Players Who Won the Masters on Their First Try: Fan’s Look

These are the golfers who won the Masters the first time they played in the tournament. Winning the Masters the first time you play in the tournament is an extremely difficult feat.

Augusta National Golf Club, Hole 10 "Camellia"
Wikimedia Commons

Only three players have accomplished the feat, but only one in the last 40 years, and no the player is not Tiger Woods. Plus, someone had to win the Masters the first year it was played.

The Masters is my favorite golf tournament, in part because my uncle played the course back when I was a kid, and always told me what a great and beautiful course it is. My uncle was not a pro golfer, but he played Augusta National as a guest of an Army general he was negotiating a satellite contract with while working for AT&T.

Players Who Won the Masters On Their First Try

1. Horton Smith - 1934

Horton Smith made history in 1934 when he became the winner of the first Masters ever held. Smith was 25 at the time, and he won the tournament shooting -4 under by one stroke over Craig Wood.

You might not know who Horton Smith is today, but he was one of the best golfers of his era. Smith won eight of the of the 22 PGA Tour events held in 1929, in the early days of the PGA. After winning the inaugural Masters in 1934, he came back to win the Masters again in 1936.

The two Masters wins were the only majors of Horton Smith's career, but he did win 28 times on the PGA Tour, and was president of the PGA from 1952 to 1954. Horton Smith passed away in 1963 at the age of 55.

2. Gene Sarazen - 1935

While some golf fans might not have heard of Horton Smith, the first winner of the Masters, almost all real golf fans like myself have heard of Gene Sarazen, who won the second Masters ever held in 1935. The win was Sarazen's first attempt at Augusta, and he won the tournament in spectacular fashion.

Playing in the final round in 1935, Gene Sarazen trailed leader Craig Wood by three strokes as he played the par five 15th hole. Legend has it that as Sarazen stepped up to hit his second shot on the hole from 235 yards away, a check for the winning prize money ($1,500) had already been made out to Craig Wood. Sarazen used a four-wood on his second shot, which he holed for a double eagle.

The so called "shot heard round the world" tied Sarazen for the lead with Wood, and he would end up defeating Craig Wood in a 36 hole playoff for the 1935 Masters. Twenty years later the Sarazen Bridge on the 15th hole was dedicated to remember the famous shot.

For his career, Gene Sarazen won seven majors, including three PGA Championships, two U.S. Open's, and a British Open. The 1936 Masters was Sarazen's only win at Augusta.

3. Fuzzy Zoeller - 1979

In 1979, Fuzzy Zoeller became the only player in modern times to win the Masters the first time he played at Augusta in the tournament. Zoeller had to work for the win too. He ended up in a three-way sudden death playoff with Tom Watson and Ed Sneed on Sunday, with Jack Nicklaus' late charge leaving him one stroke short of joining the playoff.

Fuzzy Zoeller won the playoff on the second hole by sinking a roughly six foot birdie putt. The Masters win was his first and last win at Augusta, and the first major of his career. Zoeller also won the 1984 U.S. Open for his second and last major.

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