Masters 2012: Top 10 Performances Ever at Augusta
You know why The Master's is "a tradition unlike any other?" It's because there have been some of the most memorable golf shots, final round performances and full week performances of any tournament in golf history.
And for the one who creates those moments awaits the most coveted award in sport, that doesn’t come in the form of a trophy—the green jacket.
There have been many such moments, so the task of singling out 10 performances is a tough one. Debate will undoubtedly follow but here the 10 most memorable performances at Augusta, in the opinion of yours truly.
10. Arnold Palmer: -6 (1960)
Few performances in Master's History have been quite as impressive as Arnold Palmer's wire-to-wire win in 1960. He opened the week with a 67 on Thursday, came back to reality on Friday with a 73, before going par (72) and -2 (70) on Sunday.
The 70 was very much in doubt as Palmer had to birdie 17 and 18 to get to -6 and the tournament victory. Ken Venturi put plenty of pressure on Palmer, falling just one stroke short of forcing a playoff.
For the wire-to-wire lead (only the second in Master's History to that point) and clutch play at the end, Palmer's 1960 effort at Augusta is quite historic.
9. Jack Nicklaus: -12 (1975)
In the 1975 Master's, Jack Nicklaus captured his record-fifth green jacket by one stroke over Johnny Miller. A moment likely to be shown over the course of this weekend's coverage is the 40-foot putt on the 16th hole that Nicklaus rolled in with drama to no end.
A one-over 73 on Saturday combined with Miller's 65 made the tournament close, but ultimately Nicklaus' date with destiny won out in a historic Master's Tournament.
8. Nick Faldo: -12 (1996)
You might remember the '96 Master's for the choke job by Greg Norman or the amazing final round from Nick Faldo, or perhaps both.
Either way, Faldo's final round 67 bettered Norman's final round by 11 strokes. But it wasn't only Norman that Faldo bettered, he outdid every player on the day. He overcame a six-stroke deficit going into the final round for one of the more memorable final rounds in the tournament's history.
7. Seve Ballesteros: -13 (1980)
As the youngest player to ever win a Master's championship at the time (23 years of age), Seve proved to the country why the international sensation was the future of golf.
His 23 birdies were a 72-hole record until recently and his 13-under for the tournament allowed him to cruise to a four-shot victory. Ballesteros had the lead or was tied after every round.
Ballesteros' Masters performance in 1980 is among the most dominant in Master's history.
6. Arnold Palmer: -12 (1964)
Although Arnold Palmer was a Master's veteran and already a three-time winner by 1964, Palmer had his most memorable victory that year. He started the tournament shooting a 69, Friday a 68, a 69 again on Saturday which allowed him to breeze to an easy victory with a 2-under par 70 on Sunday.
Palmer won by six strokes and was never in serious danger of not winning his fourth green jacket.
It's unlikely at the time anyone would have guessed this would be Palmer's final Master's victory. He did manage to finish second to Jack Nicklaus in "The Golden Bear's" second of six Master's victories.
5. Jack Nicklaus' Final Round in 1986
Although Jack Nicklaus did enough to stay in the tournament in the first three rounds in 1986, it was his final round 65 that made Nicklaus' performance beyond amazing.
Specifically his back nine featured an eagle-birdie-birdie on 15, 16 and 17 which led to a back nine 30 score. Nicklaus only won by a single stroke over Tom Kite at 9-under to Kite's 8-under.
Few tournaments are as memorable as the one in '86. It's of course the 25th anniversary of said tournament, so this column is hardly the last time you'll hear about it this week.
4. Phil Mickelson: -16 (2010)
As bad as Phil Mickelson was in majors up until 2004, he was close to if not that much better in the 2010 Master's. His Sunday 67 wasn't the best round of the day, but it was the most clutch. It was also his third 67 of the week, making him one of the most consistent players on this list.
More importantly, Mickelson's final round contained one of the most memorable shots in Master's history as Mickelson hit a shot within four feet to set up a birdie after shooting from the pine on the 13th hole.
Mickelson's third Master's victory was his finest performance, if not his sweetest victory.
3. Ben Hogan: -14 (1953)
In the 1953 Master's Tournament, the 18-hole Par was 72. Ben Hogan never shot above a 70, and that was his opening round when he shot a 70.
He went on to shoot 69 (3-under), 66 on Saturday (6-under) and 69 (3-under) again on Sunday to finish 14-under par and win the tournament by five strokes over Ed Oliver who shot 9-under par for the tournament.
The '53 Master's was Hogan's second and final Master's victory. He would finish second in 1954 behind Sam Snead and 1955 when he finished seven strokes behind Cary Middlecoff, but never again did Hogan do anything of note at Augusta.
At least his 1953 stands today as one of the finest tournaments by an individual in the history of the great tournament.
And for a golfer so well thought of, Hogan's victory only added to an already iconic legacy.
2. Raymond Floyd: -17 (1976)
In 1976, Raymond Floyd recorded the second lowest Master's score in the tournament's 73-year history. His 17-under tied Jack Nicklaus for the lowest score to that point (only Tiger Woods has broken that record since).
Floyd won by nine strokes while setting records for 18, 36 and 54 round lows.
Alhough Floyd didn't win another Master's, his performance in '76 was epic and more memorable than nearly any other.
1. Tiger Woods: -18 (1997)
1997 was the year of Tiger. Woods became the youngest Master's champion ever AND set the tournament scoring record at 270 (-18). Four round par stands at 288.
It was the greatest performance by any player in the tournament's storied tradition, and Woods did it at the ripe old age of 21. It was only Woods' third professional tournament at Augusta.
Although Woods has won the tournament three additional times, none of those performances compares to Woods' inaugural victory at The Master's.