Golf: Magic at the Masters
Golf's brightest stars should be taking to the majestic fairways of Augusta this week for the 84th Masters. That is on hold until November due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the magical memories can sustain us until then. Michael McWilliams looks back at 10 iconic moments in Augusta folklore...
1980: Seve slays Euro sceptics
THE Masters was almost exclusively an American domain from its inception in 1934 until the ’80s, with only Gary Player’s three victories between 1961 and ’78 breaking up the US domination.
All that was to change thanks to a swashbuckling Spaniard called Severiano Ballesteros, who loved Augusta from the first time he saw it in 1977.
On his fourth visit in 1980, Seve was reigning Open champion and a blend of fearlessness and sublime short skills saw him surge seven shots clear after three rounds.
That gap was narrowed to three after two visits to the water around Amen Corner on the final day, but Ballesteros was not to be denied, ensuring the Green Jacket would rest on European shoulders for the first time.
His victory opened the floodgates, with Seve repeating the trick three years later and Germany’s Bernhard Langer tasting Major success in 1985 before the USA hit back through a familiar face.
1986: One more roar from the Golden Bear
THE 50th Masters could scarcely have had a better script, with the great and the good seemingly all in the hunt going into the final round.
Greg Norman led by one from Ballesteros and Tom Kite, with Jack Nicklaus four back at two-under and with plenty to do.
With nothing to lose, the ‘Golden Bear’ went scavenging for birdies and an eagle on the par-five 15th put him right in the heat of battle, two behind new leader Ballesteros.
Seve’s ball went swimming at the 15th, and when Nicklaus birdied 16 and 17 and parred the last, nine-under was the clubhouse target after a sparkling round of 65.
Kite couldn’t get the birdie he needed to draw level, so Norman knew a birdie of his own would clinch a first Masters victory.
Not for the first time – or last – the pressure got to the Australian, who bogeyed the 72nd hole and handed a sixth Green Jacket to Nicklaus, 11 years after his fifth.
At the ripe old age of 46, he had won an 18th Major, and remains the oldest Masters champion.
1988: Sandy Lyle from a sandy lie
SCOTLAND’S Sandy Lyle announced himself on the Major stage by winning the Open Championship at Royal St Georges’s in 1985 and almost three years later he grabbed the halfway lead at Augusta.
Going out on the final day he led by two from Mark Calacavecchia, but with five to play the American was a shot to the good. Lyle rallied to pull level going to the final tee, but his one-iron found a fairway bunker and his heart sank.
However, a miraculous seven-iron held the back of the green before, after a brief pause, his ball rolled down the slope to eight feet.
A testy putt found the bottom of the hole for birdie and Lyle was a Masters champion, kicking off another run of European winners that included Nick Faldo (1989 and ’90), Ian Woosnam (’91), Langer (’93) and Jose Maria Olazabal (’94).
1996: Norman lets Faldo Nick it
DESPITE two Open Championship wins, Greg Norman was often regarded as a Major nearly man, nowhere moreso than at Augusta.
Having lost out to Nicklaus in 1986 and a Larry Mize chip-in during a play-off a year later, Norman must surely have been wondering if a Green Jacket would ever be his.
By 1996, at the age of 41, chances were running out, but an imperious opening nine-under round of 63 showed he still had the old swagger, and by the end of round three his lead was six shots.
Unfortunately, the closest challenger was the relentless Nick Faldo, seeking a third Masters success.
Norman bogeyed the first to suggest it might not be a procession, and when five shots were squandered around the turn, including a visit to the water at 12, Faldo held all the cards.
The Englishman’s robotic precision, allied to another wet ball from Norman at 16, meant the game was up, with Faldo running out a five-shot victor, the swing of 11 shots still the biggest in Augusta history.
Faldo claimed his sixth Major title, but it was to be his last as a new era of dominance was about to begin.
1997: Tiger gets on a roll
TIGER Woods was crowned low amateur at Augusta in 1995, and when he drove up Magnolia Lane for his professional debut two years later, he was one of the favourites, but 40 shots for his first nine holes didn’t bode well.
That was to ignore the 21-year-old’s character, however, as he came home in 30 to get in the mix.
Majestic rounds of 65 and 66 followed while everyone else toiled and Tiger found himself nine ahead going into the final round.
Unlike the year before, this was a procession, with the record books torn to pieces, his total of 18-under only matched once since, by Jordan Spieth in 2015, while nobody has ever come close to matching the 12-shot margin of victory.
When Faldo put the Green Jacket on Tiger’s shoulders, the changing of the guard was complete.
2005: Woods just does it
BY the time of the 2005 edition, Woods was an eight-time Major champion, with Green Jackets tucked away in ’01 and ’02 to go with the 1997 success.
He was hot favourite to make it four, but amidst heavy showers and long delays it wasn’t all plain sailing.
With the third round disrupted, the leaders had to play 27 holes on Sunday and going into that marathon Chris DiMarco led Woods by four shots.
The deficit had turned into a threeshot lead for the world number one on the first tee of the fourth round but Woods wasn’t at his best and couldn’t shake off dogged New Yorker DiMarco.
There was one in it when Tiger pulled his tee shot at 16, narrowly missing the water, and seemingly opening the door for his opponent.
What followed was one of the iconic shots in golf as Tiger’s chip rolled down a huge slope to the side of the hole, resting long enough to give Nike the best advertising ever before dropping.
It’s forgotten somewhat that in the excitement Woods bogeyed the final two holes to let DiMarco into a play-off, but the great man gathered himself to birdie the 18th in added time and make it Masters number four.
2010: Mickelson the magician
PHIL Mickelson ended his long wait for a Major title by clinching the Masters on the final green in 2004, and repeated the trick two years later.
‘Lefty’s’ love affair with Augusta was confirmed in 2010, with the highlight an act of escapology that evoked memories of the great Seve.
Engaged in a dual with Lee Westwood on the final day, Mickelson negotiated Amen Corner successfully before pulling his drive at the par-five 13th into trees.
With Rae’s Creek running along the front of the green, mere mortals might have laid up, but Mickelson kept his foot to the floor, hitting a six-iron from pine needles and between two trees to four feet.
That he missed the eagle putt mattered little as the battle had been won and Mickelson took a third title with a flawless closing round of 67.
2011: McIlroy’s meltdown
CHARL Schwartzel won the Masters in 2011, but nine years on the abiding memory is not of him, but of a spectacular collapse from 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.
For three days, the Holywood kid made it look rather easy at Augusta, opening with a seven under 65 and adding a 69 on Friday to lead by two from Jason Day at the halfway point.
Three late birdies on Saturday left the 54-hole cushion at four strokes and everyone turned up on Sunday expecting the coronation of golf’s next superstar.
The front nine was a grind, but on the 10th tee McIlroy still led by a shot from playing partner Angel Cabrera, Day, KJ Choi and Schwartzel, with Tiger Woods hovering in the background.
Then the wheels came off.
A hooked drive at 10 ricocheted to an area the TV cameras had never seen, leading to a triple-bogey.
Another dropped shot from nowhere on 11 was followed by a four-putt double on 12 to ensure Rory left Amen Corner without a prayer.
When he hooked a drive into the creek at 13, the youngster slumped over his bag in a painful and iconic pose.
Schwartzel found his putting boots on the way home, birdieing his last four holes to win by two from Day and Adam Scott, but McIlroy was the story.
As he was two months later, romping to an eight-shot victory in the US Open at Congressional to grab a first Major.
A first Masters remains elusive, however. Perhaps November?
2016: Spieth makes a splash
FROM the moment Jordan Spieth set foot on the hallowed Augusta turf he was to the manor born, finishing second to Bubba Watson on his debut as a 20-year-old in 2014 and coasting to a four-shot success the following year.
The defence of his title in 2016 was also going perfectly, Spieth leading after each of the first three rounds despite windy conditions.
He was still well in control on the 12th tee on Sunday before the treacherous par-three bit back.
A tee shot found the bottom of Rae’s Creek before a duff from the drop zone sunk into the same watery grave.
A quadruple-bogey seven saw Spieth slip into the pack as unheralded Englishman Danny Willett took the bull by the horns and hungrily grasped the Green Jacket.
But, as was the case five years before, the main part of the tale was about the boy who should have been king.
2019: Tiger’s back
FOURTEEN years after his fourth Masters victory, and 11 years on from his 14th Major, Tiger Woods turned up at Augusta with a dodgy back but with plenty of confidence and a gameplan to plot his way round and try to take down the young guns.
All went well for three days, Tiger purring quietly in the pack without really claiming the limelight.
That was left to Open champion Francesco Molinari, who looked all over the winner before a visit to the water at 12, like so many before him.
Suddenly the door was wide open and no better man to stride through it than Tiger, who birdied 15 and 16 to take a two-shot lead.
Not even a bogey on the last could stop him, with a fifth Green Jacket captured, 22 years after the first, to complete one of the great sporting comebacks.
Would anyone bet against him making it a Nicklaus-equalling six Augusta wins in the near future?