Top 10 lists are hard, and everyone does them. Since it’s 2013, I present my 13 greatest shots in Masters History…with a few parameters: only shots struck by winners in the final round. This eliminates any random hole-in-one or Louis Oosthuizen’s albatross last year. Part of the greatness of these shots are that they were hot when it really counted. “Fore, please. The greatest shots in Masters History, now drivin’.”
13) 1984, Ben Crenshaw:
Gentle Ben holed a long, snaking, breaking, slip-sliding 60-foot putt on the 10th green for birdie for a closing 68. After a decade of unrequited expectations Crenshaw captured his first of two green jackets.
12) 1961, Gary Player:
Trailing Arnold Palmer by a shot on the 72nd hole, both players found the right greenside bunker. Except Palmer thought his ball was on the green. Playing ahead of Palmer,The Black Knight saved his par from the bunker. After accepting congratulations from the patrons, Palmer failed to get up-and-down and double-bogeyed the hole. Gary Player was the first Non-American Masters Champion.
11) 1937, Byron Nelson:
10) 1988, Sandy Lyle:
Usually not making birdie on either of the second-nine par-5s will cost a player dearly at Augusta National. Sandy Lyle made up for that in a big way on the 18th. Tied with Mark Calcavecchia, Lyle drove his 1-iron into the right fairway bunker. A 7-iron that barely moved a grain of sand the Scot’s ball landed past the flag and took the slope to stop about eight feet from the hole. Lyle made birdie for his second major championship victory.
9) 2004, Phil Mickelson:
The back-handed compliment of “Best Player to Never Win a Major” has been worn by countless players, and some never were able to drop it. In 2004, Phil Mickelson was 0-for-46 in majors and no one let him forget it. Phil made sure that no one would forget his first major championship. With Ernie Els waiting on the practice green at -8, Mickelson holed an 18-foot birdie putt to reach -9 and win his first of three Masters.
8) 2010, Phil Mickelson:
Par-5 13th. Tee shot into the right trees. 209 yards to the hole, 187 to carry the water. Your caddy urging you to lay up. What would you do? Grab a 6-iron and blast your ball from the pinestraw, through the trees, to four feet, naturally. He isn’t called “Phil The Thrill” for nothing.
7) 1975, Jack Nicklaus:
Often times in golf, victories are won by recovering from mistakes (see items 12, 10 and 8 on this list). After making what he described as his worst swing of the day and leaving himself 40 feet short of the pin on the par-3 16th, Jack Nicklaus recovered from his mistake. Jack was tied with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller was two behind. Weiskopf had just made birdie at the 15th for the lead. The Golden Bear holed his 40-foot birdie putt and ran around the green to tie Weiskopf and go on to his then-record fifth green jacket.
6) 1960, Arnold Palmer: (do yourself a favor and start at about 3:55)
This shot may be the one that made The Masters the television event it is today. Needing to birdie 17 and 18 for the win, an unprecedented feat at the time, Palmer made 3 on 17. His drive on 18 found the fairway. A low, punched 6-iron kept the ball under the wind. It land about two feet from the cup and settled five feet away. Arnie made his birdie to cement himself into Masters lore
5) 2005, Tiger Woods:
A pulled tee shot at the 16th left Tiger in a sticky situation. Chris DiMarco trailed him by a shot and was in close, lying 2. From the left side of the green Woods rehearsed his swing, looking some 20-30 feet above the hole at a spot where the sunlight peaked through the Georgia pines on the green. Tiger finessed a low skidder that checked up right at the sun-lit spot. The ball then rolled gently down the slope toward the cup. CBS’ Verne Lundquist said “Oh my goodness.” The ball seemed to stop right on the edge of the hole, its Nike logo clearly seen. Woods briefly thought the ball had come to rest, but it found that last quarter of a revolution to fall in and send patrons and Woods himself into a frenzy. Lunquist punctuated by asking, “In your life, have you seen anything like that?!?!?”
4) 1986, Jack Nicklaus:
Charging late with birdies at 9, 10, 11, 13, 16 and an eagle at 15, 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus faced a tricky 18-footer to take the lead for the first time in the tournament. While surveying the putt with his son and caddy for the week, Jackie, the elder Nicklaus reminded his son that the putt would straighten near the hole, moving back toward Rae’s Creek. The Bear’s experience paid off as the putt did indeed straighten at the end. Jack raised his putter halfway as Verne Lundquist asked “maybe?” When the ball dropped Nickalus raised his arms and, in sync with Lundquists’ call of “Yes, sir!” pumped his fists in the air. The putt propelled Jack to an emotional win for his sixth green jacket and 18th major championship.
3) 1935, Gene Sarazen
2) 1987, Larry Mize:
In a playoff with arguably the two greatest players of the day, Augusta native Larry Mize seemed the prohibitive underdog. But Seve Ballesteros was eliminated on the first hole of sudden death after bogeying the 10th. Mize and Greg Norman continued on to the daunting 11th. Norman’s approach found the treacherous green, about 40 feet away. Mize bailed out to the right, choosing to rely on his excellent short game. It was a gamble that paid off. From about 140 feet, Mize chipped his ball just onto the green. It rolled toward the hole, picking up speed, perhaps headed for the water. Until it struck the flagstick and dropped in for an improbable birdie. Norman missed his birdie attempt and Larry Mize won The Masters.
1) 2012, Bubba Watson:
Generally, I am one who appreciates history and is reluctant to declare the most recent event as the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. But when I considered the situation (second hole of sudden death), degree of difficulty (in the woods, 152 yards away with no direct line or even sight of the green, much less the flag) and outcome I had to go with Bubba Watson. After pulling his drive into the right trees on the 10th, the second playoff hole, Bubba Watson seemed to be in jail. Although his opponent, Louis Oosthuizen had come up short of the green, there seemed to be no way Watson could extricate himself from the woods, aside from pitching out. But Bubba Watson is an artist, seeing shots and lines that few, if any, others see. With a 52 degree gap wedge, Watson hit a 40 yard hook that came to rest on the green. It is conceivable that Bubba is the only player in the world capable of hitting that shot because he naturally shapes his shots so much anyway (maybe Phil Mickelson because he’s also left-handed). Watson made par to win his first major championship.