10 Most Memorable Masters Victories

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April 7th, 2011 in Entertainment, Feature

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You know it's officially springtime when CBS dusts off its "Augusta" piano riff for promos, most of which were fittingly aired during March Madness. After golf fans were mercilessly teased for three weeks, golf's most prestigious event has finally arrived. If you didn't already know, this year's tournament promises to be a doozy. Phil Mickelson, last year's Masters champion and one of this year's favorites, is entering competition after a three-shot win at the Shell Houston Open in which he scored rounds of 63 and 65. Then, of course, there's the elephant in the room, the struggling Tiger Woods, who would love to upset the naysayers and prove he's still the best golfer in the world. Both Phil and Tiger have cemented their places in Masters lore by securing spine-tingling victories in years past, and either could do it again this year. Before driving up Magnolia Lane, be sure to take a stroll down memory lane to relive the great Masters performances from golf's legends.

  1. Jack Nicklaus, 1986: At the age of 46, Nicklaus's best golf seemed to be behind him — coming in to the 1986 Masters, he hadn't won a major since the 1980 PGA Championship or the Masters since 1975. Assumptions can be foolish. En route to his record sixth Masters win and 18th major championship, he shot a 65 in the final round and a 30 on the second nine, tying a course record. Despite proving that age is just a number, he later acknowledged that it is a factor in golf, stating "The older you get, the stronger the wind gets — and it's always in your face."
  2. Tiger Woods, 1997: From the oldest to win the Masters to the youngest. The man who's currently chasing Jack's major championships record clinched his first at the legal drinking age of 21, and he did it in resounding fashion. In round one, he shot a 70, impressive for a kid. But it was nothing compared to his next two rounds, in which he shot a 66 and 65. When it was all said and done, he boasted a 12-stroke victory over Tom Kite, becoming the first non-white player to win the Masters.
  3. Gene Sarazen, 1935: It doesn't get more clutch than Sarazen's 1935 performance. Golf historians remember it for his double eagle at the par-5 15 that enabled him to make up a three-shot deficit and tie Craig Wood. Sarazen won the ensuing 36-hole playoff to claim his first Masters victory and his seventh and final major championship. Perhaps the most memorable shot in the tournament's history, the "shot heard 'round the world" is commemorated at Augusta with the Sarazen Bridge.
  4. Byron Nelson, 1942: When reflecting back on past Masters champions, names such as Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan are typically among the first who people recall. In the case of Nelson, his most memorable Masters victory — each had two — came in a nerve-racking 18-hole playoff after Hogan rallied from three strokes behind in the final round. Hogan's strong play continued in the extra round, and he earned a three-stroke lead after five holes. But Nelson made a comeback of his own, shooting five-under during the remaining 13 holes and winning by a single stroke.
  5. Sandy Lyle, 1988: Lyle knows how to win the Masters uncomfortably and in style. His four-stroke lead in the final round in 1988 vanished as Mark Calcavecchia's rallied, and the two were tied entering the final hole. The poor fortune mounted for Lyle when his tee-shot found the bunker. But the golf gods were on his side as he conjured an amazing shot that put the ball right on the green and in position for a birdie, which he sunk. The Scotland-native became the first Briton to win the tournament.
  6. Gary Player, 1978: Down seven shots after three rounds, Player made a miraculous comeback, birdying seven of his final 10 holes, shooting a 30 on the back nine and a final round 64 to win by one stroke — it's hard to imagine anyone experiencing a better round on such a grand stage. It was the 43-year-old South African's last of nine major championships and his third Masters title.
  7. Nick Faldo, 1996: Sure, it was a memorable victory for Faldo, but it was a more memorable collapse by Greg Norman, who began the tournament with an a course-record 63. He maintained his lead until the final day when his meltdown commenced. Not only did he lose his six-stroke lead to Faldo, but he lost the tournament by five-strokes after shooting a 78. The epic choke-job featured three consecutive bogeys on holes nine through 11 and two subsequent shots in the water. A Masters win just wasn't in the cards for Norman, but he can boast three second-place finishes.
  8. Ben Crenshaw, 1995: Recognized as one of the game's elite putters, Crenshaw knew how to keep his cool under intense circumstances. A week prior to 1995 Masters, his mentor Harvey Penick died, and Crenshaw served as a pallbearer the day before the opening round. With his composure fully intact through all four days, he positioned himself to connect on a final putt to beat Davis Love II by one stroke — he then famously collapsed in tears, finally allowing his emotions to win out. It was the 43-year-old's second Masters title.
  9. Phil Mickelson, 2004: Lefty, always a fan favorite, finally won his first major championship in 2004, bringing tears to the eyes of his many adoring spectators who watched it in person. The back nine provided all of the drama, as Phil collected five birdies to catch Ernie Els. His putt on 16 placed him in a tie for the lead, and after he put his second shot on the green on the final hole, he sunk a dramatic putt to seal the win.
  10. Bob Goalby, 1968: This one is more laughable than tear-jerking. After shooting a 66 in the final round, Goalby prepared to enter a playoff with Roberto DeVicenzo. But an erroneous scorecard prevented it from happening, and Tommy Aaron, the 1973 Masters winner, was responsible for the mistake. Instead of marking a three on 17 for DeVicenzo as he should have, he incorrectly marked a four, and DeVicenzo signed the card without thinking twice. According to Professional Golfers' Association, the higher score signed by the golfer always stands, and therefore Goalby was the champion. DeVicenzo must still be kicking himself.

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