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The 1990s

Masters History
February 7, 2012 - 2:25 pm
Greg Norman's fall from first place at the 1996 Masters left the Great White Shark reeling and the golf world stunned. A string of bogeys erased a six-shot lead, and Nick Faldo won the jacket.   File/Staff
File/Staff
Greg Norman's fall from first place at the 1996 Masters left the Great White Shark reeling and the golf world stunned. A string of bogeys erased a six-shot lead, and Nick Faldo won the jacket.
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THE MOMENT: GREG NORMAN'S COLLAPSE

Greg Norman's Masters failures are legendary.
 
There's 1986, when the popular Australian came to the 72nd hole tied with Jack Nicklaus. Norman pushed his approach far right on No. 18 and made bogey, and Nicklaus walked away with his sixth green coat.
 
A year later, the Great White Shark found himself in a three-way playoff with Seve Ballesteros and Augusta native Larry Mize. The hometown boy holed a miraculous chip from 140 feet on the second playoff hole to leave Norman empty-handed again.
 
Those close calls, however, were nothing compared with Norman's downfall in 1996.
 
Norman was the top-ranked golfer in the world, and Nick Faldo wasn't far behind. All signs pointed to a "Norman Conquest" as he opened the Masters with a record-tying 63. The score matched his good friend Nick Price's score of 9-under as the best in tournament history.
 
A second-round 69 did nothing to diminish his lead, and a third-round 71 left him six ahead of Faldo and seven clear of Phil Mickelson going into the final round.
 
It didn't take long for Norman to show some signs of vulnerability Sunday. He bogeyed the first hole but came back with birdie at No. 2, then made bogeys on Nos. 4 and 9 for 38. Faldo played the front in 2-under 34, and as the two set off on the final nine the margin had been reduced to two.
 
The pressure was now squarely on Norman, who promptly made bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 to erase the rest of his lead.
 
Faldo applied more pressure on the 12th when he hit the green with his tee shot. Now it was Norman's turn, and his iron shot hung out to the right. The ball hit the bank and trickled into Rae's Creek. Millions of television viewers, not to mention Augusta's patrons, were in shock: Norman now trailed by two after his double bogey.
 
Norman also hit in the water on the par-3 16th, and what was supposed to be a day of celebration turned sour. His 78 to Faldo's 67 left him five behind, and it set a record for futility as the biggest blown lead in major championship history.
 
"Nick played good golf and I played poorly," Norman said. "You can make up a lot of shots when that happens. It's not the end of the world for me. I'm not going to fall off the edge of the world because of what happened."
 
Only Tom Weiskopf has finished as runner-up in the Masters more times (four) without winning than Norman.
 
"Maybe these hiccups that I have, that I inflict on myself, are meant for another reason," Norman said. "Maybe something good is waiting for me down the line. That's the way I look at it."
 
Overshadowed in the historic collapse was Faldo's brilliant play. His third Masters title let him join select company; only Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer have had more success at Augusta National.
 
"We had an amazing day," Faldo said. "I hope I'm remembered for shooting 67 and not for what happened to Greg. But, obviously, this will be remembered for what happened to Greg."
 
"I let this one get away," Norman said. "I'll wake up tomorrow morning still breathing, I hope."
 
HOOTIE JOHNSON 
 
No chairman since Clifford Roberts faced as many tough issues as Hootie Johnson did.
 
Like Roberts, Johnson didn't back down from any challenge during his tenure from 1998 to 2006. A former high school and college football player, Johnson rose from a small-town banker to chairman of the executive committee of Bank of America Corp.
 
Johnson fought advances in golf ball and equipment technology by lengthening Augusta National more than 500 yards. The renovations included changes to all but four holes, and he also introduced a second cut of fairway, or rough, to the course.
 
Changes to the tournament's qualification standards also happened under Johnson's watch. He eliminated winning a PGA Tour event as an automatic qualifier and introduced the practice of using the world rankings to invite players. He also instituted 18-hole television coverage for Sunday's final round.
 
Johnson's most challenging issue was a public squabble over the private club's membership policies. Martha Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, questioned the club's lack of female members. Johnson responded with a terse, three-paragraph reply.
 
Burk wrote to Johnson in 2002 saying that "we urge you to review your policies and practices in this regard, and open your membership to women now, so that this is not an issue when the tournament is staged next year."
 
Burk didn't take kindly to Johnson's answer, and a media firestorm erupted. Battle lines were drawn, and Burk threatened a protest rally for the 2003 Masters. As the controversy escalated, Johnson released tournament sponsors Coca-Cola, IBM and Citigroup from their obligation for two years.
 
"Our club has historically enjoyed a camaraderie and kindred spirit that we think is the heart and soul of our club. And that makes it difficult for us to consider change," Johnson told The Augusta Chronicle . "Now a woman could very well, as I've said before, become a member of Augusta. But that is some time out in the future. And in the meantime, we'll hold dear our traditions, and our constitutional right, to choose and to associate."
 
Burk's rally fizzled, and no woman has been admitted as a member.
 
FRED COUPLES
 
It's a rite of passage: Every Masters champion has to successfully negotiate the tee shot at the 12th if he wants to put on the green jacket.
 
Fred Couples came to the 12th tee in 1992 with the lead. Every golfer knows that to fire at the pin, tucked in its traditional Sunday placement in the right corner, is folly.
 
Couples was trying to play it safe, but he blocked his tee shot. It hit the bank on the far side of Rae's Creek and, defying gravity, did not roll back into the water.
 
From there, Couples chipped up close to save his par, and he went on to win by two strokes over close friend and mentor Raymond Floyd.
 
"The biggest break, probably, of my life," he said after slipping into his green jacket. "I'm not so sure what would have happened if it would have went in the water like everybody else's."
 
RON TOWNSEND
 
Augusta National welcomed its first black member in the fall of 1990 when TV executive Ron Townsend joined.
 
The issue of minority members at private clubs became a hot issue in the summer of 1990 when the PGA Championship was set to be held at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala. The club had no black members, but it acquiesced after remarks by club founder Hall Thompson ignited a controversy.
 
In turn, the PGA Tour announced it would not hold tournaments at clubs that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.
 
The Masters is not run by the PGA Tour, but Augusta National invited Townsend before the club reopened in 1990. 
"I think some credit has to go to the folks at the club," Townsend said at the time. "It was something they wanted to do. They said it had been on their plate for the last several months."
 
IAN WOOSNAM
 
Ian Woosnam had to battle his nerves and a pro-American gallery to continue Europe's domination of the Masters in 1991. 
 
Woosnam held a one-shot lead over Tom Watson through 54 holes, and the two were joined by Jose Maria Olazabal in a final-nine battle. The three came to the final hole deadlocked.
 
Olazabal hit his tee shot into the fairway bunker and made bogey. Watson blocked his tee shot into the trees on the right, then found the front greenside bunker. He blasted out, then 3-putted for a double bogey to end his hopes.
 
Woosnam, playing in the final pairing with Watson, had hit his tee shot over the fairway bunkers on the left. His second shot came up short on the fringe, and his third shot left him a six-foot par putt for the victory. The Welshman drained the putt, then crouched down and pumped his fist.
 
JACK STEPHENS
 
Arkansas businessman Jack Stephens served as chairman from 1991 to 1998. Under his watch, limitations on practice-round tickets were instituted and an agreement was reached to use Augusta National as the golf venue in the 1996 Olympics. The plan was later rejected by the International Olympic Committee, when Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was critical of the lack of minority members at Augusta National.
 
"Under Jack's leadership the Masters continued to grow, and his integrity helped maintain its success," Chairman Hootie Johnson said.
 
Stephens overcame humble beginnings to become one of the richest men in the country. He joined his older brother, Witt, in his brokerage firm and helped it grow into the diversified financial group Stephens Inc. He also was recognized for his philanthropy. Stephens made several generous donations, including those for medicine, the arts and support of The First Tee program. He died in 2005.
 
TIGER WOODS
 
It's hard to overstate the hype surrounding Tiger Woods' first Masters as a pro in 1997.
 
He had won three consecutive U.S. Amateurs but had foregone the automatic invitation to Augusta when he turned pro in 1996. He quickly earned a spot in the field by winning on the PGA Tour.
 
Woods came in as one of the favorites, but his first major tournament as a professional didn't get off to a smooth start.
Woods played the first nine holes in 4-over-par 40, hardly the beginning he was looking for. He righted his ship with 30 on the second nine, including a chip-in birdie at No. 12 and an eagle on the 15th.
 
From that point, the rout was on. Woods shot 66 and 65 the next two rounds as he overpowered Augusta National and made believers out of his critics.
 
Woods teed off in the final round with history for the taking. A final-round 69 gave him the lowest 72-hole score in Masters history and a 12-stroke victory, and at 21 he became the youngest winner in tournament history.
 
As he walked off the 18th green, Woods gave his father, Earl, a tearful embrace.
 
"As my dad said Saturday night, 'Son, this will probably be one of your toughest rounds of golf you've ever had to play in your life. Just go out there and be yourself, and it will be one of the most rewarding rounds you've ever played in your life,'" Woods said. "He was right, because I had to deal with a lot of different thoughts and emotions that were going through my head."
 
Woods was the first black major champion. In a locale where traditions mean everything, it was one of the game's biggest moments.
 
"I sneak into the back of the winner's dinner. (Woods) comes in the room and members give him nice applause," writer Rick Reilly said. "And then in the back, all the cooks, busboys, waiters. They're all black. They took off their gloves and gave him a standing ovation. That moment still gives me chills."
 
Woods would go on to win three more Masters, including in 2001 to cap four major championships in a row. He successfully defended his title the following year, and in 2005 he joined Arnold Palmer as a four-time champion with a sudden-death playoff victory.
 
He might have had more success at the Masters in the 2000s, but the Woods era began in 1997. He set 20 Masters records and tied six others.
 
"I've never played an entire tournament with my A-game," Woods said. "This was pretty close."
 
MARK O'MEARA
 
Mark O'Meara has never been known for his brash predictions, but he made one to his caddie as he prepared to play the final two holes at the 1998 Masters.
 
Trailing David Duval and Fred Couples by one shot, O'Meara was irked by missing a birdie opportunity on the 16th hole.
"I'll just birdie the last two holes," he told Jerry Higgenbotham.
 
At No. 17, he made a 10-foot birdie putt to pull into a tie for the lead. On No. 18, his approach left him with a 20-foot putt. True to his word, he sank the birdie to become the first golfer since Arnold Palmer in 1960 to birdie the final two holes and win the Masters. 
 
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL
 
When Greg Norman rolled in a 25-foot putt for eagle at No. 13 in the final round in 1999, Augusta National's patrons roared their approval.
 
Jose Maria Olazabal figured the only way to diffuse the situation was to answer with a big putt of his own. He poured his 20-footer for birdie into the cup, and the two golfers exchanged gestures of appreciation.
 
"We were just saying to one another, 'Those were great putts,'" Olazabal said.
 
Olazabal, recovering from a series of health problems that were eventually traced to his lower back, added a key birdie at the par-3 16th to help him win his second Masters.
 
The Spaniard had won his first major in 1994 when he held off Tom Lehman for a two-shot win in Augusta. 
 
Olazabal made an eagle on the 15th in the final round, and he used his superb short game to join fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros as a Masters champion.

 

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