The Masters: Top Ten Moments of All Time
There is simply no greater stage in golf, or perhaps sports, than when the Augusta National Golf Club hosts The Masters each April.
On this stage some of the best theater in golf history has been witnessed.
Compiling a top ten list of the best Masters moments is much like trying to chose your favorite Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, but here is mine.
Master Moment #10: Hometown Boy Larry Mize Shocks the World
I could have gone with Phil Mickelson's incredibly overrated shot through the trees in 2010, or Jack Nicklaus finishing 6th in 1998 at the age of 58 because it is so underrated, but Larry Mize's chip in to win a playoff in 1987 deserves to be on the list.
Mize, an Augusta native, was the third wheel in an epic playoff that included superstars Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. If Mize's chip missed the hole he likely would have lost and Greg Norman's entire career, and perhaps the history of golf, would have been vastly different.
Mize would only seriously contend in a major one other time and Norman never won a green jacket.
Masters Moment #9: Gary Player Roars Back to Win at 42.
In 1978, at the age of 42, and 7 shots behind at the start of the final round of the Masters, Gary Player shot a 30 on the final nine to win his final major.
He birdied 7 of the last 10 holes he played to win by one. The first person to shake his hand was a 21-year old Seve Ballesteros, with whom Player was paired that day.
If Player was American (or simply just not so weird) this moment would be right up there with Jack's win in 1986 when it comes to Masters history.
Masters Moment #8: Arnold Palmer Birdies the Last Two Holes to Win.
In 1960, Arnold Palmer birdied the final two holes to steal the Masters from Ken Venturi.
While Palmer's playing record is largely overrated because he is a media darling, this win was probably his most dramatic (perhaps even more so than his come-from-behind Open win later that year because he knew exactly what he had to do).
Jim McKay's over-the-top call of the final hole of one of the first nationally televised Masters helps this one crack the top ten.
Master Moment #7: Phi Mickelson Finally Wins the Masters
In 2004, Phil Mickelson shot 31 on the final nine to finally win his first Masters.
He made a dramatic birdie putt on 18 (assist to Chris DiMarco who just missed on the same line seconds before) to win by one.
Mickelson's vertical leap after the winning putt was almost as high Charles Barkley's is today.
Masters Moment #6: Tiger Woods Produces Greatest Golf Ball Commerical Ever.
In 2005, Tiger Woods, up by one shot in the final round of the Masters, pitched his second shot on the par 3 16th hole well above the hole and watched with the golf nation as it slowly trickled down the slope towards the cup.
After his Nike ball appeared to come to a stop on the edge of the hole, the CBS director ordered the technical director to take the camera shot with Tiger's anguished reaction. In an act of courage hardly ever seen in golf media (or any where for that matter), the TD disobeyed the order, stayed with the shot, and as the ball disappeared, the greatest golf ball commercial ever, and the worst high five, were instantly born.
Tiger went on to bogie the last two holes, fall into a playoff, and birdie the first playoff hole to win what may very well be his final Masters.
Masters Moment #5: Ben Crenshaw Wins After the Death of His Teacher
In 1995, Ben Crenshaw, whose Masters record is probably the most underrated of all time (18 top 25 finishes in a 24-year span), wrote an impossible script to win the tournament by one.
Coming just days after he helped bury his long-time teacher Harvey Penick, at the age of 43, and with a caddie who started caddying at the Masters in 1961, the incredible win would be the last of Crenshaw's career.
For perspective on just how absurd his 1995 win was, consider that has never finished higher than 45th since then and has missed the cut entirely 12 out of 15 years.
Masters Moment #4: Faldo/Norman Showdown Ends in Epic Collapse
In 1996, the Masters simultaneously saw its most solid final round from a challenger and its worst finish by a leader.
Nick Faldo, whose career was marked by not making mistakes, shot an error-free 67 to more than make up a 6 shot deficit on Greg Norman. Norman, whose career will be remembered for blowing majors, collapsed to a 78 and barely finished second.
The amazing thing about Norman's "choke" is that it was literally an inch from never happening. If his birdie putt on 11 doesn't graze the hole (allowing him to also miss the come-backer) he is still well in control on 12 and has no need to flirt with the water there.
Instead, everything unraveled and Norman never won a green jacket.
Masters Moment #3: Jack Wins the First "Modern" Masters
In 1975, much of America saw its first Masters on color television and it was a classic.
Jack Nicklaus won his 5th green jacket by out-dueling Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. His 40 foot birdie putt on 16 with his challengers watching back at the tee is one of the most memorable in golf history.
As an interesting side note, there is an excellent chance that a future Masters winner and challenger to the Nicklaus kingdom was conceived that week. Nine months later, Tiger Woods was born.
Masters Moment #2: Tiger Woods Shatters Nearly Every Masters Record
In 1997, Tiger Woods changed golf forever with a stunning 12 shot victory to win his first green jacket.
After nearly shooting himself out of the tournament with a 40 on the first nine, Tiger ended up shattering the 72 hole scoring record and became the youngest Masters winner.
He also forced the lords of Augusta to do something they had never done before: radically alter the golf course that many seemed to believe was carved out of the Georgia pines by God himself.
Masters Moment #1: Jack Wins the Best Masters Ever
Is there really any debate that the 1986 Masters produced the greatest moment in tournament/golf history?
The best player of all time, at the age of 46, six years after his previous major victory and with the critics declaring him done, shot a 30 on the final nine (with six birdies and an eagle on his last 10 holes) to beat Greg Norman, Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson, and win his final title.
It simply doesn't get any better than that.
While the birdie on 17 is the shot that gets the most television play, his nearly holing of a five-iron on 16 (and assuring his caddie/son that it was "right" in the air) is really the number one moment in Masters history.