Everyone’s getting nostalgic about the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ insane 1986 Masters win, and as a golf fan, I feel left out. I was 1 at the time. I get goose bumps imagining what it was like, but I didn’t experience it. There are some powerful first-hand accounts of it over on Geoff Shackelford’s site. Sure, I’ve seen the highlights, and I get revved up every time I hear Vern Lundquist explode with a “Yes, SIR!” Hell, I even roar out a mock “Yes, SIR!” and hold up my putter when I make a clutch putt while goofing around with friends. I’ve seen it so much it’s almost a natural reaction. But the highlight ultimately rings hollow for me. I appreciate it, and know its place in golf lore, but I know I don’t feel what I should. Would it have been a similar feeling if Tom Watson won the 2009 British Open? I don’t know. Watson’s position seems more unbelievable, but it probably didn’t have the excitement surrounding it like a back-nine run at the Masters would.
It’s the same thing for me with Kirk Gibson’s homer in the 1988 World Series. That’s the most famous highlight from the only World Series the Dodgers have won in my lifetime, and I can do the chug around the bases and everything, but it’s not really mine. I was 3.
As a 26-year-old, my Masters memories go back safely to 15 years ago. So I ask you, what is your favorite memory from the past 15 years at Augusta?
Phil Mickelson and his 6-inch vertical at the 2004 Masters jump out at me. Even though he was way overdue for a major — like 10 months pregnant overdue — I had legitimate doubts about Mickelson ever getting it done. There was a part of me that accepted no matter how talented this guy was, there was a real possibility he could get shut out. And then Mickelson shot 5-under on the back-nine Sunday. He birdied 12, he birdied 13, he nearly jarred his approach on 14, he birdied 16, and he had a birdie putt from 18 feet to win the Masters — and he made the fantasy putt. That really resonated with me. After all the demons that had haunted him, he had a putt to win the Masters — haven’t we all? — and he drained it. I loved that.
If you’re a “One for the family” person, Mickelson’s win last year had all the ingredients of an all-time classic. Mickelson’s 6-iron on No. 13 was pretty much unfathomable, and ranks only behind Shaun Micheel’s 7-iron in best clutch shots I’ve ever seen at a major. Not to mention the leader board going into the back nine was as exciting as it gets, with Lee Westwood, Anthony Kim, Tiger Woods and Fred Couples all in the mix, as well as K.J. Choi briefly flirting with the lead.
When I look back to the last 15 years as a whole, I think, “Of course! Tiger won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots!” But that week doesn’t stick with me. I remember Tiger bear-hugging his dad more than any one shot. I remember Greg Norman’s collapse the year before much more vividly than Tiger’s week. Maybe it has to do with my age. Maybe some of you were captivated and in awe of the domination. For some reason, it didn’t hold me as a 12-year-old. Now, of course, I understand its historical significance, and it’s more and more impressive with each passing year.
Do other years stick with you? Trevor Immelman, anyone? I actually loved 2009, although I remember it for Tiger and Phil finally locking horns but ultimately falling short, not for Angel Cabrera winning a playoff, or Kenny Perry bogeying the final two holes.
Anyway, share your favorites below!
(AP Photo/Joe Benton, File)