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Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Masters Tournaments

Fred AltvaterContributor IIApril 7, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Masters Tournaments

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    2005 Masters Champion Tiger Woods helps Phil Mickelson the 2006 Masters Champion with the green jacket.
    2005 Masters Champion Tiger Woods helps Phil Mickelson the 2006 Masters Champion with the green jacket.Associated Press

    The best golfers from around the world descend on Augusta National Golf Club this week for the Masters tournament.

    It is the first major championship of the year and is a harbinger of spring for northerners still shaking off the cold and snow of winter.

    It is the only major championship contested on the same golf course every year, and golf fans have become familiar with the Hogan, Nelson and Sarazen bridges as well as Amen Corner and the Butler Cabin. 

    Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have replaced Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead as the honorary starters. The traditional par-three tournament on Wednesday afternoon draws huge crowds and spikes television ratings.

    Bobby Jones and Dr. Alister Mackenzie are a large part of Augusta National and Masters history, but the great champions, who have won and lost here over the years, have made the Masters the most highly anticipated tournament of the year. 

    The biggest names always seem to rise to the top, when the leaders turn for the final nine holes on Sunday afternoon. 

    Who will engrave their name in the history books and don the green jacket on Sunday evening?

10. 1935 'Shot Heard Round the World'

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    Gene Sarazen won the 1935 tournament in a playoff.
    Gene Sarazen won the 1935 tournament in a playoff.Associated Press

    In the early years, the tournament was known as the Augusta National Invitational. Tournament founder and host Bobby Jones felt the Masters was too presumptuous.

    In 1935, the second year of the tournament, 33-year-old Gene Sarazen hit "the shot heard round the world" and made the Masters tournament something special.

    Sarazen's miraculous double-eagle from 235 yards on the par-five 15th during the final round forced a tie with Craig Wood. In a 36-hole playoff the following day, Sarazen prevailed, won his seventh major title and became one of only five men to have won all four major championships in his career. 

    Sarazen's historic shot made the Masters memorable, and it is still considered one of the best in history.

9. Larry Mize Chipped in to Beat Greg Norman in 1987

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    Larry Mize reacts to his chip-in on the second playoff hole in 1987.
    Larry Mize reacts to his chip-in on the second playoff hole in 1987.David Cannon/Getty Images

    In 1987, Seve Ballesteros had already won two green jackets. Greg Norman was the dominant player of the time and desperately wanted to win a Masters title.

    A little-known golf professional from Augusta, Larry Mize beat them both with a chip-in on the 11th green in a playoff.

    All three men had finished the tournament tied for the lead and began their playoff at No. 10. Ballesteros failed to make par and was eliminated.

    Norman and Mize continued to No. 11 to decide the winner. Norman found the green with his approach and was facing a 20-foot putt for birdie. Showing too much respect for the water that protects the left side of No. 11 green, Mize was pin-high, but he missed to the right. 

    The rest is history. Mize hit the perfect chip shot, and the ball found the bottom of the cup for birdie. A shaken Norman could not make his birdie attempt, and Mize won his only major championship. 

    Next to Sarazen's albatross in 1935 and Bubba Watson's improbable wedge shot in 2012, it is still one of the most memorable shots in Masters history.

8. Ben Crenshaw Won the 1995 Masters

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    Ben Crenshaw was overcome with emotion after holing out to win the 1995 Masters.
    Ben Crenshaw was overcome with emotion after holing out to win the 1995 Masters.Stephen Munday/Getty Images

    Ben Crenshaw had won the 1984 Masters, and in 1995, at the age of 43, he was nearing the end of his illustrious career.

    His longtime mentor and golf coach, Harvey Penick, died preceding the 1995 Masters, and Crenshaw, as well as several other Masters' participants, flew to Texas to attend Penick's funeral prior to the start of the tournament.

    It was a very emotional week for Crenshaw, who was extremely close to Penick. 

    Amazingly, he found himself on the 72nd hole on Sunday, needing a putt to win his second Masters title, and it seemed his old mentor helped to will the ball into the hole to beat Davis Love by a single stroke.

    All of the emotions, held inside during the tournament, were released, and Crenshaw doubled over from the enormity of his accomplishment. 

    Even divine intervention has played a role in making memorable Masters moments.

7. Ken Venturi Nearly Wins the Masters as an Amateur in 1956

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    Ken Venturi nearly won the 1956 Masters as an amateur.
    Ken Venturi nearly won the 1956 Masters as an amateur.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Most golf fans remember Ken Venturi as the voice that sat alongside Pat Summerall and Jim Nantz to broadcast golf tournaments for CBS.

    Venturi was an outstanding amateur golfer and won the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional as a professional.

    Masters founder Bobby Jones never became a professional golfer and longed for the day when an amateur would win his tournament.

    The gap between amateur and professional golf was widening, but Venturi nearly granted Jones his wish in 1956.

    Only 24 years old, Venturi led the Masters each day through the first three days and took a four-shot lead into the final round.

    He finally succumbed to the realization and intense pressure of the situation. He posted a final-round eight-over par 80 and lost by a single stroke to Jack Burke Jr.

    With the advent of Palmer and the growth of professional golf on television, top-ranked amateurs now turn professional at a young age and amateurs have not been a factor at the Masters since 1956.

    An amateur beating the professionals at the Masters would have been memorable for Bobby Jones and golfers everywhere.

6. Charl Schwartzel Birdies Final Four Holes to Win in 2011

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    Charl Schwartzel accepts the green jacket from 2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson.
    Charl Schwartzel accepts the green jacket from 2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Rory McIlroy held the 54-hole lead in the 2011 Masters, but a memorable collapse over the back nine on Sunday left the door open for several players to win.

    Eight players held a share of the lead during the final round on Sunday. Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Jason Day were battling, but Charl Schwartzel manufactured a string of birdies over the final four holes to win by two shots.

    Even though Schwartzel had six wins on the Sunshine and European Tours prior to his win in the 2011 Masters, he was not well-known in the U.S.

    2011 was memorable for McIlroy's collapse, the number of players that had a chance to win and Schwartzel's flurry of birdies at the end to snatch the prize. 

5. Ben Hogan and Sam Snead Met in Memorable Playoff in 1954

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    Sam Snead won three Masters tournaments.
    Sam Snead won three Masters tournaments.Stephen Munday/Getty Images

    From 1949 to 1954, either Sam Snead or Ben Hogan won five of the six Masters contested.

    Hogan had won his second green jacket in 1953 and was the defending champion at Augusta in 1954.

    He held a three-shot lead over Snead after 54 holes, and it appeared he would win his third Masters title.

    Hogan posted a three-over par 75 in the final round on Sunday, and Snead caught him with an even-par 72, forcing an 18-hole Monday playoff.

    They were the two dominant players of the era, and it was a special treat to watch the two best players of the day square off at Augusta National.

    Hogan would post one-under par 71 in the playoff, and Snead bettered him by a single stroke with a two-under par 70.

    Their efforts were front-page news in every paper across the land and helped bring attention back to the Masters.

    1954 was memorable for Hogan and Snead playing at their best on one of the best golf courses in the world.

4. Bubba Watson Beats Louis Oosthuizen with Amazing Shot

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    Bubba Watson made a fabulous recovery from the pine straw to win the 2012 Masters.
    Bubba Watson made a fabulous recovery from the pine straw to win the 2012 Masters.Darron Cummings

    The 2012 Masters will be remembered for the shot that Bubba Watson hit on the second playoff hole to win the green jacket.

    Most people forget that Phil Mickelson was only one shot back of the 54-hole leader, Peter Hanson, and was in the last pairing on Sunday. Mickelson finished third, after a triple-bogey six at the par-three fourth which took him out of contention.

    Louis Oosthuizen began the final round at seven under par, just two shots behind the leader, and was paired with Watson, who was one more stroke back at six under par.

    Oosthuizen was able to claim the lead when he made the fourth double-eagle in Masters history at the par-five second hole. He took a one-shot lead into the back nine on Sunday, but Watson ran off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 13-16 to finish tied with Oosthuizen and force the playoff.

    Both men made par on the first playoff hole.

    At the second playoff hole, Oosthuizen pushed his drive into the right rough and was not able to find the green with this second shot. His chip ran past the hole, and he missed his slick downhill putt for par.

    Watson pulled his drive well into the trees bordering the right side of the hole. He then hooked a wedge nearly 40 yards around the trees from the pine straw to find the putting surface and two-putt for the par that would give him the win.

    Watson was completely overcome by the emotion of the moment. His unbelievable shot and tears of joy will be remembered forever.

3. Tiger Woods Wins First Green Jacket in 1997

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    Tiger Woods accepts his first green jacket from Nick Faldo.
    Tiger Woods accepts his first green jacket from Nick Faldo.AMY SANCETTA

    Tiger Woods played in his first Masters as a professional in 1997. He shot a front-nine 40 in the first round, but that was to be the only bad stretch of golf he exhibited all week.

    He followed up with a back-nine six-under par 30 to post a two-under par 70 and blitzed the field with three rounds of 66-65-69 to finish at 18 under par and win by 12 shots.

    At 21 years old, he became the youngest player to win the Masters, and his four-day total 270 is the lowest winning score ever recorded at Augusta National.

    The 1997 Masters will be remembered for Woods' complete domination of the hallowed golf course and the complete failure of the rest of the field to come close to the rookie.

2. Jack Nicklaus Prevails over Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf in 1975

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    Jack Nicklaus accepts his fifth green jacket from Gary Player.
    Jack Nicklaus accepts his fifth green jacket from Gary Player.Associated Press

    The 1975 Masters will be remembered for Jack Nicklaus winning his fifth Masters title, but it was also the first time an African American, Lee Elder, qualified and played at Augusta National.

    Elder missed the cut, but the vision of him striding the fairways rather than carrying the bag, accomplished much for the game of golf and the nation.

    Tom Weiskopf held a one-shot lead after 54 holes, with Nicklaus one stroke back and Johnny Miller four shots behind the leader.

    Even though Weiskopf shot a final-round two-under par 70 and Miller fired a flashy final-round six-under par 66, Nicklaus carded six birdies and two bogeys for a four-under par 68 that gave him the one-stroke victory.

    His 13th major title was a memorable win for Nicklaus. He would go on to add No. 14 at the PGA Championship later that year.

1. Jack Nicklaus Wins at Age 46 in 1986

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    This image of Jack Nicklaus holing a putt in the 1986 Masters will endure forever.
    This image of Jack Nicklaus holing a putt in the 1986 Masters will endure forever.Joe Benton

    At the age of 46, Jack Nicklaus was well past his prime golf-playing years. His last major title had come at the 1980 PGA Championship.

    Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, Tom Kite and Tom Watson were all ahead of Nicklaus on the leaderboard heading into the final round of the 1986 Masters.

    A front-nine one-under par 35 left Nicklaus at three under par for the tournament and four shots behind Ballesteros with just nine holes remaining.

    Nicklaus put on the greatest charge in Masters history, with one bogey, five birdies and an eagle at No. 15 on the back nine. He fired a six-under par 30 on that final nine to post a nine-under par and then watch as one by one the rest of the field failed to match his score.

    Also memorable is the fact that this was the sixth green jacket and final major championship victory of his career.

    His 18 career major titles is the goal that Tiger Woods is still trying to surpass.

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