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The 5 best Masters tournaments
3. THE TIGER SLAM: Tiger Woods closed out the 2000 season by winning the final three majors _ a 15-shot win in the U.S. Open, an eight-shot win in the British Open and a playoff win at the PGA Championship. He arrived at the Masters with a chance to hold all four professional majors at the same time, an unprecedented feat.
The debate leading up to the 2001 Masters was whether it could be considered a real Grand Slam. Arnold Palmer created the modern version of the slam in 1960 with the idea of winning all four in the same year. This would be all four over two seasons. Lost in the debate was a back nine filled with incredible star power _ Woods playing in the final group with Phil Mickelson, and David Duval making a charge to get into the picture.
Duval missed birdie putts of 12 feet and 6 feet on the last two holes and had to settle for a 67 that left him one shot behind. Mickelson, who twice had a share of the lead early in the round, was one shot behind with three holes left when his tee shot stayed on the top shelf at the par-3 16th, leading to bogey. He failed to birdie the last two holes and closed with a 70.
Woods knocked in one last birdie putt at the 18th for a 68 and a two-shot win over Duval. He had swept the four professional majors in a span of 294 days. And he beat two of the best players from his generation to do it.
2. ONE FOR THE RECORD BOOKS: In his last Masters as an amateur, Tiger Woods played a practice round with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, and Nicklaus later said that Woods‘ fundamentals were so polished that he might win more green jackets and Nicklaus and Palmer combined, which adds to 10.
In his pro debut at the Masters in 1997, Woods opened with a 40 and was an afterthought. He turned it around on the back nine with a 30 to salvage a 70, and then dismantled Augusta National like never before with frightening power. He took the lead on Friday with a 66, and played the third round with Colin Montgomerie, who was curious to see how the 21-year-old Woods might respond to the pressure. Woods shot 65. Montgomerie had a 74.
Woods closed out his record performance with a 69. He became the youngest Masters champion. He set a tournament record at 18-under 270. And his 12-shot victory margin remains the largest in Masters history. He was the first player of black heritage in a green jacket. And his win made him the game’s most transcendent figure.
Nicklaus was thought to be washed up, and an Atlanta sports writer essentially said as much in the days leading up to the Masters. It had been five full years since Nicklaus won the last of his 17 professional majors in the 1980 PGA Championship. The game had been turned over to a young generation of Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman.
Not so fast.
Nicklaus was on the ninth green when he heard two sets of explosive cheers behind him _ Tom Kite holed out for eagle on the par-5 eighth, and then Ballesteros chipped in for eagle moments later. Nicklaus turned to the gallery and said, “Why don’t we see if we can make up here ourselves?” He made the birdie, and then headed to the 10th hole to begin one of the most famous charges in Augusta history.
Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine, blowing past Kite, Norman, Ballesteros, Nick Price and Tom Watson, all of them now in the World Golf Hall of Fame. He made eagle on the 15th hole, and then 5-iron to 3 feet for birdie on the 16th and rolled in a 15-foot birdie on the 17th. Norman rallied and had a chance to force a playoff, but his second to the 18th sailed into the gallery and he made bogey. Nicklaus closed with a 65 for his 18th and final major, the record that has become the benchmark in professional golf.
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