshots, that’s what basically everyone else in the field was by the end of Round 3 at the 1997 Masters.

Woods had just turned pro the previous summer and had not yet won a major as a full-time PGA Tour member. He had two Masters under his belt as an amateur, and the results were not great (41st in 1995, missed cut in 1996). But once he joined the tour permanently, he started rattling off strong results. By Masters 1997 he had already won three tournaments and added a few more top-3’s. Now he went into his first Masters as a pro as a true contender — and one of the favorites.

Well, to keep a long story short, he ended Friday up three strokes, was nine up after Round 3 and lapped the field by finishing -18 for the tournament — 12 strokes ahead of second place, Tom Kite. To this day, it is the largest margin of victory in Masters history, but more importantly, it began arguably the most significant and popular era in golf history.

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2. Jack Nicklaus Wins at 46 (1986)

Now we go to the complete other end of the age spectrum. Jack Nicklaus was a firmly established legend at this point, one of the GOATs, if not No. 1. He already had five Masters wins to his name, his last coming 11 years earlier. Going for a sixth at all, let alone at age 46, was just selfish.

And through three rounds — heck, three and a half rounds — there wasn’t much reason to think he was going to get close. Nicklaus was well back after the front nine on Sunday, six strokes behind the leader with 10 holes remaining. Out of nowhere, the Golden Bear went unconscious.

His back nine went: Birdie, birdie, bogey, birdie, par, eagle, birdie, birdie, par for a 6-under 30 to move into first place — and ultimately win No. 6. From there, all we were left with is maybe the most famous shot in Masters history. Well, the most famous shot until …

1. Tiger’s Chip-In at 16 (2005)

This image was in every Nike commercial for nigh on a decade. Everything about it is perfect: The degree of difficulty, the setting at Augusta, the stakes, the ball lingering on the lip for just long enough to seem completely staged.

Yes, this isn’t necessarily Tiger’s most impressive Masters — it was more of a Chris DiMarco choking clinic than anything — but it is the coolest thing he ever did, undercut only slightly by screwing up the high five with caddy Steve Williams.

For the full context, DiMarco was six strokes ahead of Woods after two rounds, but he shot 74 and Tiger 65 on Saturday to shift the momentum drastically. Both guys came back to earth (Tiger from the sky and DiMarco from the depths of Hell) on Sunday, leading to a dramatic shootout.

It came to a head at 16 when Woods, up a stroke, sent his approach left. That set up a tough chip, and if he got it close, he could save par and maintain his lead. Mess it up, he could bogey and draw DiMarco even. Well, he put the goldang thing in the hole.

Tiger, ever the showman, went bogey-bogey on 17 and 18 to let DiMarco tie him, but Woods finished the job in a playoff to snag his fourth Masters win — and his last for 14 years.

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