For more than two decades from the mid-1990s to the mid-2010s, golf fans could count on seeing the names of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson on the leader board at the Masters on an annual basis.
From 1995 to 2013, either Woods or Mickelson (and frequently both) finished at least seventh in the Masters. After that streak ended when Woods did not play and Mickelson missed the cut in 2014, Mickelson made one last run at a green jacket in 2015, tying for second.
Woods and Mickelson combined for seven Masters titles in a 14-year span from 1997-2010 with 26 finishes of seventh or better. Woods has won in Augusta four times and placed sixth or better on 12 occasions. Mickelson has scored three Masters victories and has been seventh or better 14 times with nine top-3 finishes.
Other than Mickelson’s tie for second in 2015, the last five Masters have lacked the presence of the game’s two most dominant players of the past two decades-plus. Mickelson has missed the cut twice and finished outside the top 20 the last two years. Woods has played in Augusta only twice since tying for fourth in 2013, placing among the top 20 in 2015.
Here’s a year-by-year look back at the Masters careers of the two players since they made their debuts as amateurs in the 1990s.
Mickelson, by 5 ½ years the older of the two, made his first Masters start in 1991 and made the cut after an opening 69. Woods also made the cut in his first Masters in ‘95, matching par his first three rounds before closing with a 77. That was also the year Mickelson made his first of many runs at victory in Augusta.
1995: Mickelson shared the lead after an opening 66 and began the final round just two shots back of Ben Crenshaw. But he went double bogey-bogey on holes 6 and 7 and his hopes of a first green jacket were dashed. He shot 73 and tied for 7th, six behind Crenshaw, who shot 68 the final day.
1996: Mickelson again started fast, firing a 65 on Thursday, a score he has never matched since in Augusta. Greg Norman stole the headlines that day with a record-tying 63, and Mickelson never really factored after that, failing to break par in the next three rounds. He wound up third outright, just one shot behind runner-up Norman, who lost the most lopsided final round duel in Masters history. Nick Faldo, who closed with a flawless 67, turned a 6-stroke deficit after 54 holes into a 5-shot victory.
1997: In the most dominant performance in Masters history, Woods shook off a 40 on his first nine Thursday, playing his final 63 holes in 22-under par. After a 30 on the back nine that afternoon, Woods shot 66-65-69 the next three days, with his 18-under 270 the lowest in tournament history (matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015). His 12-stroke margin of victory eclipsed the Jack Nicklaus mark of nine, set in 1965 when he shot 271 to run away from the two other members of golf’s Big Three – Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
1998-2000: Those three years were quiet ones for both Woods and Mickelson, who combined for four top 10s and never finished lower than 18th, but never seriously contended. Mickelson was within two after 54 holes in ’98, but struggled on the back nine Sunday. He was on the fringes of contention going to the final round the next year, but played the first six holes in 4-over, more than offsetting six birdies the rest of the day. Woods shot 40 on the back nine Sunday to fall out of the top 10.
The next 10 years in the Masters were all about Woods and Mickelson, who won three times each and contended on an almost annual basis., beginning with the most dramatic head to head battle between the two, with soon-to-be British Open champion David Duval adding to the mix.
2001: In one of the most exciting Masters final rounds that has seemingly faded from memory, the trio staged an epic Sunday shootout that unfortunately fizzled at the end. Woods led Mickelson by one after 54 holes, with Duval three back in a tie for fifth. Duval made it a three-way battle when he birdied seven of the first 10 holes Sunday.
Duval birdied the 15thto tie Woods for the lead, but promptly bogeyed the 16thand missed birdie chances at 17 and 18. Mickelson, playing with Woods in the final group, also birdied 15 to get within one of the lead when Woods missed a short birdie putt. But Mickelson also bogeyed the 16thand Woods wrapped up his second Masters title when he birdied the 18thfor a 68 with six birdies to finish two ahead of Duval (67, eight birdies) and three in front of Mickelson (70, six birdies).
2002: Woods repeated as champion without any of the final round fireworks. He began Sunday tied with Retief Goosen,with Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Mickelson all in contention. None of them shot lower than 71 and Woods went unchallenged, with the most memorable occurrences that day a triple bogey by Els on the 12thand a 9 on the 15thby Singh.
2003: Mickelson placed third for a third straight year, shooting a final round 68 to finish two shots out of the Mike Weir-Len Mattiace playoff. Going for a three-peat, Woods was over par in three rounds and barely made the cut before shooting 66 Saturday.
2004: Going to the fourth round , Mickelson shared the lead with Chris DiMarco, but was overtaken by Els, who eagled the 13thto move three ahead. Mickelson proceeded to birdie five of the last seven holes, edging Els by a shot when he barely slipped his birdie try at the 18thinto the hole. Woods shot a pair of 75s and was again no factor.
2005: Woods collected his third Masters title in five years, with DiMarco again a major part of the Sunday drama. He was in control of the tournament until Woods ran off seven birdies in a row in the third round, part of a 30-hole stretch in which he was 15-under. With DiMarco shooting 41 on the back nine early Sunday morning to compete the third round, Woods was three ahead with 18 holes to play, but was fortunate to make it into a playoff after being decisively outplayed by DiMarco Sunday afternoon.
Leading by two with two holes to play after his Verne Lundquist-immortalized chip-in birdie at the 16th, Woods hacked his way to bogeys on the final two holes before three perfect shots on the 18th produced a playoff birdie and his fourth green jacket.
2006: Mickelson won for the second time in three years in decidedly un-Phil-like fashion. Trailing by four shots after 36 holes, he took the 54-hole lead after a 70 in tough weather conditions, and closed with a mistake-free final round 69, with his only bogey of the day at the 18threducing his victory margin from three to two.
2007: That Masters is remembered for being played under the most difficult weather conditions in Augusta in decades, with Zach Johnson winning with a 1-over 289 total. Mickelson was no factor and tied for 24th, but Woods let an excellent chance for a fifth green jacket get away. He was handed the lead early in the final round, but apart from an eagle on 13 did nothing all day and lost by two to Johnson, who shot 69 with six birdies.
2008: Woods again finished second but was never within striking distance, as Trevor Immelman was in complete control the final two days and won by three. Mickelson contended for 36 holes before a 75 on Saturday and tied for 5th.
2009: Although Mickelson and Woods finished 5thand 6th, what they did on Sunday is remembered as vividly by those who witnessed the final round as the events that led to a three-way playoff between Angel Cabrera, Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell.
Mickelson and Woods began the final round seven shots off the lead and were paired together about an hour in front of the leaders. Mickelson birdied six of the first eight holes to close within one of the lead, but his hopes ended when he double-bogeyed the 12th. He tried to rally with birdies at 13 and 15, but missed a short eagle putt at the 15thand another for birdie at the 17th. He ended his day with a bogey, turning a possible 62 into a 67, three shots out of the playoff.
Woods overpowered the par 5s with three birdies and an eagle, and after a birdie at the 16thwas within striking distance of the leaders. But he closed with consecutive bogeys and wound up four shots back.
2010: Just two months before his 40thbirthday, Mickelson had one more burst of Augusta heroics left in him. He out-dueled Lee Westwood on the back nine Sunday, carding four birdies on the final seven holes for a 67 and a 3-stroke victory. He also provided one of the greatest stretches of golf in tournament history on Saturday, when he eagled the 13th, holed out for eagle on the 14thand lipped out his eagle pitch after having to lay up on the 15th.
Woods hung close to the lead from start to finish, but 10 bogeys Saturday and Sunday offset a total 17 birdies and four eagles, one coming on the par-4 7thSunday. He tied for 4th, five behind Mickelson.
2011: Inone of the wilder final round shootouts in Augusta, Woods was one of the main participants. But after a sizzling 31 on the opening nine, including a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch on 6, 7 and 8, his charge fizzled. He was even par with just one birdie on the back nine and tied for 4th, four behind Charl Schwartzel, who closed with four consecutive birdies. Mickelson made a meek defense of his title and tied for 27th.
2012: It was Woods’ turn to struggle and he finished 40th, his worst showing as a pro in Augusta. Mickelson, meanwhile, squandered a chance to match Tiger with four green jackets.
Two disastrous triple bogeys, one on the 10thhole Thursday the other on the 6thSunday, marred an otherwise superb tournament for Mickelson, who made just two bogeys over his final 54 holes and shot 68-66 Friday and Saturday with a 30 on the back nine in the third round to close within one of the lead. He tried to rally after the triple on Sunday, playing the final 14 holes in 3-under without a bogey, but settled for a tie for 3rd, two shots out of the Bubba Watson-Louis Oosthuizen playoff.
2013: Woods took himself out of contention with a triple of his own. An 8 on the 15thFriday led to a 40 on the back nine and a 73 after a strong showing to that point. He never got back into serious contention, finishing 4th, four out of the Adam Scott-Cabrera playoff after a mild Sunday surge.
2015: After two of his worst Masters showings the previous two years, Mickelson shot 274, tying for the eighth lowest score in tournament history. But Spieth equaled Woods’ 72-hole record of 270 to win comfortably, with Mickelson and Justin Rose tying for second. It gave Mickelson a career Grand Slam of runner-up finishes in majors.
Although their overall Masters records are nearly identical, there are a few distinctions between the two during their careers in Augusta.
Woods has never pulled off a come-from-behind win in the Masters, nor has he managed any sustained late heroics to pull out a victory, with his playoff triumph necessitated by two ugly bogeys that cost him a 2-shot lead with two holes to play.
Two of Mickelson’s three Masters titles featured spectacular Sunday back nines to take down two of the game’s best players, beginning with his 72ndhole birdie to break a tie with Els.
Both have had several opportunities to add to their victory totals, but can count only one Masters each they probably should have won but didn’t.
With Mickelson nearing his 49thbirthday and Woods 43 with a surgically repaired back, neither player is likely to add another green jacket to his closet. But Woods won for the first time in more than five years in the 2018 Tour Championship at East Lake, and Mickelson has two victories in the past year after a drought of similar length.
The two are currently 12 (Woods) and 22 (Mickelson) in the World Rankings, and given their histories of success in Augusta, have to be considered among the tournament favorites, even if they are no longer THE favorite.