The first golf major of the season is upon us, and with it comes the memories of Masters past. No golf tournament conjures up more magical moments than the annual invitational at Augusta National. Quite simply, there is no golf tournament like The Masters. From Amen Corner to Hogan’s Bridge to the now defunct Eisenhower Tree, the Masters is unlike any other sporting event. There have been some great moments at Augusta. Here are my 5 choices as the most memorable.
The Golden Bear wins Green Jacket #6. (1986)
At 46 years old, most thought Jack Nicklaus was done. He hadn’t won a major since the 1980 PGA Championship, and wasn’t performing well on the PGA tour. Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tom McCollister penned that Nicklaus was “done, washed up, through.” But the Golden Bear had one more roar left in him. Going into the final round of the 1986 Masters, Nicklaus trailed Greg Norman by 4 shots. It looked like Nicklaus wasn’t going to be a factor, going even par through the first 8 holes. But birdies on 9, 10 and 11 put Nicklaus back into contention. After a bogey on 12, Nicklaus birdied 13 and parred 14. On 15, Nicklaus made his move, as he eagled the par 5 hole. Meanwhile, Norman, Tom Kite and Seve Ballesteros were falling back to the pack. Nicklaus hit a near perfect tee shot on the par 3 16th, landing it 3 feet from the hole. After making birdie, Nicklaus moved to 17 with a share of the lead. His second shot fell 18 feet from the hole, a clear birdie opportunity. With the rest of the players struggling to maintain their composure, Nicklaus kept his cool, and nailed his birdie putt to take the lead. Nicklaus parred 18 and watched as the rest of the pack couldn’t catch him. It was a remarkable performance that will go down in history.
Larry Mize’s Miraculous Chip (1987)
Prior to the 1987 Masters tournament, not too many outside of the golf world had heard of Larry Mize. The Augusta native, had only won once on the PGA Tour, the 1983 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic. While Mize had been in contention in other smaller tournaments, he struggled in cracking the glass ceiling. Mize entered the 1987 Masters as an afterthought, but soon gave notice that he would be a player. As the final round drew to a close, Mize was locked in a three-way tie with Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. A playoff was needed to determine the winner. Mize and Norman both parred the 10th hole while Ballesteros bogeyed and was eliminated. The 11th was the second playoff hole, and it didn’t start well for Mize. A short tee shot was followed by a wayward second, leaving him short of the green. Norman played the hole conservative, reaching the fringe on two, with a chance for birdie. Meanwhile, Mize was left with an incredibly difficult chip shot from about 140 feet away. With a water hazard just past a fast sloping green, an overhit would put the ball into the drink, and snuff out any chance for Mize. But Mize came through with an unbelievable shot that somehow found the hole for an incredible birdie. Norman two-putted and Mize won his only major.
Tiger Destroys The Field (1997)
Everyone knew of the phenom known as Tiger Woods, but few actually saw what was coming in 1997. The 21-year-old sensation turned pro in late 1996, and dazzled galleries with his incredible shot-making and youthful enthusiasm. But it was 1997 when Tiger announced to the world that he arrived. In his first major as a professional, Tiger dominated the field by completely tearing up Augusta National like no one has ever done before. After shooting an opening round 2-under 70, Tiger took over the tournament in the second round, firing a 6-under 66, to take a three shot lead over Colin Montgomerie. Tiger extended his lead to nine shots after the third round, after carding a 7-under 65. Tiger let up in the final round a wee bit, shooting a 3-under 69, but still left everyone in the dust, scoring an overall 270, 12 shots better than his nearest competitor, Tom Kite. Woods was -18 for the tournament, breaking the previous record by one shot over Jack Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd. His margin of victory was the widest in history. Tiger was also the youngest player to win the Masters and the first non-white player to don the Green Jacket. A truly impressive performance.
Mickleson’s First Major (2004)
The term “best player to never win a major” had been stuck on Phil Mickelson for the last several years. Despite winning 22 PGA tournaments dating back to 1991, Mickelson had yet to taste the glory of winning a major. Not that he didn’t come close. Mickelson finished in the top 3 in 8 previous majors, prior to the 2004 Masters. This included three consecutive third place finishes in the last three Masters tournaments. After opening with an even par 72, Mickelson started to find his game in the second round, firing a 3-under 69, to put himself three shot behind leader Justin Rose. The third round saw Rose collapse, as he shot a 9-over 81, to fall out of contention. Mickelson remained steady, scoring a 3-under 69 to take a share of the lead with Chris DiMarco, heading into the final round. All the pressure was on Mickelson to finally come through in a major tournament. The final round saw Mickelson duel with Ernie Els for the green jacket. On the final hole, Mickelson was tied with Els, who was already in the clubhouse after posting a four-round total of -8 280. Mickelson’s approach shot on the 18th landed 15 feet from the hole. Mickelson stepped up, and sank the birdie to finally win an elusive major. The gallery erupted as Mickelson jumped for joy in celebration. It will go down as one of the most memorable putts in Masters history.
Tiger’s Chip For The Ages (2005)
Even though the 2005 Masters ended in a playoff, with Tiger Woods winning his fourth Green Jacket with a birdie on the first playoff hole, it is the 16th hole that provided the most drama, and the shot of the tournament. Tiger was duelling with Chris DiMarco on the final day at Augusta, as Tiger led by one shot heading to the 16th. With rain slowing play on the first three days, the greens weren’t as fast, thus making the holes somewhat easier. Still, Augusta has its charms and it can play tricks at any moment. Tiger’s tee shot on 16 was proof, as he sent the ball way to the right and off the green. DiMarco was sitting on the centre of the green, with a shot at birdie. With the hole placed near the bottom of the sloping green, Tiger knew he had to aim for the top of the slope, and hope the ball would roll generously near the pin, without going into the water. Tiger did better than that, hitting a delicate chip that rolled beautifully down the slope and stopped at the lip of the cup. After a few seconds, the ball finally dropped in for a dramatic birdie. DiMarco missed his birdie putt, and Tiger led by two. But back-to-back bogeys on 17 & 18 by Tiger forced the playoff, which he recovered and won the tournament.
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