Apr 7th, 2022
GOLF'S TOP 20 AUGUSTA MASTERS DRAMAS
Everything from 'Ed Sneed's collapse ' to 'The Miracle Of Jack'
Words: Tim Southwell, Shaun McGuckian, Daniel Owen Photography: Getty Images
20) 2011. Sunday. Rory blows up...
Rory McIlroy was one stroke ahead when he walked onto the 10th tee on Sunday in 2011. What followed was horrible. Just horrible...
“I felt really comfortable on that tee shot all week,” McIlroy said. “I just started it a little left.”
And how. What followed has gone down in Masters folklore as his drive hit a tree down the left side of the 10th fairway and ricocheted toward some cabins that Augusta National members use to entertain friends and clients. He finally signed for a triple-bogey seven and followed that with a three-putt on the 11th and a disastrous four-putt on the 12th before his tee shot into the creek on 13 formally sealed his fate.
Rory's final-round score was the worst from a third-round Masters leader since Ken Venturi in 1956. The lead he squandered was the biggest of a third-round leader in a major since Jean Van de Velde’s famous debacle at the British Open.
19) Ben Crenshaw's Emotional Meltdown
Author of possibly one of the most emotional scenes ever on a golf course, Ben Crenshaw’s victory in 1995 was as much a display of human spirit as golfing ability. The week before he had learned of the death of his long-time mentor Harvey Penick, just a week after he’d had his last ever putting lesson from him.
On Wednesday he acted as a pallbearer at Penick’s funeral, and on Sunday he collapsed in tears after holing the winning putt bringing grandstands and spectators around the world to a tearful ovation.
18) Curtis Strange's water world woes...
Curtis Strange was an American hero in 1985, topping money lists and bagging trophies left, right and centre. In the coming years, he would become a back-to-back US open Champion, but this was not yet to be his time.
After rounds of 65, 68 corrected a horrible opener of 80, and he was grinding to possibly one of the hardest-fought victories in history. Strange found himself leading by two on Sunday. Going for glory on the reachable par-five 13th, Strange made smothered his four-wood approach into Rae’s Creek, then attempted to splash out of the water, chunked it.
Then more water on 15 allowed Bernhard Langer in to steal victory – a victory more renowned for the bitter tears shed around the 18th green than cries of joy.
17) Phil Mickelson's Hover-Shoes
As dawn broke on Masters Sunday, 2004, a mouth-watering line-up of planet golf’s superpowers were still in contention. But as the focus revolved around Tiger Woods, Augusta threw a spanner in the works. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, the world’s best two ‘other’ players, went head to head in an enthralling back nine.
Shooting his third consecutive 69, and fending off a gutsy last ditch 67 from Els, Mickelson finally fulfilled the promise and potential he had promised – without Major success – for a decade, sensationally securing the title by one stroke, and paving the way for two further Major victories.
16) Weiskopf & Nicklaus Assassination Plot
During the Seventies there was a peculiar trend for issuing death threats to pro golfers during events. Hubert Green won the 1977 US Open with the fear of an assassination attempt hanging over his head, and that year the crowd became a lot more than part of the scenery at Augusta when a death threat was made against Jack Nicklaus; much to Tom Weiskopf’s chagrin.
As he was teamed with Jack for the last round a security guard took him aside and said: “Tom, I don’t want to upset you, but it’s my responsibility to tell you that Jack has received a death threat today. There’s going to be some FBI guys and security in the gallery, and I’m going to be with you. I just wanted you to know.”
The situation worsened, however, when Weiskopf turned up on the first tee to find Nicklaus wearing exactly the same shirt as him. Ever safety-conscious, Weiskopf sent his wife off to the pro- shop to buy a new shirt and changed on the first tee. Upon enquiring what the bijesus was going on, Tom said to Jack: “I just want to make sure they don’t shoot the wrong guy. He laughed like hell. We both played terribly.”
15) Ben Hogan: The Week That Set Up The Slam
A horrific bus crash in 1949 left Ben Hogan inches from death and closer still to never walking again. Miraculously, by 1953 he’d made a full recovery and demonstrated it by winning the Masters with a scoring record, going on to complete the ‘Hogan Slam’ that year. The bridge on the 12th hole was dedicated to him as a result.
Nice vid of Hogan's swing at 1967 Masters
14) Tom Weiskopf: Rae's Creek Shocker
It’s a par three measuring only 155 yards, but Rae’s Creek, the 12th, is possibly one of the most daunting shots in the world come Masters week. For the crowd following Tom Weiskopf in 1980 it became a tear-jerking tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
Tom put his first tee shot into the water. And then another four into the water from the drop zone.
“I had never hit a ball into Rae’s Creek until that time. I hit my tee shot and it landed on the green and then rolled back into the water. I went down to the drop area, pulled out my sand wedge and hit it in the water again. I dropped again, and this time it rolled into a horrible lie.
"I looked down at my ball and started getting angry. I could have aimed it at the fat part of the green and two-putted, but I was stubborn and determined to hit it close to the hole and one-putt. Later I found out that my wife Jeanne was standing there watching in tears...”
Weiskopf walked away with a soul-sapping 13 on his card... but he's not the only one to clock up this score at Augusta. Last year (2018) defending champion Sergio Garcia recorded the same score at Hole 15 (par-5), while Tommy Nakajima did the same at Hole 13 (par-5), in 1978.
13) Jack Burke Jr: The Comeback Scoring Record
1956, Jack Burke Jr, the all-American boy, makes up eight strokes to edge Ken Venturi out by one. Venturi, an unsung amateur, had captured the imagination of the galleries, but crumbled during a fascinating – and high-scoring – final round. Burke Jr had started the day eight shots off the pace but came out with renewed impetus knowing Venturi was faltering hole by hole, Burke overturned the biggest shot deficit in final round history at Augusta, a record that stands today.
12) Tiger Rocks The World
The camera zooms in, Tiger stands stone-faced at the edge of the 16th green, wedge in hand. As the gallery falls silent in anticipation, CBS commentators Vern Lundquist and Lanny Wadkins can’t control their excitement...
VL: “And he’s picked out a landing spot that is a good 25ft above the hole.”
LW: “There’s a good chance he doesn’t get this inside DiMarco’s ball.”
Tiger, a mask of concentration, stares hard and dips his head to focus on the ball. After ten long seconds, Tiger draws back his club and chips a low one at the brow. As the ball hits the spot and checks towards the hole, the crowd begin to murmur.
VL: “Now, here it comes...” The ball is heading straight at the cup... VL: “Oh my goodness!”
The ball slows, it seems as if it is going to stop. It turns once, hugs the lip of the hole and completely stops for a second before the momentum finally drags the Nike swoosh logo into the cup.
VL: “OH, WOW!!! In your life have you ever seen anything like that!!!”
Tiger pumps his fist and high-fives Steve Williams.
VL: “This guy is pretty good.”
In your life...
11) Doug Ford: The Argument With Fireball
If the modern game is the home of zen-like focus and inner calm, then the 50s and 60s were about swash-buckling passion and bravado like on the 15th hole of the Master in 1957, where Doug Ford won the Masters while having an argument with his caddy.
“On Saturday my second shot hit the bank of the pond and rolled in the edge. I rolled up my trouser legs and blasted it out but still made bogey. When I got into the clubhouse, I was three strokes behind leader Sam Snead, and a couple of old-time pros said if I got a chance at 15 tomorrow to lay up.
“Well, on Sunday I led by one and drove in the exact same place on 15. My caddy, Fireball, said to lay up and wouldn’t let me take the 3-wood out of the bag. He said to take the 4-iron and layup. We were fighting over the club and arguing so much that the gallery started laughing at us.
Finally, I said, Snead is right behind us and he’ll easily be able to reach the green in two. Besides, they don’t remember you here unless you go for it and win.” His ball made it on by a whisker and the rest is history.
10) Byron Nelson: The Lady With The Organ
In 1937 the Masters committee decided to present the winner with a green jacket as a prize. This was also the year Byron Nelson decided he was going to become one of golf’s greatest. Six shots back on Ralph Guldahl, Byron proceeded to birdie the tricky 12th and then eagle the 13th to close the gap. He completed the back nine in 32 and won by two while Guldahl slumped to a 76.
Nelson’s inspiration? A piano: “I finished breakfast on the final day and had plenty of time. I loved organ music, and I listened to a lady play in the hotel lobby for a while. She was playing waltzes. I think that’s why I had rhythm that day.”
9) Art Wall: 'Aces' Wall Crushes Arnie
In the lobby of Bon Air hotel, Art Wall was having a drink with two friends on Saturday night of the 1959 Masters when a crimson-faced man approached and slurred: “Boy, ain’t you Art Wall? Ain’t you the one who’s supposed to make all them hole-in-ones?”
Art nodded. “How many you made?” the guy asked. “My total is up to 34 now,” said Art. “Thirty-four!” the guy blurted out. “Boy, who you tryin’ to kid? Bobby [Jones] didn’t make but two!”
The following day, Wall waltzed around Augusta’s back nine in 32 birdying five of the last six and coming from six shots and 12 players back to beat Arnold Palmer.
Afterwards, Bobby Jones came over to him and said: “Everything I’ve heard about you is true, and then some.”
8) Fred Couples: The Cliffhanger At Rae's Creek
In 1992 Fred Couples was leading with seven holes to play when his tee shot at Rae’s Creek fell fractionally short and headed drink-ward. But, unlike any ball that week, his clung on to a clump of rough on the very edge of the water. He escaped with a par and held off Raymond Floyd the rest of the way to victory. ‘Right,’ said Fred.
7) Greg Norman...
The capitulation of Greg Norman to Faldo’s cross-armed stare in 1996 is well documented. What isn’t remembered is the seismic groan that occurred as the crowd watched Norman’s tee shot on the par three 16th hooked wildly into the water.
It was the epitome of the complete disappearance of Norman’s game over that back nine as 265million viewers watched. “Don’t let the bastards get you down,” was all that Nick Faldo could say as he slipped on his snug, new, green jacket.
6) Roberto de Vicenzo: "I Am Such A Stupid"
The amount of air inhaled by the crowd when the result of the 1968 Masters was announced would have been enough to save The Hindenburg.
To all intents and purposes, Roberto de Vicenzo had sewn up a place in the play-off with a dazzling display of golf, shooting 66. However, the Argentinean had forgotten that he’d birdied the 17th hole in all the excitement and marked down a four on his card instead.
He missed the play-off by one shot, handing victory to Bob Goalby in the process. Bob, who had used a one-eyed caddy that year, had played some fantastic golf himself, but never quite got the recognition of other Masters champions. “I shot 66 in the final round, but you never heard about that. I did get 500 of the worst letters you’ve ever seen after that win.”
For de Vicenzo's part, he informed his press conference that: "I am such a stupid..."
5) Larry Mize: The Sand Iron that Bludgeoned The Shark
On 12 April 1987, Larry Mize and Greg Norman were locked in a play-off. As Norman describes... “On the second sudden-death hole, Larry pushed his 194-yard iron shot out to the right, and I hit a 7-iron onto the fringe. Mize hiked 140 feet off the green down into a little swale where his ball had come to rest.
"At this point, I was feeling pretty good about my chances. My opponent was going to have a tough time getting down in two for a par. Actually, odds were he would bogey the hole... “I was down on my haunches and trying to put myself in as positive a frame of mind as possible. I never even saw Larry hit his shot.”
Long story short, he holed it and heard, “One of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced occurred when the enormity of the decibels made by the gallery hit me.”
To rub salt into the wound, the first-time Mize had used that sand-iron was at the Masters that week.
4) Jordan's 2016 meltdown...
"A dream-come-true front nine," Spieth called the first half of his 2016 final day Masters endeavours. There are no words capable of adequately describing what happened next.. But I'll try...
A five shot lead going into the back nine, Spieth was about to become the youngest player in the Masters era to have claimed three majors.
He was going to become the game's first back-to-back, wire-to-wire major winner.
He was going to win a second Masters in his third appearance after it took Tiger seven appearances to win his second, and Nicklaus and Palmer six appearances to win their second.
He had a 9-iron in his hands and a 150-yard tee shot in front of him. Spieth and his caddie, Michael Greller, agreed that a draw was the right call, but, like a footballer stepping forward in a penalty shoot out 100% committed to hitting it hard and to the keeper's left, he started thinking about a fade. "And that's what I did in 2014," Spieth said, "and it cost me the tournament then, too."
HIs tee shot found the water. Still, no dramas, just get it up and down, walk away with a bogey and proceed to Butler's Cabin.
"I'm not really sure what happened on the next shot," Spieth said.
What happened was a divot the size of Ipswich that went almost as far as his actual ball which ended up in the water. Just.
At least he managed to clear the water with his next shot but with every nervous movement and attempt to get that damn ball into the hole, he looked more and more like a 28-handicapper. His elbows were flying all over the place and, well, it was nasty to watch.
From the greenside bunker, Spieth made a quadruple-bogey 7. He staggered onto the 13th tee 3 shots behind Danny Willett. "Buddy," Spieth told his caddie, "it seems like we're collapsing."
3) Jack Nicklaus: The Miracle Of 46th Street
1986. Jack hasn't won a tournament,let alone a major since before the War. The press had written him off and one particular journalist got Jack's gander up by saying he should pack it in.
The week then went like this: “He’ll never win it, he can’t win it, he’s winning it?” The legendary pose of Augusta’s favourite son defying everyone at the age of 46 playing an Augusta track longer than ever before, starting with a first round of 74 and ripping through the pack with a final round of 65, a back nine of 30 magnificent strokes to take his sixth green jacket. Nuff said.
2) Fuzzy Zoeller: First Time Winner
Frank Urban Zoeller Jr had a little bit of form going into his first Masters in 1979, but not that much. In fact, being six shots behind leader Ed Sneed going into the final round, his chances of winning looked remote at best and for the 15 holes that he remained five shots behind the leader hope continued to fade.
Stood on the 15th hole, Zoeller had a 3-wood in his hands: “Now, I’ll tell you exactly how far I can hit a 3-wood. I can hit it 235 yards without any wind,” says Zoeller.
Unfortunately for him, he was 245 away and gambling. It paid off, however, as he made a birdie, shot 70 and watched as Sneed crumbled horribly on his closing three holes, then edged out Tom Watson and Sneed in a play-off to join Gene Sarazen and Horton Smith in an illustrious group of first-time winners.
“Two balls right and don’t leave it short,” were the last words he heard before his putter flew into the air and he entered into history.
1) Gene Sarazen: The Shot Heard Across The World
Even in the respectable starch-collared era of 1935, the events of the final round on the 485-yard 15th hole were to cause a hysteria that will echo into eternity.
Three shots back from leader Craig Wood and 230-yards from the pin, Gene Sarazen was chasing hard but losing time. So he made up for it by holing his spoon shot for an albatross, catching Wood in a play-off and eventually winning the title with the ‘shot that was heard around the world’.
We’re still gasping now.