We look back at 20 of the most memorable moments in Masters Tournament history.
1 / 20
Arnold Palmer led Ken Venturi by one when his tee shot on the 12th tee hole in the final round plugged behind the green. Both players felt Palmer was entitled to relief under a local rule, but rules official Arthur Lacey disagreed. Palmer played the embedded ball, making a 5, then announced he would play a second ball, taking a drop, and let the rules committee decide. He made par on that ball. The committee ruled in Palmer’s favor, and he went on to win his first Masters by one shot, with Venturi two back. Until his death in 2013, Venturi maintained that Palmer should have played the two balls concurrently. Palmer has been equally insistent that he was right.
2 / 20
Rory McIlroy was just 21 when he went into the final round at Augusta with a four-shot lead over four players. He shot 1-over 37 on the front nine, seeing his lead shrink to one shot, and he came unraveled on the back. It started with a triple bogey-7 on No. 10, featuring a drive pull-hooked so far to the left that the ball wound up near the cabins. He also had a four-putt double bogey on No. 12, and came home in 80, finishing 10 shots off the lead.
3 / 20
On the second hole of his sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson was in dire straits. His tee shot on the 10th hole had gone deep into the woods right of the fairway, leaving him 164 yards from the pin but with no direct route to the green. Ah, but this is Bubba Watson we’re talking about, and Bubba Watson rarely takes the direct route. The lefthander took out his 52-degree wedge and hit a sweeping hook that delivered the ball 15 feet from the pin. Oosthuizen’s approach came up just short of the green, and he chipped past the hole, then missed his par putt. Watson two-putted for par and his first green jacket.
4 / 20
Fred Couples led by three shots when he went to the 12th tee on Sunday. Trying for the middle of the green, he pushed his tee shot to the right, and it landed about halfway up the far bank of Rae’s Creek. From where it was supposed to roll down into the water. From where EVERY ball rolls down into the water. Only Couples’ ball didn’t. Oh, it rolled down, but it stopped just short of getting wet. Couples was able to chip up and save par. “The biggest break, probably, in my life,” he said later. He went on to win by two shots over Raymond Floyd.
5 / 20
Ever since a 19-year-old Sergio Garcia no-look scissor-kicked his way into our hearts in the 1999 PGA Championship, we’ve been waiting for him to win a major. Or two. Or a dozen. But as each year passed with the Spaniard still without a major trophy, we began to wonder. We wondered more when a frustrated Garcia speculated that he just wasn’t good enough to win a major. Thankfully, his funk didn’t last, and neither did his drought. He tied Justin Rose at the end of the final round, then sank a birdie on the first playoff hole to capture his first major.
6 / 20
The 1995 Masters Tournament was a gut-wrenching experience for Ben Crenshaw even before he hit his first shot. Crenshaw’s longtime coach and mentor, Harvey Penick, died the Sunday before the tournament. Crenshaw served as one of Penick’s pallbearers at his funeral before returning to Augusta. He then went out and shot 14-under 274 to edge Davis Love III by one shot for the title. When Crenshaw’s final putt dropped into the cup at 18, he bent over and burst into tears as caddie Carl Jackson tried to comfort him. “I believe in fate,” Crenshaw said later. “I had a 15th club in my bag and it was Harvey.”
7 / 20
Two of the greatest players in golf were still ascending when they met in an 18-hole playoff for the 1942 Masters title. Byron Nelson already had 17 wins, including one Masters, one U.S. Open and one PGA Championship. Ben Hogan had yet to win a major, but he had 12 wins. Both shot 8-under 280 in regulation. In the playoff, Nelson double-bogeyed the first hole and was three shots down after four holes, but played the final 14 holes in 5 under to edge Hogan by one shot, 69-70. The Masters would not be played again until 1946, interrupted from 1943-45 by World War II.
8 / 20
Ken Venturi was the clubhouse leader when Arnold Palmer came to the 17th hole on Sunday, one shot behind. Palmer’s 25-foot birdie attempt had just enough gas left to dive into the hole and forge a tie. On 18, after splitting the fairway Palmer hit a 6-iron to 5 feet, then made the putt for his second Masters crown. Palmer would follow with a more memorable charge in the final round to win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills, then headed for St. Andrews, Scotland with hopes of making a run at a Grand Slam. Kel Nagle quashed that dream when he edged Palmer by one stroke, but Palmer’s season is still considered one of the best in golf history.
9 / 20
Does this sound familiar? A top player starts the final round far out of contention, but catches fire, shooting a 30 on the back nine and becoming the leader in the clubhouse. He waits to see if his score will hold up. It does. Jack Nicklaus in 1986? No, Gary Player in 1978. Seven shots off the lead after 54 holes, the South African birdied seven of the last 10 holes to match the then-tournament record of 64. Hubert Green, one of three runners-up, missed a 3-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have tied for the lead. It was Player’s third Masters and his ninth and final major.
10 / 20
Masters lore is as rich in tales of those who didn’t win as of those who did. Richer, perhaps. Greg Norman. Scott Hoch. Greg Norman. Rory McIlroy. Greg Norman … you get the picture. But the most gut-wrenching story of “almost” might be that of Ken Venturi, who in 1956 looked to become the first amateur to win the tournament founded by the greatest amateur of all. Venturi opened with a 66, followed with a 69 and held on to the lead through 54 holes despite a third-round 75. But he fell apart in Round 4, shooting 42 on the back nine and 80 for the day, allowing Jack Burke Jr. to come from eight shots back and take the title.
11 / 20
When Lee Elder defeated Peter Oosterhuis on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff in the Monsanto Open in Pensacola, Fla., he did something no African-American had ever done – he qualified for the Masters. Oh, African-Americans had won PGA Tour events – Charlie Sifford won the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open – but it wasn’t until 1972 that Augusta National began inviting winners of all PGA Tour events. Elder missed the cut by four shots in the 1975 Masters, shooting 74-78, but his place in history was secure.
12 / 20
Trying to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only winners of back-to-back Masters, Jordan Spieth took a five-shot lead to the back nine on Sunday. But Spieth had already hit a couple of speed bumps in the form of bogeys at the 10th and 11th holes. And when his 9-iron at the 12th drifted right, hit the bank of the creek and rolled back in, he was looking at another bogey – at best. But after taking his drop, he fatted a wedge into the creek, then hit his fifth shot into the back bunker. He got up and down – for a quadruple-bogey-7. Spieth went on to tie for second behind winner Danny Willett.
13 / 20
After six top-6 finishes in the Masters over the previous 10 years, in 1996 Greg Norman seemed to be not only trying to win, but to build up such a big lead that no one could come between him and a green jacket. He opened with a course- and major championship-record equaling 63, then followed with 69-71 to take a six-shot lead over Nick Faldo into the final round. But Faldo was no stranger to deficits; he had come from behind in three of his five major championship wins. He did it again against Norman, shooting 67 to the Shark’s painful-to-watch 78. Afterward the two men hugged, with Faldo telling Norman, “Don’t let the bastards [media] beat you down.”
14 / 20
For star power down the stretch, it didn’t get much better than Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Nicklaus, the game’s dominant player. Miller, the other golden-haired golden boy, with a U.S. Open title on his resume. And Weiskopf, Nicklaus’ fellow Ohio State product and a three-time Masters runner-up. The roars and groans echoed back and forth on the back nine: Weiskopf birdied 15 to go up by one. Nicklaus sank a 40-footer for birdie on No. 16 to tie. Weiskopf three-putted No. 16. Nicklaus posted 12 under with the other two at 11. Both had makeable birdie putts at 18, but neither fell, and Nicklaus had his record fifth Masters title.
15 / 20
When Jordan Spieth teed it up in the 2015 Masters, the jury was still out on whether the 21-year-old Texan was the real deal or the product of media hype. Yes, he had won some tournaments, but the John Deere Classic, Valspar Championship, Australian Open and Hero World Challenge weren’t to be confused with the Masters. As for the Masters, he had tied for second in his only appearance, but stranger things had been known to happen. But then he went wire to wire to win the 2015 Masters, equaling Tiger Woods’ scoring record of 18 under par. If any doubters remained, they were crushed two months later when Spieth followed up by winning the U.S. Open.
16 / 20
The sudden-death playoff in the 1987 Masters included Seve Ballesteros, a four-time major champion who already had two green jackets; Greg Norman, who had finished one shot behind winner Jack Nicklaus the previous year; and Larry Mize, whose biggest claim to fame was being a native of Augusta, Ga. When Ballesteros was eliminated on the first extra hole (No. 10), it appeared that Norman, who had been beaten in the previous year’s PGA by a Bob Tway hole-out bunker shot on the 72nd hole, would finally get a green jacket of his own. But fate had other ideas. Mize holed a 140-foot chip shot on No. 11 and Norman missed his 50-foot birdie putt from the fringe.
17 / 20
In its second year, Bobby Jones’ tournament was still known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. The nines were reversed from Year 1, making this the first year of the course’s present configuration. Gene Sarazen trailed leader Craig Wood by three shots on the back nine, but made up all three strokes by holing a 4-wood from 235 yards for an albatross on the par-5 15th. The two ended up tied in regulation, and Sarazen shot even-par 144 to win the next day’s 36-hole playoff.
18 / 20
Tiger Woods led Chris DiMarco by one shot as they went to the 16th tee on Sunday. DiMarco found the center of the green, but Woods’ tee shot was long and left. He would have to chip up the hill, well past the pin, and let the ball roll down toward the cup. Here’s how announcer Verne Lundquist described the shot: “Here it comes,” (as Woods struck the ball). “Oh, my goodness!” (as the ball trickled toward the cup). “OH, WOW!!! IN YOUR LIFE HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THAT?!!” (as the ball, Nike swoosh logo toward the camera, finally dropped into the cup). Woods bogeyed 17 and 18, causing a sudden-death playoff starting on No. 18, which he won with a birdie.
19 / 20
Tiger Woods had his doubters when he first came on Tour in 1996. OK, the kid had won three straight U.S. Amateurs, but let’s see what he can do against some real competition. Woods silenced many of his critics when, in just 11 tournaments in 1996, he won twice. But the 1997 Masters was another test, his first major as a pro. The doubters nodded when Woods went out in 40 for his first nine holes, but that would be their last chance to feel good about their beliefs for a long while. Woods came home in 30 for a 70, then followed with 66, 65 and 69 for a record 18-under 270, becoming, at age 21, the youngest and first non-white Masters champion.
20 / 20
One could easily compile a Memorable Moments list limited to the back nine on Sunday when Jack Nicklaus, age 46, won his 18th and final major: Nicklaus’ 4-iron and eagle putt at 15, his son and caddie, Jackie, jumping in jubilation; Nicklaus’ 5-iron to 3 feet for another birdie at 16 (Jackie: “Be right.” Jack, not even looking at the ball: “It is.”); flubbed 4-irons by Seve Ballesteros at 15 and Greg Norman at 18. But the most indelible memory is Nicklaus’ birdie putt at 17 that gave him sole possession of the lead for the first time. As ball finds cup, Nicklaus raises his soon-to-be best-selling putter in salute and CBS announcer Verne Lundquist punctuates the crescendo: “Yes SIR!!”
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