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The Greatest Masters Moments Of The Modern Era
To define the modern era, for the sake of argument, we’re going to go with the 80s onwards. That excludes a plethora of extraordinary moments down Magnolia Lane but we’re still left with a collection of incredible wins, comebacks and moments on which careers have been defined.
Needless to say this is subjective but here are 10 of the greatest Masters moments to take place in recent years.
Seve Ballesteros, 1980
At the age of just 23 Seve landed his and Europe’s first Green Jacket. He led from day one, by Saturday night he was seven clear. That lead was up to 10 after the front nine and, after a bit of a wobble, he would beat Jack Newton and Gibby Gilbert by four.
Seve’s winning prize was $55,000 and it would be the first of two Masters triumphs though he could have won several more – in the 80s Ballesteros would finish inside the top 10 seven times.
Jack Nicklaus, 1986
After three days Nicklaus trailed by four and set off for his final round alongside Sandy Lyle with nobody really giving him a chance. The 46-year-old, with his son Jackie on the bag, reached the turn of the 50th Masters in 35 but then birdied 10 and 11 to make it three on the trot. He could even afford a bogey four at the short 12th before lighting up Augusta and the sporting world with a ridiculous finish. A birdie at 13, an eagle two holes later, he nearly aced the 16th and then rolled in another birdie at the next. And all with an oversized and fairly unsightly MacGregor putter.
Seve would falter at 15, Tom Kite would just come up short and Greg Norman would mess up the 72nd hole and we had the oldest Masters winner. It would be Nicklaus’ sixth Green Jacket and his final PGA Tour victory.
Larry Mize, 1987
Few would have given the local boy Mize much of a chance as he stood on the 10th tee ahead of a play-off for The Masters with none other than Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. The previous year the Aussie had enjoyed the Saturday Slam where he led for all four majors though 54 holes but only came away with The Open at Turnberry. Seve exited first after making a bogey and then Mize flailed one out to the right of the 11th green while Norman found the edge of the green.
But Mize then produced one of Augusta’s wonder shots, with his 60˚ wedge that was travelling at a good rate before dropping straight in. For Norman it summed up his luck at the National.
Sandy Lyle, 1988
It’s almost impossible not to get stuck in the 80s when you look back at some of the stand-out moments at Augusta. Sandy Lyle played one of the most iconic shots in the history of the Masters when he smashed a 7-iron out of the fairway bunker at 18 before seeing it roll back down the hill. He would roll in the putt to pip Mark Calcevecchia by one.
Barely a tournament day goes by without mention of Lyle’s recovery and the subsequent putt which we see so many players misread these days. Lyle, the first UK player to win The Masters, would celebrate with a small jig for his second major in three years.
Sir Nick Faldo, 1989
Faldo would win back to back Masters, something only Nicklaus and Woods have also managed, and it was his first that stood out for two particular reasons. Scott Hoch would miss a particularly short putt at the first play-off hole and then Faldo would knock in a 25-footer in the gloom at the 11th, a hole he would add a second Jacket the following year when Ray Floyd dunked his approach.
Faldo doesn’t get enough credit for what went on before, as a closing 65 got him into the extra holes following rounds of 73-77. The run would include four birdies from the 13th as his putter warmed up just in time.
Ian Woosnam, 1991
The likes of Woosnam used to struggle to get an invite to The Masters and it wasn’t until 1988 that he made his debut. Three years later the new World No. 1 won Wales’ only major title to date. Woosnam did the large chunk of his scoring on the middle days where rounds of 66-67 swept him into the lead. The final day was a dramatic one with Tom Watson and Jose Maria Olazabal threatening. Watson eagled both the par 5s on the back nine on Sunday but also doubled 12 and 18, Olazabal would bogey the last. Woosnam looked like he had blown it when he pulled his tee shot into Rae’s Creek at 13 but some wise words from Watson helped and he would smash his driver at the 18th over and clear of any trouble. He somehow found a yardage and the wherewithal to sink a six-footer to give the UK their fourth straight winner.
Tiger Woods, 1997
One of the great Masters stats is that Woods reached the turn in 40 shots and ended the tournament at a then-record 18-under. Woods had already won three times in the previous six months but nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. The first round saw a back nine of 30, day two a 66, a 65 would rocket him nine clear and he would finish a staggering 12 shots ahead of Tom Kite.
That remains a tournament record while Dustin Johnson pipped his aggregate in the winter Masters of 2020. The final round was watched by an estimated 44 million viewers in the United States alone.
Phil Mickelson, 2004
This was Mickelson’s 47th major in total and there was plenty of chat about whether he would finally get over the line in a big one. The left-hander had been third at Augusta the previous three years but then went berserk on the back nine to stun Ernie Els.
In the week of Arnold Palmer’s 50th consecutive and final appearance Mickelson would birdie five of his last seven holes, climaxing in what is now an iconic jump on the 18th green. He would become just the third left-hander to win a major, he would add two more Green Jackets and he currently sits on five majors.
Adam Scott, 2013
After all the close shaves of his countrymen, mainly Greg Norman, Australia finally landed a Masters win. Scott had been close himself in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel finished like a train, then Jason Day could have landed this one but it was Scott who came through.
The Aussie finished on -9 after a closing 25-footer, moments later Angel Cabrera matched him when he stuffed it in there close. In extra time they would both scramble pars before Scott rolled in a 15-footer, less than a year after blowing The Open at Royal Lytham.
After nine runners-up in the tournament Australia had a Masters champ.
Tiger Woods, 2019
Nicklaus had ’86, Woods 2019. Two heroes of the game and two perfect send-offs at Augusta. Woods only had the lead in the final round in what was a star-studded leaderboard. The key hole would turn out to be the 12th where Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau all ended up wet while Woods played the percentages and made his par.
The Italian led for much of the week but Woods edged clear with birdies at 13, 15 and 16 where he nearly holed his tee shot. If you watch one thing today then make it this – we may never see anything like it again.
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
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