The green jacket fits: Top 10 most historic Masters Tournament victories

For many of us, the annual Masters Tournament is the most captivating week of sports on television. Legendary Augusta National , designed by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, brings out the very best in the competition of the world's finest golfers.

For those of you who need a Masters Tournament history primer, or just need a quick refresher course, we've compiled some of the most historic Masters victories, dating back to 1934.

We are omitting a few classic finishes, like Seve Ballesteros' breakthrough in 1980 and the Byron Nelson-Ben Hogan 18-hole playoff in 1942. Even Charl Schwartzl's four birdies in a row from nos. 15-18 in 2011 to steal the green jacket was a remarkable finish. We're also saving some of the event's most notorious performances for another article. We encourage you to tell us which Masters moments and winners are your personal favorites, tweet us @golfadvisor or tell us in the comments below.

We're sorting these 10 Masters highlights by chronological order, and have found 10 different winners to showcase here, rather than play favorites to multi-winners like Palmer, Nicklaus, Mickelson and Woods.

Sarazen's "Shot heard 'round the world"

Perhaps 1935 was our first indication that the Masters wasn't going to be just another pro golf tournament. In the second ever tournament, Gene Sarazen hit the "shot heard round the world" in the final round.

Sarazen holed a 4-wood from 235 yards on a wet, cold day on the 15th hole, which would ultimately tie Craig Wood and force a 36-hole playoff the following day. Sarazen would win the playoff by five shots, and would be the last of his seven major titles.

Arnold Palmer's controversial drop

If you're curious how the Masters has gained the acclaim it has, and particularly on television, Arnold Palmer was a huge reason why. Palmer won his first of four Masters in 1958, overcoming final-round leader Sam Snead and scoring an eagle on the 13th hole en route to a one-shot victory over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins. The round included a controversial provisional ball ruling that allowed Palmer to save two shots.

1958 is also significant because it was the year that Sports Illustrated's Herbert Warren Wind used the term "Amen Corner" to describe the stretch of holes 11-13.

Palmer would win the event in 1960 in dramatic fashion as well, with birdies on the final two holes to steal the green jacket from Ken Venturi (who would never win a Masters). Palmer recorded wins in 1962 and 1964, and also two runner-up finishes.

Player's clutch putting clinic

In 1978, Gary Player was already a two-time Masters Champion. He began the day in 10th place, seven shots back of the lead. On a warm day, his putter caught fire on the back nine, holing seven putts between 10 and 30 feet. He shot a back-nine 30 en route to a 64 and a one-shot victory over three players, including defending champion Tom Watson, who missed an 8-foot par putt on 18 to force a playoff.


Golden Bear emerges from hibernation

When Jack Nicklaus, five-time winner of the Masters, arrived at Augusta National in 1986 at the age of 46, he was hardly in peak form. In fact, he hadn't won a major since the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in 1980.

And on the final day, tied for ninth place four shots back, he was only barely in the hunt until a birdie on the ninth hole caught the imaginations of a few staunch Golden Bear fans. When he birdied nos. 10 and 11, the chase was officially on.

Nicklaus' back-nine 30 was one for the ages as he vaulted up the leaderboard thanks to an eagle at 15 and birdies at 16 and 17. Nicklaus was in the clubhouse long before Greg Norman, who failed to force a playoff by bogeying the last hole, and he won by a shot over Norman and Tom Kite.


Watch clips from the Golf Channel documentary, '86


Crenshaw's help from above

The 2015 Masters was the last for Ben Crenshaw, and few players have such a bond with Augusta. Known for his silky smooth putter and gentlemanly manor, Crenshaw first won the green jacket in 1984. Crenshaw's graciousness seemed to epitomize the man who should adorn the green jacket.

In the 1995 season, Crenshaw's game was hardly on point. He hadn't broken 70 in two months. Then, at the beginning of Masters week, he received word his instructor, legendary Harvey Penick, had passed just days before the event. Crenshaw, Kite and many other PGA Tour pros who Penick had graced over the years attended the funeral in Austin and didn't return to Augusta until Wednesday night.

A little swing advice from caddie Carl Jackson, who suggested he put the ball a little further back in his stance, and perhaps some added guidance from above, Crenshaw improbably won his second Masters. The sight of him breaking down into tears with Jackson comforting him is one of the tournament's most memorable images.

Tiger's breakthrough in '97

Silly as it seems now, there were some question marks surrounding Tiger Woods' emergence on the PGA Tour. Was he too long off the tee? Could he control his irons? Did he have what it takes to compete week-in, week-out versus the very best? Woods missed the cut in 1996, his second appearance at the Masters.

Those question marks all found the wood chipper in 1997, when Woods not only won his first major at the age of 21, but finished 12 shots ahead of second place Tom Kite, both Masters records. Also significant was he was the first African-American player to win the Masters (it was only in 1975 that Lee Elder had become the first African-American to compete in the event). Woods overpowered Augusta and showed incredible poise on the greens.

Woods would win four green jackets between 1997 and 2005, and the term "Tiger-proofing" became a phrase known to describe the renovations of many top courses, including Augusta National, trying to lengthen and narrow their layouts in part to prevent such further domination.

Lefty's major breakthrough

It would seem Phil Mickelson's golf game, full of power, creativity and touch around the greens, would be purpose-built for Augusta National. But Lefty had a well documented struggle with capturing his first major championship. Finally, in 2004, at the age of 33 and following three consecutive third-place finishes and five straight top 10s at Augusta, Mickelson overcame a surging Ernie Els and faced an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for the win. His putt found the bottom, and Lefty jumped for joy.

Mickelson would win the green jacket again in 2006 and 2010.

Bubba's miraculous recovery overshadows albatross

It may go down as a simple par in the record books, but Bubba Watson hit what was perhaps the most clutch recovery shot in the history of the modern era. In 2012, on the second playoff hole, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen both sent their drives right off the 10th tee into the trees. Louis chipped out safe, but Bubba had other plans. He hit an improbable hook off pine straw with a 52-degree wedge thru a small window in the pine tress to find the putting surface just 10 feet away. He cozied it up to the hole and the par notched his first green jacket and major championship.

Perhaps even more improbable was that you could argue it wasn't even the shot of the day. Earlier, Louis Oosthuizen holed out from the fairway of the second hole for a double-eagle. It was first albatross on the second hole in Masters history and the fourth ever, last accomplished by Jeff Maggert on the 15th hole in 1994.

But it was Bubba's gutsy shot -- a shot perhaps only the savvy ball-curver could pull off -- that will go down in lore.

Video: Morning Drive on Bubba's heroic shot


Spieth dominates Augusta National

Augusta National is well known as a course full of local knowledge where experience goes a long way.

So in 2014, it seemed improbable that Jordan Spieth, just 20 years old competing in his first Masters, would find himself in the final group on Sunday, paired with the eventual winner Bubba Watson.

Spieth returned in 2015 on a mission, and opened with rounds of 64 and 66, breaking the 36-hole scoring record. He broke the 54-hole record with a third-round 70, and would ultimately win by four shots over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

He was the fifth wire-to-wire winner in Masters history and the first to ever reach 19-under par, before tying Woods at 18-under for the record. At 21 years, eight months and 17 days, Spieth was just a few months older than Tiger Woods when he won the Masters in 1997, and would win the U.S. Open later that year before falling one shot short of a playoff at St. Andrews in the Open Championship.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
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The green jacket fits: Top 10 most historic Masters Tournament victories
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