The Masters Tournament is perhaps the most prestigious event in all of golf. It is the only major that’s played on the same course every year, and the traditions associated with the tournament and its host, Augusta National Golf Club, are iconic and unmatched. The green jacket awarded to the annual Masters champion is quite possibly the most recognizable and celebrated award in all of sports.
The selection process for the field is unique and offers some of the best amateur players in the world a shot at taking down the top players on the PGA Tour. And who could forget the perks awarded to the winners? There is the Champions Locker Room, a place where only former champions can gather, and the Champions Dinner, which takes place the Tuesday before the opening round of the tournament and features a meal chosen by the prior year’s winner. Green jackets and special locker rooms aside, an aura comes with winning a Masters championship that one simply cannot achieve by winning any of the other majors in professional golf.
The Masters Tournament has been played a total of 82 times; 2017 will be the 83rd edition. In that period, some of the greatest moments in golf history have occurred.
Narrowing down the top moments in Masters history was no easy task. In doing so, we had to leave off moments such as Roberto De Vicenzo’s scorecard mishap in 1968, and Greg Norman’s collapse in 1986. Both were significant events in golf history, but they fall short of the greatness of the following 10 Masters moments.
1. Tiger Woods’ first Masters win (1997)
Tiger Woods’ performance at the 1997 Masters was one of the most dominant performances in golf history. He entered Sunday with a nine-stroke lead and went on to break the record for the largest margin of victory in tournament history by finishing 12 strokes ahead of runner-up Tom Kite. Woods’ four-round score of 370 remains a tournament record as well. At 21 years old, he became the youngest winner in Masters history.
This was not only his first of four career wins at the Masters, but it was also the first major win of his career and served as a coming-out party for the player who many people believe saved the game of golf.
2. Jack Nicklaus’s Masters win at 46 years old (1986)
While Tiger Woods broke the record for youngest Masters champion in 1997, Jack Nicklaus broke the record for oldest Masters champion in 1986. Both records still stand, but Nicklaus’s may be the more stunning of the two. In one of the greatest tournaments in golf history, Nicklaus came from behind to beat Seve Ballesteros, Tom Kite, Greg Norman, and Nick Price — some of the best golfers ever. And to do so as a 46-year-old is even more amazing.
CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz, who worked his first Masters that year, had this to say when reflecting on the greatness of Nicklaus’s performance at Augusta in 1986:
I think a lot of people would have to say it’s the greatest moment in the history of the game. It was the greatest championship in the history of the game. His encore victory. Unexpected. His sixth green jacket. And at the time, 46 years old sounded like 60 of today. It was unthinkable. It was absurd to even consider that a 46-year-old could win the Masters golf tournament.
3. Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle (1935)
Gene Sarazen’s shot remains arguably the best golf shot ever in a major championship tournament. Sarazen, who was nicknamed “the Squire,” trailed by three strokes on the 15th hole of the final round before stepping up to hit the shot known as the “the shot heard ‘round the world.” He used a 4-wood from 235 yards out, and with one swing, he erased Craig Wood’s entire three-shot lead. It forced the two pros into a 36-hole playoff. The Squire went on to win the second-ever playing of the Masters by five strokes.
4. Larry Mize’s chip on the final playoff hole (1987)
The final round of the 1987 Masters ended in a three-way tie between Mize, Seve Ballesteros, and Greg Norman. Ballesteros was knocked out after the first playoff hole. Then, when Mize’s approach shot missed the green by a wide margin, it looked like Norman faced a victory. What happened next would forever immortalize Mize in golf’s history books. He holed his chip for birdie, which forced Norman to make a lengthy birdie putt. As it turned out, Norman missed the putt. The Shark finished as the runner-up at Augusta for the second straight year.
5. Tiger Woods’s chip-in (2005)
This is one of the signature shots of Woods’ record-breaking career. After seeing his three-shot lead over Chris DiMarco shrink to one in the final round of the 2005 Masters, Woods pulled his tee shot on the par-3 16th hole long and left, missing the green in the process. Given the location of his misfired shot in relation to the pin, it looked as though Woods would have a hard time saving par on No. 16.
In one of the most dramatic shots in golf history, Woods chipped in from the rough for birdie. As it turns out, Woods needed that shot; he went on to bogey the 17th and 18th holes, which tied him with DiMarco and forced a playoff. Woods won the playoff in one hole, earning the fourth green jacket of his illustrious career.
6. Phil Mickelson’s first win in 2004
Mickelson was known as a great player who couldn’t find a way to win a major for the first 12 years of his illustrious PGA Tour career. That was until he sank a 20-foot putt on the final hole of the 2004 Masters to claim his first career green jacket and major championship.
Mickelson has since won two more green jackets (2006 and 2010), as well as the PGA Championship in 2005 and The Open Championship in 2013.
7. Bubba Watson’s miracle in 2012
Watson and Louis Oosthuizen, who earlier in the day recorded an extremely rare albatross, finished the final round of the 2012 Masters tied atop the leaderboard. On the second playoff hole, both players hit poor tee shots, but Watson’s was the worse of the two.
Watson faced what appeared to be a near-impossible par-save from deep within the trees. But as history would have it, the crafty left-hander delivered one of the most amazing (and clutch) shots in golf history.
From 163 yards out, Watson hooked his ball roughly 45 yards around fans, multiple trees, and a television tower landing it within 15 feet of the hole. Here is a graphic of the line Watson’s ball took on the shot.
Oosthuizen wasn’t as fortunate on his second shot and Watson was able to two-putt his way to the 2012 green jacket.
8. Phil Mickelson’s gamble in 2010
Mickelson is widely known on the PGA Tour for being a gambler. At the 2010 Masters, Lefty took a major risk on the par five 13th hole, that ultimately paved the way to him winning his third career green jacket.
With a two-stroke lead, Mickelson hit his tee shot on 13 into the woods where it settled behind a massive pine tree. Conventional wisdom would have suggested that with a two-stroke lead, he should have just laid up, taken par, and moved on. Instead, the PGA Tour legend pulled out his 6-iron and delivered one of the greatest shots in golf history.
Mickelson ended up winning the tournament by three strokes.
9. The three-man race at the 1975 Masters
Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Tom Weiskopf were the three best players in the world at the time of the 1975 Masters, and all three were sitting atop the leaderboard for the tournament’s final round.
Miller and Weiskopf were the final pairing of the day with Nicklaus opening the final round in the second-to-last pairing. Shortly after Weiskopf recorded a birdie on the 15th to take a one shot lead, Nicklaus sank an incredible 40-foot birdie put on No. 16 to tie things up. Weiskopf then bogied the 16th hole to permanently fall one shot behind the Golden Bear.
Miller and Weiskopf both entered the final hole trailing Nicklaus by one stroke. And after each of them missed makable birdie putts, Nicklaus had clinched his fifth career green jacket.
10. Gary Player’s final nine holes in 1978
Player came out of nowhere to win the 1978 Masters. The South African entered the final round eight shots off the lead, but thanks to birdies on seven of the final 10 holes, Player shocked the world and won his third career green jacket. His final round of 64 is still tied for the lowest final round score in tournament history.