Published March 31, 2012
A look at some of the anniversaries this year at the 76th Masters, to be played April 5-8 at Augusta National Golf Club:
75 years ago: Byron Nelson won his first major championship with a stunning rally in the final round. Nelson set the course record with a 66 in the opening round, but a 75 in the third round allowed Ralph Guldahl to take a four-shot lead into the last day. The tournament changed dramatically on the 12th and 13th holes. Nelson went birdie-eagle, while Guldahl went double bogey-bogey — a six-shot swing in just two holes. Nelson closed with a 70 to finish on 5-under 283 for a two-shot win. Augusta National dedicated the Nelson Bridge at No. 13 in 1958 to commemorate his feat.
50 years ago: This was Arnold Palmer at his maddening best. He had a two-shot lead over Dow Finsterwald going into the final round. He lost his lead after seven holes, and after a double bogey on the 10th hole, he was two shots behind Gary Player and Finsterwald. Right when it looked as though he would crumble, Palmer charged. He holed a 45-foot birdie at the 16th, and then hit an 8-iron to 12 feet for birdie on the 17th to catch them. Despite a 75, Palmer managed to get into a three-way playoff on Monday. What followed was more bad play, and another charge. Starting at No. 10, Palmer made four birdies in a five-hole stretch to go from a three-shot deficit to a four-shot lead. He shot 68 to beat Player (71) and Finsterwald (77) and claim his third green jacket in five years.
25 years ago: Of all the heartache Greg Norman suffered at Augusta National, none could top 1987. He surged into contention with a 66 in the third round and trailed Roger Maltbie and Ben Crenshaw by two shots. Norman closed with a 72 and wound up in a playoff with two-time champion Seve Ballesteros and Larry Mize, an unheralded Augusta native who made a 6-foot birdie on the final hole. Ballesteros missed a par putt on the 10th hole and was eliminated. Norman was poised to finally slip into a green jacket when he was safely on the 11th green, while Mize missed to the right and was 140 feet from the hole. Mize's chip was picking up speed when it dropped for a most unlikely birdie, and a rattled Shark missed his birdie putt.
20 years ago: This Masters forever will be remembered for a blade of grass on the bank below the 12th green. Craig Parry lost the lead early, and it became clear that the tournament belonged to Fred Couples, who the previous week had gone to No. 1 in the world. Couples hit 8-iron to the par-3 12th and ducked his head as he saw it drift dangerously to the right. It hit the bank, and then slowly began to trickle toward Rae's Creek when it somehow stopped. "The biggest break of my life," Couples said. Instead of a likely double bogey, he chipped up to save par, then built a cushion with a birdie on the 14th and a 5-foot par save on the 17th. That gave him a two-shot lead going to the 18th, and he finished off a 70 to win by two shots over Raymond Floyd.
10 years ago: The supersized era of Augusta National began when the club tried to combat technology by lengthening nine of the 18 holes, adding as much as 285 yards. Some called it "Tiger-proofing," but it wasn't nearly enough to stop Tiger Woods from becoming only the third player to repeat as Masters champion. In a tournament plagued by rain, Woods birdied his last hole for a 66 on Saturday to share the lead with Retief Goosen. An early burst of birdies in the final round gave him the lead, and no one got closer than two shots the rest of the way in a reckless attempt to try to catch him. Woods closed with a 71 for a three-shot win over Goosen.
5 years ago: For the 13th time in his career, Tiger Woods was in the final group at a major championship. For the first time, he walked off the 18th green without a trophy waiting for him. The Masters went to Zach Johnson, a self-described "normal guy" from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who chose to lay up on every par 5 and made it pay off — 11 birdies, no bogeys. The chilly weather and dry conditions made it the highest-scoring Masters in more than 50 years. Johnson finished on 1-over 289, tying the tournament record last set in 1956 for highest winning score. Johnson closed with a 69 for a two-shot win over Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.