THE MOMENT: MIZE'S MIRACLE
Call it fate, call it luck, call it anything. Just be sure to call Larry Mize a Masters champion.
The Augusta native was a decided underdog when he found himself in a sudden-death playoff with Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987. After all, the two international players were among the best in the world. Mize was not very well known outside of his hometown.
But Ballesteros eliminated himself with a 3-putt on the first extra hole, and Mize and Norman headed for the 11th hole.
After both players hit decent drives, Mize missed the green to the right and Norman hit his ball onto the edge of the green.
The long-hitting Australian had a clear advantage.
"It was one of those things where you want to hit that shot, but your mind is saying, 'Don't hit in the water.' I just bailed out. I knew if I hit it left, it was pretty much over," Mize said on the 20th anniversary of his win. "So I blocked it right."
With one flick of the wrists, Mize executed his 140-foot shot perfectly. The ball landed softly, took a couple of bounces and rolled into the cup for an improbable birdie.
The shot set off a wild celebration for Mize and the gallery, and when Norman failed to hole his third shot, the Masters had its first hometown winner.
"I didn't think Larry would get down in two, and I was right," Norman said. "He got down in one."
He was the youngest Masters Tournament champion, and he overpowered the field with his length and deft putting touch.
While those descriptions certainly fit Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, they also work for Seve Ballesteros.
The Spaniard became the first European to win the Masters in 1980, and he added a second victory in 1983. He also had chances to win in Augusta throughout the decade.
Ballesteros set several records in his 1980 victory. At age 23, he eclipsed Nicklaus as the youngest winner in tournament history, a mark broken by Woods (age 21) in 1997.
Though Ballesteros' assault on par and the Masters record books evoked comparisons to Nicklaus and Woods, his style of play was more like that of Arnold Palmer.
With a seven-shot lead going into the final round, a Ballesteros win was deemed a mere formality. He set his sights on records for margin of victory and 72-hole total, but trouble at Amen Corner derailed those plans, and he held on for a four-shot victory.
In 1983, the last time the tournament had a Monday finish, Ballesteros blitzed the field with a hot start.
The young Spaniard started with a birdie on the first hole, added an eagle on the par-5 second and another birdie at the fourth. He defeated Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite by four shots.
Ballesteros suffered through his share of heartaches at the Masters, too.
In 1986, he fell victim to Nicklaus's final-nine charge. Ballesteros made two eagles but hit in the water on the 15th and made bogey and finished fourth. In 1987, he found himself in a three-way playoff with Greg Norman and Larry Mize and 3-putted the first playoff hole to be eliminated.
Hord Hardin ushered in several important changes during his tenure as chairman from 1980 to 1991.
Hardin oversaw the change of the putting surfaces from bermuda to bentgrass greens in 1981. Already regarded as the most undulating greens in golf, the surfaces became lightning quick. Hardin once quipped that the club could make them so slick that "we'd have to furnish ice skates on the first tee."
He also broke the tournament's long-standing policy of requiring Masters players to use Augusta National caddies. The players welcomed the change, but the move was not a popular one in the caddie yard.
Hardin also oversaw social change at Augusta National as the club welcomed its first black member, Ron Townsend.
One thing Hardin didn't change was the club's insistence on avoiding the commercialism that skyrocketed in sports during the 1980s. He famously vowed that the tournament would never become "the Pizza Hut Masters." Even though he added television coverage for the first and second rounds, he made sure the telecasts had limited commercials.
Hardin also brought back the tradition of honorary starters, featuring Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, in 1981.
A fine golfer in his own right, Hardin competed in several U.S. Golf Association events. He died in 1996.
Craig Stadler didn't start very well or finish strong, but he played extremely well in the middle rounds in 1982 to capture his only major.
He started with 75, the highest opening round by a champion, but followed with 69 and 67. In the final round, he had a six-shot lead with nine holes to play.
He squandered the advantage and found himself in a sudden-death playoff with long-hitting Dan Pohl. On the first extra hole, Stadler won with a par as Pohl took a bogey.
Ben Crenshaw will always be remembered for being one of the greatest putters in golf history, but not even "Gentle Ben" would have predicted he would make a 60-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole in the final round in 1984.
That unexpected birdie completed three in a row, and Crenshaw held on to win his first Masters by two shots.
Augusta National isn't a place that rolls out the welcome mat for poor putters -- or those who have had the yips, like Bernhard Langer once did.
But the German overcame those problems with 68s in the final two rounds in 1985 to win the first of his two Masters.
Langer took advantage when Curtis Strange found the water twice on the final nine, and he beat Strange, Raymond Floyd and Seve Ballesteros by two shots.
Jack Nicklaus had won the Masters five times, but when he arrived in Augusta in 1986, no one gave him a chance at victory. Some had even referred to him as the Olden Bear, a man at 46 who was past his prime and not capable of competing in the majors.
Scores of 74, 71 and 69 left him tied for ninth heading into the final round, but he was still four shots back.
Something clicked on the ninth hole in the final round when he rolled in a tricky downhill shot for birdie. Then he made a sweeping putt on the 10th. When he rolled in another birdie from long range on the 11th, his gallery started to swell.
Nicklaus made a bogey at the 12th but fought back with a two-putt birdie at No. 13, then made par at the 14th. Standing in the fairway at the 15th, he asked out loud whether an eagle 3 would do any good. His caddie, son Jackie, said, "Let's see it."
Nicklaus' iron shot came to rest about 12 feet from the pin, and he sank the eagle putt to get into position. His iron shot on No. 16 never left the flag, producing birdie, and he rolled in another lengthy putt for birdie at the 17th.
After securing par at the 18th, Nicklaus had completed a back nine of 30, a round of 65 and was the clubhouse leader. When Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros and Tom Kite all missed chances to force a playoff, Nicklaus had pulled off his greatest Masters triumph.
"I'm not going to quit, guys," Nicklaus told reporters after his historic win. "Maybe I should. Maybe I should say goodbye. Maybe that'd be the smart thing to do. But I'm not that smart."
When Sandy Lyle hit his tee shot on the final hole into the front-left fairway bunker at the 1988 Masters, it appeared he and Mark Calcavecchia were headed for a sudden-death playoff.
Not so fast.
The Scottish golfer hit his 7-iron approach above the pin, then watched as it settled about 10 feet from the hole. He made the birdie putt for the win, then danced an impromptu jig on the 18th green.
Nick Faldo's 65 in the final round in 1989 looked like it was going to go for naught.
It put him in a sudden-death playoff with Scott Hoch, and on the first hole all Hoch had to do was make a two-foot putt for the victory. When Hoch missed, Faldo seized the opportunity.
He rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the first of his three green jackets.
The next year, Faldo forged a playoff with Raymond Floyd.
After matching pars on the par-4 10th, the playoff ended on the 11th when Floyd's approach came up short and found the greenside pond. Faldo hit the green in regulation and two-putted for the victory.
"I think maybe No. 11 is my hole," Faldo said.