There is a reason most top golfers take off the week after a major championship. They’re exhausted, probably more mentally than physically, and they need to recharge.
But for the winner, the whirlwind is just getting started as the final putt on the 72nd hole drops. Patrick Reed learned that after he won the Masters. After signing his scorecard, Reed was whisked to the Butler Cabin for a presentation that was broadcast on CBS, then repeated the ceremony on the practice green for the assembled dignitaries and patrons before heading to the clubhouse for a dinner in his honor. The next day he was in New York, appearing as a guest on talk shows before lighting the Empire State Building. Sleep probably has been a precious commodity, and demands on his time won’t let up any time soon.
That begs a simple question: Is there such a thing as Masters hangover? Winning on the hallowed ground of Augusta National fulfills a dream, but going inside the numbers reveals that playing well following a win at Augusta National is hard. Very hard.
As shown in the chart below, since 2006 only three golfers have won another tournament in the season after winning the Masters. Jordan Spieth won three, including the U.S. Open; Adam Scott won once; and Zach Johnson won once. Just garnering top-5 and top-10 finishes has proved to be a challenge for several players.
Returning to the spotlight on the biggest stages also is difficult for Masters champions.
Since 2006, when the Players Championship was moved to a date after the Masters, two green jacket winners have missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass, three have not played in the tournament, and the finishing position among the seven players who did compete is 24.29. The best performance by a Masters winner at the Players since 2006 was turned in by Angel Cabrera in 2009, when he finished tied for 14th.
The picture does not get rosier at the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA Championship and Tour Championship, or at the next Masters, with the exception being Spieth. The 2015 Masters winner won the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, tied for fourth at St. Andrews, was runner-up at Whistling Straits and won the Tour Championship. In 2016, Spieth nearly won the green jacket again until he hit into Rae’s Creek, twice, on Sunday playing the 12th hole.
As shown in the table above, the average finishing position for the reigning Masters champion at each of the season’s three remaining majors is over 23. While an average finish of 10.11 might seem OK at the Tour Championship, remember that the field in that event is capped at 30 golfers, so finishing 10th means you were beaten by one-third of the golfers in the tournament.
Based on recent history, it would seem Patrick Reed probably won’t be able to maintain the high level of play that helped him win the 2018 Masters. But if that’s the price to pay for winning his green jacket, his $1.98 million first-prize check will help to cover that bill. Gwk