Augusta National Golf Club was co-founded by the greatest amateur in golf history, Bobby Jones. With the wisdom of Wall Street banker Clifford Roberts and the beguiling, risk-reward Alister Mackenzie-designed golf course, Jones grew the Augusta National Spring Invitational into the Masters. Since 1934, The Masters has delivered some of the most dramatic moments in golf history.
Here’s a look at the top 20 moments in the tournament’s history:
1. 1986: In perhaps the most remarkable golf tournament ever played, a series of eventual World Golf Hall of Fame members were outdone by a stunning charge from the Master of the Masters. In the final round, 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus birdied the ninth hole and then hit one heroic shot after another for a final-nine 30. He walked off the final green to a standing ovation and a hug from his son and caddie, Jackie. And when a late charge from Greg Norman collapsed, Nicklaus had won his sixth Masters and become the oldest player to don the Green Jacket.
2. 1997: Tiger Woods has always exceeded the hype. In 1997, he won the Masters by a remarkable 12 shots, and, more importantly, delivered golf’s Jackie Robinson moment as he became the first African American to win the Masters.
3. 1935: In the final round of the second annual Augusta National Spring Invitational, Gene Sarazen hit the “shot heard ’round the world.” Sarazen holed a four wood at the par-five 15th hole for a double eagle. He went on to win a 36-hole playoff over Craig Wood, and the tournament came to be known as The Masters.
4. 2012: This Masters delivered two of the greatest shots ever witnessed at Augusta National. Louis Oosthuizen made an albatross at the par-5 second, a shot helped the South African get into a playoff with Bubba Watson. On their second extra hole, Watson was deep in the trees to the right of the 10th fairway. It was time for Bubba Golf, as the left-hander hit a severe hook out of and around the trees onto the green for an easy two-putt par and the win.
5. 1987: Augusta native Larry Hogan Mize was the forgotten man in a sudden-death playoff in 1987 that featured two of golf’s most charismatic champions: Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman. At the first extra hole, Mize missed a 10-footer for the win and Ballesteros was eliminated with a three-putt. At the next hole, Norman looked to have the upper hand after Mize missed the 11th green to the right. Instead, Mize chipped in for a miraculous victory. The thunderous roar from the crowd seemingly still echoes among the Augusta pines today.
6. 1960: The legend of Arnold Palmer was born with a thrilling charge coming home. Palmer became the first player in Masters history to birdie the final two holes en route to victory. He finished one stroke ahead of Ken Venturi and two strokes ahead of Dow Finsterwald. And the patrons — dubbed “Arnie’s Army” – loved it.
7. 1975: Jack Nicklaus’ reign as the best player in the world was being challenged by perennial Masters bridesmaids Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. In one of Augusta’s exciting final rounds, Jack took the lead for good by sinking a 40-foot putt at the 16th hole. Both Weiskopf and Miller missed makeable birdie putts at the final hole. When the dust settled, the Golden Bear had won a record fifth Masters.
8. 2004: What will Phil do next? This question used to celebrate the unpredictable strategies and shots that Phil Mickelson would showcase, and yet it also seemed to mock him as a great player who hadn’t won a major championship. But he leaped with joy when he holed a 20-foot putt on the final hole to win the 2004 Masters. Phil’s next move? Slipping his arms into a Green Jacket.
9. 2005: All of Tiger Woods’ ability and imagination were tested when his tee shot at the par-3 16th missed the green in the final round. His deft touch pulled off a precise chip shot that hung on the lip for a second before toppling into the hole for a miracle birdie. And after Chris DiMarco came oh-so-close to chipping in — twice — at the 18th hole, Woods won his fourth Masters in a playoff.
10. 1978: Gary Player started the final round eight shots off the pace. With seven birdies over the final 10 holes, the South African roared into the clubhouse lead. And when Hubert Green missed a short putt on the final hole, Player earned his third Masters. His 64 remains the lowest final round by any tournament winner.
11. 1995: Former champ Ben Crenshaw was a pallbearer at the funeral for his long-time instructor Harvey Penick early in the week of the 1995 Masters. Rather than withdrawing, Crenshaw played inspired golf to honor his mentor. After Crenshaw tapped in for the emotional victory, he wasn’t the only one at Augusta National who broke down into tears.
12. 2010: The par-5 13th hole has always provided drama. In the final round in 2010, Phil Mickelson found himself in the pine straw and the trees, but the gambler at heart still wanted a shot at birdie. He took the risk by threading a 6-iron through two trees, over Rae’s Creek and was rewarded with an easy two-putt birdie. The bold move delivered Mickelson his third green jacket.
13. 1979: Ed Sneed had a three-shot lead with three holes to go in 1979. He finished bogey-bogey-bogey to force the first sudden-death playoff in Masters history. In the mix was a former Masters champion (Tom Watson) and a true Masters rookie (Fuzzy Zoeller). Zoeller drained a long birdie putt on the second extra hole to win in dramatic fashion.
14. 1968: Roberto DeVicenzo birdied the 17th hole in the final round to pull into a tie with Bob Goalby. However, the Argentine’s playing competitor Tommy Aaron mistakenly wrote a par 4 on the scorecard. When DeVicenzo signed for the higher score, he missed a playoff by one shot. Instead of 18 more holes on Monday, Goalby was handed a green jacket on Sunday night. Roberto’s infamous comment — “What a stupid I am” – lives on as part of the golf lexicon today.
15. 1954: Following Ben Hogan’s celebrated 1953 season, Sam Snead tried to reclaim the mantel as the world’s best player. The showdown was set when the two squared off in an 18-hole playoff at Augusta National. There wasn’t much chatter between the two titans as Slammin’ Sammy stared down The Hawk to claim his third Green Jacket.
16. 1989: For three straight years, the Masters enjoyed unbelievable finishes with exciting action bathed in sunshine. However, in 1989, the final round was rainy and the drama came from the gloomy play. Masters favorite Ben Crenshaw bogeyed the 72nd hole to miss a playoff. On the first extra hole, Scott Hoch missed one of the shortest putts ever to win a major. And Nick Faldo took advantage of the opportunity with a birdie at the 11th hole for victory.
17. 1953: Following his devastating car crash in 1949, Ben Hogan had to limit his playing schedule. But that didn’t stop Hogan from producing some of the best golf the game has ever seen. In 1953, Hogan played in just six tournaments; he won five, including three majors. And it all started with a record five-shot victory at the Masters.
18. 1996: Despite its proud golf history, the country of Australia had never produced a Masters champion. Greg Norman seemed like a lock as he carried a record six-shot lead into the final round. But playing with the Great White Shark on Sunday was his golfing nemesis: Nick Faldo. And when Norman stumbled home with a 78, Faldo pounced with a 67 to claim his third Masters. The rivals’ hug on the final green is a lasting image of golf victory and defeat.
Australia got its long-awaited first Green Jacket when Adam Scott won the 2013 Masters.
19. 1942: Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan — two men who grew up in the same caddie yard in Fort Worth, Texas — faced off in an 18-hole playoff for the Masters. Nelson got off to a poor start and trailed Hogan by three shots after five holes. Hogan played well with the lead; he finished the last 13 holes in 1 under. But Lord Byron played the same 13 holes in 5 under to win.
20. 1992: Fred Couples came into the Masters playing better golf than anyone in the world. It was not surprising when he took the lead into Amen Corner on Sunday. What was surprising was that his tee shot didn’t roll back into Rae’s Creek when it landed short of the green on the par-3 12th. Couples took advantage of this break of a lifetime by winning the only major of his career.
Tom Alter, Vice President of Communications for the PGA TOUR, has worked at the TOUR for more than 25 years in various capacities involving television production, programming and promotion. He has watched the final round of every Masters since 1975.