The tradition unlike any other is finally upon us. Dubbed the unofficial start of spring, the Masters began in 1934. A year later, Gene Sarazen put Augusta National on the map with his notorious “shot heard ‘round the world” – a double-eagle on the par-5 15th that propelled him into the 36-hole playoff he would eventually win.
Let’s pause for a moment and let the familiar tune of Masters week raise the hairs on your arms.
Yes, the Masters and all its azalea-filled beauty is set to bloom on our television screens in a few short days. So in honor of this masterful week, the team here at LostGolfBalls put together our list of top-five Masters moments.
5.) Charl Schwartzel, 2011
Image Source: http://wrongfairway.com/2011/04/11/son-of-a-chicken-farmer-charl-schwartzel-wins-the-2011-masters/
It was the Masters that featured more fireworks than the Fourth of July; at one point on Sunday eight golfers held a share of the lead. But Charl Schwartzel provided the biggest bang when he became the first champion to birdie the closing four holes in the final round. Previously, the best any Masters victor had done was birdies on the final two holes. His final-round 66 was the lowest round by a winner since Nick Faldo in 1989.
Perhaps Schwartzel’s finish was foreshadowed by his start: he holed out an 80-foot bump-and-run for birdie on the first hole. Or perhaps it was fate: his victory came on the 50th anniversary of fellow South African Gary Player becoming the first international player to win the Masters. Or maybe it was just really darn good golf.
4.) Raymond Floyd, 1976
Image source: http://www.golfdigest.com/gallery/photos-my-five-best-masters#5
One of the most underrated champions in golf history produced one of the finest performances in Masters’ history. With the help of a hot putter and a new weapon – a 5-wood – Floyd established several records on the way to his signature victory at the 1976 Masters.
“Ray” opened with a blistering 7-under 65 and followed it up with a Friday-66 to produce the Masters’ lowest 36-hole mark. Floyd added a third-round 70 to post the lowest 54-hole total, and closed out the week with a final-round 70 to tie Jack Nicklaus for the lowest 72-hole total at 17-under par. His green jacket was never in doubt; the next closest competitor to him was Ben Crenshaw, eight shots back. Fourteen years later at Augusta National, Floyd nearly became the first golfer to win a major championship in four different decades; he lost in a playoff to Nick Faldo.
3.) Jordan Spieth, 2015
Image Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2428614-jordan-spieth-at-masters-2015-leaderboard-score-twitter-reaction-from-sunday
Tiger Woods did it first, but Jordan Spieth took it a step further. Spieth delivered historic performances on almost every day he teed it up at Augusta that week. His first-round 64 was one off the single-round record (Greg Norman holds that honor with a 63 in 1996). Spieth’s two-round total of 130 set the record for lowest 36-hole mark. One day later, he broke the record for the lowest 54-hole total. And on the final day he tied Woods’ tournament total at 18-under par (which he certainly could have broken too).
But Spieth didn’t stop there. The young superstar set the record for most birdies made at one Masters with 26 (Phil Mickelson previously held the record; Woods had 19 birdies in 1997). Spieth also became the first and only man to reach 19-under at Augusta National. He also became just the second man in more than 100 years to go wire-to-wire to win a major while being 21-years-old or younger. The other? Walter Hagen at the 1914 U.S. Open, that’s some solid company.
2.) Jack Nicklaus, 1986
Image Source: http://wrongfairway.com/2011/03/30/jacks-1986-masters-win-to-be-a-30-for-30-film/
He’s too old. He’s at the end of his career. He hadn’t won a PGA event in two years and a major title in six. Those were just a few things describing Jack Nicklaus who was considered an afterthought heading in the 1986 Masters. At first, the comments proved true. Nicklaus opened his Masters shooting 74-71, and while he made the cut, he was well back of leader Seve Ballesteros. What happened next will go down as one of the greatest weekend performances in major championship history.
Nicklaus posted a third-round 69 to creep within four shots of new leader Greg Norman. He started even par through the first eight holes of his final round before birdieing the ninth. Two more birdies at the 10th and 11th and all-the-sudden the crowd was buzzing. Nicklaus then birdied the 13th and when his eagle putt dropped on the 15th, Augusta was officially going nuts. A birdie on 16 was followed by the iconic putt on 17 (“Yessir!”) that dropped in for yet another birdie. His final-round 65, at the age of 46, earned him his sixth green jacket and made him the third-oldest major champion in golf history.
1.) Tiger Woods, 1997
Image Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-tiger-woods-masters-flashback-spt-0412-20150411-story.html
It may be cliché, but it’s hard to argue against. Tiger Woods' march to victory in the 1997 Masters was the stuff of legends. He shattered records at Augusta National: lowest four-round total (-18); largest margin of victory (12 strokes); youngest ever to win (21-years old). And what made it ever more impressive, Woods did it all after shooting 40 on his opening nine holes (he recovered with a back-nine 30 which, you guessed it, no one has ever done either). Woods also became the first African-American to slip on the golf’s most coveted jacket.
Jim Nantz said it best (like he usually does) when he declared, “There it is! A win for the ages.” Just like Woods’ domination three years later at the 2000 U.S. Open (an event he won by 15 strokes), we may never see a performance like that again. The highlights from that year never get old.
So how did we do? What is your favorite Masters performance? We would love to hear from you, kindly share your comments below.