This is the third installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
The year is 1999. Nineteen ninety-nine. Augusta National measures less than 7,000 yards from the championship tee. The Masters leader board features third-round leader Jose Maria Olazabal, being chased by Greg Norman (one back to start the final round), David Duval and Steve Pate. Need I say more? Let’s boogie.
1.) The first shot we see of the final round of the 1999 Masters is … a birdie putt from a young Englishman named Lee Westwood. He’s making a run. He’s No. 6 in the world. He’s playing alongside Tiger Woods. He has a wonderful career ahead of him. Right?
Right indeed. Westwood has won more than 40 times around the world and reached the pinnacle of the World Rankings. But if you’d have told Jim Nantz that the young Englishman referred to on the broadcast as a “super putter”—not exactly the first thing that comes to your mind when praising Westwood’s career—would still be major-less at age 46, he wouldn’t buy it. The cool thing: Westwood is still kicking. In a big way. He won in Abu Dhabi earlier this year and would have entered this year’s Masters ranked somewhere around world No. 30. Golf is the best.
2.) Spoiler alert: Olazabal wins this thing. And he does so despite making an amazing number of can’t-make mistakes on the front nine. He bogeys the short par-4 third. He leaves one in the bunker at No. 4 before getting up-and-down for bogey. (Side note: How many guys have left a ball in a greenside bunker in the final round and still won the Masters?) He airmails the fifth green. You simply can never miss long at No. 6. Bogey. And he airmails a wedge over the seventh green, past a back pin. Tumultuous, some might say.
3.) The opening montage is one of the most dramatic things I’ve ever seen. Not good, not bad, just extremely dramatic—it features the best players in the game at the moment, in suits and ties, looking directly into the camera, while straight-up opera music plays in the background. I can dig it.
4.) After missing the 1997 and 1998 Masters for unknown reasons, I was pumped to see Verne Lundquist back in the booth for this one. That’s the good part. The bad part? They stuck him at 14. Fourteen! Arguably the most boring hole on the entire course, and certainly the least-dramatic hole on the back nine. Feels like a slight.
5.) Duval, who was six shots back of Olazabal to start the day, made a semi-run on the back nine. He was referred to on the broadcast as “heavily favored” coming in, which sounded like a bit of hyperbole … until I did a lil googling. He had won four times already on the year, including his last two starts before Augusta, one of which was the Players. He also had shot 59 earlier in the year, back when that was still a crazy rare thing and not just a mildly exciting headline. (Duval was just the third guy to do it on the PGA Tour. There have been eight since). You know when Tiger’s in semi-contention, and the announcers seem to be rooting him on, suggesting he can make a charge, because they know that’s what the viewers want? That was the treatment Duval was getting in this tournament. He was the No. 1 player in the world, an American, played college golf at Georgia Tech. He was the guy.
6.) Which brings us to Tiger. Woods fell out of it with a double bogey on the fifth hole, and he was sort of an afterthought the rest of the day. The first shot we saw of his was a chip-in on 12. He was the No. 2 player in the world at the time, but he wasn’t quite yet “Tiger.” He hadn’t won a major in more than two years, and he would ultimately finish T-18 with a closing 75.
That said, this would be the last time he’d ever be an afterthought at a major. Tiger would go on to win seven more times after the Masters in 1999, including the PGA Championship. And then you know what happened in 2000.
7.) Duval tugged his tee shot left on the par-5 15th. It was still in the fairway, but before the announcers said anything, I knew it was too far left, that he would have serious tree issues if he wanted to go for it in two. It’s one of those Augusta things that you just know from watching this tournament so many times, and that’s part of what makes the Masters so incredible. (Damn, I’m getting sad now. Will there really be no Masters this April?)
8.) Except it wasn’t too far left … because the pin was in the back right. What?! A right pin on 15 on Sunday at Augusta? Bet you Francesco Molinari would have loved a back-right pin on 15 a year ago.
9.) Olazabal was freakin’ slow before being freakin’ slow was en vogue. He’s the worst type of slow, too—he just stands over the ball for an eternity, compulsively looking back at his target, then the ball, then his target, then the ball, and that four more times before hitting. There was a full 95 seconds between Norman’s ball stopping at 12 and Olazabal hitting his tee shot.
10.) Really electric stuff at 13. Olazabal pushes his tee shot well right, forcing a layup, which he then kind of chunks to leave himself way too much for his third. Norman, on the other hand, rips a draw that gets to that flat part of the fairway and hits a beautiful long iron to about 25 feet. Olazabal plays safe with his third, to about 20 feet. Norman pours his eagle putt in the center to get to seven under … then Olazabal drops his birdie effort on top of him to tie him at the top. Goosebumps stuff.
11.) In response to Olazabal’s response, Norman did what Norman did way too many times: He fell apart. Bogeyed 14 and then bogeyed 15, where he just made an absolute mess. I wasn’t old enough to watch Norman, so I don’t really have an informed opinion on him, but I will say … from what I’ve heard and seen, the Sunday-at-a-major stuff wasn’t pretty.
12.) Apparently Augusta put in some new trees on the right side of 15 between the ’98 and ’99 tournaments. Those trees prevented Norman from going for the green in two after his wayward drive, so they served their purpose. It’s a bit of a time-capsule into trends of golf course architecture given the fact that removing trees is all the rage these days.
13.) For as unseemly as his front nine was, Olazabal’s back nine was what you expect from a Masters winner. He carded a third birdie on the 16th to take a comfortable two-stroke lead and eventually finish with three-under 33 to cap a one-under 71 overall. Only Duval’s closing 70 was lower, which goes to show how difficult the course played that day.
14.) Olazabal averaged 253 yards off the tee on Sunday, and he won. Granted, that was 21 years ago, but, well, just how the times have changed.
15.) Nantz goes with “unflappable” when the final putt drops and Olazabal has his second green jacket in five years. Someone should create a collage of just Nantz’s final-putt calls at the Masters.
Looking forward to the 2020 edition of Nantz's call, whenever that may be.
1999 Masters—Final Round Broadcast