DAN JENKINS: MY 10 BEST MASTERS TO WRITE ABOUT
(IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER)
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.
1956: 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.
MASTERS 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.
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.
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."
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.
FAVORITE TYPING (ME DIVISION)
1951: After my first Masters:
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.
"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."
1. Hogan Bridge at 12 (left).
2. Nelson Bridge at 13.
3. Sarazen Bridge at 15.
4. Me. After covering my 63rd Masters.