Roundtable: Most emotional Masters
Tiger last year? Jack in ’86? Our writers discuss the Masters of the last 40 years that tugged at the heart
April 07, 2020
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- April 07, 2020
- Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters victory brought out the emotions in fans across the world. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters a year ago, but it might rank first in terms of emotions. Of course, there have been plenty of emotional wins at Augusta National, especially in the last 40 years. Six PGATOUR.COM writers – with nearly 100 combined years of covering the Masters – take on the topic.
MIKE McALLISTER: Last year’s Masters certainly was an emotional win for Tiger. Of course, there have been plenty of emotional wins at Augusta National. Looking back at the last 40 years, which ones would you say are the most emotional? Expecting a 1986 reference in 3 … 2 … 1 …
BEN EVERILL: Tiger, Jack -- sure you can throw those up there. But for me, and about 25 million other Australians, there will never be a more emotional winner than Adam Scott in 2013.Adam Scott defeated Angel Cabrera in a playoff in 2013. (Harry How/Getty Images)
CAMERON MORFIT: For me, the most emotional Masters was 2004. Phil Mickelson had tripped over his shoelaces at the finish line so many times, it was getting painful for everyone, not just him. I think everyone can relate to being SO close to that thing you really, really want and blowing it at the end. Anyway, I remember sitting in the press bleachers to the right of the 12th tee and thinking, Phil, if you're ever going to win a Masters, ever going to win a major, you'd better make it happen starting now. He made birdie, and the rest is history.
SEAN MARTIN: For me, it was 2017 because I was in the grill room as Sergio Garcia was finishing his victory and I watched the emotions of Sergio's father, Victor, as his son finally got his major. There was yelling. There was screaming. There were tears. It was decades of pent-up emotions.
JIM McCABE: "Emotional" is hard to define. Sure, Aussies were emotional about Scotty in '13 but so were 46 million Spaniards (and million more Texans, of course) for Sergio in 2017. But emotional for fans who love competitive golf -- hard to top 1986 with Jack or 2004 with Phil. For me, 2001 still resonates. It established a piece of golf history we'll never see matched. Fourth consecutive win in the majors by one player.
McALLISTER: Helen, you were there in 1986. What stands out most about that week?
HELEN ROSS: It was walking the front nine with Jack Nicklaus on Sunday and feeling the excitement build. The emotion of the fans when he came up the 18th fairway was palpable. I have seen many Masters but that will always remain my favorite. And I'll never forget the retort of the late Tom McCollister of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- who had pronounced Nicklaus washed up -- when the Golden Bear said, "Thank you." McCollister said, “Glad I could help,” then, as laughter erupted, added, “(Tom) Watson wants me to write about him next."
EVERILL: I'll tell you what stands out about 1986. Greg Norman sitting in the 18th fairway only needing a par to take the old Bear to a playoff.
McCABE: Ben, go back and watch. Guy named Seve, sorta good, should stand out, too. That shot at 15 sucked the air out of him and opened the door for Jack.
McALLISTER: Ben, were you even alive in 1986?
EVERILL: I was 4 years old at the time but even my toddler self knew how terrible Norman's blocked 4-iron out to the right that led to a bogey was. I knew something was up as an entire nation gasped in the early hours of a Monday morning.
McALLISTER: OK, where was everybody else in ‘86? I was working at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas. The year before, Crenshaw was the defending champ and so I called him every day to ghostwrite his diary for the newspaper. I didn’t have the same assignment in ’86 for Bernhard Langer.
MORFIT: I was a junior in high school in '86. I played on the golf team, and pretended I was playing the 17th at TPC Sawgrass as I chipped whiffle balls over our backyard pool.
McCABE: In '86, I was desk editor at Boston Globe, watching every minute, writing the story in my head. It stayed there, of course, because we had writers assigned.
MARTIN: I was 3. I own the final-round telecast on a VHS tape I bought at a thrift store in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Now I just need to find a VCR ... or go on YouTube.
ROSS: My VCR, unfortunately, couldn't tape more than 24 hours in advance. A month later, when Jack Nicklaus came to Pinehurst to defend his title at the North & South Amateur, we talked about what the family did after all the interviews were over that Sunday night in Augusta. He told me they flew home and everyone got up early and watched the replay of the final round. When I said I wasn’t able to tape it, Jackie said he’d get me one. Six months later, I got a package, and a nice note from Barbara Nicklaus, with the CBS tape in it. I don’t have the tape (or the VCR) anymore. But I do have that note.Jack Nicklaus delivered one of the most iconic moments in golf history on the 17th green in 1986. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
MORFIT: To your point, Ben, when I think of the most emotional Masters, I often think of who lost. I think of that shell-shocked look on Greg Norman's face in '96, Brandt Snedeker in tears in 2008, Kenny Perry shattered in '09. Losing the Masters seems to be one of the most devastating things in sports.
MARTIN: I think it's because of the lifetime invitation. The lifetime of Champions Dinners. There's such a large gap between winning and finishing second. If you win, you can take sentimental strolls up the 18th fairway into your 60s. A single stroke separates you from that and from forlornly watching it from home for dozens of Aprils.
ROSS: Some of my more memorable Masters were not about who won, but the heartfelt and emotional reactions of the guys who lost. Len Mattiace to Mike Weir, Brandt Snedeker to Trevor Immelman and of course, sorry Ben, Greg Norman to Nick Faldo.
MORFIT: It should be noted that Ernie was pretty devastated to lose to Phil in '04. Like a lot of guys who came close, he didn't do much wrong, just got beat.
McCABE: Ernie's '04 moment is unforgettable because it played out right in front of us. On the putting green, ready for the playoff . . . then the ground shook, unforgettably. And the look on Jordan Spieth's face as Danny Willett gets the green jacket in 2016 is priceless.
MARTIN: Spieth was five ahead with nine to go! It's still unfathomable.
MORFIT: Rory's final-round 80 in 2011 was pretty rough. Charl Schwartzel winning in '11 was a line of demarcation for me. It was the first time I'd seen Tiger right there in contention when the rest of the field didn't seize up and help him.
McCABE: Actually only half of Rory's round was rough -- the most important half.
EVERILL: The Masters and Australians was nothing but misery until 2013. Norman in 1986 was one thing. But watching Mize chip in from right of 11 in a playoff in 1987... come on, seriously? That ball goes in the water if it doesn't hit the stick.
MORFIT: But Ben, Day and Scott didn't so much lose in '11. Schwartzel made four straight birdies to win.
EVERILL: Yeah, that South African bugger ruined the day after my wedding.
McCABE: 2011 is a truly underrated Masters. Rory hitting it at the 10th hole where not even a media member hits it the day after the Masters … Jason Day and Adam Scott playing brilliantly on the back and are poised to win when all of a sudden, a sweet-swinging South African wins. Schwartzel's birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish deserves lofty place in history.
MARTIN: It's lost on people that not only did Schwartzel birdie the last four holes, but he also holed a long bump-and-run from a tough spot on the first hole and holed a wedge for eagle on 3. A truly magical round.
EVERILL: Charl deserves better. If the winner of that Masters was a player of higher standing in the public consciousness, it might be considered the greatest Masters ever.
McALLISTER: Well, as much as I’m partial to the South Africans -- after all, I'm married to a Capetonian -- does it rank among the top 5 most emotional wins in the last 40 years? To me, Mize (Augusta native, unlikely finish), Crenshaw's second in 1995 (after Harvey Penick's death), and Phil in 2004 rank along with Jack in ‘86 and Tiger in ’19.
McCABE: Again, "emotional" opens different avenues. Mize win was emotional, I guess, but more so for massive parades of Seve and Norman fans. Different emotional.
MORFIT: Crenshaw in '95 was really a tear-jerker.
McALLISTER: Literally. He bends over in tears and then finds comfort in Carl Jackson's shoulder.
A week earlier, he finds out that Harvey had died, then he attends the funeral in Texas on Wednesday before scrambling back to Augusta. And he wins four days later. Larry McMurtry – another Texan of some renown – couldn’t have written it better.Ben Crenshaw was overcome with emotion after winning in 1995. (David Cannon/Allsport)
MARTIN: Let's remember, too, that he recaptured some of the old magic that week. Entering the 1995 Masters, Crenshaw had six consecutive finishes outside the top 40. He'd finished MC-T42-MC-MC heading into Augusta. He was +10 in his previous four rounds.
McCABE: Crenshaw in '95 is right there. Vintage emotions. 1996 had the quintessential range of emotions like few tournaments we've seen. But I remember how emotional Olazabal was in his wins. Tiger in '97 probably doesn't make you think "emotional" as much as it does "historical" or "unprecedented,” but you have to have that mentioned in any list.
EVERILL: If you going top 5, Scott is a must. You have to add global context. No Australian had ever won the Masters. This is a very proud sporting nation that hangs its hat on punching above its weight in sports. Cadel Evans had recently claimed the Tour de France, the only other major event we had not conquered in sports we competed at the highest level in. Short of a soccer World Cup, the Masters was it. The multiple near-misses. From Jim Ferrier in 1950, Bruce Crampton, Jack Newton ... Norman in ‘86 and then Mize literally stealing it from him again in ‘87. The ‘96 meltdown ... The 2011 euphoria taken so quickly ... THEN you add Adam Scott losing The Open Championship 10 months earlier when holding a four shot lead with four holes to go.
McCABE: Jim Ferrier in 1950? Sorry, didn't have that one.
EVERILL: There might never have been a more emotional moment in my life than when Adam rolled in his putt on the 18th in regulation and screamed instinctively "C'mon Aussie!!!" – I have goosebumps right now thinking of it. Behind him, Marc Leishman, who was in the mix all week and had lost his own chance late, gives a fist pump of his own. That image still brings tears to my eyes. They say no cheering in the press tent, but I admit I let out a huge roar of my own at that moment.
McALLISTER: Out of curiosity -- does anybody think Norman wins in 1996 if he's not paired with Faldo in the final round?
MORFIT: It's an interesting thought exercise, Mike, to imagine what might have been had Faldo not been looking at Norman eye to eye. I've got to believe it might have been easier for Norman to play alongside someone less machine-like and seasoned.
EVERILL: I will ALWAYS blame Phil for 1996. Mickelson bogeyed the final hole, I believe, to let Faldo into the final group. Norman would not have collapsed like that with a young Phil in the group. Faldo saw the blood in the water and attacked with ferocity. Phil wasn't that guy yet. Norman would still have leaked but Faldo wouldn’t have got the sniff of it and Phil wouldn't have taken advantage of it as much.
MARTIN: I don't think it would have mattered. In some ways, it's easier if you can see your opponent. You know what's happening. Otherwise you're relying on roars and uncertainty.
McCABE: The scene with Nick Price outside the scorer's hut (I miss that little hut) on 18 on Sunday sums up the emotions of '96. As his friend Norman was melting down on the back nine, Nick could barely talk, he was so emotional -- and he's arguably the classiest we've been blessed with. Said it all.One of Greg Norman's infamous close calls at Augusta National Golf Club came in 1996. (David Cannon/Allsport)
McALLISTER: Three different Spaniards have won since 1980. Assuming we all think Sergio's was the most emotional? Even though Seve won twice, I think of him first as an Open champion.
MARTIN: Olazabal's win in 1999 after being stricken with what he thought was rheumatoid arthritis has to be up there. He's a man of few words, so people may not have the same connection, but he thought he may not walk again.
MORFIT: I'll go with Sergio just because that's more the era that I've covered. Also, the fact that even he said he could never win it. That added something to the improbability of it all. Sergio winning there was sort of the same story as Phil doing it 13 years earlier: major talent finally wins a major.
McCABE: True, Seve and The Open are the perfect mix, but what he did in 1980 was kick down a door and tell his Euro friends to follow him. They did, too. Langer then Lyle then Faldo then Woozy and Ollie.
MORFIT: That's a good point, Jim. Seve was the first wave for Europe.
McALLISTER: Yeah, amazing four-year stretch for the UK between ‘88 and ‘91. Scotsman (Lyle), Englishman (Faldo back-to-back) and a Welshman (Woosnam). Rory should've been born earlier.
EVERILL: Sergio's win -- you just felt it coming on Sunday. Rose had been so solid but when he three-putted 13 and Sergio recovered from the flowers, you knew what was coming ...
MORFIT: I wonder about players who have come close and not won it. Seems like with the enormity of a green jacket, the weight of history and all that, coming agonizingly close might actually build the tournament up to something unmanageable, mentally. You can make winning there so important that you can't even function, and that's the danger. But had Sergio come super close? I'm not sure he'd ever come down the last hole or two with a legitimate chance. Maybe I'm forgetting?
MARTIN: No, but it was at Augusta National that he went on his famous diatribe about not thinking he was good enough to win a major.Sergio Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff in 2017. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
McCABE: Reminds me of the time, Phil -- back in the days when he was major-less -- said it was most important that he stayed committed to his style of play, that he didn't care if he ever won a major. Then he won the Masters in '04 and decided he liked winning majors better than the style of golf he played.
McALLISTER: So to circle back on Tiger ... of his five wins, is there any doubt last year's was his most emotional? 1997, as Jim mentioned, was historical. So was 2001. The other two were, well, expected. Maybe ‘05 was emotional but perhaps more because it was Jack's last Masters.
MORFIT: Tiger's '19 Masters was the most emotional; '97 was the most impactful.
ROSS: Agreed. 1997 was sheer dominance and important for what it represented. I was standing under the big oak tree by the first tee when he came triumphantly up the 18th fairway and remember seeing all the waiters in the grill room rushing out to be a part of it. But last year, given the depths from which he came after all the surgeries and self-inflicted drama, was amazing. Not quite as emotional as the way be sobbed into Steve Williams’ arms when he won the 2006 Open championship after his dad had died, but it was close.
EVERILL: Last year was a glimpse of the real Tiger Effect for the young players. He had no business being the man in control on Sunday. But one by one, the contenders took a swim in Rae’s Creek or made errors that allowed him to use his experience.
McCABE: Whole new generation of golf fans have come along since Tiger's fourth win at Augusta and they've seen him ride a roller-coaster. They probably didn't even see him win the "Tiger Slam" of 2000-01, so that's a big reason 2019 resonates. I'm a bigger of fan of 2001, though. Emotional and historic.
MORFIT: Mike, I think no one knew better than Tiger how much it took to get his career off the mat. It really was an amazing journey for him, and I think the reaction said it all.
McALLISTER: Yeah, and with his kids greeting him at 18 just like his dad used to ... well, that's full circle stuff right there.
EVERILL: As a father, I admit I lost it when he hugged his kids last year in basically the same spot his dad had hugged him in 1997. That will live in me forever.Tiger Woods celebrated with his family in 2019, just like he did with his father after his victory in 1997. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
McCABE: One problem I have with 2019 -- the memorable shots are bad shots. Koepka, Molinari, Finau all getting wet at the 12th. Tiger plays the 18th like a par 5. Weather woes. Two tees. Just felt … weird.
MORFIT: Agree with Jim, a lot of the memorable shots wound up in Rae's Creek on 12, but hey, that's the way it went for Jordan Spieth when Danny Willett won in '16, too. Part of the deal.
MARTIN: There was excitement when Tiger stiffed it on 16. Pandemonium even. But Jim is right. The 18th was a forgettable finish. The indelible image didn't come from his play that day. It came from sharing that moment with his kids. It wasn't really emotional until it was over.
MORFIT: I got sort of emotional when I saw the new press building for the first time.
EVERILL: I get emotional when i look at my credit card statement after a merch tent visit.
McALLISTER: I get emotional when I unwrap my first pimento cheese sandwich of the week.
McCABE: I know writers who got emotional when Masters dining added hot dogs to the menu several years ago.
MARTIN: This feels like it's getting off the rails.