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The 10 Most Iconic Images in Golf History

Fred AltvaterContributor IIMay 7, 2013

The 10 Most Iconic Images in Golf History

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    Very few golfers have risen to the level of being considered icons of the game.

    Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have all accomplished super-human feats on the golf course. Most of their heroics have been recorded for prosperity, captured in pictures that will forever be burned into our minds.

    Payne Stewart's fist pump in the 1999 U.S. Open. Paul Azinger holing from the bunker to tie Greg Norman in the 1993 PGA Championship. Tiger Woods holing the birdie on the last to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open.

    These are just a few of the game's greatest images.

    Here are 10 of the most memorable images in golf history.

10. Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

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    Rocco Mediate was in the clubhouse with a one-shot lead at the 2008 U.S. Open held at Torrey Pines. He watched with nervous anxiety as Tiger Woods sized up a birdie putt from 18 feet above the hole.

    Mediate told the television crews that Woods would make the putt and his prediction came true.

    Woods' celebration upon making the birdie and forcing the Monday playoff with Mediate is one of the all-time great images in sports history. He would go on to defeat Mediate the next day on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff. 

    It was Woods' 14th major victory of his career—and the last major title that he has won to date.

9. Seeing Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer Never Gets Old

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    The image of Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Palmer playing together in the par-three tournament on the Wednesday before the Masters never gets old. They are the honorary starters for the Masters and hit the first shots on Thursday morning to officially start play.

    These three legends have won 13 Green Jackets between them. From 1958 to 1966, one of them won the Masters every year except 1959 (Art Wall, Jr.).

    These three icons have given—and continue to give—us images of golfing perfection.


8. Ben Hogan's Swing Is an Iconic Image

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    Ben Hogan dug his magnificent swing out of the Texas dirt.

    His swing and accuracy on the golf course are images that will forever live in golf lore.

    Even with time away from the game serving his country in WW II and rehabbing after a ferocious car crash, he still managed to win nine major championships. 

    He won the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship in 1953 alone and is only one of five men to have won all four of the major championships during his career.

    His quiet demeanor and search for the perfect golf swing has made him an iconic figure in golf.

7. Paul Azinger Holes a Bunker Shot on the 72nd Hole of the 1993 PGA Championship

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    Norman again had to bear the brunt of golf's cruel fate, this time on the 72nd hole of the 1993 PGA Championship at Inverness Country Club.

    With a one-shot lead on the final hole, Norman had found the green. He just needed a two-putt par to secure the win, with his nearest challenger in the green-side bunker.

    But the golf gods intervened once again.

    Paul Azinger made a nearly impossible bunker shot to tie Norman and force a playoff. Azinger would win the Championship after Norman made bogey on the second playoff hole.

    Azinger's joy at holing the bunker shot and Norman's shock in losing yet another major in such a freak fashion are two images that will endure throughout golf history.

6. Payne Stewart Wins the 1999 U.S. Open

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    The late Payne Stewart sunk a 15-foot putt in the rain on the final hole of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst to defeat Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.

    Unfortunately, it was Stewart's last major victory, as he died in an airplane crash later that year. His famous fist pump and leg kick have even been immortalized in a statue that resides just beside the Pinehurst Clubhouse.

    Stewart's flamboyant plus-fours and flat cap made him a target for television cameras. His long flowing swing and deft putting touch gave him an advantage over most golfers on difficult golf courses.

5. Greg Norman and Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters

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    Greg Norman was involved in several iconic moments in golf history. He was a dominating figure and was always in contention in big events during the 80's and 90's.

    Norman led through the first three rounds of the 1996 Masters and took a six-shot lead into the final round over Nick Faldo. But Faldo shot a relentless five-under 67 on Sunday, while Norman shot a very untidy 78.

    Faldo embraced Norman on the last hole and told Norman to be strong. "Don't let the bastards get you down" Faldo said.

    Faldo consoling his foe is an image that will last as long as golf is played. It once again demonstrates the friendly, competitive nature of golf. 

4. Tom Watson Nearly Winning the 2009 Open Championship at Age 59

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    One of the lasting images in golf is of a 59-year-old Tom Watson missing that eight-foot putt on the last hole at Turnberry in the 2009 Open Championship.

    He had previously won five Open Championships and was beloved in Europe. Watson's last Open victory had come 16 years earlier at the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. 

    Watson played brilliantly for four rounds over the hallowed golf links at Turnberry. He only needed to hole that short putt at the last hole to claim his sixth Claret Jug.

    Missing short putts was his Achilles' heel and the golf gods would not allow the putt to fall.

    Watson would go on to lose in a playoff to Stewart Cink, missing the opportunity to roll back the clock for one more win. 

3. Jack Nicklaus Winning the 1986 Masters at Age 46

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    Jack Nicklaus won 18 major championships and dominated professional golf for over 20 years. His last major victory came in the 1986 Masters at the age of 46.

    Nicklaus shot a one-under 35 on the front nine to stay in contention. The Masters does not begin until the back nine on Sunday, however.

    He posted a nearly-perfect, six-under 30 on the second nine, for a total of seven-under 65 for the final round.  

    The image of Nicklaus raising his putter with his left hand as he watched the putt roll towards the hole on No. 17 at Augusta is one of the lasting images of all time. 

2. Bobby Jones Creates Augusta National and the Masters

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    Bobby Jones was a golf phenom in the 1920s. He won 13 major championships and retired from competitive golf at the age of 28. 

    In 1930, Jones won the four major titles of the era and is credited with being the only player to ever win the "Grand Slam." 

    He dreamed of building a golf club and starting a tournament that would embody all of the characteristics that he had come to love in golf. Augusta National was born in that spirit. The Masters has become a major championship and one of the most admired golf tournaments in the world.

1. Arnold Palmer

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    Perhaps the most iconic image in all of golf is a young Arnold Palmer. He was a handsome and daring player that brought golf into the living room. Television loved Arnie and he loved to entertain golf fans.

    Golf fans will always remember the virile and athletic Palmer flicking a cigarette, hitching his pants and slashing at his golf ball. There was no shot too difficult to try and he always played with flair and a charisma that brought millions of new fans to the game.

    Golf fans still flock to see "The King" whenever he makes an appearance.

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