Notes: Defending title at Masters nearly impossible

Adam Scott joined a long list of great players that failed to repeat as Masters champ.

Much was made of Adam Scott’s tough task of successfully defending his Masters title – and for good reason. Statistics shows that it’s the toughest of the majors to defend.

Scott failed, of course, and that puts him in good company. So did 74 other defending champs. Only three times in 77 attempts have players won a second straight Masters: Jack Nicklaus in 1966, Nick Faldo in 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2002.

Three of 77 is a putrid percentage of .0389.

Compare that with the other majors:

U.S. Open: The defending champion has prevailed seven times in 112 tries, or .0625.

Open Championship: In 141 chances, the defender has come through 20 times, or .1418.

PGA Championship: The defending champion has successfully defended his title nine times in 94 tries, or .0957.

In yet another measure of why his record in so many ways is unmatched, Tiger Woods is the only player to successfully defend a major championship more than twice. He has done it four times: Masters in 2001-02; Open Championship in 2005-06; PGA Championship in 1999-2000 and 2006-07.

Of the four majors, the longest drought without a successful title defense is the U.S. Open, with Curtis Strange in 1988-89.

• • •

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD: It’s not quite a successful title defense, but when Bubba Watson won his second Masters in three years, he joined nice company. That’s been done eight previous times, each time by a Hall of Famer.

Horton Smith won in 1934, ’36; Ben Hogan in 1951, ’53; Sam Snead in 1952, ’54; Arnold Palmer three times, 1958, ’60 and 1960, ’62, and 1962 and ’64; Jack Nicklaus in 1963, ’65; Phil Mickelson in 2004, ’06; and Bubba Watson in 2012, ’14.

Fact is, Watson becomes the 17th player to win at least two Masters and the fact that the previous 16 is a roll call of 15 Hall of Famers and one in waiting (Woods) makes you think of the long-hitting lefty in a different light.

• • •

STRAIGHT TALK: At 43, Thomas Bjorn had his best finish (T-8) in his 11th Masters. Previously, his best was a share of 18th.

Most impressively, Bjorn was his usual well-spoken and reflective self, giving Augusta National credit for being the challenge that it is.

“You don’t have to play it perfectly,” he said, “but you’ve got to position yourself. There are certain golf shots on this golf course you’ve got to take on. You can’t stand there on 13 and lay it up, even though you sometimes feel like you want to. You can’t do it on 15, either. Great players take on great shots. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

• • •

CLEVER TALK: Brilliant stuff from Miguel Angel Jimenez, who at age 50 threatened to win the Masters, and when it was suggested to him that technology is a big reason why, he offered this: “Yeah, technology helps. Of course. But if you don’t know how to hit the ball, then technology does nothing.”

• • •

MAJOR MEN: Adam Scott improved his stretch of consecutive cuts made in the majors to 11, and he has been T-15 or better in nine of his past 10.

Scott, who hasn’t missed a major cut since the 2011 Open Championship, his first tournament with Steve Williams on the bag, is the only player who has a chance to make the cut in all four majors in 2012, ’13, and ’14.

Jason Dufner missed the cut at the Masters, so his streak was halted at nine; he hadn’t missed a cut since the 2011 Open Championship.

Dustin Johnson (six), Phil Mickelson (five), and Sergio Garcia (four) all missed the cut at Augusta and saw their modest streaks in the majors end.

After Scott, the longest stretch of consecutive cuts made in the majors belongs to . . . drum roll, please . . . K.J. Choi, at eight.

Not to be overlooked is Steve Stricker, who tied for 31st at Augusta and has now made the cut in each of his past 16 major-championship starts. He hasn’t missed since the 2009 PGA Championship, but take note that he did not play in last summer’s Open Championship. Stricker has just two top 10s in those 16 majors, however.

And one final major note: Louis Oosthuizen finished 25th at Augusta, his first cut in the majors since the 2012 PGA. Last year, the classy South African missed the cut at Augusta, withdrew from the U.S. Open and Open Championship, then skipped the PGA Championship.

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