In the first part of our preview to the 2009 U.
S. Masters, Michael C. Fricke looks back at the most memorable moments in the long history of the year’s first major. He also writes about what it takes to do well in the 2009 edition.
I dare you to limit the iconic moments produced during the Masters to just three. Ok, maybe that is a bit tough. How about limiting them to five? Still can’t do it? Don’t feel bad, either can I. But I can quickly come up with eight that leap off the pages:
- Gene Sarazen delivers golf’s version of the ’shot heard round the world’ when he double-eagles the 15th on his way to victory in the 1935 version of the Masters.
- Roberto DeVicenzo inadvertently signs an incorrect scorecard and loses his opportunity to face Bob Goalby in an 18 hole playoff of the 1968 tournament.
- Jack Nicklaus brings the back nine and the crowd to its knees enroute to victory in 1986.
- Scott Hoch doesn’t even hit the hole from 2 feet to allow Nick Faldo to take the jacket in 1989.
- Ben Crenshaw openly weeps after winning the 1995 Masters. Just prior to the tournament, he lost his long time instructor and mentor, Harvey Penick.
- In 1997 Tiger Woods wins his first Masters, clobbering the field by 12 strokes.
- In 2004 Phil Mickelson rolls in a birdie on the 72nd hole to shake off the label “best golfer never to have won a major.”
- 2005 - Tiger Woods, on the par-3 16th leaves a chip hanging on the lip. For two teasing seconds anyway, before gravity takes over. It drops as do the chances of the contenders. He went on to claim his 4th green jacket.
While these moments are indelibly etched on our golf psyche, the last two championships have been rather pedestrian. Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman are deserving champions, yet they arguably will always be linked to drama-less championships. The roars rolling across the course from 13 and 15 as a contender rolls in an eagle have been few and far between. Let’s hope that this year’s Masters Championship - the 73rd edition - brings more drama than a neurotic teenage schoolgirl with boyfriend issues.
Many questions arise about this year’s tournament. Is Tiger the clear favorite? Was Phil’s performance in the Shell Houston Open last week an omen of things to come, or an anomaly waiting for correction (or was his attention elsewhere, say the Georgia/South Carolina line)? Not that long ago, the name Retief Goosen was mandatory in major championship conversation. And coming off his recent victory at the Transitions, he may be a force. Who may emerge from the pack as a first time major winner (can you say Nick Watney)? Which past winner might rise up and reclaim glory (can you say Fred Couples)?
The golf course stands to provide its usual exhausting test to the eventual winner. Though the changes have been relatively minor since last April, it still can humble even the greatest of players. Good shots in the air quickly become scrambling pars and a sigh of relief, or - as is just as often the case - another shot dropping bogey. A heavy reliance on the short game, patience, and an absence of 3-putts are critical to stay in contention.
In part two of our U.S. Masters preview, Michael will name his tournament favorite and look at the chances of world number two Phil Mickelson. Part two will be published tomorrow, April 8th, 2009.