Golf Digest editors picks
Dan Jenkins covering the Masters


Arithmetic tells me I'll be covering my 63rd consecutive Masters this April, and that's a lot of country ham with red-eye gravy, pimento-cheese sandwiches, egg-salad sandwiches and peach cobbler. Oh, and golf.

So don your spikes, which look like sneakers or deck shoes now, and stroll with me through the dogwood and azalea while I select the best things I've seen and heard around the Augusta National over these seven decades that started back in 1951 when I was a college sophomore.

BEST PARKING SPOT
Mine. The one that's steps from the media center marked: chairman reserved.

BEST LANE
1. Magnolia.
2. Turning right on Washington Road, the only way to get home from the tournament.

BEST SEVE MOMENT AS A COMEDIAN
In 1985, Seve Ballesteros established himself as a better comedian than anyone had realized. This exchange explains why:
Writer: "I hear you have a new putter."
Seve: "Where did you hear that?"
Writer: "I read that you bought it in a pro shop."
Seve: "I never buy anything."

BEST ADVICE
Jack Nicklaus, after making a quadruple-bogey 7 at the 12th hole in 1991 and then making four consecutive birdies: "You have to put such things out of your mind."

BEST UNFOLLOWED ADVICE
Dave Marr to Arnold Palmer on the 72nd tee in 1964 when Arnold was leading by six and asked Dave if there was anything he could do to help him: "Make a 12."

Cliff

FAVORITE MOMENTS TO NAME-DROP LATER
1. The wife and me having dinner in the clubhouse with chairman Clifford Roberts (left), at his invitation.
2. Lunching with Bobby Jones in his cabin with Charley Price, fellow writer. I wanted to talk to Jones about Bobby Jones, but Jones wanted to talk about Ben Hogan.
3. Meeting Alistair Cooke for the first time and having lunch together in the clubhouse.
4. Meeting the Duke of Windsor on the veranda, only because Fred Corcoran insisted on introducing me.
5. Having lunch with the actress Joan Fontaine in the Trophy Room, and keeping her company while her husband at the time, Alfred Wright, my Sports Illustrated colleague, went off to talk to golfers.

BEST REVERSALS
1. Switching the nines in 1935.
2. Adding lady members in 2012.
3. Contestants getting rid of their bell-bottom slacks in the late 1970s.

Cliff RobertsBEST (ALMOST) COMEBACK
In the first round of the 1985 Masters, Curtis Strange (left) three-putted six times, posted an 80 and made a plane reservation for the next evening, certain he would miss the cut. But Curtis' middle rounds of 65-68—133 pulled him to within one stroke of Raymond Floyd, the 54-hole leader.

When had a player shot a round in the 80s and still won a major championship? You had to go back to 1920, when George Duncan opened with 80-80, then rallied to win the British Open at Deal, to find someone who had done what Curtis was attempting. Strange had played flawlessly since the first round. In fact, as he stood in the fairway at the 13th hole on Sunday, he had played those 48 holes in 15 under par.

Then came the brain lock, when Curtis made bogeys after splashing a 4-wood approach at the 13th and a 4-iron at the 15th, giving Bernhard Langer the opening he needed for his first Masters victory.
"Put me in the same position on those two holes," Curtis said, "and I'd go back and try to hit the same shots again." Of course, he would go back out and lose the Masters again if he did.

BEST TRADITIONS
1. Ceremonial tee shots.
2. Including amateurs in the field.
3. Bringing back past greats.
4. Keeping the veranda's big trees on life support.

BEST REASON FOR CEREMONIAL STARTERS
Years ago, Gene Sarazen told Augusta National chairman Hord Hardin he was getting too old to hit the honorary opening drive at the Masters. Sarazen said he was starting to feel like "an exhibit in a museum." That's when Hord said, "Gene, the people don't want to see you play, they just want to see if you're still alive."

Ernie Els

BEST FREE DROP
1. Arnold Palmer invoking the embedded-ball rule at the 12th hole in 1958, turning a 5 into a 3, and winning the Masters over Ken Venturi, who is not pleased.

2. Ernie Els (left) out of the forest on No. 11 in 2004, which could have been The Drop That Won the Masters, except Phil Mickelson overcame it.

NOTABLE HAZARDS
1. Rae's Creek on the 12th.
2. The pond in front of 15.
3. The water left of the green on 11.
4. The trees right of the fairway on 18.
5. The bunker right of the green at 16.
6. The tributary of Rae's Creek left of the fairway and in front of the green at 13.
7. The Eisenhower Tree left of 17 fairway.

FAVORITE CHAIRMEN
Cliff Roberts: Made the Masters what it is.
Hord Hardin: Installed the bent greens.
Hootie Johnson: Stood up to the media heat, and refused to be intimidated by Martha Burk.
Billy Payne: Brought in Condi Rice and Darla Moore.

BEST IMPROVEMENTS
1. Cumulative scoring system.
2. Press room from tent to Quonset hut.
3. Press room from Quonset hut to auditorium.
4. Spacious interview area in contrast to climbing over chairs and sofas and crawling at the feet of a contestant in the upstairs locker room.
5. New tee on 18.
6. Seeing Augusta, Ga., evolve from tattoo parlors and only one decent restaurant in town, the Town Tavern, into a civilized city.

BEST REINTRODUCTION OF ROUGH
For the first time since the 1960s, there was substantial rough when the players arrived at Augusta in 1999. At least we called it rough. The green coats preferred "second cut"—or was it "first cut"? In any case, they got it just right, even though on close examination it looked like manicured frog hair. Sam Snead joked that he used to win tournaments on greens as good as that.

DAN JENKINS: MY 10 BEST MASTERS TO WRITE ABOUT
(IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
1953:
Ben Hogan breaks the 72-hole record by five strokes with a 14-under-par 274, beginning the Triple Crown journey that would include wins in the U.S. Open (Oakmont) and British Open (Carnoustie). He calls the Masters the best four-day stretch of golf he ever played.

1954: Sam Snead wins a historic playoff against Hogan, 70-71, after amateur Billy Joe Patton impulsively fritters away the lead on Sunday. Bob Drum of the Pittsburgh Press and I followed the playoff the full 18 holes, and Drum scoffed while I took notes. I checked the club selections afterward with Hogan and Snead as they sat upstairs in the clubhouse on different sides of the room. Hogan hit 17 greens and took 35 putts. Sam two-putted for three of his five birdies, chipped in for another, hit 14 greens and took 32 putts. From tee to green, it was a clinic, but neither player could make a putt on those scratchy but lightning rye greens. They used to say you could actually hear the ball rolling across the barren rye.

Ken Venturi1956: Ken Venturi (left) leads through 54, becoming the best amateur story in a major since Johnny Goodman won the '33 U.S. Open, but stumbles to an 80 in the last round and loses to Jackie Burke by a shot.

1960: Arnold Palmer birdies the last two holes to edge Venturi and win his second Masters to become the new big star the game has been waiting for.

1975: Jack Nicklaus fights off Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller to grab his fifth green jacket.

1980: Seve Ballesteros gives birth to European golf. He takes a 10-shot lead into the final nine holes and plays them by way of Athens, Milledgeville and Atlanta but hangs on for a four-stroke win.

1986: A 46-year old Jack Nicklaus returns from wherever he's been and blazes home with a 65 to knock off Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Tom Kite and win his record sixth Masters and 18th pro major.

1995: Sentiment wins the Masters. Actually, it's Ben Crenshaw, with what he calls "a 15th club in my bag"—the recent passing of his teacher, Harvey Penick.

1997: Records fall all around him as Tiger Woods, only 21 years old, gives the golf world a dominating figure it hasn't seen since Nicklaus. It's the start of something big that will get bigger.

2004: Phil Mickelson finally wins a major. Well, it had taken long enough. He had been expected to do it since he was born, or before.

SarazenMASTERS I WISH I'D COVERED BUT I WAS BUSY GROWING UP
1935: Gene Sarazen's double eagle at 15 hurls him into a tie with Craig Wood, and Sarazen (left) wins the 36-hole playoff.
1937: Byron Nelson catches and passes Ralph Guldahl on the last nine when he plays 12 and 13 in 2-3 to Guldahl's 5-6.
1942: Byron shades Ben Hogan, 69-70, in one of the great playoffs. Ben leads by three after five holes, but Byron plays "the best golf of my life," going five under over the last 13 holes.

OTHER THINGS I'M SORRY I MISSED
1. Seeing Bobby Jones swing a club at Augusta in the 1930s and '40s.
2. The early days when the upstairs wraparound balcony on the main clubhouse served as the press room.
3. Watching Jimmy Demaret become the first player to win three Masters, in 1950--the year before I got there.

Phil

BEST 'NEXT NICKLAUS'
Phil Mickelson (left), considered "the next Nicklaus" as an amateur at the 1991 Masters, was paired with defending champion Nick Faldo in the first round and was so nervous about it he shot a 69 to Faldo's 72. But Phil spent the rest of the tournament playing so-so golf and looking as if he was at a social event, smiling, grinning, waving, lugging his tall, handsome self over the fairways. Which left me with a question: If Mickelson was the next Nicklaus, how come he looked like a USC quarterback?

GREATEST MASTERS COMPETITORS
Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Phil Mickelson, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Jimmy Demaret, Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw and Billy Casper.

GREATEST PLAYERS WHO NEVER WON A GREEN JACKET
Ernie Els, Lloyd Mangrum, Ken Venturi, Gene Littler, Tom Weiskopf, Julius Boros, Greg Norman, Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Hale Irwin.

Ben Hogan

BEST HOGAN STORY
After a practice round at his first Masters, Dick Siderowf, the amateur, couldn't resist introducing himself to Ben Hogan (left), his idol. "I was playing in front of you today, Mr. Hogan, and I'm not a long hitter, but even I reached the 15th in two with a 3-iron," Siderowf said. "Your drive was past mine, but you still laid up. How come?" Hogan replied, "I didn't need a 3."

FAVORITE SHOTS
1962: Arnold Palmer stiffs an 8-iron at the evil 12th hole for the birdie that puts him in command of the playoff with Gary Player and Dow Finsterwald.
1975: Jack Nicklaus' monster 1-iron second onto the 15th green in the heat of the battle with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller. For the history books, Jack gave that shot the description it deserved: "Greatest pressure shot of my life."
2010: Phil Mickelson's 6-iron on 13 from out of the trees and through a keyhole and onto the green.
2005: Tiger Woods' chip-in for a birdie at 16 that goes downtown, changes its mind, returns, and creeps down the slope and into the cup.
1954: Amateur Billy Joe Patton's hole-in-one at the sixth in the last round that gives him the tournament lead over Snead and Hogan, and causes the greatest Southern whoop since the discovery of grits.

Jack Nicklaus

GREATEST PUTTS
1975: Jack Nicklaus' 40-footer for birdie on 16, followed by the leap that left "Bear tracks."
1956: Jackie Burke's 40-footer all the way across 17 to nip Ken Venturi.
1984 Ben Crenshaw's final-round 60-footer on 10.
1967: Ben Hogan's downhill 25-footer for birdie on 18 to finish a back-nine 30 and round of 66—at the age of 54.
1977: Tom Watson's 20-foot birdie on 17 in the last round. It gives him the Masters over Nicklaus and furnishes a prelude to their monumental duel at Turnberry that July in the British Open.

FAVORITE TYPING (ME DIVISION)
1951: After my first Masters: "Ben Hogan played it smart this time. He laid up on 18. How often do you see a great golfer miss a green intentionally?"

1960: After Arnold Palmer's second of four Masters victories: "It's beginning to look like Ken Venturi can't win the Masters and Arnold Palmer can't lose it."

1961: After Arnold Palmer double-bogeyed the 72nd hole: "Gary Player of South Africa is the Masters champion because Arnold Palmer was in too big a hurry to win it again. There's no other way to say it. The 18th hole at Augusta National might as well have been a slab of meat, the way Palmer butchered it."

1975: After Jack Nicklaus holds off Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller: "Yeah, but Manny, we want Redford for all three leading men. OK, maybe somebody else for Weiskopf, but Redford's got to play the two blond guys, Nicklaus and Miller. We call it 'The Greatest Golf Tournament Ever Played.' So people argue. Who'll know? One blond guys makes a putt from here to Encino, and the other two guys miss putts on the 18th from so close the cup looks bigger than Coldwater Canyon. Now the blond guy who wins, Nicklaus, who is already the best there ever was, he missed his 1-iron and takes his putter for a mistress. Cut and print. Ciao, baby."

1985: On the ambience of covering the Masters: "I can only tell you that eggs, country ham, biscuits, a pot of coffee, a morning paper, a table by the window overlooking the veranda and putting green, listening to the idle chitchat of competitors, authors, wits and philosophers, hasn't exactly been a torturous way to begin each day at the Masters all these years."

1986: After Nicklaus wins his sixth Masters: "If you want to get golf on the front pages again, and you don't have a Francis Ouimet, a Bobby Jones or a Ben Hogan handy, you send an aging Jack Nicklaus out in the last round of the Masters and tell him to kill more foreigners than a general named Eisenhower. ... What do you do if you're Greg Norman in the 18th fairway of the Masters on Sunday and you're trying to get Jack Nicklaus into a playoff? You hit a half-shank, push-fade, semi-slice 4-iron that guarantees the proper result for the history books. When you stop to think about it, Norman probably didn't want to play the 10th hole again in sudden death; he already had double-bogeyed it twice that week, once four-putting. Oh well, Greg Norman always has looked like the guy you send out to kill James Bond, not Jack Nicklaus."

1992: After Fred Couples wins when his ball stays dry on the steep bank at the 12th hole: "Wallow around all you want in golf-shop merchandising, and it's doubtful you can find a ball capable of stopping short of the water when it's rolling straight downhill. But Fred Couples had one. He used it to win the Masters. Maybe you'll be seeing it in the ads soon: Play the ball that's afraid of the water."

1995: After Ben Crenshaw, inspired by the lessons of his late teacher, Harvey Penick, wins the Masters: "Not to bury the lead, but all in all, this Masters was a very bad week for atheists."

1996: After Greg Norman lost a six-stroke lead in the final round: "A strange object slowly bled to death before our very eyes for four hours, and it wasn't even a shark. Although Greg Norman did it to himself and unleashed every Great White Can of Tuna joke in the book, his undoing also wrought sympathy from his most cynical critics. On the one hand, you could appreciate why Nick Faldo hugged Greg on the final green. Why wouldn't you hug a guy who's been that nice to you?"

1997: After Tiger Woods' 12-stroke victory: "As you've probably heard by now, Tiger's overwhelming performance might have made this Masters the tournament that changed golf forever, changed golf-course design forever and changed society forever."

2004: After Phil Mickelson's first major victory: "It was my 54th Masters in a row, and I must confess that in all those years I have never seen anything as thrilling, exciting or dramatic as Phil Mickelson's victory."

2009: After Angel Cabrera's playoff victory over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry: "The greatly anticipated 2009 Masters was like going to a Broadway hit and finding out that the star, Sir Tiger Woods, was off that night, and his replacement was the cab driver who dropped you off at the theater."

2010: After Tiger Woods' comeback: "Tiger saved guys big money—if he'd won the Masters, 5 million golfers would have gone into sex rehab."

2011: During Rory McIlroy's final-round 80: "This is my 61st Masters, and I've never seen anyone hit it where Rory McIlroy just hit it on 10. ... I'm reduced to trying to decide which ugly shirt to root for."

2012: "The azaleas at Augusta National are past peak, but the sundresses have bloomed. In golf, everything evens out."

Hogan Bridge

BEST MONUMENT
1. Hogan Bridge at 12 (left).
2. Nelson Bridge at 13.
3. Sarazen Bridge at 15.
4. Me. After covering my 63rd Masters.

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July 28, 2014

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