After tuning in to last week’s Masters, I’m convinced we may have witnessed the most exciting and emotional major golf championship ever. Two golf shots in this year’s Masters qualify in my five greatest shots in Masters history. In all of its storied 76-year history, even Bobby Jones himself would have been astounded at some of the shot-making that occurred during Sunday’s final round.
The Augusta National Golf Course has undergone many subtle and not-so-subtle changes over time. But these changes have never stopped players from continuing to hit those rare shots that appear to be nothing more than unrepeatable optical illusions. The greatest golf shots in Masters history are not necessarily those that have outright won the Masters, nor are they always struck by the games most famous players. Keep that in mind as you try to come up with YOUR five greatest shots in Masters history.
Nobody has won more green jackets than Jack Nicklaus (six), so to make things a little easier in deciding my five greatest shots in Masters history I will exclude any from Jack’s Augusta repertoire. It’s tough because I’ll never forget his 40-foot birdie on No. 16 in 1975 that vaulted him past a stunned Tom Weiskoff, or his “Yes, sir!” birdie on No. 17 toward his improbable ‘86 win becoming the oldest Masters Champion at 46. Anyway, here goes:
#5 – Gene Sarazen’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” (1935)
Gene Sarazen’s 4-wood second shot from 235 yards on No. 15 darted into the hole for a double-eagle. Obviously, we have no video documentation of this shot, but many say it was THE shot that first drew national attention to this special invite tournament in only its second year of existence. Reporters gave it this nickname 16 years prior to Bobby Thompson’s playoff homer known by the same iconic phrase. Spurred on by this amazing shot, “The Squire” went on that year to win his only Masters title. This shot slips into my top 5 primarily because of its historical significance to this remarkable ritual of spring created by the legendary Bobby Jones, his close friend Clifford Roberts, and internationally renowned British golf course architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie.
#4 – Larry Mize’s Chip-in (1987)
On No. 11, the second sudden death playoff hole against Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros (who had been eliminated on the first playoff hole), Mize chipped in for birdie with a sand wedge from 140 feet off the right-side green. The shell-shocked Norman then missed his birdie attempt giving the Augusta native his one and only Masters Championship. This shot also began a history of shocking Augusta disappointments for Norman. Television cameras captured Mize’s “leap for joy” from many angles, and I never get tired of seeing any of them. Mize, who won only four times in his PGA Tour career, also worked Augusta’s scoreboards as a young teenager.
#3 – Tiger Woods’ “Nike Swoosh” Birdie (2005)
Battling all Sunday with the gutsy Chris DiMarco, Tiger left his approach just off the green backside at the Par-3 No. 16. His side-winding chip seemed to roll forever, and momentarily stopped (with Nike Swoosh ball logo in plain view of the camera close-up) one dimple short of going in, then miraculously turned into the hole for a spine-tingling birdie. When that ball fell into the cup, one of the loudest Augusta roars ever reverberated through the Georgia pines. With the momentum from that stunning chip shot, Woods went on to win his fourth green jacket that year.
#2 – Louie Oosthuizen’s Albatross (2012)
It didn’t win Louie Oosthuizen the tournament, but the South African scored the first ever double-eagle (or albatross) on Par-5 Hole No. 2. This shot was special because the entire majestic downhill trajectory of it was caught on live TV and shown over and over throughout the day. Following his 322-yard drive, he struck the purest 4-iron fade from 253 yards out, landing at the front of the green and then rolling the entire depth of the green before disappearing into the cup. This fourth-ever albatross in Masters history suddenly catapulted “Oosty” to the top of the Sunday leaderboard, but fate as we know would not keep him there.
And my #1 Greatest Masters Shot of All-Time… Bubba Watson’s Approach to No. 10 (2012).
First of all, this was a shot very few professionals would even imagine, much less attempt. Second, it was a totally blind shot. Third, it was performed on the second hole of a sudden death playoff. Fourth, …well you get the picture. I don’t believe that the casual golfing fan realizes what a miracle shot this was, but the type of shot all too familiar to the eccentric and extremely likeable Watson. Bubba had badly hooked his 340-yard drive to the right on No. 10 into the trees. From 155 yards out, with his ball perched on pine straw, he took a gap wedge and abruptly hooked (not drew) the shot about 40 yards…..on purpose this time……towards the elevated green. The ball landed softly and curled to about 10 feet below the cup. From there, Watson easily two-putted for his incredible Masters playoff win over Louie Oosthuzien. If you didn’t think this was an electric Augusta moment, check to make sure you still have a pulse. Besides his Mom at greenside, several of his PGA Tour buddies were right there as well to offer their immediate congratulations. The entire atmosphere on that playoff hole was surreal as Watson let his emotions spill over. He had just won the Masters, and all of us watching had a tear in our eyes too!
Those are my top five greatest shots in Masters history, what are yours?
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Filed under: Professional Golf
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