Masters Tournament Defending Champions Who Missed the Cut

Ben Crenshaw, pictured in 2008, is among the Masters defending champs who missed the cut
It is rare for a Masters champion to win back-to-back titles. It is less rare, however, for a Masters champion to miss the cut the following year. Still, it's not something that is common.

How many defending champions have missed the cut in The Masters? The list is below, and one golfer even appears on the list twice.

First Defending Champ Who Missed Cut? Nicklaus

Yes, it really was the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, the greatest Masters player of all-time, who was the first defending champion to miss the cut. Nicklaus won the 1963 Masters, then won back-to-back in the 1965 Masters and 1966 Masters. Going for three in a row in the 1967 Masters, Nicklaus missed the cut.

No other winner had failed to make the cut in his title defense at any previous Masters. The tournament was founded in 1934, so it took 33 years for it to happen for the first time. But, due to a few years skipped during World War II, the 1967 tournament was the 31st time The Masters was played. However, the 36-hole cut in The Masters was only introduced in 1957.

Nicklaus started off fine with a 72 in the first round. But in the second round he made nine bogeys and carded a 79 to sit at 7-over-par. He missed the cut by one stroke.

The List: Defending Champs Who Missed the Cut in The Masters

Jack Nicklaus

Missed the cut in 1967 after winning in 1966.

Tommy Aaron

Missed the cut in the 1974 Masters after winning the 1973 Masters. Aaron scored 77-73, 6-over-par, and missed the cut by two strokes.

Seve Ballesteros

Here's something surprising: Ballesteros missed the cut in both his title defenses. He won the 1980 Masters but missed the cut in 1981; he won the 1983 Masters but missed the cut in 1984.

In 1981, Ballesteros shot 78-76, 10-over, and missed the cut by 10 strokes. In 1984 he shot 73-74, 3-over, to miss the cut by a single stroke. That one was particularly painful because in the second round Seve was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard on the 13th hole.

Sandy Lyle

Missed at the 1989 Masters after winning the 1988 Masters. Lyle shot 77-76, 9-over-par, and missed the cut by two strokes.

Ben Crenshaw

Missed in the 1996 Masters after winning the 1995 Masters. Scored 77-74, 7-over-par.

Nick Faldo

Nissed in 1997 after winning in 1996. Faldo opened with a 75, but a second-round 81 left him at 12-over 156. It was the mirror image of the year before, when Faldo had won with a 12-under score.

The misses by Crenshaw and Faldo in 1996-97 marked the first time Masters defending champions missed the cut in consecutive years.

Jose Maria Olazabal

Missed cut in the 2000 Masters after winning in 1999. Opened with a 72, but a second-round 77 did him in. He finished at 5-over 149.

Mike Weir

Missed the cut in 2004 after winning the 2003 Masters. Scored 70 in the second round, but that was after a first-round 79.

Danny Willett

Missed the cut in the 2017 Masters after winning the 2016 Masters. Carded rounds of 73 and 78 (7-over 151) to finish one stroke outside the cut line.

Sergio Garcia

Missed the 2018 cut after winning in 2017. His 15-over 159 (81-78) was the highest first-36 score yet by a defending champ, and his third-from-the-bottom finish the worst finish yet by a defending champ. Garcia's 81 in the first round included a 13 on the par-5 15th hole, where he hit five balls into the water.

The missed cuts by Willett and Garcia in 2017-18 was the second instance of defending champs missing the cut in consecutive years.

Dustin Johnson

Missed the cut in 2021 after winning in 2020. The 2020 Masters was played in November, in more scoring-friendly conditions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And Dustin Johnson broke the tournament scoring record. The 2021 Masters moved back to its usual April dates, and Johnson shot 74-75 for a final score of 5-over 149.

Photo credit: "File:Ben Crenshaw 2008 Senior Players Championship.jpg" by Keith Allison (Keith Allison @ Flickr) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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