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What Are The Best Shots In Masters History?

Golf Care, 1st April 2021

best shots in masters history

With the 2021 Masters just days away, let’s take a journey through time and look back at some of the greatest shots in the tournament’s history. We’ve selected 10 iconic shots based on their significance and brilliance. Which of these is your favourite?

Gene Sarazen (1935)

We start with this incredible double-eagle – a shot famously referred to by sportswriter Grantland Rice as ‘the shot heard round the world’.

Sarazen’s legendary shot from 235 yards out remains one of the greatest in Masters history, even 86 years later. It’s even more special when you consider its context.

Sarazen was at the 15th in the final round of the 1935 Masters, trailing leader Craig Wood by three strokes. In one shot, Sarazen cut Wood’s lead completely and forced the tournament’s only ever 36-hole playoff, which he won by five strokes to win the title.

It’s credited as the shot that put the Masters on the map – and was only witnessed by around a dozen spectators. Oh, to be them.

Arnold Palmer (1960)

If you skip to 1:12 in the above video, you’ll appreciate why Arnold Palmer was once nicknamed The King.

It was the 18th hole in the final round of the 1960 Masters. Palmer had just sunk a lengthy putt for birdie at the 17th and was tied with Ken Venturi. What happened next will go down in Masters folklore forever.

Palmer’s wife said afterwards that she couldn’t watch proceedings, but she didn’t know what she was missing – an exquisitely struck 6-iron which landed just five feet from the hole. Palmer then calmly rolled in the birdie putt to secure his second Masters title in three years.

A Green Jacket fit for a king!

Jack Nicklaus (1975)

This shot – and the story behind it – sums up why Jack Nicklaus is considered the greatest ever golfer.

In the final round of the 1975 Masters, Nicklaus was embroiled in a thrilling contest with Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Along with Nicklaus, they were the world’s best golfers at the time.

It made for amazing viewing, as the three were separated by just two strokes (Weiskopf -12; Nicklaus -11; Miller -10) going into the 16th hole. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nicklaus holed an incredible 40-foot putt like it was the easiest shot in the world to tie with Weiskopf, who bogeyed the 17th to hand Nicklaus the advantage. The Golden Bear then parred his way to a fifth Green Jacket – which, as we know, wouldn’t be his last.

Jack Nicklaus (1986)

If one shot could encapsulate Nicklaus’ inspirational and improbable Masters victory at the age of 46, this was it.

Nicklaus hit several other shots that could be considered among the most famous in Masters history. For instance, his putt at the 17th  best summarised by Verne Lundquist’s legendary CBS commentary.

But it’s the perfectly struck 5-iron on the 16th that Nicklaus’ victory is best remembered for. Sitting two strokes behind leader Seve Ballesteros going into the 16th, Nicklaus hit his tee shot to within 3 ½ feet of the hole and putted for a birdie.

His son and then-caddie, Jack Nicklaus II, famously said “Be right” as the ball travelled in the air. Nicklaus senior then turned to his son and calmly replied: “It is.”

Ballesteros, who was playing the 15th hole at the time, bogeyed this and the 17th, and Nicklaus went on to win his sixth Green Jacket.

The Golden Bear was well and truly out of hibernation!

Larry Mize (1987)

How many adjectives can you use to describe this shot? Impossible. Miraculous. Perfect. Yes, they sum it up pretty well.

Larry Mize, an Augusta native, was in a sudden-death playoff with Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros, who had won five majors between them at that point. But those who thought Mize would be fazed by the occasion were mistaken. 

When Ballesteros was eliminated after the first hole, the 1987 Masters became a two-way shootout between Mize and Australian Norman. You could have cut the tension with a knife.

Norman hit the green with his approach shot while Mize missed the green by a wide margin. At this stage, it looked like there would only be one winner.

That is, until Mize somehow holed a 140-foot chip shot that had no right to go in for a birdie three. This shot is made even more famous by Mize’s celebratory jig, but this wasn’t actually the moment he won the Masters.

However, Norman had a very difficult follow-up birdie shot which he couldn’t hole, and Mize won the first – and only – major of his career. And what a major to win for the hometown hero.

Sandy Lyle (1988)

Masters spectators in the late ‘80s were treated to some stupendous moments.

If only we could all hit a shot like this when we’re in the bunker – well, Sandy Lyle actually did. At the 18th. Talk about bottle.

When Lyle hit bogey and double bogey shots at the 11th and 12th in the final round, many discounted his chances of winning the Masters. But after four pars and a birdie, Lyle was tied with Mark Calcavecchia going into the 18th.

Lyle needed a par four to force a playoff or a birdie three to win the Masters outright. The immense pressure he was under showed in his tee shot, as he hit it into the bunker.

He looked disheartened and had his head in his hands. But, as fate would have it, with one shot, his deflation quickly turned to elation. Lyle hit a sensational 7-iron from the bunker, which landed within 10 feet of the hole.

He then held his nerve to putt for birdie and win the Masters. And he topped it off with a sort-of jiggle. Great scenes.

Tiger Woods (2005)

This cinematic scene might be the greatest Masters moment of the 21st century.

Woods was at the 16th with a one-shot lead over Chris DiMarco – however, DiMarco sat comfortably in the centre of the green while Woods was in the rough on the edge.

Few gave Woods a chance of even getting the ball up and down for par, never mind pulling off what was about to follow.

Woods’ chip started 20 feet from the hole, rolled down the slope and paused for what felt like an eternity before dropping into the hole. The footage of the Nike tick appearing on screen for a few seconds as the ball trickled in is one of the defining clips in Masters history.

Woods then made birdie and went on to win his third Green Jacket.

Verne Lundquist’s pinpoint commentary once again made an iconic Masters moment that extra bit special. We’ll leave the last word on this shot to him: ‘Oh, wow! In your life have you seen anything like that?’

Phil Mickelson (2010)

There’s something satisfying about a well-executed shot from behind a tree, isn’t there? They don’t come much better than this one from Phil Mickelson.

After he hit a series of brilliant shots in the third round, many were wondering if Mickelson had much left in the tank. It turns out he did.

Having got into the lead for the first time on the 12th, Mickelson hit a loose drive on the notorious par-5 13th which landed him in a spot of bother. He found himself with the pine straw, trees, and Rae’s Creek to contend with. How many golfers have crumbled when faced with the latter, never mind the pine straw and trees?

As his former caddy Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay described it: ‘The gap between the trees, TV didn’t do it justice. It was about the width of a box of a dozen balls, I would say.’

Mickelson’s response was to hit a 6-iron from 207 yards which sailed over Rae’s Creek and landed within four feet of the hole. He then made birdie, and went on to birdie two more holes to win the Masters for a third time. Easy as that, eh?

Louis Oosthuizen (2012)

You know your luck’s out when you hit one of only four albatrosses in Masters history and still don’t walk away with the Green Jacket.

That’s what happened to Louis Oosthuizen in 2012. His second shot at the par-5 2nd was a perfectly executed 4-iron which we could watch over and over again.

It’s undoubtedly one of the best shots ever witnessed at Augusta National, and it propelled Oosthuizen into a two-stroke lead. However, he couldn’t maintain this lead and ended up in a sudden-death playoff with Bubba Watson.

Whilst this shot alone was worthy of winning any Masters, the only problem for Oosthuizen was that another of the tournament’s great all-time shots was about to follow.

Bubba Watson (2012)

Picture this. You’ve just played a superb back nine in the final round and fought back to force a sudden-death playoff. Then, with the pressure mounting, you pull your drive left of the fairway and end up in the woods. For us mere mortals, panic sets in, and we begin to crumble.

In 2012, Bubba Watson showed that he’s no mere mortal. He was in golf jail – deep in the trees to the right of the 10th fairway, with a cherry tree, magnolia tree, and TV tower in his way. At this point, almost everyone’s money would have been on Oosthuizen to win the Masters, but Bubba Watson had other ideas.

He hooked his approach shot from out of the trees, bending the ball almost 90 degrees. It landed a mere 10 feet from the hole, setting up Watson for a two-putt par and victory. 

Words don’t do this shot justice. Just watch it for yourself. Even if you’ve watched it a hundred times, just take it in one more time. You’ll never tire of it.

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