RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


Jenkins At The Masters

By Dan Jenkins Illustrations by Kagan McLeod
February 28, 2010

Dan Jenkins covered his first Masters in 1951, and has been a staple at the season's first major ever since.

The Masters has long been associated with tradition: green jackets, pimento cheese sandwiches, and Dan Jenkins providing his singular take on the season's first major.

Though Jenkins will be providing his insights and barbs throughout the Masters on Twitter, you can catch up on some of the highlights of his past Masters coverage for Golf Digest below.

1986: At 46, Nicklaus turns back the clock

If you want to put golf back on the front pages again and you don't have a Bobby Jones or a Francis Ouimet handy, here's what you do: You send an aging Jack Nicklaus out in the last round of the Masters and let him kill more foreigners than a general named Eisenhower.

On that final afternoon of the Masters Tournament, Nicklaus' deeds were so unexpectedly heroic, dramatic and historic, the taking of his sixth green jacket would certainly rank as the biggest golf story since Jones' Grand Slam of 1930. That Sunday night, writers from all corners of the globe were last seen sitting limply at their machines, muttering, "It's too big for me."

Let it be recorded that Jack played those last 10 holes in 33 strokes -- with a birdie at the ninth, a birdie at the 10th, a birdie at the 11th, a bogey at the 12th, a birdie at the 13th, a par at the 14th, an eagle at the 15th, a birdie at the 16th, a birdie at the 17th and a par at the 18th. Poor Jack. The guy almost didn't know how to make a par.

1989: Faldo feels right at home winning at Augusta

As so often seems to happen to Greg Norman on the final hole of a major, his suitcase flew open, as they say. Further proof that Greg's strength lies in his long driving and his highly marketable charm lies in his golden dome, which is starting to rank up there with Notre Dame's. He also wears clothes well. Golf shots are another matter.

As on other occasions, it was like watching Norman being undressed before thousands of his adoring fans, then hearing them gasp at the discovery that his body is made of flesh and bone after all.

Scott Hoch lost the Masters twice in three holes. After hitting the most imaginative pitch shot of the tournament at the 71st -- a closed-face sand wedge that skittered up a damp bank and dived at the flagstick -- he blew the par putt from about five feet. Then on the first sudden-death hole against Nick Faldo, he blew it from 24 inches for the win. Two feet!

1992: Fred finally shows up

It took Fred Couples 12 years to win a major. Possibly that's because it takes that long to find a ball that will stop short of the water going straight downhill. No ball hitting the bank short of the 12th green ever stopped short of the water before. Not on Sunday. Not in all of the Masters Tournaments that had ever been played.

Sometimes you get a break of one kind or another when you're winning majors. Bobby Jones once had a wood shot skip across a lake to help him win a U.S. Open. Gary Player won the Masters one year after a fan leaped up to bat Gary's ball back onto a green when the shot was straining to find a water hazard.

Time will tell if Couples really wants the burden of being No. 1 in the world.

It gets heavy, as Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson or Lee Trevino or Arnold Palmer can tell you.

1995: Inspired by the lessons of his late teacher, Ben Crenshaw rides his magic putter to another emotional victory at Augusta

Not to bury the lead, but all in all, this Masters was a very bad week for atheists.

1996: When Greg Norman self-destructed, Nick Faldo was right there to claim his third green jacket

A strange object slowly bled to death before our very eyes for four hours, and it wasn't even a shark. Although 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 Faldo hugged Greg on the final green. Why wouldn't you hug a guy who's been that nice to you?

1997: It's Tiger's time after a 12-stroke victory

Fade in Nick Faldo, bent over and battered:

"I'm not Tiger Woods."

Fade in Freddie Couples, thin and wan:

"I'm not Tiger Woods."

Fade in Tom Lehman, haggard and short of breath:

"I'm not Tiger Woods."

Fade in Greg Norman, old and lifeless:

"I'm not Tiger Woods -- but I'm putting '97 behind me, just like I put '96 behind me."

As you no doubt know, Tiger Woods' overwhelming performance in the Masters made it the tournament that changed golf forever, changed golf course design forever, and may have changed society forever.

2001: A Slam by any name

Sportswriters around the world were hammering away on their machines to come up with a suitable name for Tiger's achievement of holding all four professional majors at the same time, even if it took another calendar year to do it. Actually we'd been working on it all week. The best efforts seemed to be: Phi Granda Slamma, Thai Slamma Granda, the Tiger Slam, the Fiscal Slam, the Mulligan Slam. I leaned toward the Mulligan Slam, inasmuch as it took Tiger two attempts -- last year and this year -- to win the Masters and complete the deal. Made sense. But then I strained two muscles in my back and I broke a leg off a chair to come up with The Woods Wins Quartet.

2004: The best Sunday Augusta ever had

I must confess that in all these years I have never seen anything as thrilling, exciting or dramatic as Phil Mickelson's victory.

Now that Phil has done it, who's the best American player who has never won a major? I look arond the dismal landscape and see only one answer. Michelle Wie.

2005: The chip is off his shoulder

There's no telling how many more majors Tiger Woods can win as long as you put him on golf courses with soft greens, no wind, trees to bounce off of, the luck of 10 overpaid CEOs and nobody to beat but a guy with a putting grip that looks like he's trying to change a tire or open a contrary bottle of wine.

2008: Trevor Immelman ends Woods' grand plan at the Masters

Every Sherpa in Nepal knew Tiger Woods was going to win the Grand Slam this year, starting with the Masters. Waiters in Budapest and Prague knew it. People still locked in caucuses were sure of it. Superdelegates. Fry cooks in Waffle Houses. Certainly every sportswriter and blogger in North America had been giving it to him for months. Tiger said so himself: "Easily within reason." So you could only imagine the looks when the Augusta National's green jacket wound up on a guy named Immelman.

2009: Roars and sores

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.

No offense to Angel Cabrera, the Wild Duck of the Pampas, a waddling man who apparently can only win majors.

Even the second lead in the show was missing until Sunday. But Phil Mickelson had an excuse: He was trapped inside one of those silly-looking, too-tight shirts with the shorty sleeves that he keeps wearing. Fashion victim.

Tiger wound up being particularly disappointing to this bureau because his adoring media had pronounced him back, better and stronger than ever. This begs for a comparison between the comebacks of one of his historical adversaries, Ben Hogan. Speaking for Hogan, I'm urged to say, "I'll see your knee, Tiger, and raise you a double-fractured pelvis, broken collarbone, broken ankle, cracked rib, blood clots tied off in both legs, and a Greyhound bus."