The US Masters has provided golfing fans across the world with some of the most iconic and memorable moments in the history of the game. Navigating the world famous Augusta National safely can often be tricky, especially when coming down the stretch in contention on a Sunday evening. We take a look at some of the outrageous shots that paved the way for past champions to finish the job and claim the coveted green jacket.
Jack Nicklaus rolling back the years – Birdie at the 71st hole
Coming into the Masters in 1986, Jack Nicklaus or, ‘The Golden Bear’ certainly had nothing to prove to the golfing world. He had already won 17 major championships and few could dispute his status as the greatest golfer to ever play the game. With a physique that was more akin to his early days on tour when he was unfairly labelled ‘Fat Jack’, Nicklaus was going up against the next generation of golfing greats including the likes of Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros and few, if any, thought he had any chance of adding to his collection of green jackets. Perhaps the only person who thought he could win was Jack himself.
Approaching the final nine holes of the tournament Nicklaus was in touching distance of the lead and like only Jack could, switched on the afterburners and fired a surreal back nine score of 30. With birdies at 10 and 11…another at 13…an eagle at 15…followed by another birdie at 16, ‘The Golden Bear’ was roaring again and was suddenly within two solid holes of an unprecedented 6th green jacket and 18th major title. What followed next remains one of the most iconic moments in the history of golf as Nicklaus rolled in another birdie; following the ball into the hole with his putter aloft. This birdie putt meant Jack could settle for a par up the 18th and sign off in his own legendary style.
The chip seen around the world – Tigers Chip at the 16th
The only other player since Nicklaus to have threatened his title as ‘the greatest ever’ has been Tiger Woods. Perhaps more than any other player, Woods has showcased more truly miraculous shots (largely thanks to his wild driving). Few of these shots however, have ended up being as important as the chip he holed at the 16th in the final round of the 2005 Masters.
Coming down the stretch Woods found himself slugging it out against the gritty Chris DiMarco and upon reaching the 16th tee held only a one shot advantage. DiMarco hit the perfect shot and left himself with a very makeable, uphill birdie putt. Surprisingly, Woods seemed to buckle under the pressure and pulled his shot let of the green leaving his ball resting in an awkward spot. Everyone watching had already convinced themselves that a two shot swing was in the offing and Dimarco would steal the advantage going into the last two holes…probably forgetting this was Tiger Woods they were watching. Nipping the ball perfectly off the Augusta turf, Tiger sent his ball went scooting up the hill towards to a point where it checked and started its descent towards the pin. At first it looked like a good shot…then it looked really good…then the ball stopped on the edge of the cup and Augusta fell silent. The ball seemed to be trying to recall who had hit it and upon realising it was Tiger Woods, completed its journey into the bottom of the hole. “In your life…have you seen anything like that!”
Phil’s magic from the trees at the 13th
Long labelled as the best player to never have won a major, Phil Mickelson has enjoyed amazing success at Augusta in recent years having won the green jacket three times. Perhaps the victory most cherished by Mickelson will be his triumph last year amidst the personal difficulties he was enduring at the time.
Heading into the back nine on the Sunday afternoon, Mickelson found himself up against an in form Lee Westwood and with neither player willing to budge; a playoff was looking like a distinct possibility. At the par 5 13th both players failed to manufacture the required shape to send their balls slinging around the corner and both found themselves in similar position among the pines on the right of the fairway. Westwood took the safe, sensible option and played out to leave him with a crack at the green for his 3rd shot. From a similar position resting atop the pine straw, Mickelson looked hard at what lay in front of him and saw an opening; to go through the trees and burrow through a gap only a couple of feet wide, over the creek and onto the green. It was a shot that only a handful of players in the world would be brave enough to attempt and it gave Mickelson the impetus to pull away and secure the title. Mickelson said after the tournament that going for the shot wasn’t a question; the only issue for him was which iron to use, a five or a six.
Local boy slays The shark
Hometown boy Larry Mize, a native of Augusta, won the 1987 Masters in what Greg Norman said was his most disappointing loss at the event…and he has had his fair share!
Mize birdied the 72nd hole to hold the clubhouse lead at 3-under 285. Norman and Seve Ballesteros each birdied the 71st hole to tie Mize. With a Ballesteros par at the final hole, Norman had a putt to win the tournament but the ball skirted the left side of the cup. And that sent Norman, Mize and Ballesteros into a playoff. Surprisingly, Seve of all people would go on to three putt the 1st playoff hole and leave Mize and Norman to carry on without him. At the very next hole Norman looked in good shape with Mize short of the green, 140 feet from the hole, in a spot that with another hundred balls, may only get up and down a handful of times. Mize’s chip was sent scampering towards the hole, bouncing twice before reaching the green and once again on the putting surface before rolling across the green and into the hole. Norman was left stunned and Mize danced around Augusta probably equally as surprised as Norman. “I didn’t think Larry would get down in two, and I was right,” Norman said of the chip-in. “He got down in one.”
The US Masters has provided golfing fans across the world with some of the most iconic and memorable moments in the history of the game. Navigating the world famous Augusta National safely can often be tricky, especially when coming down the stretch in contention on a Sunday evening. We take a look at some outrageous shots that paved the way for past champions to finish the job and claim the coveted green jacket.
Sandy’s sandy save
Having played imperious golf for three and a half days Sandy Lyle found himself going into the final nine holes of the 1988 Masters with a two shot lead. After finding a clump of mud on his ball that led him to a bogey 6 at the 11th, Lyle followed that with a disastrous double bogey at the treacherous par 3 12th. Tied with Mark Calcavecchia with chances to pick up birdies with two par fives to come, the Scot started to shows signs of nerves and failed to pick up any shots meaning he was now trailing going into the final three holes. A surprising birdie from a tricky spot past the pin at the 16th renewed Lyle’s hope of landing the coveted green jacket.
Playing for position on the 18th Sandy hit a one iron to make sure of missing the fairway bunker; however an understandable rush of adrenaline meant his ball ended up in said bunker, dangerously close to the hanging lip. Sure Lyle could produce enough elevation on the shot…but could he do it with enough club to get to the green and give himself a chance to win it there and then? Without a view of the pin he picked out a cloud that would help him line up his shot and picked the ball cleanly off the marble-white sand, sending it towards the pin. The ball landed above the pin and slowly but surely trickled back down the slope coming to rest 18 feet from the pin…much further away than TV cameras would suggest. Lyle holed the putt and indulged in a wee jig that he probably wishes he could take back! After his mixed fortunes on the back nine Lyle’s shot out of the fairway bunker at 18 was an impressively courageous one and certainly deserves its iconic status.
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