28 things you might not remember from the final round of the 1998 Masters
TIMOTHY A. CLARY
This is the second 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?
While the 1997 rewatch was certainly a fun one, it lacked quite a bit of drama, which is usually the case with 12-shot victories. That was not the case with our 1998 Masters Rewatch, which was highly entertaining and full of things you may have forgotten in the years since. I tried to sum all of those up below.
1.) You could argue this was the most electric opening seven minutes of a Masters broadcast in Masters history, and it was all highlights, which golf fans despise seeing from CBS today. If you're not immediately opening with live golf shot after live golf shot, you are dead to Golf Twitter. But it worked here, as CBS led with a sequence of shots from 58-year-old Jack Nicklaus, who missed an eagle putt by inches at the par-5 second. "The Nicklaus heroics were only beginning," said Jim Nantz. At three he chipped in for birdie, then made bogey at No. 4, par at No. 5 and back-to-back birdies at No.'s 6 and 7. At the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth, he hit two great birdie putts that wouldn't fall. Every putt he missed missed by a hair. It was a front-nine 33 that could have been a front-nine 30 for the Bear. Still, he was within three of the lead.
Following the Nicklaus highlights was a highlight of a long birdie conversion from Mark O'Meara at the par-3 fourth, which gave him the first outright lead of his Masters career (17th appearance). Seconds later, Fred Couples tied him for the lead with a birdie of his own. Fun while it lasted!
Finally, we had one of Nantz's most syrupy monologues, which are possibly my favorite thing in all of sports (seriously). He covered all the storylines. Could Tiger go low? Did Jack have one more run in him? Paul Azinger's comeback story. Young Phil Mickelson. O'Meara searching for his first major. And of course, his good friend Freddy, who was in great position to win a second green jacket. This was all in the first seven minutes!!
2.) A BLUEBIRD day at Augusta National. On Easter. With Jack Nicklaus in contention heading into the back nine. Is this heaven? No, it's 2020 and there's a pandemic so I'm inside watching old Masters final rounds and eating nachos at 11:30 in the morning. OK, maybe it is heaven.
3.) CBS intro'd all the analysts once again, but I won't go through it all again. However, I will mention that there was still no Uncle Verne. Apparently he missed 1997 and 1998. We missed him.
During the intros, Ken Venturi broke down the 13th hole and mentioned how crucial it was to find the left side of the fairway to get yourself a flat lie and take a swipe at the green. CBS played Couples' highlight from from the third round, and Freddy smashed a 3-iron on the green that led to an eagle. A 3-iron! What did Bubba Watson hit into the green a few years ago? Pitching wedge?
4.) Good lord... six birdies in a row from David Toms?? In his first Masters? That matched the record of Johnny Miller and Mark Calcavecchia for consecutive birdies in a round at the Masters. Steve Pate broke it the following year with seven, and Tiger Woods matched it in 2005. Contrary to popular belief, Anthony Kim does not hold the consecutive record, just the record for most total birdies in a Masters round with 11. We'll get to that in a few weeks...
Toms' hot streak ran out at the 18th hole, but he finished with a back-nine 29 for an eight-under 64 to get in the house at five under. He wound up finishing T-6th, which, barring a miracle, will remain the best Masters finish of his career.
5.) Six years and 12 victories into his professional career and Mickelson still wasn't wearing a hat? Ollie Schniederjans vibes. Nantz refers to him as "Philip" at the par-5 eighth, where he hits a poor chip from just off the green and settles for a two-putt par after nearly driving the green. Not his day, as I'd come to find out.
6.) Forty minutes into the broadcast, we get our first glimpse of Tiger, which is almost impossible to believe. Today, he could be 20-over and he's still being shown at least once in the first five minutes. He rolls in a long par putt from just off the front of the green at the 12th. Digging the red hat on red shirt look.
7.) One of the first full swings we see from Azinger comes in the ninth fairway, and I'm reminded of how much I love his action. Someone posted a YouTube link of one of his swings on Twitter a few months ago and I must have watched it 100 times (this one). That's the good stuff.
8.) At the 12th, Nicklaus hits the exact shot Tiger hit in '97 and '19, right over the left bunker and safely on the green. Almost like these guys know how to play the hole. Unfortunately, Jack three-putted for bogey, which felt like a real dagger. Despite a poor second shot into 13, he was able to bounce back, getting up and down from the back bunker for birdie. Life!
9.) As if this leader board wasn't LIT enough, David Duval chips in for birdie at the 10th hole to get to six under. His playing partner, Jim Furyk, holes a birdie putt as well to get to five under. This is what we call an "it's all happening now!" situation at Golf Digest (IAHN for short).
Minutes later, after pounding a 332-yard drive, Duval hit pitching wedge to about 15 feet and buried the birdie putt, producing one of the roars of the day from the patrons. Four birdies in five holes got Duval to seven under, within one of the lead.
10.) After a back-to-back birdies to take the solo lead, Couples makes a bogey at the ninth. "Only Tom Watson has bogeyed the ninth hole and gone on to win the Masters," says Peter Kostis. Ominous.
11.) Hold up. Randomly, CBS shows José María Olazábal crossing the Hogan Bridge at the 12th, and Venturi says "there's José María Olazábal, who has two green jackets." JMO does have two green jackets, but he didn't win his second until the following year. A simple mistake from Venturi, or did he know something we don't know? Grab the tinfoil hats!
12.) O'Meara went birdie-birdie-birdie early in the round to get to seven under, then quietly plugged along, making five consecutive pars. At 10, he comes up short with his approach and then leaves his third shot short of the hole again, then lips out his par putt and makes bogey to fall to six under, two back of Couples. This guy might be cooked.
13.) Nicklaus' approach at 14 catches the slope and rolls all the way to the right part of the green, leaving him with a 75-footer for birdie. Trouble? Nah, easy two putt for the GOAT. At four under, he was still four back, but he hung in there. Had to be so incredible to be on the grounds with Jack in contention on the 15th hole.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY
14.) KUUUUUUUCH! Our first look at the 19-year-old amateur comes at the 18th hole, where he punched his approach from the woods and found the 18th green. A two-putt par gave him a final-round 72 and low-amateur honors at T-21. Bright future ahead. Wonder how big a tip his dad got for carrying the bag that week.
15.) Back at the 12th, Phil was doing Phil things. And by Phil things I mean he hit a horrendous pull hook so far right of the green that it looked like it might stay dry in the flat area. Then it spun back into Rae's Creek. After getting to five under with a birdie at the second hole, Lefty played his next 12 holes in three over par.
The leaders arrived in the following group, and O'Meara's day nearly went up in flames. He took dead aim at the flag, the No. 1 thing you DON'T do at the 12th on Sunday (see: Molinari, Francesco), and it just barely carried the front fringe of the green and stopped dead. Phew. Freddy played it much safer, taking it over the center of the bunker. They both made par. Golf.
16.) Jack makes another birdie at the 15th, but doesn't exactly get 1986-like roars. I think everyone knew he was going to come up just short. Man, a few more birdies on the front and a two-putt par instead of a three-putt at 12 and he really would have been right there. Insane to think about.
17.) Oh no. Couples with a horrific drive down the left side at 13, so bad he ended up in a spot I didn't know existed. His ball came to rest on some sort of cart path in the woods. "He'd take a 5 and gladly go to the next tee," says Venturi. Narrator: he did not take a 5 and go to the next tee.
I'm not sure how he didn't. His escape shot was exactly what he needed, a punch-out back into the fairway that left him with 161 yards into the green on his third. Sounds like a routine par for a player of his caliber, but his confidence had clearly been shaken. Immediately after impact on his third, he hung his head in disgust... GASP. Into the creek. "He can still make six," said Venturi after Couples decided to play from the drop area. Narrator: he did not make six. A disastrous, double-bogey seven dropped him to six under, two back of Duval, who was now the solo leader in the 15th fairway. What a turn of events.
O'Meara settled for par to stay at six under. He has been a non-factor since the fourth hole.
18.) So fun to watch Furyk hit 3-wood and Duval hit a long iron into 15. Furyk pulled it badly and paid for it, his ball bounding into the water behind the green. Duval hit a perfect shot below the hole and set up an eagle putt. Today it's 8-irons and 9-irons into that green. For shame.
19.) Tiger finishes up a final-round 70 with a two-putt par at the 18th. By my count, that's four total shots the broadcast showed of Tiger. Two putts at 18, the long par putt at 12, and a long birdie putt at the 15th. FOUR shots from Tiger. I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing out how stunning it would be today if viewers only saw four shots from Tiger freakin' Woods and all four shots were putts.
20.) Oh my goodness. Duval juuuust misses eagle at the 15th, then taps in his birdie to take a three-shot lead. Surely that won't come back to haunt him and he has this tournament locked up. Might as well stop writing now.
21.) World-class shot from the fairway bunker at the 18th for Nicklaus. He picks it clean and gets it to catch the slope, earning thunderous cheers from the gallery. What an effort from the old Bear. "A day to remember!" says Nantz, as only Nantz can. "Like going back in time Jimmy," says Venturi. All. The. Feels. Venturi mentions that Jack told him before the round he needed 64 to have a chance. His birdie putt for 67 came up a revolution short, robbing everyone of a massive eruption from the crowd and a "Your clubhouse leader!" declaration from Nantz. He finished with 68. 64 would have gotten him into a playoff. How do these guys always know what they needed to shoot?
22.) At the 16th, Duval misses way right, leaving him with the same impossible putt Tiger faced a year earlier. As he's marking his ball, the leader board graphic flashes on the screen: Duval -9, Couples and O'Meara -6, 4 players at -5. There is simply no way Duval can lose this thing.
In a matter of minutes that changed. Duval three-putted to drop to eight under. Couples hit it to five feet at 15 and made eagle to tie the lead. O'Meara made his first birdie in 11 holes to pull within one. Utter chaos! Chaos I tell you!
23.) If you thought Furyk was going to go away quietly, you don't know Jim Furyk. He went birdie-birdie at 16 and 17 to reach seven under, pulling within one of Duval, who hit one even closer than Furyk at 17 but just missed the putt. Knowing what we know now, these near misses from Duval are absolutely soul-crushing. I could cry for him.
24.) Couples goes over the back left of the green at the 16th. Nicklaus, who was in Butler Cabin, is asked by CBS' Bill Macatee "what is Couples facing here?" to which Nicklaus replies "I don't know, I've never been over there." Mic drop.
At the 17th, Azinger's birdie chip hits the pin and ricochets out, causing him to drop to his knees. The amount of "what-ifs" from this final round could fill up a damn book.
25.) Speaking of what-ifs, Duval's birdie effort at the 72nd green just slips past the left edge. To recap: he missed eagle by less than an inch at 15, three-putted 16 and narrowly missed birdies at 17 and 18. Did I mention I could cry for him before? It's all good though, he'll probably still have a chance in a playoff at eight under, which is definitely what's going to happen.
26.) O'Meara stuffs it on 17, as does Couples. Couples misses his 10-footer while O'Meara holes a very similar birdie putt to Furyk's from earlier. Just like that, O'Meara, who parred the course to death for the last 12 holes, is now in a three-way tie for the lead with Duval and Couples. At 18 he stripes one down the middle then asks fans to move their shadows for Freddy's tee shot. Sportsmanship has been off the charts all day. Wouldn't expect anything less from these two. It ended up not helping Couples, who found the fairway bunker off the tee.
27.) "Good soft swing," says O'Meara's caddie Jerry Higginbotham in the 18th fairway. This dude doesn't know anything but soft swings! He's a tempo god. On command, he makes a perfect swing and Higginbotham yells "JUST BE RIGHT." It was, coming to rest about 25 feet right of the hole. Couples found the greenside bunker and hit a 10 outta 10 bunker shot (Venturi rated it as a 9), setting up a four-foot par putt. Man, this is going to be a sick three-way playoff.
28.) Or not! Still can't believe O'Meara's putt dropped. Best part is when Higginbotham threw his hat and an incredulous Venturi shouted "Wait! Wait caddie get your hat! We've still got a very important putt here to tie for second!" Yeah, totally.
Another fun rewatch (this one a little more exciting than 1997). The thing I'll take from it is that Duval really let one get away. Not to take anything away from O'Meara, who birdied the final two holes (!), but Duval led by three on the 16th green and didn't even get into a playoff. Brutal. At the time it probably felt like he'd win at least a few majors, but he only got one in 2001 at the Open Championship. What a legendary Masters Sunday.