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Impact: Billy the Kid claims his first PGA Tour title

By Alex Holmes

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"I'm never going to be a flat-line guy. My heart is going to be on my sleeve with every shot." -- Billy Horschel


Horschel secured his first PGA Tour win in all sorts of style a year ago at the Zurich Classic. It began by him making six straight birdies during the final round at TPC Louisiana to get into contention on a weather-plagued day. Then he holed a 27-foot birdie putt on the 18th (after waiting out a 50-minute delay to play the final hole) to secure a final-round 64, matching the course record and holding off D.A points by a one stroke. Finally, there was his exuberant celebration, the always emotive Horschel pumping his arms and letting out a triumphant yell.

The 27-year-old former Florida Gator All-American returns to the bayou this week to navigate his way around Pete Dye's TPC track and defend his 2013 title.

Getty Images (2013)
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Impact: Luke Donald must grin and bear it at Harbour Town. Again

By Alex Holmes

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"Disappointed, obviously, not to have won. Usually a solid 69 on a windy day with a two-shot lead is enough to get it done on Sundays. It's tough to win out here and hats off to Matt for a superb round." -- Luke Donald


For the third time in his last six trips to Harbour Town, Donald finished runner-up at the RBC Heritage, this time thanks to some impressive 72nd-hole heroics from Matt Kuchar. Sure second is nothing to sniff at, but the Englishman had to think he had a pretty good chance to win again on the PGA Tour for the first time since March 2012. Aside from his runner-ups on Hilton Head Island, he also has two T-3s in the tournament since 2010.  
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Impact: Ian Baker-Finch's four-legged prize for winning a Japan PGA Tour event

By Alex Holmes

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"I felt like I was walking naked, like the grass was taller than me. I tried to walk with my head high. It was really hard." -- Ian Baker-Finch


On April 17, 1988 -- before both his best and worst days as a golfer -- Baker-Finch won the Bridgestone Aso Open in Aso, Japan. It was his third career victory on the Japan PGA Tour, and he earned more than 7 million yen (approximately $54k) in prize money.

That wasn't, however, all Baker-Finch "received" for his victory. The town of Aso, operating as one of Japan's largest dairy producing regions at the time, gifted the golfer a cow as well.

Baker-Finch graciously sold the cow back to the sponsors.   
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Impact: Fred Astaire, dancer/golf trick shot artist

By Alex Holmes

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"The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style." -- Fred Astaire


On April 15, 1938, Astaire and fellow golfer, Ginger Rogers, wrap the 2 minute and 45 second tap dancing golf sequence in "Carefree" in a single take.

For a glimpse of the type of dance/golf trick shot artistry Astaire could pull off, check out this other YouTube video:




Astaire, who played to a single-digit handicap, strikes five mid-irons and six drivers in the scene. It was said that when the balls were collected after the take all the shots were concentrated in two distinct landing areas with very little dispersion. Astaire was wildly considered a style icon on and off the course in his day and will always be remembered as one of the game's most fashionable fans.

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Impact: Jack Nicklaus, 1986 and the Masters that will live forever

By Alex Holmes

Countdown to Augusta - Each Friday through the Masters we take a look back at impactful images from the tournament's storied history.

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"At that point in my career, I wasn't having much success. I didn't expect to win, the press didn't expect me to win, the players didn't expect me to win. But my talents were still there, my skills. It was a question of whether I could corral them, keep them in my head, keep myself organized and under control. That was the issue. As I got closer and closer as the round went on, it became more difficult. I did it, and that's what I'm most proud of." —Jack Nicklaus


The Golden Bear's inspiring charge at the 1986 Masters got interesting with a flushed 4-iron and a 12-foot eagle putt on the 15th green. He stood on the 16th tee two strokes behind Seve Ballesteros, playing a hole behind him.

Contemplating a hard 6-iron or a soft 5-iron, Nicklaus played a three-quarters 5-iron, high, to the traditional Sunday pin at the back left edge of the 16th green.

Jackie Nicklaus Jr., his son and caddie, noted as he watched the tee shot: "Be right." Jack bent down to pick up his tee and replied quietly, "It is." His tee shot on 16 checked three feet past the flag.

After making birdie, Nicklaus then rolled in an 18-footer for birdie on 17 and two-putted for par on 18 to take a one-stroke lead into the clubhouse. His Sunday 65 would ultimately secure his 18th major victory and his sixth green jacket.

Photo: Getty Images (1986)
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Impact: He wore plus fours, but he'll be remembered for his 2

By Alex Holmes

Countdown to Augusta - Each Friday from now through the Masters we take a look back at impactful images from the tournament's storied history.

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"The more I practice, the luckier I get." -- Gene Sarazen

It's April 1935, and Gene Sarazen is playing in a nascent invitational tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. He stands in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 15th hole in the final round. Craig Wood had just tapped in for birdie on 18, and Sarazen is now three strokes back. Stuck between clubs, he pulls his turf rider 4-wood, makes a pure pass and watches as the ball carries the pond guarding the green and into the hole for a double-eagle 2. He follows the miraculous shot with three solid pars, then bests Wood in a 36-hole playoff the following day.

Sarazen's swing on the 15th became known as the "shot heard 'round the world" and helped provide the moment to turn the Augusta National Invitation Tournament into the Masters.

Photo: Getty Images (1936)
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Impact: Don't mess with this Texan ... at least when he plays in San Antonio

By Alex Holmes

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"I tend to learn more in failure than I do in success." -- Justin Leonard

This week the PGA Tour swings west through San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open. Leonard, a loyal son of the Lone Star State, was born in Dallas in 1972, played his college golf at the University of Texas in the early 1990s and has hauled away hardware from the Valero tourney three times in his career (2000, 2001 and 2007).

The last of Leonard's 12 overall tour wins came in 2008, but he has quietly had a solid start to the 2013-14 season: nine appearances, one missed cut, three top 10s. In addition to his three wins in San Antonio, the 41-year-old has made the cut 15 of 16 times in the event.

Photo: Getty Images (2002)


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Impact: Mr. Popular becomes No. 1

By Alex Holmes

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"Golf is a game to me. Other players work extremely hard all year long. I work hard before Augusta." -- Fred Couples

Fred Couples certainly worked the field in 1992 at the Nestle Invitational (now known as the Arnold Palmer Invitational) when he finished the weekend nine strokes clear of Gene Sauers to claim the title. Couples' Nestle victory was even sweeter as it moved him into the No. 1 spot on the Official World Golf Ranking.

Freddie, still a fan favorite now at age 54, would continue his impressive play through April where he would go on to win the Masters, the one and perhaps surprisingly only major championship in his Hall of Fame career.

Photo: Getty Images (1992)


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Impact: The Gentleman Amateur

By Alex Holmes

Countdown to Augusta - Each Friday from now through the Masters we take a look back at impactful images from the tournament's storied history.

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"I always like to see a person stand up to a golf ball as though he were perfectly at home in its presence." -- Bobby Jones

The gentleman amateur was at home in Georgia. Born in Atlanta in 1902, Robert Tyre Jones Jr. became one of the most successful and recognizable players (amateur or professional) by the 1920s, capping his career with his monumental Grand Slam season of 1930.

After retiring from competitive golf, Jones endeavored to create a private golf club for national members serious about their golf. Augusta National Golf Club opened in 1933 and hosted the Augusta National Invitational the following spring.

The tournament, known of course now simply as the Masters, marks for many everyday golfers the unofficial start of the new golf season as they excitedly look toward players returning to Georgia -- and Bobby Jones' home.

Photo: Getty Images
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Impact: The King (no need to say more)

By Alex Holmes

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"Concentration comes out of a combination of confidence and hunger."
-- Arnold Palmer


This week the PGA Tour heads to Arnie's house for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge. The tournament consistently hosts top tier talent and serves as a intriguing barometer for players to gauge where their games stand heading down the stretch to Masters. 

Photo: Masters Historic Imagery (via Getty Images) 1971
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