“The Shot Heard Round the World”
Gene Sarazen was on the 14th hole of the final round of the 1935 Masters when he heard the roar for Craig Wood’s birdie on 18, which put Sarazen three strokes behind Wood. “It’s all over Gene,” said his playing partner, Walter Hagen. But Sarazen had a premonition. “They might go in from anywhere.”
Only about a dozen spectators were around the 13th green when Sarazen played his second shot on the par-5 hole, a 4-wood from 230 yards. The ball struck the far bank of the hazard fronting the green, skipped onto the putting surface, and rolled softly into the hole: a double eagle. Sarazen tied Wood and won the playoff the next day. The feat was quickly dubbed “the shot heard round the world.”
Larry Mize Pitch-In Foils the Great White Shark
After Bob Tway holed out a bunker shot on the 72nd hole of the 1986 PGA Championship to steal the trophy, Greg Norman might have thought lightening could not strike twice. He was wrong.
On the second playoff hole of the 1987 Masters, Larry Mize, a local boy whose primary experience at Augusta National had been tending a scoreboard as a teenager, struck a 140-foot pitch shot that bounced twice on the bank of the 11th green and rolled improbably into the hole for a birdie. “This is probably the toughest loss I’ve ever had,” said an incredulous Norman. Unfortunately, there was more misery awaiting the Shark at Augusta.
The Golden Bear Emerges from Hibernation with Stunning Win at Age 46
When 46-year old Jack Nicklaus drove down Magnolia Lane for the 1986 Masters (its 50th edition), few people viewed the Golden (Olden?) Bear as little more than ceremonial window dressing for the tournament he had dominated in his younger years. He was a shadow of the dominant golfer who had won five green jackets. Winless in the past two years, Nicklaus had missed the cut or withdrawn in four of his seven events in 1986. But a newspaper article suggesting that no one his age could contend at Augusta fired up the Bear.
In a magical performance on the back nine Sunday, with his son as his caddie, Nicklaus fired a record 30, and leaped past eight players, including formidable foes such as Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price, and Tom Watson, many of whom were in grade school when he won his first Masters. Down three strokes after a bogey at the 12th hole, the Bear eagled the par-5 15th hole, prompting CBS commentator Ben Wright to exclaim “Yes Sir! There’s life in the old Bear yet!” Nicklaus then stuck an iron within three feet on the par-3 16th hole, and made a historic 18-foot birdie putt on 17 to clinch the win.
Nicklaus’ record sixth green jacket made him the oldest Masters winner. It would be his last major. Like Tiger Woods’ first Masters in 1997, it was a moment for the ages.
The Excruciating Collapse of the Shark
As Greg Norman was leaving the general locker room Saturday evening after fending off Nick Faldo to take a formidable six-stroke lead in the 1996 Masters, a friend remarked that next year he’d be using the Champions locker room. No one could have predicted the devastation that would follow on Sunday.
How do you lose a six-shot lead at Augusta? Hook tee shots into trees, leave wedge shots short, butcher chip shots, three-putt from ten feet, and hit balls into water hazards on both par-3s on the back nine. Norman lost six shots to Faldo over a five-hole stretch and finished with a 78. One observer described him as “a dead man walking” on the back nine. Faldo felt so sorry for his opponent that he hugged him on the 18th green. Norman was never the same golfer after the painful collapse.
A Star is Born, and a New Era in Golf Begins
Although knowledgeable observers had been talking about the young phenomenon for years, no one was prepared for Tiger Woods’ historic domination of the 1997 Masters. The 21-year old demonstrated raw power (drives averaging 323 yards) and steely concentration as he reduced the fabled Augusta National to a muni track. The Lords of Augusta National no doubt were mortified to watch Woods hit pitching wedges into the 500-yard par-5 15th hole — on his second shots — and commenced plans to “Tiger proof” the course for future competitions.
Woods fired rounds of 70-66-65-69 for an unheard of 18 under par 270, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record. His 12-stroke margin of victory was the largest in a major since 1862. Nicklaus commented prophetically: “He’s more dominant against the guys he’s playing against than I was. He’s so long, he reduces the course to nothing.”
When Tiger donned the green jacket in Butler Cabin, he launched a new era in golf and it seemed almost inevitable that Nicklaus’ record of 18 career majors would fall. Today, 1997 seems like ancient history.
Phil Breaks the Major Drought
Phil Mickelson arrived at Augusta National in 2004 with the unquestioned (if dubious) title of “Best Player Never to Win a Major.” While racking up dozens of Tour victories, Mickelson was 0-46 in majors, but had finished third several times at Augusta. Before he died in December 2003, his grandfather told him that 2004 would be the year. Yet Phil’s winless year in 2003 did not inspire confidence.
After recording birdies on four of his last six holes, Mickelson stood on the 18th green staring down an 18-foot putt that would clinch his long-coveted major title. When the putt slid in, he jumped spread eagle and shouted to his caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay “I did it!” The green jacket broke the ice, and Mickelson has gone on to win two more Masters, the PGA Championship, and the British Open.