The Forgotten Masters Dominance of Raymond Floyd

    This year, Augusta National will be abuzz with the 30th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ historic win for the ages at the 1986 Masters. Nicklaus’ win, in arguably the most dramatic final round in major championship history, deserves to be richly remembered and widely chronicled.

    Ten years before Nicklaus’ win, Raymond Floyd owned Augusta National for four days like few golfers had before or since. Floyd opened Thursday’s play with a sizzling seven under par 65 and followed it up on Friday with a six under par 66. Floyd was 13 under par through the first 36 holes of the tournament. Floyd was especially lethal on Augusta National’s par-five holes. Through the first three rounds of the tournament, Floyd was under par on every single par-5, recording 11 birdies and an eagle.

    At this point, Floyd was essentially on cruise control. He shot a two-under par 70 in the third round and took an eight shot lead into Sunday’s final round where he closed with another two under par 70, winning the title by six shots over runner up Ben Crenshaw. Floyd finished 17 under par for the tournament with a score of 271. This record stood until Tiger Woods shot 18 under par during his breakthrough 1997 victory which was tied by Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters.

    So, on this 40th anniversary of Floyd’s historic week, let’s take the time to tip our cap to a tremendous competitor who maybe never got the recognition he was due as he played in an era dominated by Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Gary Player.

    Floyd won four majors and was known as one of the best front-runners in championship golf. He was a hard player to catch once he sniffed out the lead on golf’s biggest stages. His peers remember his concentration and his stare as he focused intently on the job at hand.

    Raymond’s secret weapon that magic week was his 5-wood, a club he added to his bag specifically for Augusta’s par-5’s. The 5-wood allowed Floyd to hit higher-trajectory, softer-landing approach shots that would stop more quickly on Augusta’s firm, fast greens. While today’s longest players are hitting mid, or even short irons into some of these greens (especially #15), in the 1970’s players faced longer approaches into these greens – that meant 1, 2 and 3-irons or, in the case of Floyd, the 5-wood.

    Floyd didn’t employ the 5-wood on any other golf course that season and it wasn’t in his bag at other events. He simply practiced hitting high, soft cuts while he was at home. Floyd began playing the Masters in 1965 and was tired of seeing his long-iron approaches bounce through the greens into the rough or even hazards as is the case of the lake behind the 15th green that fronts Augusta’s par-three 16th hole.

    Raymond Floyd would go on to win another PGA Championship and the 1986 U.S. Open. He remained very competitive at Augusta National well into his late 40’s, finishing in 2nd place in 1990 and 1992. He ended his career with 11 top-ten finishes at the Masters. He also played on 7 U.S. Ryder Cup teams and captained the team in 1985 and 1989.

    Perhaps Rickie Fowler has been reading up on Floyd’s 1976 exploits. He asked Cobra to retool his 5-wood for the Masters and they responded by developing a “Frankenstein” Cobra King F-6 Baffler which includes three rails along the sole. The new Cobra 5-wood is designed to produce higher trajectory, softer landing shots for Fowler – sound familiar?