AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - The youngest of the four majors has among the richest history, a product of the Masters returning to the same course every year.
Horton Smith won the inaugural tournament, which was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament in 1934. He made a 20-foot birdie on the 17th hole and wound up winning by one shot over Craig Woods, and hardly anyone noticed. It was the next year, when Gene Sarazen hit the golf shot heard `round the world, holing a 4-wood from 235 yards on the 15th hole for an albatross, that put the Masters on the map.
Since then, there has been no shortage of great shots, great moments, and great champions.
The last three years alone _ none would make the top five _ shows what kind of excitement Augusta National provides. Bubba Watson hit a wild hook out of the trees on the 10th hole in a playoff to beat Louis Oosthuizen last year. Charl Schwartzel closed with four straight birdies to win in 2011. Phil Mickelson won his third green jacket in 2010, helped in part by a 6-iron he hit off the pine needles and threw a small gap in the trees to within 4 feet on the 13th hole.
As for the best? Here’s one version:
5. THE SHOT `HEARD ROUND THE WORLD: The Masters was in its second year in 1935, and it looked certain that Craig Wood would atone for his runner-up finish from the previous year. He had posted a 73 for a 6-under 282, and only a few players remained on the course. One of them was Gene Sarazen.
Most of the writers were filing their stories when Alan Gould of The Associated Press yelled into his mouthpiece, “Say that again!” According to a remembrance by Charles Bartlett of the Chicago Tribune, Gould had been experimenting with short-wave radio to receive dispatches from the golf course. One of his assistants reported that Sarazen had made a 2 on the par-5 15th. Sure enough, Sarazen holed out with a 4-wood from 235 yards for an albatross _ a double eagle it was called that day _ the rarest shot in golf. He closed with three pars for a 70 to force a playoff.
The newspaper coverage brought so much attention to this quaint gathering in the South, and the Masters was never the same.
4. CLASH OF THE TITANS: Byron Nelson already had won three majors and it looked as though he would win another when he opened with rounds of 68-67 to take the halfway lead in the 1942 Masters. Ben Hogan shot a 67 in the third round to cut into the deficit, and then closed with a 70 _ only one player broke 70 on the final day _ to catch Nelson and force an 18-hole playoff.
At the time, Nelson had Hogan’s number. Nelson beat him in a playoff to win the Texas Open, and he beat him in quarterfinals of the PGA Championship a year later. Hogan had yet to win a major at this point in his career. That figured to change in the 18-hole playoff when Nelson sliced his tee shot into the woods and made double bogey, and he fell three shots behind with a bogey on the par-3 fourth hole.
But there were a pair of two-shot swings _ Nelson made a birdie on the par-3 sixth to Hogan’s bogey, and then Nelson made eagle on the par-5 eighth to take the lead. He stretched his lead to three shots with six holes to play. Hogan pulled within one shot with a birdie on the 15th, but then made bogey on the 16th. Nelson, despite a bogey on the final hole, shot 69 in the playoff to win by one shot.