One of the great things about watching the Masters is that you always feel as if you are seeing history in the making.
Augusta National has a way of consistently providing breathtaking finishes which often consist of one spectacular golf shot after another on the back nine on Sunday.
The Masters has been around for 78 years, and everyone has their own personal memories of remarkable shots and heartbreaking moments at Augusta National.
Here is my attempt to identify the top 10 greatest shots in Masters history. Who knows? Maybe the 2013 list will contain a shot or two from this year's Masters.
Doug Ford began the final round trailing Sam Snead, but a score of 32 on the back nine catapulted Ford to his first and only Masters title.
Ford was one stroke ahead of Snead heading to the 18th hole.
After hitting his approach shot with a seven iron into a plugged lie in the green-side bunker, it was looking as if Snead would need a par to tie and birdie to win the 1957 Masters.
But it was not to be.
Ford blasted his ball out of the plugged lie and right into the hole for an improbable birdie to finish off a round of 66, which was the lowest final round in Masters history to that point.
Ford had already won the 1957 PGA Championship, but his lasting legacy will forever be intertwined with the Masters and particularly the green-side bunker on the 18th hole at Augusta National.
In 1937, Byron Nelson managed to make up six strokes on tournament leader Ralph Guldahl in a matter of two holes during the final round.
Nelson trailed Guldahl by four strokes heading to the par-three 12th.
Guldahl carded a five on 12 while Nelson birdied the hole, which brought Guldahl’s lead down to one.
On 13, Nelson was short of the green in two and managed to chip in for an eagle from 20 feet while Guldahl made bogey.
Nelson’s birdie-eagle run was capped off by an incredible chip-in on 13 that brought him from four strokes down to two ahead in a matter of 25 minutes.
Two strokes would wind up being Nelson’s margin of victory for his first major championship title that Sunday afternoon in Augusta.
Sandy Lyle, who had failed to birdie either of the par-fives on the back nine during the final round, finally pulled to within a stroke of Mark Calcavecchia with a birdie at the 16th.
Calcavecchia dropped another stroke coming in, and by the time Lyle reached the 18th tee, he was looking at a challenge that had frayed the nerves of more than a few great golfers over the years at Augusta National – par to tie, birdie to win.
Lyle’s potential march to victory did not get off to a great start when his one-iron off the tee found the left fairway bunker.
Now Lyle was looking at a situation where he needed to get up-and-down from 160 yards for the win, or get his ball on or near the green and hope to get down in two for a tie.
What happened next will go down as the defining moment in Lyle’s career.
Lyle flushed his fairway bunker shot to within 8 feet of the cup and would go on to sink his birdie putt to become the first UK native to win the Masters.
To this day, knowledgeable Masters observers cannot look at the bunker on the left side of the 18th without immediately thinking of Lyle.
If only Mickelson had made his four foot eagle putt, his pine straw shot at 13 during the final round of the 2010 Masters would have gone down as one of the top-five greatest shots in Masters History.
As it is, it still makes the top-10 list.
Mickelson pulled his tee shot right on the par-five 13th, and his ball came to rest underneath a group of towering Georgia Pines.
As Mickelson surveyed his options, he quickly realized that he was faced with 209 yards to the hole, 187 yards to carry the water fronting the green, and an opening of no more than four feet from which to shoot his ball though.
Although the prudent play would have been to lay up and try his luck at getting up and down for birdie from 50-100 yards out, this was Phil Mickelson we were talking about, and when was the last time that you saw the words “Phil Mickelson” and “layup” appear in the same sentence?
Although his caddie, Jim “Bones" MacKay attempted to talk him out of it, Mickelson grabbed his six iron and blasted his ball through the pines, over the water and to within four feet of the cup.
The crowd erupted, Bones shook his head and laughed, and Lee Westwood, who was still within striking distance at the time, had a look in his eyes that clearly said “If this guy can pull of that shot, I don’t have a chance."
"It's really one of the few shots that only Phil could pull off," Westwood would say after the round.
Mickelson pushed his eagle putt at 13 and would have to settle for a birdie. Two more birdies coming in at 15 and 18 would secure a third green jacket for Lefty.
Career amateur Billy Joe Patton put himself into contention with a hole-in-one at the sixth that rocked Augusta National to its core.
The thought of an Amateur winning the Masters as late as 1954 immediately swelled Patton’s gallery from a few hundred at the fifth hole to several thousand by the time he reached the seventh.
Patton would make a devastating double bogey at the 13th after hitting his second shot into Rae’s Creek which wound up costing him the tournament as Patton missed out on a playoff with Sam Snead and Ben Hogan by a single stroke.
There have been a number of holes in one at the Masters over the years, but none rocked Augusta National quite like Patton’s did that Sunday afternoon in 1954.
1975 was a true clashing of the titans at Augusta National.
Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf were all at the top of their games heading into the Masters, and the three men took part in an epic Sunday afternoon battle on Augusta National’s back-nine.
Nicklaus began the final round one stroke behind Weiskopf, and Miller was another three behind Nicklaus.
By the turn, Nicklaus and Weiskopf were tied for the lead with Miller trailing by just two.
Nicklaus teed off on the par-three 16th and made what could only be described as his worst swing of the day.
With the pin placed in the back-right corner of the green, Nicklaus shot came up 40 feet short and left of the hole, leaving him with a very difficult two-putt for par, let alone any shot at birdie.
As Nicklaus reached the 16th green, roars came up from the 15th as Weiskopf sunk a birdie putt to take a one stroke lead over Nicklaus. Nicklaus clearly heard the roars and knew exactly what had just happened at 15. CBS announcer Ben Wright would describe the situation as “evil music ringing in Nicklaus' ears.''
As Weiskopf reached the 16th tee, he had to feel good about his chances, at least for the moment. He had a one stroke lead with three holes to play, and Nicklaus was looking at a 40 foot birdie putt just ahead of him on the 16th green.
But as Nicklaus had done to so many men during his illustrious career, he would shred Weiskopf’s heart to pieces with his putter.
Nicklaus’ 40-footer somehow found the bottom of the cup which sent the crowd into a near frenzy and left Weiskopf standing on the tee with a half stunned, half dejected look on his face.
Weiskopf would go on to three-putt the 16th green for a bogey, and both Miller and Weiskopf wound up losing to Nicklaus by a stroke.
Weiskopf would later say that Nicklaus’ putt on 16 was the greatest putt he had ever seen in his life.
Weiskopf would also later say that he never fully recovered from the 1975 Masters. It was a dagger to his heart from which the scars never fully healed.
Following an eagle at 15 which brought Nicklaus to within two strokes of the lead, Nicklaus pulled out a five-iron on the par-three 16th and hit a shot that will forever remain part of Masters lore.
As the ball was in the air and tracking towards the green, his son, Jackie, who was caddying for Nicklaus that afternoon, said “Be the right club.”
Nicklaus calmly leaned down to pick up his tee and said, “It is,” without even watching the flight of the ball.
And Nicklaus was right.
His ball landed about 20 feet right of the hole, caught the ridge and trickled down to within four feet of the cup for an easy birdie, which would put him within one stroke of the lead.
Nicklaus would go on to birdie the 17th and par the 18th while his pursuers all stumbled down the stretch.
Greg Norman’s shank at the 18th sealed the deal for Nicklaus. At 46 years old, Nicklaus had become the oldest Masters champion in history.
Chris DiMarco, who was just one stroke behind Tiger Woods at the time, was sitting 15 feet below the hole at the par three 16th and looking at a very make-able birdie putt.
Woods, on the other hand, had sent his tee shot clear over the back green and was looking at a nearly impossible up-and-down.
After viewing the slope of the green from every angle imaginable, Woods finally settled over his ball. What would happen next would rival Gene Sarazen’s double eagle for the greatest shot in Masters History.
Woods’ ball came out hot; hit the slope to the left of the pin and somehow came to almost a complete stop.
From that point, Woods ball literally made a right turn and began slowly trickling towards the hole.
It was looking as if Woods would save his par, which would have been miraculous in its own right, but the ball had not yet finished rolling.
As the ball approached the hole, the 5,000 patrons surrounding the green all took to their feet.
Seconds later Woods’ ball would hang on the lip for a brief moment, before disappearing into the hole for a birdie.
DiMarco, like everyone else was left with a stunned look on his face as Woods unleashed a first pump and high-fived (or at least attempted to) his caddie, Steve Williams.
DiMarco would miss his birdie putt and Woods would take a two stroke lead to the 17th which turned out to be crucial for Woods.
Woods would bogey the 17th and 18th and be forced to defeat DiMarco in a sudden death playoff.
Davis Love III sunk a similar shot in 1999 while in contention. Had Love gone on to win or had Woods never made his dramatic shot at 16, Love’s chip-in at the par-three would likely be on this list as well.
But, as has often been the case in Woods career, Woods was in the right place, at the right time and managed to execute a shot that will forever leave us scratching our heads in amazement.
In April of 1986, Greg Norman’s heart was broken by a miraculous back-nine charge mounted by 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus.
In August of 1986, with Norman looking on, Bob Tway holed out his bunker shot on the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship to secure a two-stroke victory over Norman.
And in April of 1987, a local Augusta boy by the name of Larry Mize would once again shatter the heart of the Great White Shark.
Norman and Mize finished 72 holes tied at three-under-par 285 and headed to a sudden death playoff.
Both players pared the 10th hole, and Norman was on the green in two at the 11th but more than 40 feet away from the hole, while Mize was short and right of the green in two.
Norman, likely facing a two-putt par, was looking on to see if Mize could get up-and-down from 140 feet away.
Mize’s ball landed just short of the green, bounced twice up a hill and began rolling towards the hole.
As Mize’s ball began moving closer to the hole, Norman got into position to watch the roll so as to get a read for his own birdie putt.
Norman’s putt would wind up being a putt to simply keep the playoff going, as Mize’s ball hit the flag stick and dropped into the hole for one of the most unlikely birdies in Master’s history.
A shell-shocked Norman could not make his 40-footer for birdie and was denied his first major championship yet again by another miraculous chip-in.
In 1935, the tournament was called the Augusta National Invitational, Augusta National was struggling to keep its head above water financially, and the tournament was not considered to be a major championship in any way.
Gene Sarazen didn’t even attend the inaugural Masters because he was off on an international exhibition tour at the time.
Things really changed for Augusta National and the Masters in 1935.
Sarazen was trailing Craig Wood by two when he reached the par-five 15th.
Sarazen knew he needed a birdie or better to give himself a chance at catching Wood. He had decided on going for the green in two at 15 but just couldn’t make up his mind about what club to hit.
As Sarazen went back and forth between clubs, his playing partner, Walter Hagen, yelled over to him “Hurry up, will ya? I’ve got a date tonight.”
This caused Sarazen to finally decide on a four wood, which he belted 235 yards over the pond and right into the hole for a double eagle.
Many simply assume that Sarazen’s double eagle at 15 secured his victory, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Sarazen needed the double eagle to come back and tie Wood, whom he’d defeat the following day in an 18-hole playoff.
Sarazen’s double eagle was touted by the press as the “shot heard round the world”, and at a time when Augusta National and the Masters were struggling both in terms of their identity and financial well-being, Sarazen’s shot put the tournament on the map.
It would be many years before the Masters really evolved into a major, but if it were not for Sarazen’s miraculous double eagle in 1935, Augusta National and the Masters may have folded and we would never have never been able to enjoy this “tradition unlike any other.”
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