Thursday 29 September 2016

The decades of glory and grief in Augusta lore

Happiness and heartbreak inexorably linked at Masters from the start of the tournament inspired by Bobby Jones

Published 04/04/2016 | 02:30

Jack Nicklaus escapes from a bunker on the 10th hole on his way to winning the 50th Masters Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
Jack Nicklaus escapes from a bunker on the 10th hole on his way to winning the 50th Masters Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images
2006 Masters champion Phil Mickelson Photo: Getty Images
Nick Faldo consoles Greg Norman on the 18th green after his victory over the Australia Photo: Getty Images
Nick Faldo being presented with his green jacket by 1995 champion Ben Crenshaw

The golfing version of spring fever is in the air as fans of the sport around the globe prepare for the 80th staging of the Masters at Augusta.

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It started with humble beginnings and relatively little publicity but the Masters has evolved into one of the great annual sporting events watched by millions on television.

Today, we highlight some of the heroes who have carved their niche in the illustrious Masters history through every decade since the tournament's inception.

The 1st Masters - 1934

Bobby Jones came out of retirement after four years to play in the first Augusta National Invitational, as it was then called, on the course he had co-founded with Clifford Roberts, and which was designed by Alister MacKenzie.

Jones and the latest golfing sensation of the time, Paul Runyan, were joint favourites but Horton Smith from Chicago earned his place in history by winning the event on 284 (-4) from Craig Wood by a shot. Jones finished in 13th place, 10 shots back.

Turning point

Smith holed a crucial putt for birdie from 10 feet on the 17th to go a shot ahead of Wood, and held his par on the last to clinch the win.

Quote

"When you hit your drives and approaches and all your harder shots and can't putt, you suffer, no matter what your handicap is" - Bobby Jones.

The 10th Masters - 1946

After a three-year gap from 1943-45, the Masters reconvened at Augusta National. Herman Keiser was the winner, shooting 74 in the last round, including a three-putt on the final hole. His 282 (-6) eclipsed Ben Hogan by a shot.

Turning point

Hogan pulled out all the stops for a 70 but he also had a three-putt on the last and failed to force a play-off with a much relieved and tired Keiser.

Quote

"I hoped he'd make either a birdie three to win or a five to lose; I didn't want any play-off." - Herman Keiser.

The 20th Masters - 1956

Drama all the way on a tumultuous Masters Sunday. Ken Venturi, then an amateur, had held the lead after each of the previous three rounds, and lay four shots clear of nearest challenger Cary Middlecoff.

Jack Burke Junior was nowhere, trailing by a whopping eight shots, but when the last putt dropped, Burke had triumphed in strong winds.

He shot a best-of-the-day 71 for 289 while Venturi slumped to an 80 for 290 and Middlecoff came third on 291 after a 77.

Turning point

Venturi's idea that he had to keep chasing birdies. The harder he pressed, the worse it got, as was evident by his seven three-putts.

Quote

"I thought Venturi was going to win, but with that wind you could only play your best and hope you didn't shoot a hundred" - Jack Burke Jnr.

The 30th Masters - 1966

Jack Nicklaus was back in the Butler Cabin to claim his third Green Jacket as he successfully defended his title.

Nicklaus thus became the first player to win back-to-back Masters. He had to do it the hard way, finishing on level-par 288 with Gay Brewer and Tommy Jacobs. The trio returned on the Monday for an 18-hole play-off which Nicklaus won with 70, against Jacobs' 72 and Brewer's 78.

Turning point

Nicklaus happened to tune in to a TV replay of a three-and-a-half foot putt he had missed on the 17th green on the Sunday and saw his alignment at set-up was off kilter. He went to the putting green and stayed there until he was satisfied he had the problem sorted.

Quote

"In the play-off on Monday I did not hit a single bad putt, although I made some mental mistakes that would have cost me dearly if Tommy and Gay had been a little sharper" - Jack Nicklaus

The 40th Masters - 1976

Ray Floyd hit peak scoring form to all but annihilate the star-quality opposition on a memorable week in April '76.

Floyd opened with a 65, then set a new 36-hole record of 131 for the tournament with a sizzling 66. After round three, the rampant Floyd had set a 54-hole record of 201, and had eight shots to spare on Jack Nicklaus. The Bear dropped off the pace on the Sunday, shooting 73 and taking joint third place with Larry Ziegler. Ben Crenshaw's 67 elevated him to second, but he still finished eight adrift of Floyd.

Turning point

Apart from Floyd's unbreakable determination to win the tournament, his performance on the par-5 holes throughout the four days was stunning. He was 14-under-par for the long holes.

Quote

"My play on the par-fives was the secret of my success this week. I figured the way the course was playing, that if I hit the ball well, I'd have the chance to birdie all of them" - Ray Floyd

The 50th Masters - 1986

Jack Nicklaus had last won a Major championship in 1980.

His tally of 17 represented an incredible body of work, but at 46, nobody gave the Bear any real chance of another Major win, and he was totally written off by some media observers in the build-up to this tournament.

Sensationally, Nicklaus defied the odds, the critics, and anno domini to electrify the patrons and show that he still had the sorcerer's touch.

His first-round 74 did nothing to raise expectations. A 71 and 69 in the next two rounds for 214 left Nicklaus four shots behind 54-hole leader Greg Norman, and three adrift of Seve Ballesteros. And then the fireworks began.

Nicklaus, with son Jackie as his caddie, revelled in the challenge and delivered a stunning 65. Ballesteros' chances ended with a splashdown in the water on 15, and Norman bogeyed the final hole to fall one shot short of Nicklaus' 279 alongside joint second placed Tom Kite.

Turning point

The superb birdie putt which Nicklaus holed on the 17th. A thunderous roar shook Augusta and signalled to the opposition that Jack had taken the lead.

Quote

"This was maybe as fine a round of golf as I've ever played" - Jack Nicklaus.

The 60th Masters - 1996

Nick Faldo, the golfer with a heart of stone when it came to crushing opponents, was moved to an unprecedented gesture of sympathy for a fallen foe after he holed out on the last green for 67, and a 12-under par 276 winning score. In his moment of victory, Faldo embraced a shocked and stunned Greg Norman who had contrived to turn a six-shot lead after 54 holes to a loss by five shots - an 11-shot swing of disaster.

"I'm sorry, but I don't know what to say," said Faldo. And then he added: "don't let the bastards get you down."

The Englishman thus claimed his sixth Major, still a record for European golfers. For Norman, it was his eighth second place in a Major. He did win the Open Championship twice, and to his eternal credit, Norman fronted up and faced the world via his post-round press conference.

Turning point

Not a lot of people remember that Norman and Faldo were on level terms after 11 holes, both on 9-under par. On the 12th, the Aussie dumped his tee shot into Rae's Creek, while Faldo got par - a two-shot swing. The killer blow came on the short 16th, where Norman's 6-iron tee shot sent his golf ball into splashdown mode for another double-bogey.

Quote

"As it turned out, the round proved to be my finest in terms of sustaining the mental stamina you need to commit to your routine before each and every shot as the pressure and atmosphere grows" - Nick Faldo

The 70th Masters - 2006

Phil Mickelson had played 42 Major championships and won none until he broke his duck by winning the Green Jacket in 2004.

The USPGA Championship followed in 2005, and in '06, he once again triumphed at Augusta. Mickelson led by just one shot after 54 holes, but aided by his two drivers - one for fades, one which promoted a draw - and relentless patience, he got the job done with room to spare.

The champion shot 281, (-8), and South Africa's Tim Clark finished second on 283.

Turning point

The final birdie of his round on the 15th hole killed off the opposition.

Quote

"I loved it. The stress-free walk up 18 was incredible. It was a great feeling walking up there, knowing that I had the tournament in hand" - Phil Mickelson

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