Ten of the greatest Masters moments

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M. James Ward will be covering The Masters from Augusta for Golf Today. As the excitement builds, he selects his ten greatest Masters moments
Posted on
April 2, 2023
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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

10) Sarazen’s double-eagle win in 1935

Leading off the list of Masters memories is the single shot that transformed an event that until 1939 was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. During the final round Gene Sarazen trailed leader Craig Wood by three shots as he approached the par-5 15th with playing competitor Walter Hagen.

Sarazen proceeded to hole out his second shot with a 4-wood for a double-eagle which propelled him to a tie for the lead. Both Wood and Sarazen finished in a tie after 72 holes and the resulting 36-hole Monday play-off had Sarazen taking home his lone green jacket by five shots and becoming the first member of the modern Grand Slam club.

The double-eagle raised the profile of the still young tournament. Three other doubles eagles have happened since, each at different holes but only Sarazen's helped gain him a victory.

Called the ‘shot heard around the world’, it truly was monumental for both Sarazen and the overall evolution of the Masters.


9) Crenshaw's emotional 1995 win

The start of the 1995 Masters for Ben Crenshaw was impacted by the death of long-time teacher Harvey Penick, who served as a mentor to PGA Tour players, the 1984 champion and Tom Kite. Both men flew to Austin for the funeral before returning to Augusta for the event.

Crenshaw shared the lead going into the final round and he was able to withstand a late charge by Davis Love III for his second Green Jacket. Upon holing out at the final hole, Crenshaw succumbed to the emotions of the moment and was comforted by his long-time caddie and friend Carl Jackson.


8) Bob Jones comments on Nicklaus

When Jack Nicklaus joined the ranks of professional golf much was expected of him after a stellar amateur career. The Golden Bear did not wait long to make an even bigger impact as he claimed the 1962 US Open at 22 after an epic playoff with Arnold Palmer. The very next April Jack claimed his first Green Jacket but it was his win in 1965 that elevated his stature even higher.

Nicklaus set the 72-hole scoring record with a 271 total and that included a then course-record-tying 64 in the third round. Jack would win by a record nine-shot margin, bested by Tiger Woods when he earned his first Green Jacket in 1997 (12 shots).

Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones uttered a declarative statement after witnessing Nicklaus’s performance.

"He (Nicklaus) plays a game with which I am not familiar."

Ironically, Nicklaus would echo those words years later when assessing the golf talents of Tiger Woods.


7) Mickelson's first Major at the 2004 Masters

Having golf talent can be a blessing and a curse. When Phil Mickelson entered the professional ranks after a most successful amateur career, the possibilities for lasting greatness were predicted by many.

After turning professional in 1992, Mickelson would win a number of PGA Tour titles but, for 12 years, failed to claim a Major title.

The 2004 Masters proved an exciting battle between Mickelson and Ernie Els. Both men battled back and forth throughout the day. Mickelson played haphazardly on the outward nine, scoring 38. But, on the incoming nine, Lefty lit the match, culminating with a 15-foot birdie putt to secure the win.

Mickelson's leap of joy, as his golf ball found paydirt at the bottom of the cup at the 18th, was punctuated by a roar few have ever matched. The Masters win would set in motion two future wins at Augusta and, in 2021, he became the oldest Major winner, collecting his sixth Major – the USPGA Championship – aged 50.


6) Hogan's record 1953 win

1953 saw Ben Hogan win three of the four modern grand slam events, a feat never previously accomplished and only matched once – Tiger Woods (2000).

That streak started at Augusta when the Texan set the new four-round tournament record with a score of 274, breaking the previous best by five shots. He was also the first winner beyond the age of 40.

Hogan, who broke 70 in each of his rounds and closed out with a birdie at the final hole, would be a constant presence at Augusta up until 1967 but it was the 1953 Masters that provided the opening act in what would be rightly remembered as one of the greatest years ever played by a golfer.

5) Nicklaus over Miller and Weiskopf in 1975

The 1975 Masters featured a trio of golfers all playing at their peaks and all pushing each other right to the conclusion of the event.

Jack Nicklaus had long been the favourite at Augusta with four previous wins to his credit coming into the 1975 event. Joining the Golden Bear were two clear rivals in Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Neither had won at Augusta but each had performed well in past Masters.

The final round showdown was a heavyweight tussle with each man answering the other. The crucial moment came at the par-3 16th. With Weiskopf and Miller standing on the tee and watching, Nicklaus holed an incredible 40-foot putt to gain a share of the lead. Weiskopf then promptly three-putted from just off the green and fell a stroke behind.

When Nicklaus finished play, both Weiskopf and Miller needed birdie to tie. Miller missed his 22-foot putt and Weiskopf did similarly from 8 feet. Both seemed destined to be fitted for a Green Jacket in the years to come yet neither were able to do so. Nicklaus would wait another 11 years to add to his legacy in the 1986 event.


4) Player's final round 64 claims 1978 Masters

Trailing by seven shots entering the final round, Gary Player was still five shots behind with nine to play. Then the talented South African went to work, finishing with seven birdies in the last 10 holes.

The final one came from 20 feet above the hole on the 18th. As the ball toppled into the hole, the nine-time Major champion punched the air with a closed fist in celebration. Watching from close range was playing competitor Seve Ballesteros, who hugged Player for such a sensational closing.

Others have shot 64 in a final round at the Masters but none were able to secure The Green Jacket until Gary.

What a Player indeed!


3) Tiger's re-emergence at the 2019 Masters

After winning an epic US Open in 2008, Tiger Woods and Major championship golf were on separate pages.

Woods had to overcome various injuries and marital infidelities and many wondered, heading into the 2019 Masters, if he was more yesterday's news.

After three rounds of play Woods trailed by two shots. During the final round he stayed in touch with leader Francesco Molinari and when the Italian found water at both the 12th and 15th holes, it was Woods who summoned his skills to garner a fifth Green Jacket.

It was the first time he had won a Major after trailing going into the final round and he also became the second oldest Masters champion. Interestingly he remains Augusta's youngest winner at 21 years and 104 days.

Woods has not remotely contended in a Major since that superb victory. If none is forthcoming it will be that glorious moment that will forever stand the test of time.


2) Jack's 1986 swansong

The 46-year-old superstar was in the field for the 1986 Masters but few expected anything of note happening from him. Jack's last Major success had come six years earlier and his last PGA Tour victory occurred in 1984.

After 54 holes Nicklaus trailed by four shots and with nine holes to play the deficit had grown to six. Spain's Seve Ballesteros led the way plus there was a group of extremely talented players between him and the lead.

Yet the final nine holes changed the landscape in a seismic manner.

The Golden Bear played the back nine in just 30 strokes and he was four-under-par for the last four holes.

It proved enough to snare him a record sixth Green Jacket and Jack embraced his son Jack Jr as they left the final green to thunderous applause.

As former CBS announcer Ben Wright cogently stated: "There's life in the old bear yet."



1) Tiger's 1997 epic triumph

Much was expected of the young phenom in his first Masters as a professional. Paired with the defending champion Nick Faldo, the occasion started ominously.

Woods was four-over-par on the front side and the whispers in the crowd wondered whether the projected superstar was in over his head.

However, from the moment Woods reached the tenth tee, until he concluded on Sunday, the 21-year-old played the finest golf ever seen at Augusta National to that point.

Tiger played the final 63 holes in 230 strokes (22 under par). The march to the Green Jacket turned into something truly stunning as he won by a record 12 shots and became the first non-white champion.

Upon leaving the green, Tiger embraced his dad Earl, who had long publicly professed golf greatness for his talented son.

Few moments in sports generate a clear ‘before’ and ‘after’ demarcation. Tiger's win in 1997 signalled a new era in golf.

In times past, the hype of the next great player far exceeded the capabilities of the person being touted.

Not this time.

Tiger's time was just getting started.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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