Memorable Shots a Masters Tradition

By Associated PressApril 2, 2006, 4:00 pm
They can stretch Augusta National beyond the county line, or move the tees downtown, as Jack Nicklaus once jokingly suggested. They can add a pond and remove a bunker, plant trees and cut them down.
But there is one thing about the Masters that doesn't change.

Somewhere along the way to a green jacket lies a shot so incredible, so unforgettable, that it becomes part of the legacy of the Masters, a signature moment on a stage built for such drama.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' added to Masters lore with his chip in at the 16th en route to his victory last year.
Gene Sarazen put the Masters on the map with his 'shot heard 'round the world,' a 4-wood from 235 yards on the par-5 15th that went into the cup for a double eagle and carried him into a playoff in 1935. And that was before television was around.
'It was just a piece of luck,' Sarazen said.
And then there's Tiger Woods.
His 2 on the scorecard last year came with a 60-degree sand wedge from a much smaller distance, about 30 feet from behind the green to the hole, a shot that traveled twice that length by the time it climbed up the ridge on the par-3 16th, stopped like a school bus crossing railroad tracks, then made a slow, tantalizing
trek toward the cup.
It stopped on the lip two full seconds, and history pulled it into the hole.
'I was never thinking it had a chance,' said Steve Williams, Woods' caddie who stood by his side, crouching, hoping for one more turn, his heart stopped like the thousands of fans surrounding the green and millions watching on TV. 'It was slowing down, and I said, 'I can't believe it's going to be short.' But for some reason, it kept going. It was just amazing. You're just about to go forward and give whatever your reaction you're going to give, and then it stops.
'And then, boom!'
Sarazen and Woods provided bookend memories, 70 years apart, shots that define the magic of the Masters.
No telling what this year will bring, even on an Augusta National course that again has been strengthened by adding 155 yards on six holes in chairman Hootie Johnson's attempt to keep the course current with the times.
Woods is the defending champion, joining Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only players with at least four green jackets. He is remembered for the U-turn chip on the 16th green, but he is more proud of the 3-wood to the fairway, the 8-iron to 15 feet and the birdie putt to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff.
The Masters starts Thursday without Nicklaus, who competed at Augusta National for the last time a year ago. Some say the longer course will make improbable a back-nine charge such as the one Nicklaus delivered 20 years ago when he shot 30 to win his sixth Masters.
But there will be something mystical that other majors rarely offer.
Seems like there always is.
Larry Mize chipping in from 140 feet to rip the heart out of Greg Norman. Fred Couples' ball rolling back toward Rae's Creek on the 12th hole, stopped by a blade of grass. Nicklaus making a 45-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, as Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller watched dejectedly from the tee box.
'You can feel there is an aura seeping out of the ground,' DiMarco said. 'You remember Jack making that putt up the hill, and you remember Davis (Love III) chipping up the hill. I try to forget Tiger chipping in.'
Woods strives for perfection, which is why he is so proud of the 8-iron into the 18th green in the playoff. But even he concedes he will be remembered more, if not forever, because of that chip.
He had a one-shot lead and was on the ropes, hitting an 8-iron that went too far and too much to the left, and he was lucky it found grass behind the 16th green, especially after DiMarco hit his tee shot into 15 feet.
'I knew that it was going to be virtually one of the most difficult shots you could possibly have on the whole golf course,' Woods said.
He feared the ball was against the first cut of rough, and was relieved to see he had room to get the sand wedge on it, although he had to pick up the club quicker than he would have liked.
'After I saw where the ball was, I thought I had an opportunity to put the ball inside of Chris, which was about 15 feet,' he said. 'And to be honest with you, that's all I was trying to do. Obviously, turned out a little better than that.'
It was important to get the chip inside DiMarco for two reasons. If DiMarco made his birdie putt, Woods could salvage par and lose only one shot, and still have a share of the lead. Or if DiMarco missed -- and he had done that plenty in the final round -- a par would maintain the lead and give Woods enormous momentum.
But birdie?
No one imagined that. Not Woods. Not DiMarco. And not Williams, who has seen Woods do the unthinkable.
'It was one of those shots you can stand there with 100 balls, and never do it again,' Williams said.
There was no discussion about the club -- a 60-degree wedge. The idea was to hit a low spinner up the hill so that it slowed to a stop, rolled down the ridge to the cup and ideally stopped about 4 feet away at best, under the hole.
'I had a spot picked out,' Williams said. 'When it landed, I knew it was going to be a good shot. It got to the top of the hill, stopped, but I expected it to run farther to our right. It rolled a lot straighter than I thought. I think the golfing gods may have been there, because it broke a little less that what you think.'
The cheer might have registered on the Richter scale.
'He screamed so loud ... if you watch on TV, you cannot even think about hearing him,' DiMarco said. 'I said, 'Good job' to him four times at the top of my lungs before he saw me mouthing it and said thanks. You can't hear.'
Woods' miracle chip for birdie might embody what the Masters brings, but it also speaks to his own legacy as the dominant player of his time, on pace to be the greatest champion ever.
He showed up at Augusta National last year having gone 10 starts without a major, matching his longest drought in the Grand Slam events. He no longer was No. 1 in the world. His supremacy was questioned.
And then he found another gear.
Woods returns having won the Masters and British Open, and finished second at the U.S. Open and in a tie for fourth at the PGA Championship. Woods already has won three times this year, including Dubai on the European tour. He is entrenched at No. 1, with twice as many points as Vijay Singh.
'His powers of concentration or determination to get the job done are just so phenomenal,' said his good friend Mark O'Meara. 'It's on the level of Jack Nicklaus.'
Woods has been spotty, however, finishing a combined 25 shots behind in his last two starts. His father is battling cancer, and took a turn for the worse over the holidays, a situation heavy on his mind.
But he remains a big favorite at Augusta National, perhaps more so this year at the Masters because of the additional length and because none of the six players behind him in the world ranking has won this year.
And because of moments like that chip adding to Woods' legend, players wonder what he'll do next.
The birdie chip provided free advertising for Nike, with the swoosh on Woods' golf ball in full view for two seconds before it disappeared into the cup. And it was another signature moment for Verne Lundquist of CBS Sports, famous for his 'Yes, Sir!' call when Nicklaus holed his birdie putt on the 17th hole to win in
'Oh, wow!' Lundquist said as Woods' ball neared the cup. And when it dropped, he added, 'In your life, have you ever seen anything like that?'
At the Masters, the answer is probably: Yes.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 70th Masters Tournament
  • Full Coverage - 69th Masters Tournament
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