Aside from three consecutive years (1943-’45) because of World War II, the Masters Tournament has been conducted each year at the Augusta National Golf Club every April since 1934 when Horton Smith won the very first event, known then just as the Augusta Invitational.
The Masters is my favorite golf tournament for a number of reasons. First it’s a sign that winter is finally over. Then there’s the incredible beauty of the golf course, the tradition, the lack of commercialism. It is old south genteel ism. I love the caddies in their white jump suits with green caps and I particularly enjoy the drama that almost always unfolds during the final nine on a Sunday afternoon.
It is a cliché but it usually is true; the tournament doesn’t really begin until the 10th tee on Sunday. Our topic, as this year’s Masters is upon us, revolves around the question; What was the greatest Masters of all time? Neither Gorman nor I know what the other has picked so it is entirely possible, even likely, that we have chosen the same championship. To me it’s obvious, so obvious that even a dolt like Tommy 3-Putt should recognize it.
But before I reveal my selection I want to go back over some of the most memorable moments in Masters history. Naturally I’m not going to touch on all of them, but these stick out for me. The first is one I never saw and was not even alive, Gene Sarazen’s legendary double eagle with a two wood in 1935, one of the most famous shots in golf history and the key to “The Squire’s” victory that year. Another that jumps out came in 1958, when Arnold Palmer won his first green jacket, with his distinctive corkscrew swing and swashbuckling style of play that would draw countless new fans to the game.
In 1963, a bulky kid from Ohio dared to go toe-to-toe with the popular king of golf and the world was introduced to the man who would become the greatest player of all time, Jack Nicklaus. One of the most infamous Masters moments came in 1968, when Argentine Roberto De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard, giving the title to Bob Golby. In 1984 Ben Crenshaw won the title, the most memorable moment coming when he holed a cross country putt on the 10th green. Crenshaw would win again in 1995, breaking down into tears after holing the final putt, overcome with emotion, having dedicated the tournament to his recently deceased teacher, Harvey Penick.
For my money the most memorable and dramatic moment in Masters history occurred in 1987 when Augusta native, Larry Mize, stunned Greg Norman with a chip in on the 11th hold during a playoff. It came less than a year after Norman had watched Bob Tway beat him with a blast from a bunker during the PGA. In 1988 Scotsman Sandy Lyle won the tournament, clinching it with a second shot from a fairway bunker on 18, when his ball hit on the back of the green and then rolled back some 40 feet to within tap in range of the hole. Fred Couples won his lone green jacket in 1992, largely because a shot he hit on the par 3 12th old stuck on the bank in front of the green instead of rolling back into the water.
And we had Tiger rolling the field for his first Masters in ‘97 and then tearfully hugging his father, Earl, after coming off the 18th green.. But the greatest Masters of all time? To me the answer is easy. It was Jack Nicklaus stirring back nine to win in 1986, at the age of 46, his 18th and final major. Nothing else is even a close second.
Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. His greatest moment was lunch.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?