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 in 1997. 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.
Besides Woods’ heroics over the years, there have been plenty of other great moments, some happy, some sad, that have punctuated golf’s most prestigious tournament. Here are 20 of them.
20. Gene Sarazen – 1935
In the earliest days of the tournament, it was called the Augusta National Spring Invitational and in 1935 it was in just its second year. Pint-sized Gene Sarazen, who had already won six majors, including three PGA Championships, was taking part in his first “Masters” and through three rounds stayed within sniffing distance of the lead. On Sunday he trailed leader Craig Wood by three strokes heading onto the par-5 15th hole. On his second shot, Sarazen pulled out a 4-wood to cover the 235 yard distance to the green and in dramatic fashion his shot actually rolled into the hole for a rare double eagle. Not only did he gain back all the strokes, but he is still only one of four to card such a score. Wood and Sarazen stayed tied after 18 and according to the rules then, would have to play two extra rounds, in one day, to decide it. Sarazen carded 71 and 73 to beat Wood by five strokes and collect the $1,500 in prize money.
19. Sam Snead – 1954
In five golf seasons between 1949 and 1953, golf greats “Slammin” Sammy Snead and Ben “The Hawk” Hogan alternated Green Jackets — with only three-time winner Jimmy Demaret spoiling the party in 1950. In 1954, Hogan was reigning champ, but Snead was looking to reclaim the title as world’s best. Having won twice, in 1949 and 1952, Snead came into the ’54 event having to upend reigning champ Ben Hogan. It was a tough field, as multiple winners Byron Nelson, Demaret and Horton Smith were also present. On cut down day, Snead was three shots off the lead held by amateur Billy Joe Patton and after the Saturday round he was three behind Hogan, who carded a superb 69. On Sunday, Snead shot 72 and Hogan 75 to force a memorable 18-hole playoff. Snead didn’t succumb to the pressure, carding five birdies and three bogeys to shoot 70, one ahead of The Hawk.
18. Gary Player – 1978
It is interesting to note that before 1980, only one non-American had ever claimed the Green Jacket, he being South African Gary Player, who won in 1961, 1974 and 1978. It was the ’78 tournament where Player cemented his status as not only an Augusta great, but one of golf’s all-time best. The Black Knight, all 5’6″, 160 lbs. of him, was already 42 and in the twilight of his illustrious career when he teed it up. After three rounds, Player was in a group of four including Seve Ballasteros and Tom Weiskopf (all 3-under) who trailed leader Hubert Green (10-under) by a seemingly insurmountable seven strokes. After eight holes, Green still held a six stroke lead on Player, but Mr. Fitness went on a tear, firing seven birdies over the final nine holes to take the clubhouse lead at 11-under. Green, needing a short par putt on 18 to remain tied with Player, missed it. Player’s final round score of 64 is still the lowest ever recorded at Augusta.
17. Fuzzy Zoeller – 1979
It’s not often that a rookie wins his first Masters, but noted joker Frank “Fuzzy” Zoeller did just that in 1979. Zoeller earned his ticket to Augusta by also winning his first PGA Tour event earlier that year, the Andy Williams – San Diego Open Invitational. It must have been daunting for freshman Zoeller, who would have seen the likes of past winners Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player and Ray Floyd on the practice tee. To his credit, Zoeller shot 70-71 the first two rounds to make the cut and enter Saturday six strokes back. He fired a 69 on Saturday, but still found himself six strokes behind Ed Sneed, who was 12-under. On Sunday, Sneed was leading Tom Watson by three strokes and Zoeller by four with just three holes to go. However, he went bogey-bogey-bogey to end up in a tie with Zoeller and Watson, forcing a sudden death playoff. And on the second extra hole, Zoeller drained a long birdie putt to win it with flair.
16. Sandy Lyle – 1988
Considering that Scotland is “the home of golf” it’s kind of weird that only one Scotsman in the history of the Masters has ever donned the Green Jacket. Sandy Lyle, who was actually born in England, decided to represent Scotland instead as a pro. In 1988 Lyle was a seasoned tour veteran with one major victory, the 1985 Open Championship, to his credit. Unlike a few of the greats on this list, Lyle actually swung a two-shot deficit after the first round into a two-stroke lead going into the final round. The pressure was on, too, as fellow tour veterans and past Masters winners like Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller were within striking distance. By the 18th hole on Sunday Lyle and Mark Calcavecchia were tied at 6-under. Lyle’s tee shot found a fairway bunker and needing birdie to win, he stroked a beautiful seven-iron shot out of the sand to put him a few feet from the pin. He holed the putt, did an awkward little dance and became the first Briton to wear the famous coat.
15. Ian Woosnam – 1991
Once Sandy Lyle busted down the Masters door for Brits in 1988, the Green Jackets came fast and furious for UK born players. Nick Faldo won back-to-back in 1989 and 1990 and then in 1991, Ian Woosnam won Wales first and only Masters championship. Woosie, as he was affectionately called, had never finished better than T-2 at a major, that being at the 1989 U.S. Open. The soon-to-be world’s no. 1 ranked golfer was even par after the first round, then shot a superb 66 on cut down day to sit two strokes off the lead held by former champion Tom Watson. Woosnam kept up his stellar play Saturday, shooting 67 to take a one-shot lead over Watson into Sunday. Amazingly, after 17 holes, he, Watson and Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal were tied at 11-under. Olazabal, a group ahead, bogeyed 18 to create an opening. Watson, who had eagles at 13 and 15 to stay in contention, three-putted for double bogey. Woosnam had an eight-foot par putt to win it and did just that, rolling it in to keep the UK stranglehold on the Green Jacket.
14. Jose Maria Olazabal – 1999
After that solo second in 1991 to Ian Woosnam, Olazabal won the 1994 Masters and then sort of faded from view for a bit, even taking all of 1996 off with a foot injury. He came back with a vengeance, recording several top-10s and winning the 1997 Turespana Open for the second time and then tuned up for the ’99 Masters by winning the Dubai Desert Classic on Mar. 1, 1999. At his first Masters win, he didn’t have to contend with the likes of Tiger Woods, who won his first Green Jacket in 1997 and entered the 1999 event as a favorite. However, Woods wouldn’t be a factor, and Olazabal fashioned a tidy 66 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead at 8-under. He never would relinquish the lead and went from barely being able to walk a couple of years earlier to two-time Masters champ.
13. Charl Schwartzel – 2011
The torch from legendary Gary Player took a long time to be passed to the next great South African golfer. Trevor Immelman grabbed it in 2008, becoming the first South African to win the Masters in 30 years and not three years later, relative unknown Charl Schwartzel claimed the Green Jacket too. A regular on the European Tour, but without a PGA Tour win to his credit, Schwartzel earned just his second entry into the tournament after finishing T-30 in 2010. At the 2011 tourney, Rory McIlroy roared out to the lead at cut down day, going 10-under to take a two-stroke lead on Aussie Jason Day. Schwartzel who was six strokes back after the Friday round, shot 68 on Saturday to take a share of second, four strokes behind McIlroy. But, McIlroy folded like a cheap chair on Sunday, opening the door for Schwartzel, Day and fellow Aussie Adam Scott. The South African, though, had nerves of steel on the back nine, posting birdie on the last four holes to steal the tournament from Day and Scott.
12. Danny Willett – 2016
While those from countries other than the U.S. stepped up to win Masters titles in the last couple of decades, the English failed to get close. Nick Faldo had won the last of his three Green Jackets in 1996 and by 2016 players from Spain, Fiji, Canada, South Africa, Argentina and Australia had all done it. At the 2016 tournament, then, were notable Englishmen Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Justin Rose, all legitimate contenders. Danny Willett, on the other hand, earned his spot in the tournament by not playing on the PGA Tour (he declined his card for the 2015-16 season). Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, was the talk of the town that year and went out and proved it through the first three rounds, going 3-under to take a one-shot lead into Sunday. Willett, meanwhile, kept himself close, going even-par to sit three strokes back. On Sunday, Spieth carried a five-stroke lead over Willett going into the turn — and then imploded spectacularly. Willett, who was two-under on the day, stayed the course and fired three more birdies to win his Green Jacket by three strokes over Spieth and countryman Westwood.
11. Sergio Garcia – 2017
El Nino was but a teenager in 1999 when he took the golf world by storm. He was low amateur at the 1999 Masters, which was won by countryman Jose Maria Olazabal. By 2001, at the age of 21 he won his first PGA Tour event, as well as another later that year. He would win 10 times on the tour over the intervening years, as well as 14 European Tour events to keep his name among the best. It was at the majors, though, that Garcia would do well, but just not well enough to win — heartbreak following him everywhere. He had 21 top-1o finishes at majors between 2001 and 2017 and by the 2017 Masters most thought he’d never win one. At cut down day, Garcia was in a group of four golfers including Rickie Fowler and Charley Hoffman at four-under. He shot a 70 on Saturday to stay atop the leaderboard, tied with Justin Rose, who went low at 67. It was a two-man battle for the ages on Sunday as Rose and Garcia traded the lead a few times. On 15, Rose birdied to go one stroke up, when Garcia eagled the hole to tie it an 9-under. Rose again went up at 16, but bogeyed 17 to send the match to an eventual playoff. Garcia put all his demons to rest on the first hole, sinking a birdie putt to win his long awaited first major.
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 Couples 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.