02 Apr 2020

Masters memories – Top five memorable victories

With the postponement of this year’s Masters, sports fans around the world have been robbed of the annual pilgrimage to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National for the first Major championship of the season. Tiger Woods’ epic win last year was another memorable addition to the tournament’s illustrious history. In its absence this year, let us help you get over the disappointment by putting our heads together to pick our favourite editions of The Masters from the last five decades.

Tom sees off  Jack in a pre-cursor to the classic duel at Turnberry

The opening Major of the 1977 season was the catalyst for a series of Major victories in which Tom Watson got the better of Jack Nicklaus – and not many golfers can look back and say they did that too often. Watson, then 27, had previously won the 1975 Open at Carnoustie but was beginning to earn the reputation of failing to close out Major leads. At the 1974 US Open at Winged Foot, Watson was leading after 54 holes but slipped up with a 79 to let Hale Irwin in. However, he put those demons to bed with a composed 67 on a glorious final round for the first of two Masters titles. At one point, the Kansas City Kid was four clear of Nicklaus, but the Golden Bear picked up four shots in six holes on the back nine to draw level. Watson then drained a tricky downhill birdie putt on 17 to re-take the lead and Nicklaus, who was in the group ahead, stumbled with a bogey on 18 to hand Watson a two-shot cushion. Just three months later the pair played out a mammoth battle together in the final round at The Open where they famously traded blows with Watson once again coming out on top.

Jack defies logic – and age – to win at 46

Heading into the final round in 1986, not many believed that Jack Nicklaus stood a chance as he stood four strokes back and with a vast array of talented players ahead of him. Greg Norman led the way ahead of past champions Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer with Tom Watson and Nick Price also in the mix. As the afternoon unfolded, five different players held the lead and it was Nicklaus who prevailed, thanks to some truly stunning play. He made three birdies around the turn to get into contention and bounced back from a bogey at 12 with a birdie at 13. He then picked up four shots in three holes from the 15th – hitting three of the best iron shots (and then holing clutch putts) of his career in succession – and parred his way up the last to set the clubhouse target at 9-under-par. With Nicklaus safely home, Seve dunked his ball in the water at 15 to drop a shot and then three-putted on 17 to fall to 7-under, ending his chances of a third Green Jacket. Norman, who was then still to win a Major, was playing the 18th on 9-under but made a disastrous bogey to hand Nicklaus a sixth Masters win. The Aussie would go on to say his approach to the 18th was one of the worst shots of his career.

Tiger explodes onto the scene

Fresh-faced 21-year-old Tiger Woods took 40 shots to complete the opening nine holes of the 1997 Masters. He then played the next 63 in 22-under-par as he smashed the record with an 18-under-par total and an astonishing 12-stroke victory. Woods delivered a display of power, precision, touch and imagination that left his competitors in complete awe. A first round 70 saw him four back, he took a three-shot lead with a 66, followed that with a 65 to move nine clear and sealed the double-figure win with a 69.

Phil’s giant leap for joy

At this point in Phil Mickelson’s career, he was widely regarded as the best player to never to have won a Major. It was Lefty’s 46th start in one of the Grand Slam events but he arrived with a renewed sense of calm – and with a new ploy of using a 3-wood more often to find the fairways. He took a share of the lead after 54 holes but made a poor start, dropping shots at 3, 5 and 6 after a birdie at the second. Meanwhile, Ernie Els emerged as the main challenger and produced two eagles at holes 8 and 13 to pile on the pressure. Mickelson responded with a back nine charge for the ages, culminating in a downhill 18-foot birdie putt on 18 which sneaked into the left edge for a one- shot win. This caused Mickelson to jump at least 6 inches in the air in sheer delight while Els trudged off the property to rue another near miss.

Schwartzel steps in as McIlroy collapses

For three and a half rounds of golf at Augusta National, Rory McIlroy looked every inch the heir to Tiger Woods’ throne as the next great player of his generation. He was gunning for a wire-to-wire maiden Major title but came horrendously unstuck after snap-hooking his tee shot on the tenth tee. From there his tournament unravelled over a 45-minute stretch. He eventually dropped three shots, dropped another at 11 and double bogeyed 12 after four-putting from 12 feet. Meanwhile, it turned into a blessed day for Schwartzel. He opened with a birdie and then holed an unlikely pitch for eagle at the short third. He gave a shot back on 4 and then parred his way round until he reeled off four successive birdies from the 15th and deny the Aussie duo of Adam Scott and Jason Day by two shots. McIlroy signed for an 80 and finished in tied 14th. It’s worth remembering that McIlroy bounced back in the most spectacular fashion in the next Major on the schedule by winning the US Open by eight shots.

If you can’t get enough of past editions of The Masters, historic final round broadcasts are available to stream via the official Masters YouTube channel.

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