The 2011 Masters may well be remembered for Rory McIlroy’s disastrous final round (he led by four on the 1st tee), but Schwartzel’s closing four birdies have never been equalled.
That said, it was his approach to the par four 3rd that triggered the South African’s charge. Lying in the fairway he hit a sand wedge 110 yards, over the pin, before the back spin pulled the ball into the hole for an eagle two. On a day when eight players held the lead, this was the starting point for the one-time Major winner who finished the round with a 66.
In the final round, Louis Oosthuizen starts in third place but all that changes when he arrives at the 575 yard par five 2nd.
Sitting perfectly in the fairway the South African eyes up the 253 yard shot and reaches for a four iron. Hitting at the flag is not on. The Sunday pin position is on the far right of the green, tucked behind bunkers. Instead, Louis aims well left and rifles his iron shot onto the front left of the green. The ball lands at the very front and shoots up the green, riding the contours in a long arc of some 50 to 60 feet. It curls right and then down towards the hole, dropping into the cup for an albatross – only the 4th ever in the Masters. It lifted him into the lead. The shot would undoubtedly be ranked higher on this list if he had gone on to win… but he was beaten in a playoff by the greatest shot of all.
Lee Westwood leads going into the final round but, paired with Mickelson, they are level after nine holes. By the time they reach the par five 13th, Mickelson is two in front, but he pulls his drive into the pine trees.
Westwood must have thought he was back in the hunt but that was before Phil pulled out his box of tricks. Instead of playing safe (as suggested by his caddie), Phil hits a towering six iron off the pine needles. His view is completely obscured by a large pine tree but the ball is unobstructed and flies 207 yards to clear Rae’s Creek, land on the green and stop only four feet from the pin. He misses the eagle putt, but the birdie helps to secure victory and a third Green Jacket.
“The shot heard ‘round the world” undoubtedly made the reputation of what was, at that point, a small invitation-only event.
Trailing by three, standing on the par five 15th fairway, Sarazen is torn between hitting a three or four wood for his 235 yard second shot. He goes with the four and nails it, clearing the greenside pond. The ball rattles into the hole for an albatross, which draws him level with Craig Wood.
Sarazen pars the final three holes to force a 36-hole playoff with Wood, which Sarazen wins by five strokes. It was an astounding shot when you consider the clubs and balls in use at the time. “I rode into the shot with every ounce of strength and timing I could muster,” Sarazen later wrote.
At the age of 46, Jack Nicklaus is written off as being too old to win but that’s before the most electrifying back nine sees Nicklaus race up the leaderboard.
His shot into 16 may be the pick of the bunch but his back nine of 30 starts with birdies on No 10 and No 11, before a stunning eagle on the par five 15th puts him right back in contention. He comes to the par three 16th riding the crest of a wave and strikes a five iron perfectly. As he bends down to pick up the tee his son (and caddie) is heard saying “Be right.”
“It is” his father replies as the ball lands on the green and slides down the slope, shaving the front of the hole. Nicklaus sinks the three-foot putt for birdie and then birdies the 17th for good measure. Those behind him all falter at the onslaught as Nicklaus finishes his final 10 holes in seven under par. It was his 6th Green Jacket and his 18th Major.
In a sudden death play-off with Ballesteros and Greg Norman, no one much fancies Larry Mize’s chances, but it is Seve who falls at the first extra hole. On the second extra hole, the dangerous 11th, Norman is on the green in two, while Mize is 140 feet away, well right of the green. Advantage Norman… but then Larry Mize hits the bump-and-run shot of a lifetime. He lands his ball on the fringe before it bounces onto the putting surface and heads towards the flag, dropping into the hole for a birdie three. Remember, the only thing on the other side of the green is water so it was a do-or-die shot. Visibly rattled, Norman misses his birdie putt and local boy Mize wins his only Major.
“I didn’t think Larry would get down in two,” Norman said of Mize’s chip-in, “and I was right. He got down in one.” It was the fifth consecutive Major Norman had led on the Sunday and the second consecutive Major in which he was beaten by a chip-in birdie.
With just three holes remaining, Tom Weiskopf leads Jack Nicklaus by one and Johnny Miller by two.
On the par three 16th, Nicklaus hits a poor shot by his standards (see No 6 above) and is 40 ft short. As he lines up the putt, Weiskopf and Miller watch from the 16th tee. Nicklaus hits it hard up the hill and his caddie is leaping in the air before the ball even drops.
On any other day the best pros in the world would be delighted to be down in two, but it took Nicklaus only one as the ball tracked straight into the hole. It was a decisive, momentum-swinging moment that saw Weiskopf and Nicklaus tied for the lead… but not for long as Weiskopf makes a three-putt bogie moments later.
Nicklaus goes on to win by a single shot and the defeated Weiskopf later described Nicklaus’ putt as the best he had ever seen… not too surprising when it was the shot that killed his chances of a Green Jacket. It was the fourth time in seven years that Weiskopf had been runner up.
Few who watched the Masters in 1988 will forget Lyle’s shot from the bunker on the left of the 18th fairway… but many will not remember the extreme pressure the Scot was under. A par would see him make a play-off against Calcavecchia, while history was against him if he wanted to make birdie: only twice before had victory been achieved by a birdie on the 18th.
Lyle’s one iron tee shot into the bunker was not the best start. But, from 143 yards out, Lyle caresses a seven iron out of the sand and the ball flies directly onto the green, 10 yards behind the flag.
The famous slope on 18 holds the ball briefly before allowing it to trickle back towards the hole. It stops eight feet away. Lyle sinks the putt to become the first British golfer to win the Masters. Faldo and Woosnam quickly followed.
Tiger has a one shot lead over Chris DiMarco as they play the 16th.
He hits his tee shot long and left into a difficult position, close to the first cut of rough. DiMarco is just 15 feet from the pin and it looks like the lead could change hands. Woods prowls around the green and finally plays his shot, chipping well left of the flag and using backspin to check the ball.
The camera is perfectly positioned as the ball takes a sharp right turn and heads towards the hole. For a fraction of a second it pauses on the lip and then drops for an incredible — almost impossible — birdie. The crowd goes berserk and even though Tiger bogeys the final two holes he prevails with a birdie on the first play-off hole.
Nike released a tongue-in-cheek ad almost immediately afterwards where the ad showed the shot and then chastised Tiger because he didn’t centre the Nike logo before it dropped into the hole.
Tied with Oosthuizen after 72 holes, it all looks to have gone horribly wrong for Bubba Watson on the second hole (the 10th) of their sudden-death play-off. He pulls his drive deep into the trees and is completely blocked from the green.
Worse still, the ball is sitting on the pine needles, calling for extra caution. The left-handed Bubba, known for how he can move the ball through the air, takes his pitching wedge and unleashes an incredible 140-yard hook shot that turns 90 degrees once it escapes the trees. Even more remarkable is the ball landing on the green where it spins to a stop some 10 feet from the pin.
When Oosthuizen fails to get up-and-down for par from short of the green, Watson wins the Masters with two putts. He later describes his escape shot as follows: “I hit my 52-degree, my gap wedge, hooked it about 40 yards, hit it about 15 feet off the ground until it got under the tree, and then it started rising. Pretty easy.”
Yes, easily the best shot ever played at the Masters.