Spring is here!…it’s Masters Sunday!

It’s the one Sunday of the year where even the most casual sports fan will most likely turn on the television and watch golf, kind of like how even the most casual believer in the Almighty will go to church somewhere on Easter Sunday.  It’s tradition, and you’re just supposed to!

For someone that has been around golf his entire life, though, this Sunday trumps all other dates on the sports calendar, even Super Bowl Sunday and the NCAA football title game.  I have never been to the Masters tournament in Augusta, GA (I’ve driven by the front gate, but not during tournament week)…I keep waiting for an invitation to play one day, but I guess all the members are busy.  Still, as a golfer (not just one that occasionally plays golf), as someone that has played competitively and has coached some very good players, there is no other day quite like this one.  Really, there is no other WEEK like Masters week.  This is the tournament that inspired me to become a player.  This is the tournament that I imagined winning through countless downhill 15-footers on the practice green in the gloaming of a late summer evening at Wedgewood, Lone Palm, and Cleveland Heights.

No other sporting event typically has as much drama as the last nine holes on Masters Sunday.  No other sporting event can give you an eerie silence in the heat of competition (where players can hear the birds chirping in the trees surrounding the course), interspersed with deafening roars from all over the course…and each roar is distinct: there’s the “incredible shot” roar,” the “birdie by a past champion” roar, and the “Here comes the rally by a popular player” roar, for starters.  On no other course can a coronation of a new champion, or a six-shot lead over 54 holes, become a slow three-hour requiem as that lead evaporates into the humid Georgia air.

So, take a few minutes and check out how this tournament has unfolded over the last three decades!  Here’s 1983-1992…

1983 – Seve chips in for par to win!

1984 – Ben drops BOMBS!

Gentle Ben could not miss in the final round in ’84.

1985 – Curtis rinses it twice on #13

We’ve all been there: we’ve made a mistake, and instead of making the smart choice and cutting our losses, we’ve tried to create a miraculous recovery…and got ourselves in an even worse predicament. Curtis Strange shot 80 in the first round in 1985, and proceeded to play the next 48 holes in (-15) to take the lead.  Then he went for the green on his second shot at #13 and ended up in Rae’s Creek.  Bernhard Langer ended up the day with the first of two Masters titles (he also won in 1993).

1986 – Jack’s Final Charge

Jack Nicklaus was an afterthought in 1986.  Forty-six years old, and completely written off.  No tournament wins in two years, no major wins since 1980.  His play for the first three rounds, though solid, excited no one.  He started the final round four shots behind Greg Norman, and after eight holes Jack was stuck in neutral, while the best players in the world zoomed past him like Ferraris passing a Studebaker on a freeway.  Jack proceeded to play the last ten holes in 7-under-par (with a bogey on #12), which remains the greatest stretch of golf that I have ever witnessed.  All the other players crumbled under the pressure applied by the “Olden” Bear.  After Greg Norman bogeyed #18 to finish tied for 2nd, Jack had won his sixth Masters title…and I started playing golf.

1987 – Local Boy Mize stuns the world

Unheralded Augusta native Larry Mize faced the top two ranked players in the world in Greg Norman & Seve Ballesteros, and holed an impossible chip-and-run to win the Masters in a playoff.  If Larry Mize stood in that same spot with a bucket of range balls and hit that same shot over and over again, he probably wouldn’t get one within 10 feet, and a few of them would probably roll off the green and into the pond on the other side. That’s the way golf go…

1988 – Sandy wins from a bunker (of course!)

One of the greatest fairway bunker shots ever.

1989 – 1991: Hoch chokes, Sir Nick repeats, and the Wee Welshman wins a jacket

Whether you like Scott Hoch or not (and most of his fellow pros did not in the late 1980s), this is still hard to watch.  Sir Nick Faldo followed up his first Masters win the next year with a playoff win over former champion Raymond Floyd.  In 1991, Ian Woosnam was locked in a tight three-man battle with Tom Watson and Jose-Maria Olazabal.  Woosie ended up winning because the other two couldn’t par #18.

1992 – Fred Couples finally wins a major!

Freddie played brilliantly all week, but owes his green jacket to the blade of grass that kept his ball dry on #12 (seen at about 2:30 on the above video).

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