Skip to main content
×

Masters anniversaries: Iconic memories over the last 50 years

Getty Images

Every April, the golf world is eager to see what history will be made at Augusta National. But the renowned moments of yesteryear always cast an aura on the hallowed greens. 

As we ready for the 86th Masters Tournament, anniversaries over the past 50 years abound with famed moments. So, let's hop in the time machine and relive these Masters memories from the last half-century. 


Five years — 2017: Sergio Garcia, better late than never 

A few months after turning professional in 1999, Garcia finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship. Many thought that was a sign that Garcia was on the precipice of winning multiple majors. Well, by 2017, Garcia would astonishingly still have zero. But at Augusta National five years ago, the Spaniard, at 37 years old, finally got the monkey off his back. He overcame a botched 6-footer on his 72nd hole and then beat Justin Rose on the first playoff hole on what would have been fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros' 60th birthday.



10 Years — 2012: Bubba "from Bagdad" bent it

A week after his son's birth, Bubba Watson made the turn Sunday at Augusta and then — starting on No. 13 — carded four straight birdies, moving him into a share of the lead with Louis Oosthuizen at the end of regulation. 

After exchanging pars on the first bonus hole, Watson provided a fabled Masters moment. His errant 343-yard drive landed in the trees right of the 10th fairway, 163 yards from the flag. So Watson took out a 52-degree gap wedge and rope-hooked his shot to within 15 feet of the hole. Two putts later, Watson was a folk hero and a major champ. 

15 Years — 2007: Zach Johnson out of no man's land 

Johnson, who at the time had only one Tour victory, didn't think he could outlast the final group Sunday, in which Tiger Woods was playing. 

"I have no chance. Realistically, that’s what I was thinking,” Johnson said in 2017. 

But with a closing 69, Johnson, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2023, held off Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini by two strokes and became the third-ever Masters champion with an over-par total. Johnson's win was also the first not to come from the final group since 1990 — but there have been four since (2011, '12, '13, '16). 


20 years — 2002: Tiger Woods hits the trifecta 

One hundred years since Masters founder Bobby Jones' birth and 50 years since the first Champions Dinner, Augusta National was lengthened by 285 yards (a.k.a. Tiger-proofed). However, Woods, the defending champion, powered through with a three-shot victory over Goosen, becoming the third-ever player to win back-to-back Masters (Jack Nicklaus 1965-66, Nick Faldo 1989-90). Two decades later, Hideki Matsuyama looks to become the fourth — with, like 20 years ago, more alterations to Augusta National. 

But as Woods was continuing to cement his legacy by winning for the third time at Augusta, 2002 was the (first) Masters farewell to another great. After the opening round, Arnold Palmer — 40 years after his third Masters win — declared this would be his last time playing the tournament. However, he "Tom Brady-ed" his Masters retirement and ended up playing in the major for another two years. 


25 Years — 1997: Tiger Woods, a star is born 

Hello, world. As a 21-year-old, Woods, with a 72-hole score of 18-under 270, cruised to a record 12-stroke victory while also breaking the Masters' lowest-ever aggregate score that Nicklaus and Raymond Floyd shared (271). Also with the victory, Woods was not just the first person of color to win the Masters, but any of the four majors. 

A quarter of a century later, will the Big Cat give the world another Masters roar? 



30 Years — 1992: Fred Couples' breakthrough 

No American had won the Masters since Larry Mize a half-decade before. However, Couples would not only end that drought, but he would also — after 12 stellar years as a professional — finally knock the (major) weight off his shoulders. With a two-shot victory over 49-year-old Floyd, who was trying to become the oldest-ever Masters winner, Couples went from a great player to a major champion. 


35 Years — 1987: Larry Mize, the hometown hero 

One of the most iconic finishes in Masters history. Mize, an Augusta native, was four years removed from his last win and found himself in a sudden-death playoff with two legends of the game, Greg Norman and Ballesteros. On the first extra hole, Ballesteros fell out of the playoff by three-putting. So the second time around, Norman, one year after completing the "Saturday Slam," stood in the way of Mize's dream. But on the par-4 11th, that dream would come true as Mize holed a 140-foot chip for birdie, throwing his club in the air and running in circles as Norman watched in disbelief. 



40 Years — 1982: I am the Walrus

Craig Stadler held the 54-hole lead by three strokes with nine of the world's top-ranked golfers lurking. Stadler increased his advantage to six on the first nine Sunday, but then melted it after bogeying four of the last nine holes. Dan Pohl, who had never won a tournament despite being the Tour's longest driver, caught up to Stadler's lead and forced a sudden-death playoff. But on the first extra hole, it was Stadler who prevailed for his lone major victory. 


45 Years — 1977: Tom Watson edges Nicklaus 

Forty-five years ago, the world was given a preview into golf's next great rivalry. At the time, Watson, despite winning The Open in 1975, had a knack for fumbling leads on Sunday. And after holding a three-stroke, 54-hole lead at the '77 Masters, another collapse seemed imminent after Nicklaus caught Watson's lead by carding seven birdies in 15 holes. 

The two were tied with three holes left, but by the time Watson headed to No. 18, he had moved two clear. Watson two-putted for par and won his first of two Masters (1981).  

“Not only winning the Masters,” Watson said after the victory, “but winning it by beating Jack head‐to‐head over the last three holes gives me great satisfaction — great, great satisfaction.”


50 Years — 1972: Jack Nicklaus back in the winner's circle at Augusta 

For the first Masters played without Bobby Jones, who died four months prior, Nicklaus showed up to Augusta National not having put on the green jacket in six years. But the Golden Bear, at 32 years old, shot an opening 68 to grab the lead, which he never relinquished through four rounds. It would be the fourth — tying Palmer's record — of Nicklaus' six Masters wins.