I love the Masters.
That may be the most obvious of statements for a golfer, but my upbringing really helped cultivate my adoration for the tournament.
My dad has been a head pro at country clubs my entire life, and that meant that I did not see him much during the golf season. He worked weekends and holidays, but I was lucky enough to spend time with him in the pro shop. It was in that pro shop that I realized my admiration for the game of golf. It was also the place where I watched many of the Masters tournaments during my childhood. I sat in the big chair in the corner as my dad worked and grew to understand how special this tournament in April is.
Many of you have stories just like mine. The memories of past Masters shape our reverence for Augusta National. We will never forget Tiger’s chip in ’05 or Phil’s six iron in ’10. More importantly, we do not forget where we were or whom we were with for those events.
At times, the pomp and circumstance can be extreme. The pageantry of the Masters is anything but subtle; but we love it. Each year adds to the history and provides yet another memory for us to hold forever.
Since every year is different, I felt it worth my time to look back across the last decade, revisit what made each event unique, and rank my most memorable. This is not a ranking of each winner as much as it is ranking my experiences watching each event. Spoiler alert – Danny Willett’s victory benefits from my experience.
11th Place – April 10-13, 2008
My lasting memory of the ’08 Masters has always been the never-ending sense of anticipation felt by everyone watching. We were expecting a charge from Tiger or catastrophe from the two young players in the final group. Instead, we got a winner that stared adversity in the face and played the best tournament of his life.
If I were South African or a relative of Trevor Immelman, I may remember this week differently. Alas, I am not. Immelman went wire-to-wire in 2008 and bested an eclectic cast of characters in the final round. The weather really helped him on Sunday as winds whipped around Augusta at 20-30 miles an hour. It was incredibly difficult to go low and catch the leader. The only moment that Immelman showed weakness was his inexplicable water ball on 16. Outside of that shot, he was incredibly steady all day.
Trevor Immelman has not finished in the top 10 of a major since this week, and it is unlikely he ever will again. If you are going to get hot for one week, it might as well be the second weekend in April.
On a different note, 2008 was a hell of a year for driver technology. The Nike Sasquatch SUMO, Cleveland Hibore, and Callaway FT-i were all in play at Augusta. What a time to be alive.
10th Place – April 11-14, 2014
You know how people always say “no offense but” and then say something offensive?
No offense to Bubba, but whenever he wins a golf tournament, it always leaves me wanting more. I am not a Bubba hater either; I absolutely love watching him hit golf shots. This particular Masters just happened to be the tease of all teases.
20-year-old Masters rookie Jordan Spieth shot a 3rd round 70 to tie Bubba for the lead going into Sunday. I am a year younger than Jordan and have followed since his AJGA days. Seeing him succeed at such a young age was inspiring and made me want to be a better player.
As it turns out, Bubba did not care about any of that. He took control of the tournament heading into the back nine and hit one of the most ruthless tee shots I have ever seen on 13. The guy hit driver/gap wedge and effectively ended any chance of a Spieth comeback.
During his post round press conference, Jordan said “it stings right now but the only thing on my mind is when am I getting back next year”.
9th Place – April 9-12, 2009
The 2009 Masters was definitely a more entertaining week than the prior year but much of the week lacked intensity. Part of that was the players that led the majority of the time were all very mild mannered. I like my major championship winners to have a little bit of flash and a little bit of intrigue. Typical millennial.
On Sunday, a couple of relatively big name players got the proceedings started. Paired together but seven shots back of the leaders, Tiger and Phil went out in a fury. Phil birdied six of his first eight holes and got within a shot of the lead. His shot on 7 rivals his shot from the trees in 2010. His struggles on the back nine left him well back, and Tiger’s late charge was too little too late. The day belonged to a group of veterans as Ángel Cabrera, Kenny Perry, and Chad Campbell went to a playoff.
Overtime was boring to say the least. Kenny Perry bogied his last two holes in regulation to force the playoff, and then Cabrera’s pars were good enough to win in sudden death. Had Mr. Transitions held on to win, I think I would remember this tournament in higher regard. It did help grow the legend of Ángel though. At the time, both of his wins were major championships.
8th Place – April 5-8, 2012
As I went about creating these rankings, I realized just how heavily Sunday plays in my opinion of each week. Sunday at the 2012 Masters had an albatross, a sudden death playoff, and a wedge shot drew approximately 450 yards (look it up). Somehow, that is not enough to move it up in my mind.
I will never forget Bubba’s victory over Louis Oosthuizen in that playoff. The issue I have with 2012 is that the playoff and the albatross are all that I remember. When I looked back into the previous rounds, I found evergreen Lee Westwood, Freddy Couples, Rory (kind of), Peter Hanson, and Phil Mickelson.
Had the rest of the week had more intrigue, 2012 would have been a truly legendary Masters.
7th Place – April 6-9, 2017
I can already hear many of you typing your outrage in 2017’s Masters being sixth on my list. Hear me out.
The 2017 edition of the Masters gave a final pairing battle that we had not seen in many years. It also gave us Sergio García’s long-lost major championship.
While I have never been Sergio’s biggest fan, I am also equally agnostic about Justin Rose. I think a lot of us are like that and no one knows why. Super nice guy, consistent as hell, but I cannot get behind him.
Sergio’s par save on 13 and subsequent birdie-eagle on 14 and 15 provided incredible theater down the stretch. I had honestly given up on Sergio ever winning a major a few years ago. He is a great player, but I never thought he would summon the self-confidence to close one out.
My biggest issue with 2017’s championship is that much of the leaderboard fell flat on Sunday’s front nine. Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Charley Hoffman, Adam Scott, and Ryan Moore all had a chance to go out and put pressure on the leaders. None of them played the front nine under par. This left Rose and García in a two horse race, with the others making meaningless birdies on the back nine.
We were also deprived of Dustin Johnson because of a freak injury. He had won three tournaments in a row and would have undoubtedly made for added intrigue on the weekend. As great as the end of 2017 was, it had potential to be one of the best of all time.
6th Place – April 9-12, 2015
Jordan Spieth was seemingly born to play Augusta National. He nearly became the first rookie to win since Fuzzy in 2014 and then went nuclear on everyone in 2015.
Opening with a 64, Spieth put on one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen. He was the first player to get to -19 at Augusta and eventually tied Tiger for the lowest 72-hole score. At 21-years-old, he put together the best performance from a young player since Tiger in ’97.
My forever memory of this Masters will be his performance on the 13th hole. Having just bogied the 12th hole, he roped a driver down the left side. From there, he hit a long iron right over the pin and two-putted for birdie. He could have easily played that hole cautiously but instead took matters into his own hands. In the words of Happy Gilmore, “I’ll just beat him now”.
5th Place – April 7-10, 2016
I was playing a college tournament in Tennessee while Spieth was on the front nine of the 2016 Masters. Instead of going back to the hotel after the round, my team gathered around a television in the clubhouse for the back nine. The only other people in the room at the time were the Jacksonville State coaches. They must have left their players on the course a little early so they could catch the end of the tournament. A few other teams straggled in as Spieth made the turn as well.
When the infamous meltdown on 12 happened, we were all in shock. The entire room was buzzing with anxiety. Our new leader was Danny Willett, a guy I didn’t know much about. Turns out Danny Willett played collegiate golf at Jacksonville State University. Which meant his golf coach was sitting fifteen feet away from me. Willett went on to hold off Spieth, and his coach watched from some golf course outside of Nashville.
For most people, the 2016 Masters is the tournament where Jordan Spieth had a complete breakdown. I would be included in that group if I had not been in that room. Seeing Willett’s coach celebrate his victory will forever be one of the coolest sports moments I experience.
Danny Willett aside, Spieth’s collapse will always come to my mind just before his dominant performance in 2015. The good thing about Spieth is that he is going to win 11 green jackets, and we will soon forget his one defeat.
4th Place – April 5-8, 2018
The 2018 Masters may go down as one of the most underrated editions in history because of its champion. Patrick Reed is a polarizing figure, no doubt about that. His attitude and reputation have made him something of a social pariah, but his skill is undoubtedly elite. Regardless, the 2018 Masters had everything you could ask for and more.
Action usually starts on Thursday, but the par-3 contest had just as much drama. Tony Finau had his infamous ankle blowout celebration while Jack Nicklaus’s grandson made a hole-in-one in front of three legends of the game. The day culminated with 68-year-old Tom Watson winning the competition.
On Thursday, Jordan Spieth started with seven birdies and an eagle in his first round to grab a two-shot lead. He led Matt Kuchar and a taped-up Finau , and Rory McIlroy lurked three shots back. University of Texas stud Doug Ghim vaulted past the other amateur contestants when he made two eagles on the back nine to post an even-par round.
Friday saw Patrick Reed take the lead with a 66 of his own, and Marc Leishman had one of the most incredible shots you’ll ever see. All of the following names were inside the top 10 after Friday’s action: Patrick Reed, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, and Tony Finau. Holy sh*t.
Rory and Reed separated themselves on Saturday by firing 65 and 67, respectively. Sunday was a wet affair, and Jordan Spieth started the action early. He went out in 31 to get within shouting distance of the lead, while Reed and McIlroy treaded water on the outward nine. Rickie Fowler then joined the fray with six birdies over his last 11 holes, and Spieth went on to shoot 64. In the end, Reed held it together just long enough and slipped into his green jacket on Sunday evening.
3rd Place – April 11-14, 2013
The 2013 Masters almost had too many storylines.
We had big game hunter Ángel Cabrera back in the mix. We had 14-year-old Tianlang Guan make the cut despite receiving a slow play penalty. We had three Australians in the mix in an attempt to bring the green jacket down under for the first time. We also had Tiger Woods making a Friday charge.
Like many of you, I grew up a huge Tiger fan boy. I set my clocks to Sunday red. With that said, I only vividly remember two of his majors because I was in elementary school for the majority of them. His infamous water ball on 15 followed by Dropgate was soul crushing. Once the dust had settled and we were able to move past Big Cat, the rest of the event was electric.
I think my head hit the ceiling when Adam Scott rolled in his putt on the 72nd hole and let out that “COME ON AUSSIE!” It almost hit the ceiling again when Ángel followed up that putt with a birdie of his own. The playoff also had the tension and intrigue I had wanted out of the 2012 and 2009 playoffs. Ian Baker Finch’s emotion on the broadcast really showed just how important that event was to Australians everywhere.
Of all the playoffs in the last decade, 2013 was my favorite because of how much it meant to Adam Scott and Australia.
2nd Place – April 8-11, 2010
You know that feeling when you go eagle-eagle-birdie on 13, 14, 15 at Augusta National? Yeah, me neither. It must be similar to the feeling Poulter has when the waiter gets his order wrong and he gets to ask for a manager, pure ecstasy. Phil was able to have that stretch on Saturday in 2010 and get himself right in the mix on Sunday.
2010 truly illustrated how crucial course knowledge is around ANGC. 50-year-old Fred Couples and 60-year-old Tom Watson inserted themselves into the conversation, and no Masters rookie would finish within twelve shots of the lead at the end of the week.
Sunday also brought us an Anthony Kim 65, a Tiger charge, Lee Westwood once more, and perhaps the best 6 iron ever hit.
The emotion that Phil played with that week has stuck with me. He is usually very stoic and impressive after his victories, but this time was different. His wife, Amy, was battling breast cancer and had been bedridden all week in Augusta. They had true joy on their faces after the final putt dropped, a welcome change from the difficulties they had been going through.
1st Place – April 7-10, 2011
The 2011 Masters was without a doubt my most memorable in recent memory.
Some scrawny 21-year-old from Northern Ireland held the lead for a very long time. He also led the field in driving distance, before people started freaking out about his fitness regimen.
On Sunday, Tiger went out in 31 to tie for the lead. Charl Schwartzel holed out twice in his first three holes. Ángel was in the mix AGAIN.
The back nine began with the coronation of McIlroy Cabin, and Rory went on to shoot 80. Jason Day, Luke Donald, and Geoff Ogilvy all had their moments in the sun as well.
As the final groups headed into Amen Corner, there was an incredible logjam at the top. You couldn’t look away for a second because every shot mattered. In the end, Schwartzel’s furious finish was too much for everyone else. It took birdies on the last four holes of the tournament for someone to win, and that is simply remarkable.
2011 had the perfect blueprint for a memorable Masters. There was drama, a crowded leaderboard, the world’s best, heartbreak, success, and a winner who finished strong.
Ideally, this is exactly how the 2019 Masters will play out. Just about all of the top ranked players are playing well, Rory is playing as good of golf as ever and Tiger and Phil are in form. With any luck, we get a group of guys all throwing haymakers on Sunday.
See you all on Magnolia Lane.