Masters Memories: A Countdown of the Most Amazing Golf Moments at the Masters

Todd PatakyCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2011

Masters Memories: A Countdown of the Most Amazing Golf Moments at the Masters

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    This is the fourth part in a five-part series leading up to the start of the Masters.

    The Masters is next week and I am excited! I love the Masters.

    The tournament, the first major on the golf calendar, marks the unofficial beginning of golf season. 

    Players around the country are starting to see grass emerge from the snow that covered their lawns. They are getting out their putters and rolling balls along their carpets. They are visiting driving ranges, taking lessons from pros, hoping that this is the year they finally...well, whatever their goal is this year, they are hoping they attain it.

    The Masters is the youngest of the four modern majors, but it is unique among them because it is played at the same course every year: the venerable Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

    Over its 76-year history, plenty of amazing things have happened. Arnold Palmer won four of the seven Masters played from 1958 to 1964. In 1992, Fred Couples got his famous "cling" when his ball hung on the bank of Rae's Creek at the 12th hole, defying gravity. Phil Mickelson hit an unbelievable six iron off the pine straw from behind a tree on the 13th in 2010 en route to his third win.

    Not all amazing moments are good, though, as Tom Weiskopf can attest. Weiskopf made a 13 on the par-three 12th in 1980. To this day, that is still tied for the highest score ever made on a single hole in the Masters and it is alone as the highest score in relation to par on a single hole in tournament history.

    Although none of these made the countdown, they were all worthy of consideration.

    First up, as an honorable mention, is an epic meltdown. 

Honorable Mention: Greg Norman's Disaster at The Masters

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    The story of Greg Norman's life is part comedy, part tragedy. He was blessed with incredible length on the course and the Midas touch off of it. It seemed he was destined for great things and had even been labeled, on several occasions, the next Jack Nicklaus.

    Alas, the rug was pulled out from under his feet more often than not, just when it seemed he would finally take his rightful place as an immortal in the game.

    Perhaps the most cruel joke fate ever played on Norman was in the 1996 Masters.

    Norman opened the tournament with a course-record-tying 63, which still stands today. It looked like the Green Jacket was his for the taking when he entered the final day with a six-shot lead.

    By the ninth tee on Sunday, Norman's playing partner, two-time Masters champion Nick Faldo, had cut the lead to three. When Norman's second shot on the ninth spun off the green and down a large hill, the rout was on. 

    Norman would go on to post a 40 on the back nine, a 78 for the final round, while Faldo would shoot a perfect three-under 33 on the back and a 67 for the round. 

    Had Norman shot even par for the round, he would have been in a playoff.

    He would never be in contention for a major championship again.

No. 10: Roberto De Vicenzo Doesn't Check His Scorecard

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    The rules of golf can be strange to the uninitiated, but one thing they are very clear about.

    If you are playing in a competition, you have a responsibility to ensure your scorecard, which is actually kept and filled in by another competitor, is correct before you sign it.

    If you sign for a score lower than the one you actually made on a hole, you will be disqualified. If you sign for a higher score, you are stuck with that higher score, even if you played the hole in fewer strokes.

    The latter is what happened to Roberto De Vicenzo. 

    De Vicenzo was tied with eventual-champion Bob Goalby at the end of 72 holes, and a playoff for the next day was set.

    That is until someone noticed that De Vicenzo had signed for a four on the 17th hole in the final round when he had in fact made a three.

    Goalby won the tournament according to the rules, but he never really received the credit he deserved because of De Vicenzo's error. 

    Of his error, De Vicenzo was famously quoted as saying: "What a stupid I am."

No. 9: Jack Goes Back-to-Back

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    Jack Nicklaus is the greatest professional golf player of all-time. Tiger Woods might eventually eclipse his records, but for my money, Jack is, was and always will be The Man. 

    Jack became the first man in history to successfully defend his Masters title in 1966. In doing so, he also became only the fourth man to win the tournament three times, joining Jimmy Demaret and Sam Snead, one behind Arnold Palmer's then-record four titles.

    Nick Faldo and Tiger have since equaled Jack's feat of successfully defending the Masters title.

    Jack's defense was anything but easy, as he finished 72 regulation holes tied with Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer.

    In the 18-hole playoff, Jack shot a two-under 70 to defeat Jacobs by two and Brewer by eight.

No. 8: Gary Player Becomes the First Non-American to Win the Masters

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    Gary Player, or the Black Knight as he was known, is from Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1961, he became the first man not born in the United States to win the Masters. 

    When you consider that he is only 5'6" tall and weighs maybe 150 pounds when he is carrying his clubs, you begin to see what an extraordinary feat it was that he won at all. At 5'10" and 5'11" respectively, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus virtually towered over Player. 

    As it was, he was the only non-American to win the tournament for its first 46 years of existence.

    In the span of 17 years, he won the Masters three times. Those victories go along with his three Open Championships, two PGA Championships and one U.S. Open title, making him one of only five men to ever win all four modern major championships.

    He probably logged more time in an airplane than you and all the people you know put together, winning tournaments on every continent where golf is played.

    Player was already an accomplished player when he won his first Masters. He won the Open Championship two years earlier, but on an April day in 1961, Gary Player began building his legacy in the United States.

No. 7: Tiger Woods Birdies the 10th Hole and Makes History

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    It was an inauspicious start to the first major of his professional career.

    Tiger Woods announced with a flourish that he would be a force to be reckoned with by winning two tournaments in the final three months of the 1996 season after saying, "Hello, world," in August. He would win PGA Tour Rookie of the Year without even having played half the season.

    In April 1997, he started his first Masters as a paid player with a front-nine 40, four-over par. He did not make a single birdie during those first nine holes.

    Then he birdied the 10th hole.

    From the 10th tee on, Woods made two more bogeys...for the rest of the tournament.

    Woods destroyed the previous low score total for the Masters by shooting 18-under par. He won the tournament by 12 strokes. 

    He set 20 Masters records that weekend and tied six others.

    It all started with a birdie on 10.

No. 6: The Big Three Dominate

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    Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer. Gary Player.

    If your name was not one of those from 1960 until 1966, you did not win the Masters.

    This was not so much of a moment as it was an era.

    For seven straight years, one of those legends won this tournament. In fact, Arnold Palmer won three of them in that time to go with the first he won in 1958. That gave the King four wins out of nine Masters. Jack won three others between '60 and '66, and Player won the other.

    To get an even better idea of the level of domination the Big Three exhibited, consider this: In the 21 tournaments from 1958 until 1978, one of those three men won the Masters 12 times. Of the other nine tournaments played in that time, nobody won the tournament more than once.

    Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are trying to replicate the feat. They had a span from 2001 through 2006 when they won five of six Masters.

    While the battle between Mickelson and Woods is ongoing, it is doubtful that we will ever see the level of complete domination of a tournament we saw in the 1960s. 

No. 5: "The Shot Heard 'Round the World"

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    It is arguably the most famous shot in golf history that no one has ever seen.

    In 1935, Gene Sarazen, known as the Squire, rifled a four wood on the par-five 15th hole and holed it for a double eagle. 

    The shot is significant because it was the first "albatross" in Masters history, a feat that has only been duplicated twice since. 

    Of greater importance to Sarazen at the time, however, was the fact that it tied him for the lead in the tournament with Craig Wood.

    Hundreds of people claimed to have witnessed the shot, but Sarazen insisted that there were very few people around the hole at the time of the shot. No photographic evidence of the shot exists, as far as we know. 

    Sarazen would go on to win the Masters in a playoff. Had he not hit that shot, he would never have won the Masters. 

    In fact, if Sarazen did not hit "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," he would not be one of only five men to win all four of the modern majors. The 1935 Masters was the only time he won it.

No. 4: Horton Smith Wins the First Masters

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    Everything starts somewhere.

    For the Masters, that start was on a rolling piece of land in Georgia that used to be an indigo plantation.

    It was called the Augusta National Invitational Tournament when Horton Smith won it on March 25, 1934 with a score of four-under par, 284. 

    The tournament would be renamed The Masters in 1939 and would grow to be one of the most beloved golf tournaments in the world.

    It has never been played on any other course.

    Jack Nicklaus holds the record for number of Masters wins with six. Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer have four titles each.

    Horton Smith was the first two-time winner of the Masters, winning the third while playing in 1936.

    To this day, he is one of only three men to win the Masters in his first attempt.

No. 3: Jack Says "It Is"

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    He was supposed to be washed up, finished.

    They had started calling him the Olden Bear, a play on his nickname the Golden Bear.

    At 46 years old, Jack Nicklaus was not supposed to contend for another major.

    In 1986, Jack was cruising along at three-under for the final round, five-under for the tournament, when he bogeyed the par-three 12th hole.

    I'm sure plenty of people wish he would have made par because all the bogey did was wake the slumbering Bear.

    After making a birdie at the 13th and a par at the 14th, Jack pulled a three iron out of his bag on the par-five 15th and laced a shot at the distant flag. He made an eagle there.

    Two holes later, on the 17th, he struck what might be one of the most famous putts in golf history. Jack raised his putter with one hand and stepped toward the hole as his ball toppled in. Television viewers heard a deafening roar as Vern Lundquist called: "Yes, sir!"

    Jack would shoot a back-nine 30, an otherworldly score for a man of his age. He would win his sixth Masters, two more than any other player in history.

    However, in between the three iron on 15 and the putt on 17 was Jack's tee shot on the par-three 16th. Jack addressed his ball and struck a glorious shot that never left the flag. His son, who was caddying for him that day, said: "Be right."

    Jack Nicklaus, normally as humble as he was talented, didn't even bother looking as the ball fell to the green and stopped mere feet from the hole. 

    He simply bent over as the ball reached the apex of its flight, picked up his tee and replied: "It is."

No. 2: Lee Elder Plays in the Masters

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    Baseball has Jackie Robinson. Football has Wally Triplett. 

    Before there was Tiger Woods, there was Lee Elder.

    Lee Elder broke golf's color barrier in 1975 by becoming the first African-American to play in the Masters.

    While he was not the first African-American to play professional golf, he was the first to play in a major championship.

    The fact that it was the Masters, a tournament held in Georgia, in the historical heart of slavery and racial oppression, was all the more poignant.

    That it took as long as it did is all the more embarrassing. Jackie Robinson had been retired from baseball for 19 years by the time Elder qualified for the Masters.

    To be fair, no other African-American had qualified for the tournament, but that was not because they weren't talented enough. Racial oppression had kept non-white players out of clubhouses and off golf courses far, far too long, unless they were carrying bags.

    Because of that, it was nearly impossible for a man of color to play in any tournaments through which he might qualify for the Masters.

    Lee Elder deserves to be mentioned with the other great African-American sports pioneers who beat repression and the odds.

No. 1: The Tiger Slam

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    The modern majors have been played over the last 76 years. In that time, no one, not one man, has ever done what Tiger Woods did in April of 2001.

    In 2000, he had destroyed the field at the U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach when he won by 12 strokes. He set the all-time record for major championship golf when he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews at 19 under. He survived a scare by a journeyman pro named Bob May at the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, as Woods won in a playoff.

    When Woods won the Masters in 2001, it marked the only time in modern golf history that anyone has held all four major championship trophies at once.

    The only thing that surpasses Woods is Bobby Jones winning all four of the majors of his era in a single calendar year. Those were the Amateur Championships and the Open Championships of both the U.S. and Britain. Jones accomplished his "Grand Slam" in 1929.

    Even the immortal Jack Nicklaus only ever held three major trophies at once during his amazing career.

    With his "Tiger Slam," Tiger Woods cemented his legacy in the annals of golf history and earns the top spot on this list of all-time moments in Masters history.