There are four major championships and none are as prestigious as the one they call ‘The Masters.’ While the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championships rotate the course they are played on, the Masters is played every year at Augusta National. And the Green Jacket is the most coveted award on any pro’s list of “must have”. So, as it is every April, the Masters kicks off the major championship charge, and Sunday at “Amen Corner” is must-see TV. The Masters has seen its share of great moments, just ask Tiger Woods. Before him, not many black golfers had ever set foot on the lush grass of Augusta, much less won the tournament. Tiger, at the tender age of 21, became the youngest winner, ever, of the hallowed green jacket. And, he demolished the field along the way, firing a tournament record 18-under 270, which was also a tourney record 12 strokes ahead of his nearest contender.
#10 – Adam Scott, 2013
You can bet that Greg Norman was watching when countryman Adam Scott holed his birdie putt on a second playoff hole, becoming the first Australian to don the Green Jacket. Norman is probably the best golfer never to win at Augusta, and is Scott’s idol. For Scott, who has also played bridesmaid a few times, the Masters win was his first — and long overdue. Scott set the table for the eventual playoff at the 2013 Masters by holing a 20-foot birdie putt on 18 to take a one-stroke lead. But Angel Cabrera, who had designs on his second Green Jacket, also dramatically birdied 18. On the second playoff hole, Cabrera’s birdie putt lipped out. Scott sent his 12-foot bender into the cup, and the celebration Down Under was on.
#9 – Phil Mickelson, 2010
The Mick shook the Masters’ monkey off his back in 2004 with his first win, and added his second Green Jacket in 2006. But it was his 2010 triumph that cemented his legend at Augusta National. He has gambled and lost many times in his career, but in 2010 luck was on his side. He trailed Lee Westwood by five strokes on Saturday, but proceeded to drop eagles at No. 13 and No. 14 and sent in a tap-in birdie on No. 16 to lead by a stroke. He gave back two strokes through the last holes, but saved the dramatics for Sunday. The shot that sealed it was from the trees and pine straw on No. 13. He sent his ridiculous shot perfectly through, landing well enough to get him a birdie.
#8 – Nick Faldo, 1996
Nick Faldo and Greg Norman were long-time rivals by the time the ’96 Masters rolled around, waging a few battles on and off the golf course. Faldo came into Augusta that year as a two-time champ, having won back-to-back Green Jackets in 1989 and 1990. Norman, for his part, was still looking for his first win after finishing second (a recurring theme) in 1986 and 1987. The Englishman found himself six strokes shy of the Aussie on that Sunday in ’96, a seemingly insurmountable lead. But Norman helped orchestrate Faldo’s third victory with the biggest collapse ever. The Shark posted a 78 while Faldo sailed right to Butler Cabin with a 67 to win by five. The hug on 18 said it all.
#7 – Fred Couples, 1992
Nice guy Fred was on top of the world, figuratively, in 1992. The world’s No. 1 had already won two tournaments as The Masters loomed. ‘Boom Boom’ played it tight the first three rounds at Augusta, going 69-67-69, good for a one-stroke lead after 54 holes. He faltered on the front nine on Sunday, giving the lead to Ray Floyd after seven holes, who entered the day one stroke back. Couples would reclaim the lead with birdies on No. 8 and No. 9 and a doozy of a par save on No. 10. The shot that made him a Masters legend was his tee shot at the daunting par-3 No. 12. The ball landed and looked like it was going to roll in the water, but miraculously stayed on the bank. He saved par and finished with a flourish.
#6 – Larry Mize, 1987
Augusta native Mize was a solid, unspectacular tour player prior to the ’87 Masters. He had just one win, the 1983 Memphis Classic, and found himself the hometown favourite in a three-way playoff come Sunday. He was in good company, tied with Spanish legend Seve Ballasteros and 1986 runner-up Greg Norman. On the first playoff hole at the par-four tenth hole, Ballasteros bogeyed and was eliminated, while Mize and Norman each two-putted for par. On the par-four 11th, Norman played it conservative (a pond guards the green) and put his approach on the right fringe about 50 feet from the cup. Mize’s approach landed about 140 feet from the green. In what would characterize Norman’s crap luck, Mize holed his next shot for a bird and the jacket.
#5 – Ben Crenshaw, 1995
No one win in the history of Augusta National was as emotional as Crenshaw’s victory over Davis Love III in ’95. Gentle Ben buried his mentor Harvey Penick on the Wednesday of the tournament. Penick was credited with teaching Crenshaw his smooth and deadly putting stroke. With a heavy heart, Crenshaw set out to win his second Green Jacket in honour of Penick. Crenshaw motored through the first three rounds, posting 70-67-69 for a Saturday share of the clubhouse lead. On Sunday, with notables like Love, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, and Fred Couple trying to chase him down, Crenshaw carded a 68 for a tear-jerking one-stroke triumph over Love. And, in homage to Penick, didn’t three-putt once all tournament.
#4 – Arnold Palmer, 1960
‘The King’ was already a trailblazing golf legend in the early years of golf’s popularity on TV when he won his second Green Jacket in 1960. The plain-speaking, handsome native of Latrobe, Pennsylvania had already won four tournaments on the tour that year and was poised to duplicate his winning feat from 1958. With second place finisher Ken Venturi hot on his heels (third-place Dow Finsterwald took himself out of contention with a two-stroke penalty earlier in the tournament), Palmer became the first player in the history of The Masters to birdie both 17 and 18. He won his second of four Green Jackets by one stroke. Also in the field that weekend, a young Jack Nicklaus, who was on the path to take the crown from the ‘The King’.
#3 – Jack Nicklaus, 1986
The Golden Bear is King of the Masters. Of his record 18 Majors championships, six came at Augusta — and he saved the best for last. Nearing the end of his illustrious PGA Tour career, Nicklaus was ordinary the first two rounds. He was two-over on Thursday and went one-under Friday to sit six shots off the pace. He picked it up on Saturday, trimming his score to 69, four shots behind leader Greg Norman. The Sunday finish was a nail-biter, with Nicklaus fending off Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, and the poor old Shark. The Bear was near level par on the front nine, but made incredible shots to card a 30 on the back nine and take the win. Norman, in the first of his chokes, lost it on 18.
#2 – Bubba Watson, 2012
The man with the homemade swing made one of the most incredible shots in the history of the Masters. Until that miracle wedge, Watson and fellow Sunday playoff contender Louis Oosthuizen stayed within sniffing distance of the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday clubhouse leaders (Lee Westwood, Fred Couples and Peter Hanson, respectively). On Sunday, Oosthuizen sat two strokes and Watson three behind Hanson. The Swede imploded, while Watson shot 68 and Oosthuizen a 69 (with a spectacular eagle two on No. 2) to force the playoff. After they both shot par on the first playoff hole (18), Watson fashioned his ridiculous 164-yard hook shot out of the trees to within 15 feet of the hole. A two-putt for par and the Green Jacket was his.
#1 – Tiger Woods, 2005
In 2005, Tiger was at the height of his powers, four years from becoming tabloid fodder in that now infamous 2009 Thanksgiving incident. With three wins at Augusta already, Woods was taking aim at not just a fourth Green Jacket, but at Nicklaus’ 18 majors wins (he had eight and wasn’t 30 yet). Woods carded a mediocre 74 in the first round, but shot a superb 66 on Friday to start reeling in 36-hole leader Chris Dimarco (who led him by six). A nine-shot swing on Saturday and Tiger sat three out front heading to Sunday. Tiger would win in a bit of an anti-climatic playoff, but it was his shot on 16 that went into auto-loop on every sports highlight show in the world. Play-by-play man Vern Lundquist went spasmodic calling Woods’ gravity defying 20-foot chip to birdie the hole.