Masters Roundtable: Most vivid Augusta memories
With only four days left until the 2014 Masters gets under way, our staff of senior writers and editors are taking a closer look at key players, the course and the history to preview the tournament.
Today, our writers offer up our thoughts on some of the most memorable performances that have taken place at Augusta National – and where the Masters fits in among the four majors.
Here's today's roundtable:
• • •
1. Which Masters is your favorite of all-time and why?
JIM MCCABE: All great major championships are measured against the 1986 Masters. The most talented script-writers in Hollywood history couldn’t have dreamed this one up. It wasn’t just that the most prolific major winner in history, Jack Nicklaus, won at the age of 46, it’s how he did it: A back-nine 30, an eagle at 15, a closing 65, and much younger major stars, Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman, had parts of the lead, but couldn’t stop the magic. It might be the most unforgettable tournament in history, so it stands to reason that it’s No. 1 on the Masters hit parade.
BETH ANN NICHOLS: 1986. Jack Nicklaus won the 50th Masters at age 46 to the delight of sports fans everywhere. I was too young to remember watching that back-nine 30 live, but the image of Nicklaus in that yellow shirt, draining the “Yes, sir!” putt will be forever etched in my mind.
JEFF RUDE: I imagine everyone will say 1986, when Jack Nicklaus turned back the clock and won his 18th major title at age 46. Or even the 1997 Masters, where Woods won by 12. But right behind Jack's feat I'll put the 2004 Masters. There was so much crazy action that it was hard to write fast enough while taking notes. As it happened, Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes and nipped Ernie Els by a shot and then jumped about three inches in the 18th green.
ADAM SCHUPAK: 1986. Jack at 46 turning back the clock. I remember huddling around the 27-inch TV set – a big screen in those days – in the men’s locker room at the course I grew up playing. I wasn’t old enough to be in there but my dad snuck me in and I sat by the club champ and our head pro, who gave a running commentary and told me to remember this day: You just saw why Jack Nicklaus is the best that ever lived, he said.
• • •
2. Which Masters champion is your favorite of all-time and why?
MCCABE: This is like asking to name your favorite child. Impossible. Can’t be done, nor should it be attempted. But if I were to be forced to produce some possible candidates, Jack Burke Jr. would surely be there and if you have to ask why, then you never met him. Truly an original.
NICHOLS: Fred Couples. Every year we root for Couples to dazzle us with a little more of his Masters magic. Can’t look at the 12th hole without seeing his ball miraculously glued to the bank of Rae’s Creek. Mr. Cool was destined to win the green jacket in 1992. It was unforgettable.
RUDE: Jack Nicklaus. Because he would scrum after interview sessions were over. He liked to talk with the press and would often stay until everybody got more than enough.
SCHUPAK: Ben Crenshaw because of the way he revered the Masters and the way he won his second green jacket in 1995 just days after serving as a pallbearer for his instructor, Harvey Penick. I still get goose bumps when they show footage of Crenshaw holing out at 18 and then allowing the emotion of the moment to pour out.
• • •
3. Where does the Masters stand in your mind when compared to the other majors?
MCCABE: Perhaps because it’s first or maybe because it’s held at the same place every year, but no doubt the buzz and the excitement is highest at the Masters. It’s also the most popular with fans and no other tournament – save for the Ryder Cup – has such an aura about it. But for a pure test of golf with loads of flavor, the Open Championship still sits No. 1 in my heart.
NICHOLS: Nothing compares to Augusta. There is no “dud” Masters Tournament because each year, the course wins. Other majors have years when the “cool” factor cranks up because the venue is special. The Masters manages to give patrons and television viewers goosebumps each and every year.
RUDE: Depends on the year. Depends on the venue of the other majors. It's hard to beat an Open Championship at St. Andrews. And the Sunday at the U.S. Open is my favorite day in sports unless the Chicago Bears are in a Super Bowl. In general terms, I'd put the Masters first or second - depending on the other major venues. This year it's right in there with the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
SCHUPAK: A No. 1, top of the list, king of the hill. Wait, that’s New York, New York. But that’s how I feel about Augusta. If ABC Sports ever could get its hands on the broadcast rights, it could do a “Thrill of victory and agony of defeat” intro on the Masters with Larry Mize’s chip-in at 11, Tiger’s at 16, Mickelson’s “leap” at 18, Bubba’s wedge from the woods at No. 10, and Scott Hoch’s missed 2-footer at 11, Curtis Strange hitting out of Rae’s Creek at 13, Greg Norman’s implosion in ’96, and on and on. Just when it seems the Masters can’t get any better it finds a way to keep on topping the one before it. I don't know how, but it does.