The Masters is among golf’s premier Tour events. Played at Augusta National Golf Club, it brings together the Professional Golf Associations (PGA) top players in a four-day tournament considered among the sport’s toughest venues. Started in 1934, the Masters is one of four major tournaments held by the PGA each year. All are played at courses designed to test the mettle not only of players with low golf handicaps, but also professionals with years of experience.
This confluence of the game’s best golfers and a truly challenging course brings out the best and in some cases the worst in these players. Over the years, some of golf’s best moments have occurred at the Masters, such as Jack Nicklaus’ farewell a few years ago. The Masters has also been the scene of some of golf’s legendary shots as well shots that golf teachers can build golf lessons around. I thought it would be fun to look at three of these shots.
Sarazen’s Double Eagle
Gene Sarazen catapulted The Masters into worldwide acclaim during the tournament’s first year when he hit what sports writers have dubbed the “shot heard round the world.” Sarazen’s 235-yard double eagle on the then par-5 15th hole rocked the field that day and helped him win the tournament. The shot forced a 36 hole playoff between Sarazen and Craig Woods, which Sarazen won by five shots.
Sarazen’s double eagle is one of only three double eagles in the Tournament’s history. In 1967 Bruce Devlin’s scored a double eagle on the 8th hole, slamming it in from 248 yards out using a 4-wood. In 1994, Jeff Maggart used a 3-iron to earn a double eagle on the 13th from 222 yards away. Neither shot had the drama of Sarazen’s, but they earned Maggart and Devlin a place in golf history. A plaque at the spot of the shot commemorates each double eagle.
Palmer’s Controversial Shot
In 1958 Arnold Palmer was involved in what many feel is the tournament’s most controversial moment. Palmer’s tee shot to the par-3 hole landed behind the green and plugged. Palmer believed he was entitled to relief under a local rule in effect that week because the ball was embedded. And Ken Venturi, Palmer’s playing partner, agreed.
But the rules official on the scene, Arthur Lacey a former president of the British PGA and a member of the 1933 and ’37 GB&I Ryder Cup team did not. He ruled Palmer had to play without relief. An argument ensued, and Palmer eventually played the ball, gouging it out of the turf, hitting a poor chip past the hole, and then two-putting for a double-bogey 5. Venturi made par and assumed the lead. Or so he thought.
Feeling he had received a bad ruling, Palmer announced he was playing a second ball. This time, with a drop to a clean lie, he chipped up near the hole and made par. The twosome played on, waiting for a rules committee to decide Palmer’s fate. The committee decided in favor of Palmer and he was declared the winner of the tournament. Palmer’s play that day led to the coining of the term Amen Corner for the 11th, 12th, and13th by Herbert Warren Ward in an article for Sports Illustrated.
Tiger’s Chip On The 16th
And who could forget Tiger Woods chip-in on the 16th hole on his way to winning the 2005 Masters. Hitting his second shot on this par-3 hole, Tiger faced what many considered one of the toughest pitches on the course. He had to not only negotiate a very difficult slope into the hole, but a lie that placed his ball up against a second cut of grass off the green. The lie was forcing him to have to hit a delicate low shot rather than a preferred high shot.
Woods picked out a landing spot, just like I emphasize in my golf tips, put the ball back in his stance, and chipped away. He hit his landing spot perfectly, which was somewhere near the top of the slope. The ball rolled a few feet, turned right, and then trickled down toward the hole. At the hole, the ball teetered on the cup’s lip for a second or two before taking one more turn and falling in.
Anyone who wishes to see Tiger’s shot can view it on YouTube. It’s an entire golf lesson packed into a few seconds of video. What’s interesting about this shot is Tiger’s intense concentration under pressure and his determination to hit the shot perfectly. If YouTube had snippets of all The Masters great shots, you’d see the same mind set from all the players involved. It’s the type of concentration you must develop if you want to cut your golf handicap down to single digits.