Nine things to know: Augusta National Golf Club
9. THE BIG THREE
Three of golf’s biggest stars came together for a practice round ahead of the 1996 Masters, a collision between golf’s past and its future. And at the end of the round, the two legends, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, declared that the offspring among them, Tiger Woods, could one day claim 10 Masters titles, as many as Palmer and Nicklaus combined. Woods is midway, sandwiched between Nicklaus (6) and Palmer (4) on the list of the greatest wins in Masters history.
“He’s absolutely the best fundamentally sound golfer I’ve ever seen, almost at any age,” Nicklaus said after playing with Woods for the first time. “(He) hits it 9 million miles without a swing that looks like it’s going to kill him. … If he’s ready to win here this week, I don’t know, but he’ll be your favorite here for the next 20 years.
Nicklaus was right. Woods won the following year by 12 strokes – breaking the 72-hole record that Nicklaus shared with Raymond Floyd – for the first of his five Green Jackets.
Palmer ushered Augusta National into the television age, as troops from nearby Fort Gordon trained Arnie’s Army and encouraged him to four straight victories in even-numbered years. The first, in 1958, came just two years after the Masters first appeared on television (and the same year famed golf writer Herbert Warren Wind first used the phrase “Amen Corner” in a story ). Palmer followed with victories in 1960, 1962 and 1964. The eventual victory was an emphatic six-stroke win that made him the first four-time winner in Masters history.
But he was soon to be supplanted as the greatest player in Masters history. Nicklaus won his first Masters in 1963 and was victorious again in 1965. A year after Palmer won by half a dozen, Nicklaus beat Palmer and Gary Player by nine strokes to set tournament records for the most large margin of victory and a low score from 72 holes (271). Bobby Jones called it “the greatest tournament performance in all of golf history” and said Nicklaus “is playing a game I’m not familiar with”.
Nicklaus won again the following year to become the first player to play back-to-back at Augusta National. His fourth Masters victory, in 1975, came in a duel against Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller which is considered one of the greatest duels in the long history of the tournament. And Nicklaus’ sentimental victory in 1986 at the age of 46 is one of the game’s most famous triumphs.
Like Nicklaus, Woods authored a record win (1997), went straight (2001-02, joining Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as the only men to do so), then added another emotional win (2019) . Woods also won in 2005 with a 16-way chip-in which is among the most famous shots in tournament history.
Woods’ 12-under winning margin in 1997 remains the largest in tournament history and his 18-under tally, since matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015, remains the lowest tally at an April Masters. Dustin Johnson won the Masters in November 2020 with a winning score of 20 under 268, the lowest score over par in major championship history.