10 of the Best Masters Tournaments
The Masters is a tournament like no other. It is the only major that is played at the same golf course every year, and Augusta National is a very special place indeed. Over the years it has witnessed some incredible drama. Birdies and eagles at critical moments. Golf balls being swallowed up by Rae’s Creek and bringing the world’s greatest players to their knees. I have watched more Masters than I care to remember and have dredged my memory banks to come up with my 10 favourite tournaments. This is a subjective list. You will have your own special memories.
1986 - Jack Nicklaus
At the age of 46, the Golden Bear’s best years were behind him. It was six years since his last major victory. But on an unforgettable Sunday afternoon, he turned the clock back, played the final nine holes in 30 shots with his son on the bag and, incredibly, secured his 18th major. The raking putt that he holed on the 17th green - and his reaction as it tracked towards the hole - will live in my memory forever.
1988 - Sandy Lyle
Who can ever forget Lyle’s bunker shot at the 72nd hole. He was lucky to find a lie in the sand that allowed him to go for the green but he still faced a difficult approach. He pulled out a seven iron and struck a perfect shot that finished beyond the hole and then slowly ran down the hill towards the flag. He holed the putt for a winning birdie and then performed a jig that was totally out of character.
1987 - Larry Mize
Greg Norman suffered more than most at Augusta. The previous year he was on the receiving end of Nicklaus’ final-day charge and in 1987 he had a golden chance to put it right. After 72 holes he was tied with Larry Mize and Seve Ballesteros. They set off on a playoff that saw the Spaniard being eliminated at the 10th hole, Mize missed the 11th green and faced a horrible pitch. Incredibly, Mize holed out from 40 yards to break Norman’s heart again.
1999 - Jose Maria Olazabal
The Spaniard’s career had appeared to be over. He had suffered crippling pain in his feet, limping like a man 40 years his senior, and endured months of treatment before discovering that his condition had been misdiagnosed. He finally got the treatment he needed, the pain disappeared and he crowned a glorious comeback with an emotional victory that had us all in tears.
2016 - Danny Willett
Perhaps the most unlikely of victories and most remembered for Jordan Spieth’s collapse. The American was on cruise control until he came to the par-three 12th. It was bad enough that he put his tee-shot in Rae’s Creek but there was a sense of disbelief when he did the same again with his next. He walked off with a seven. What is often forgotten is that Willett produced a flawless final round of 67 to record a famous triumph.
2019 - Tiger Woods
Woods’ victory in 2019 has been described by some as the greatest sporting comeback of them all - and it is certainly right up there. He hadn’t won a major for nearly 11 years and had suffered horribly with a succession of injuries. But it was only when Francesco Molinari found the water at the 12th and again at the 15th that Tiger really began to believe he could land his 15th major. And celebrate with his children after walking off the 18th green.
1997 - Tiger Woods
What is often forgotten about Woods’ first victory at Augusta is that he played his first nine holes in 40 shots in the company of defending champion Nick Faldo. But then he flicked a switch and broke every record in the book, hitting the ball miles, producing a series of glorious iron shots and holing putts for fun. A legend was born.
1996 - Nick Faldo
Greg Norman was on the receiving end again. He entered the final round six shots clear of Nick Faldo after starting the week with a sensational round of 63. He set off on his victory procession but then he began to unravel before our eyes. It was painful to watch. Faldo played magnificently. The Englishman shot a 67. Norman finished with a 78. Incredibly, Faldo won by five shots. At the end he warmly embraced Norman and told him: “Greg, I just don’t know what to say.” None of us did.
2012 - Bubba Watson
Watson produced the shot of a lifetime in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Seemingly stymied among the trees, Watson played a huge hook that seemed to defy physics. Oosthuizen shook his head in disbelief. Watson won and then broke down in tears and will forever more be known as Blubbering Watson. He is renowned as being a big hitter but he is an incredible shot-maker.
1995 - Ben Crenshaw
This was one of the most emotional of all Masters victories. Just days after the death of Harvey Penick, his life-long teacher, mentor and close friend, Crenshaw secured his second Green Jacket and broke down in tears after holing the final putt. He later said: “I had a 15th club in my bag this week."
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