Starting in 1960, a six year streak of Masters winners included the Mount Rushmore of golf. From 1960 to 1966, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player took turns wearing golf’s most prestigious green jacket.
What’s amazing is there are several other eras in which the winner’s circle included names that are neck and neck with The Big Three. Consider that from 1949 to 1955, Hall of Famers Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and Jimmy Demaret all came in first. During this period, Snead won three times, and Hogan won twice.
The Masters is the one major where a golf superstar can take a decade off, and then roar back to the top. Gary Player had a 13 year gap between his 1961 win and his 1974 victory. Nicklaus secured his Mount Rushmore status by winning the Masters in 1986 at the age of 46. His previous Augusta title came in 1975. Are you seeing a trend here? The Masters winner is rarely a one hit wonder. More often than not, there is something about playing golf amidst Georgia-bred azaleas that brings out the best in the best.
Great Golfers Finish Second
There’s a favorite sports saying that goes something like this. “No one remembers who comes in second.” That may be true in every major sporting event other than the Masters.
What makes the 1996 Masters so memorable, is not that Nick Faldo won by five strokes. This Masters is unforgettable because Faldo crushed the green jacket hopes of Greg Norman after The Shark began Sunday’s round leading by five strokes. Norman also finished second in 1985 and 1986. Did you notice that Norman’s 1986 and 1996 second place finishes were a decade apart?
If asked what is memorable about Chris DeMarco, chances are you’d reply, “DeMarco went toe to toe with Tiger Woods in the 2005 Masters, only to lose in a playoff.”
Finishing second at the Masters happened twice to Woods, and twice to Nicklaus. What’s gut wrenching is the thought that Tom Weiskopf finished second no less than three times, and consolation honors went to Mr. Hogan an incredible four times.
Going Low- Finish High?
Last year, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth shocked the golf world by tying Tiger Woods’ all-time low score with a 270 total. Keep in mind that Woods was a mere 21-years old when he scorched Augusta with this number. The previous low total score happened in 1965, when a 25-year-old Jack Nicklaus scored 271 for four rounds.
This begs the question, “Approximately a half century from today, will we chisel the bust of Spieth next to Palmer, Player, and Nicklaus on golf’s Mount Rushmore?”
Whatever happens in this year’s Masters, you can be sure of one thing, it’s at least a 50-50 bet that the golfer who finishes first or second on Sunday’s leader board will win the green jacket a decade from now. Ask Arnie, ask Jack, or Gary. After the first Masters win, the best of the best are just getting started.
Cover Photo via Flickr
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