My first Masters, on the scene and in a working capacity, was 1986. You might’ve heard something about that one.
My most recent, if memory serves, was 2019. That one is probably still echoing in your ears.
That’s 34, by my math, and while some of them were great and some of them merely good, a handful have stood out as the type of event that even gets the non-golfers joining the break-room chatter at Monday's lunch.
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Among those, of course, was that 1986 Masters, which in terms of celebratory fallout, is the only one that can be mentioned in the same breath as 2019.
A chronological look at the Masters Tournaments, from 1986 to 2019, that left a mark — whether for good, bad or ugly reasons.
1986, Jack's 18th: Up until this past weekend, Jack Nicklaus was the standard by which golf measured a “return to glory.” Given what Tiger Woods overcame in his downer of a decade to win his fifth Masters — much of it self-inflicted, some not — Jack’s “comeback” wasn’t all that much.
Jack endured some bad stretches after his 16th and 17th majors in 1980, but he also had a couple of PGA Tour wins and a pair of major runners-up. He was 46, however, and that was once considered old, even in golf.
When Greg Norman’s par putt, to tie, slid by the hole, the “Jack is Back” roars were uncorked at Augusta.
1987, Leapin' Larry: Larry Mize, at age 60, still tees it up at the Masters. Former champs get to do that.
Every time you see him on the property, you immediately flash back to his chip-in for birdie on the second playoff hole in ’87.
You also think about the look on Greg Norman’s face as he watched the ball hit the hole and fall, knowing it would’ve run several feet past if not for the perfect line. Norman needed to sink a birdie putt from the front fringe to tie. He didn’t, but you probably knew that.
1989, Hard to watch: From Sam Snead to Doug Sanders to Ed Sneed, golf lore has a thick chapter on little-bitty putts that missed their mark and cost someone dearly.
If they allowed gimmes in stroke-play golf, Scott Hoch would be returning to Augusta National every year as a former champ. Then again, Nick Faldo would’ve been silly to give Hoch that little 2-foot slider on the first playoff hole.
Hoch’s putt for the win missed badly and Faldo won the playoff on the next hole. The fact Hoch’s name rhymes with choke didn’t do him any favors.
1995, Ben's partner: The visual makes every highlight scroll of Masters victory celebrations. Two visuals, actually.
The first is Ben Crenshaw, doubled over, elbows on knees, head in hands, after making a short putt to clinch the Masters. The next picture is Ben burying his head in the big chest of longtime Augusta caddie Carl Jackson.
Gentle Ben had helped bury Harvey Penick back in Texas earlier that week. Penick was golf mentor to Crenshaw and many other Texas golfers, and Crenshaw was convinced he had someone walking along with him that magical week.
And when Ben talks of such things in that soft Texas drawl, you find yourself believing him.
1997, Hello World: Those who followed golf regularly knew all about Tiger Woods before April of ’97. By the second Sunday of that April, the world knew him.
That win was lopsided, historic and tone-setting. For nearly all of the next 12 years, Tiger Woods would be golf’s gold standard, and not just currently but maybe for all time. It was the win that launched an historic career, not to mention a million Nike ads.
2004, Phil, finally: Phil Mickelson had been close to winning major championships. He had a throbbing trophy cabinet, but none of the hardware that makes legends of mere winners.
That finally ended at the ’04 Masters, when he made a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to beat Ernie Els by a shot. Mickelson’s victory “leap” remains a topic of discussion all these years later.
2012, Bubba's bender: Yeah, sure, any Masters that goes to a sudden-death playoff automatically stamps itself as memorable.
What set apart the 2012 playoff was Bubba Watson’s geometry-defying wedge from the trees, way right of the 10th fairway on the second playoff hole. Generally, golfers only get a wedge to hook that far with a whipping cross-wind, and even then, they’d only try it on the practice range to possibly win a small wager.
Bubba’s side-winder finished 10 feet from the cup, and after Louis Oosthuizen made bogey, Bubba used his two-putt cushion for the win. Also memorable was the tearful Bubba, still red-eyed in Butler Cabin when Jim Nantz asked him to sum up his feelings.
“I don’t know,” Bubba said. “I never got this far in my dreams.”
2019, Long time coming: What’s that? Can’t hear you. The “Tiger” chants are still ringing in the ears.
All that remains now is to see how history views this. Was it the relaunch of Tiger’s attempt to reach and surpass Jack’s record of 18 professional major championships?
Or, like Jack’s 1986 win, the crowning achievement in one of golf’s all-time greatest careers.
Reach Ken Willis at email@example.com