Band of Brothers: Seven former Masters champions share their stories
Seven champions. Seven decades. One enduring bond. In this portfolio of original photography, seven Masters winners— from the oldest living owner of a green jacket to the 27-year-old defending champ—reflect on their biggest victories and the bliss that comes from belonging to the game’s most exclusive club.
Doug Ford, 1957 Masters champion
People talk about the bunker shot I holed on 18, but the swing that won it for me Sunday was on No. 15, the par 5. See, the day before I’d hit a 3-wood from the fairway to try to reach in two—a beautiful shot!—but my ball hit the bank and came back into the water. I made 6. So on Sunday I’m leading, and wouldn’t you know I drive it to the exact same spot. My caddie, Fireball, hands me 4-iron to lay up. But [Sam] Snead was playing behind me and was one back—and he had more length than me, so I figured he’d reach in two. Fireball and I had a beef. The gallery started laughing. I finally said, “Fireball, they don’t remember you at Augusta unless you go for it.” I hit 3-wood, and my ball hit the bank again but bounced on the green. I made birdie. On 18, my approach plugged in the sand. I had to play a bank shot off the ridge in the green, like a pool shot, and let it roll down to the hole. I got lucky. It went in. I was so excited that I tossed my club in the air, lost it in the sun and nearly crowned myself. Boy, that would have been a great story: “Masters champion kills himself with his own club."
Arnold Palmer, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964 Masters champion
One of my greatest ambitions was to walk up the 18th hole at the Masters and feel comfortable—to know that, unless tragedy struck, I was going to win the tournament. In my first three wins, I was on edge. I had won three Masters and, in each case, I birdied one or two of the last holes to win. That was sweet, and it was fun, but I was troubled by it, because I had not been able to win decisively. In ’64, I was leading by six and playing with my great friend Dave Marr. He was contending for second place. When we walked off the 18th tee, I said, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” He said, “Yeah. Make a 12.” [Laughs] When Jack put the green jacket on me, some nice words were exchanged. Just a simple congratulations. I could not have savored it more. All the wins were special. But I did what I set out to do in 1964.
Fuzzy Zoeller, 1979 Masters champion
It was my first Masters. We didn’t have Magnolia trees like that in southern Indiana, that’s for sure. I had a great caddie, Jerry Beard. That Sunday, we were in the fairway on the 15th hole, 236 yards out into a 15-20 mph wind. Back then the saying was, “If you see water, go,” meaning that if you can see the pond in front of the green, then you drove it far enough to go for it in two. Well, I saw water—but I was on my tiptoes standing on Jerry’s shoulders! [Laughs] I said, “Gimme the 3-wood and let’s pop it!” To win, you have to take chances. I hit it center of the green, two-putt birdie. Down the stretch, [third-round leader] Ed Sneed opened the door with some late bogeys and let Tom Watson and me right back in it. The pressure was off in the playoff, which I saw as a bonus. I’d already reached my goal of getting invited back. When my [birdie] putt on No. 11 from six feet went in, that was pure jubilation. I jumped as high as I could. Normally, I had a 2-inch vertical leap, but I’d just won the Masters— I stretched her out to 3! When did it sink in? Hell, I still pinch myself. I still say, “Wow, I did win the Masters.”
Larry Mize, 1987 Masters champion
I used a 56-degree sand wedge [for his miracle chip-in against Greg Norman in sudden death]. All I could do was a pitch-and-run. No indecision. One of the worst things you can do in golf is be noncommittal. I don’t remember feeling sorry for Greg; he was trying to beat me and I was trying to beat him. It sounds terrible, but you don’t have time to feel sorry for the other person. [Laughs] I’d made some good up and downs that week, but I do not remember chipping in anywhere else. And it’s my understanding that the purple shirt became a big seller. One of the golf magazines wanted me to go back and re-create the shot, but I’ve never tried it again. I’ve not been in that spot since Sunday of ’87, which is one of the best decisions I ever made. All that matters is I did it when I needed to. I’m not even sure where the spot is. People ask and I just point to the right and say, “It’s over there somewhere.” Now when I see the shot on TV, it’s pure memory.
Nick Faldo, 1989, 1990, 1996 Masters champion
Each of my three wins was very different. The first [in 1989] brought with it all the emotion of being a Masters champion. The last [in 1996, pictured] was a different battle at a different time in my career. It made for three green jackets and three Open Championships. Three of each! The most amazing memory I have from that Sunday was on the tee at the 12th hole. I started six shots behind Greg [Norman], but Augusta is the worst place to have a six-shot lead. When I got to the tee, I was tied for the lead. I knew it was game on. I was 38, and I thought, “Wow, I can still win a major!” And when I walked off the green, I was two ahead. On the way to the 13th tee, I thought, “It’s mine to lose.” I think my emotional batteries may have run dry after that one. They haven’t been the same since. No, I don’t feel my performance was overshadowed by Greg’s problems. The golf world knows how hard and firm that course was playing. I shot 67 on concrete. It was the lowest round of the weekend. It’s forever. Winning the Masters is forever. Pretty cool.
Zach Johnson, 2007 Masters champion
My attitude was that Tiger, maybe some other top guy, is supposed to win. Me, I wasn’t supposed to. So the pressure is off. Why not go out, give it my all and see what happens? That picture is on 18. I rarely take my hat off, to avoid [showing] my [messy] hair. I’m thinking, “I want to chip that in,” because it might make the difference. I was looking at the leaderboard knowing it’s close. I had a one-shot lead, and Justin Rose was one behind me, putting on 16. And Tiger was behind him, still in it. I played great [Johnson shot a final-round 69 in harsh weather]. I parred the 18th, and I was going to tip my cap because I had a huge following and everybody was behind me. I wanted to see my family and get ready for a playoff. I went straight to the locker room. Tiger was hitting his second shot on 17. I thought I’d go to the range, but then I thought, “I’ll just sit still.” He didn’t birdie 17, so he would have had to make a 2 on 18 [to force a playoff]. I just sat in the locker room with my agent. Boris Becker was next to me. That was really random. It was Easter Sunday. I think God had a plan for me, and I was just following it.
Charl Schwartzel, 2011 Masters champion
At that stage [after birdieing the 72nd hole] there was just a release of tension from all that pressure coming off my back. You have been concentrating so hard trying to hold yourself together. You can’t get ahead of yourself. That moment with my arms in the air [right] is such a blur. The adrenaline is so high. You realize what you have done, but to take in the importance of it all is not possible. All of a sudden you see someone close to you and you get tears in your eyes. My wife, Rosalind, was standing there when I walked off 18 and she was crying, so it makes you want to cry. It was a very special moment. The first person I telephoned after I signed my scorecard was my dad [George]. He started me playing golf and has done so much for me. He taught me how to play. Those moments are the ones you always look back on.