After scouring our archives and quizzing golf insiders, we chose the best moments of the GOLF MAGAZINE era. The countdown will run through our December issue.
45. Disabled golfer Casey Martin triggers a national debate on whether he should walk or ride
Casey Martin wanted to play on the PGA Tour, but despite a rare circulatory disorder (Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome) that made walking 18 holes excruciating, the Tour wouldn’t allow him to use a cart. If he took one wrong step, doctors warned, his atrophied right leg could snap. So in November 1997, Martin sued the Tour under the Americans with Disabilities Act, demanding the right to use a cart. A judge granted the soft-spoken 25-year-old a temporary ticket to ride, which he put to use at Qualifying School, securing a spot on the Nike Tour. In January 1998, with his trial looming and the world watching, Martin rode to victory at the season-opening Lakeland Classic, his first and only professional win. “It was intense,” says Martin, who has conditional status on the Nationwide Tour in 2004. “Peter Jennings was there, ESPN, The Golf Channel. I wasn’t on a mission. Things just came together. I won and a weight had been lifted.”
44. Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf debuts at Pine Valley
In January 1962, host Gene Sarazen welcomed viewers to one of golf’s most renowned clubs, where Byron Nelson dueled Gene Littler in the first World match. The concept was simple: Put great players on great courses and toss in quaint travelogues for non-golfers. It worked to perfection. Every winter weekend for nine years, golf-starved viewers were transported to sun-soaked settings as exotic as analyst Jimmy Demaret’s lime-green blazers: Burma, Monaco (Look! Princess Grace is in the gallery!), New Zealand. In all, the show broadcast 94 matches in 48 countries, featuring the biggest names — Hogan vs. Snead, Palmer vs. Boros. But it wasn’t star power that hooked fans, says World writer and former GOLF MAGAZINE editor Al Barkow: “You’re in Chicago, it’s five below zero, you’re up to your ass in snow, then you’re watching a match from sunny Portugal and you think, ‘Life is good.’ ”
43. Caddyshack opens, starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and a dancing gopher
“Tinny and trivial,” one critic sniffed in the summer of 1980. Trivial? Caddyshack would become arguably the most quoted film ever, adored by golfers and non-golfers alike. Directed by Animal House co-writer Harold Ramis, the movie targets the country club set — “The snobs against the slobs,” declared the tagline. But never mind the politics, it’s the Fab Foursome we remember: Chase’s zen playboy Ty “Be the Ball” Webb, for whom Ty Tryon would be named; Murray’s gopher-hunting greenskeeper Carl Spackler (“It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole!”); Ted Knight’s snooty Judge Smails (“Are you my pal? Hmm?”); and Rodney Dangerfield’s plaid-clad boor, Al Czervik (“Last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it”). Caddyshack forever changed the golf lexicon, whether you prefer a pool or a pond. (Pond would be good for you.)
42. Michelle Wie cracks the top 10 at the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco and looks like the Next Big Thing
The Hawaiian teen made waves this year, shooting even-par over two rounds to miss the cut by a single stroke at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open. But the Big Wiesy’s coming-out party came at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. Playing in her first LPGA major at age 13, the willowy six-footer sassed her elders with a third-round 66, vaulting into the final group with Annika Sorenstam and eventual winner Patricia Meunier-Lebouc. While a balky putter led to a Sunday 76 and a tie for ninth, the eighth-grader proved her point: She was a superstar-in-waiting. Her gum-chewing charm won Wie almost as many fans as the jaw-dropping tee shots that put her at the top of the field with a 287-yard driving average. When asked how she was enjoying the Nabisco, the bubbly prodigy, now 14, giggled and said, “I had my first Oreo!” Her father, BJ, told us he and Michelle’s mother, Bo, limited her treats when she was younger — making her recent success doubly sweet.
41. Seve Ballesteros wins his first British Open, revitalizing European golf
The dashing Ballesteros was just 19 when he burst upon the world stage at Royal Birkdale in 1976, tying for second with a virtuoso display of shotmaking. Three years later, at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Ballesteros hoisted the Claret Jug, assuming his perch as Europe’s brightest star. His march to the winner’s circle was classic Seve: He missed his final seven fairways — and played those holes in one-under. Best of all was his recovery on the 16th, where the 22-year-old sprayed his drive into a parking lot. His ball resting next to an Austin Healy sports car, Ballesteros took a drop on the dusty ground, lofted a wedge to 15 feet and sank the putt for birdie. (Championship committee Chairman Colin Maclaine said Seve chose to play not Lytham but a course “of hay fields, car parks, grandstands.”) The Ballesteros Era had begun, igniting a European golf boom whose echoes still reverberate.
40. At 53, Tom Watson, with ailing caddie Bruce Edwards carrying his bag, shares the U.S. Open lead with a first-round 65
Jim Furyk would win the trophy, but Thursday at the 2003 U.S. Open belonged to Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards. Five months after the veteran caddie learned he had an aggressive form of the fatal neuromuscular disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, his boss turned back the clock. Throwback Thursday was filled with amazing moments: a holed 6-iron from 171 yards for eagle, a 45-foot birdie bomb that teetered on the lip, then dropped; a nifty up-and-down closing par for 65, Watson’s lowest U.S. Open round ever. Galleries cheered and tears flowed as cries of “Bruuuce” echoed throughout Olympia Fields. When it was over, Watson spoke not about birdies but about ALS. “I’ve got the bully pulpit, and I’m going to use it,” he said, calling his friend’s affliction an “orphan disease” that demanded attention and research. Edwards was just happy for a glorious day in the sun, saying, “You never know when it’s going to be the last one.”
39. Ping introduces the first mass-market cavity-back iron
Before they went “ping,” irons would sting. Steel forgings offered little forgiveness, and off-center hits shocked golfers’ hands and elbows. In 1969, Karsten Solheim eased their pain. The Norwegian-born engineer had already invented rabbit-ear antennas and co-designed one of the first jet planes, the U.S. Navy’s Fireball fighter. Solheim then turned his beautiful mind to golf. He built the first heel-toe-balanced putter, the 1-A, in 1959. Ten years later he applied a similar principle to irons: perimeter weighting. The Karsten 1 featured a bigger sweetspot and less twisting for better distance and accuracy on mis-hits. “He made it easier for average golfers to get the ball in the air and hit straighter shots,” says Ping Chairman John Solheim, Karsten’s youngest son. The irons were important not only for their design — others had tinkered with similar concepts — but for how they were made. In 1969 it was too labor-intensive to mass-produce a cavity-back iron by forging; Ping’s use of investment casting made cavity-backs economically viable. By the early 1980s, Ping was selling more irons than anyone else, and golf’s technological arms race was in full swing.
38. Jack Nicklaus concedes Tony Jacklin’s two-foot putt, halving the Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup is supposed to be about sportsmanship, not gamesmanship, as Jack Nicklaus showed at Royal Birkdale in 1969. The Brits had defeated the Americans only once in the previous 13 meetings, but now they’d pushed on to the final hole in 17 of the 32 matches. With the teams all square and the Cup hanging in the balance, Nicklaus and reigning British Open champion Tony Jacklin faced knee-knocking par putts on 18. The Golden Bear drained a four-footer, took his ball from the hole and picked up Jacklin’s marker, cementing the first tie in Ryder Cup history. “I don’t think you would have missed that, Tony,” Nicklaus said of his opponent’s two-footer, “but I’m not going to give you the chance.” U.S. captain Sam Snead fumed, “The boys were riled up. We went over there to win.” Jacklin saw it differently. That night he wrote to Nicklaus, “Jack, your gesture on the 18th green was something I’ll never, ever forget as long as I live.”
37. Ken Venturi wins the 1964 U.S. Open despite heat exhaustion
He had gone winless for four years. He was nearly broke. But a third-round 66 put Ken Venturi in the hunt midway through the 36-hole finale of the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional. Redemption was just a round away — if he could walk. As the temperature neared 100 degrees, the wispy San Franciscan was dehydrated, nauseated, near collapse. A doctor told him to withdraw, saying, “It could be fatal.” But Venturi played on under medical supervision, draping damp cloths on his head, gulping salt tablets and iced tea. Venturi later said his weakened condition may have helped him; too woozy to feel the pressure, he played in a kind of fevered trance. After making par on the last hole for a four-stroke win, he thrust his arms skyward and cried, “My God, I’ve won the Open!” Playing partner Ray Floyd retrieved the ball from the cup for the wobbly, disoriented champion. “I saw him fight and scrap to win,” Floyd said. “It’s one of the most heroic things I ever have seen.”
36. Payne Stewart edges Phil Mickelson to win his second U.S. Open, months before Stewart’s death in a private-jet accident
“When I was a kid,” Payne Stewart said after his most memorable triumph, “I used to pretend I was Jack Nicklaus sinking a putt to win the U.S. Open.” At the 1999 event at Pinehurst No. 2, practice made perfect for Stewart, a changed man at 42. The elegant swing and flashy knickers remained, but gone was the arrogance of youth; his bracelet bore the reminder “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do?). Stewart’s rival that Father’s Day, Phil Mickelson, stood ready to rush to his wife, Amy, who was about to give birth to their first child. Lefty led by one with three holes to play, then Stewart’s putter got hot: a 25-footer for par on 16, a kick-in birdie on 17. With Pinehurst’s Village Chapel bells chiming and wife Tracey watching, Stewart jarred a 15-footer for par and a one-stroke win. He punched the air, then embraced Mickelson. Four months later, a jet carrying Stewart crashed in South Dakota.
35. Alan Shepard hits the first golf ball on the moon
Golfers go to great lengths to play, but no man has gone farther than Alan Shepard, who trekked to the moon in 1971. Ten years after he became the first American in space, Shepard stashed a Wilson Staff 6-iron clubhead and two balls in a tube sock he’d hidden in his spacesuit. After Apollo 14 reached the moon, Shepard snapped the head onto a 33-inch aluminum rod used to collect soil samples. (He’d doctored the hosel in advance.) “In my left hand I have a little white pellet familiar to millions of Americans,” the astronaut told the world before dropping a ball on the sandy lunar surface. “I’m going to try a little sand-trap shot.” Encumbered by his bulky suit, he made three one-handed swipes — whiff, chunk, shank. Then, with help from a lunar gravitational pull only one-sixth that of Earth’s, he striped one 300 yards, with 35 seconds of hang time.
34. Bandon Dunes becomes America’s newest golf mecca and inspires a classic-design revival
Greeting-card mogul Mike Keiser wanted to build a “religious” links in the U.S., in the spirit of Ballybunion and St. Andrews. When he found a picture-perfect swath of virgin soil on Oregon’s southern coast, he turned not to Pete Dye or Tom Fazio but to an unheralded Scottish designer, David McLay Kidd. The 27-year-old Kidd crafted a seaside course Shivas Irons could love, a craggy, dune-covered place where the winds bend the pins and the rain falls sideways. Links-starved golfers flocked to Bandon when the course opened in 1999. Two years later Tom Doak added his own minimalist masterpiece, Pacific Dunes, making the 36-hole complex the only golf resort with two courses among GOLF MAGAZINE’s top 75 in the world and exciting interest in such naturalistic designers as Doak, Donald Steel and the team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.
33. Davis Love III wins the PGA Championship at Winged Foot under a rainbow
The 1997 PGA Championship’s most enduring image isn’t a towering tee shot but a graceful rainbow high above water-logged Winged Foot. It was at the 1974 PGA, watching his dad play with the world’s best, that 10-year-old Davis Love III first knew he wanted to play pro golf. Two decades later, as Love approached the final green with a four-shot lead assuring his first major win in 39 tries, the clouds parted and a ribbon of red, yellow and blue painted the sky. Love’s thoughts turned to his father, a fine player and renowned teacher who had died in a plane crash in 1988. After rolling in a 12-footer for birdie, the new PGA champion broke down in tears. He embraced playing partner Justin Leonard, brother and caddie Mark Love, and wife Robin. Finally, he hugged his mother, Penta, lifting her off her feet. “Dad knows what you’ve done,” Penta Love told her son, who answered, “I know.”
32. Larry Mize’s playoff chip-in breaks Greg Norman’s heart at Augusta
The hometown hero wasn’t supposed to stand a chance — not against two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros and world No. 1 Greg Norman. But Augusta, Georgia, native Larry Mize knew anything could happen in a sudden-death playoff. The dashing Ballesteros bowed out with a bogey on the first extra hole. Then, on the par-4 11th, Mize fanned his approach well right of the green, leaving a treacherous 140-foot downhill chip. Advantage Norman. “Just hit a good shot,” Mize told himself, “and put the pressure back on him.” He bumped the ball into the bank. It hopped twice, rolled forever… and dropped. Mize jumped for joy (“I almost went into orbit”) and the Shark, who eight months earlier had lost the PGA Championship when Bob Tway miraculously holed out from a greenside bunker, missed a 30-foot putt to tie. “The closer it got to the hole,” a dazed Norman said of Mize’s chip, “the more it looked like it was going in. And then — oh my God.”
31. Al Geiberger shoots the first 59 on the PGA Tour
It was already a memorable week at the 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic: Former President Gerald Ford had made an ace in the pro-am. Two days later Al Geiberger, the 1966 PGA champion, turned Ford’s feat into a footnote. Geiberger started well enough on the par-72 Colonial Country Club course — two-under after five holes. Then he reeled off six birdies and an eagle in seven holes. The gallery chanted, “Fifty-nine! Fifty-nine!” On the last hole, the man who’d battled a bleeding stomach brought on by stress coolly knocked a 9-iron to eight feet and drained the birdie putt, posting the first 59 in PGA Tour history. The enormity of his achievement was not lost on “Mr. 59,” a nickname that still graces Geiberger’s business cards. “I broke the sound barrier,” he said days later. “I pitched the perfect game.” 30. The first Skins Game sets the stage for the modern Silly Season
It could have been a turkey. In 1983, Thanksgiving weekend meant football, not golf. But TV’s inaugural Skins Game had an irresistible Hall of Fame foursome-Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Gary Player (above, from left)-in a two-day, $360,000 duel in the desert at Nicklaus’s Desert Highlands course in Scottsdale. So what if they were millionaires playing with house money? Fans loved watching their heroes (who wore microphones) fire at flags, shoot the breeze and drain putts for six figures. The skins format produced huge carryovers: Palmer snaked in a 40-footer to win $100,000-more than any of his 62 victories on the PGA Tour ever paid. Player tapped in for $150,000, more than twice Larry Nelson’s payday for winning the 1983 U.S. Open. There was controversy too, as Watson charged Player with improving his lie. (“I’m accusing you, Gary! You can’t do this!”) The show became a perennial hit (in 1986 it topped The Masters’ TV ratings) and paved the way for Silly Season and made-for-TV matches that have amused and annoyed millions ever since.
29. The PGA of America lifts its "Caucasians Only" clause
Fourteen years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and five years after Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a bus in Alabama, black golfers were still barred from the pro tour. The PGA of America, which then oversaw the tour, restricted membership and playing privileges to “professional golfers of the Caucasian race.” Finally, in 1961, the bylaw was dropped after years of relentless pressure — and the threat of legal action — from boxing great Joe Louis and talented black players, including Charlie Sifford, Bill Spiller and Teddy Rhodes. “I think I did as much for the game as Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus,” said Sifford (right), who soon joined the tour full time. When Tiger Woods won The Masters in 1997, he praised Sifford and the other pioneers: “They paved the way. If it wasn’t for them, I might not have had the chance to play.”
28. David Duval shoots a Sunday 59 to win the 1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
Al Geiberger and Chip Beck did it first, but David Duval shot his 59 with Sunday pins and Sunday pressure — and made it look easy. Duval is struggling these days, but for a time he was Tiger Woods’s equal, and that afternoon at PGA West’s Palmer course he was practically perfect. He lasered his irons to kick-in distance, sticking nine of his approach shots inside five feet. On the par-5 18th, Duval needed better than birdie for the lowest final round in PGA Tour history: He needed an eagle three. The stoic 27-year-old hit a booming drive, then an adrenaline-fueled 5-iron that soared over water and scooted to six feet. He knocked the putt in the heart. “It was an easy 59,” marveled his playing partner Jeff Maggert. “After he stiffed it for the fourth straight time on a par 3, I said, ‘I didn’t realize we were playing par 2s today.’ ”
27. Tiger Woods wins his third straight U.S. Amateur, rallying from two holes down with three to play
Not since Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam at Merion in 1930 had an amateur so electrified golf. Nearly 15,000 fans-the biggest crowd to witness a U.S. Amateur final since the day Jones clinched his Slam-swarmed the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club near Portland, Oregon, to watch Woods chase a record third straight Amateur title. Trailing University of Florida sophomore Steve Scott by two with three to play in the 36-hole climax, the 20-year-old Woods rose to the occasion. He made a short birdie putt to win the 16th hole. On 17, he studied a slippery 30-footer for what seemed like forever, then jarred the putt to tie Scott. The gallery erupted as Tiger filled the air with uppercuts. “He knows how to deliver a death blow,” a drained Scott said of Woods, who turned pro two days later.
26. A thrilling Legends of Golf leads to the birth of the Senior Tour
Roberto de Vicenzo committed golf’s greatest gaffe when he signed for an incorrect scorecard at the 1968 Masters (“What a stupid I am!”), so it’s fitting that de Vicenzo is responsible for golf’s greatest mulligan. It was his dramatic birdie barrage in the second televised Legends of Golf, in 1979, that paved the way for what we now call the Champions Tour. Down two holes with two to play at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas, de Vicenzo and his partner, Julius Boros, battled back to force a sudden-death playoff with Tommy Bolt and Art Wall. Then the legends got crazy. Three holes, three birdie halves. When de Vicenzo knocked an approach to two feet, Bolt dropped a long putt to extend the match, then pointed at his opponent and yelled, “Gotcha!” Finally, on the sixth extra hole, de Vicenzo rolled in his fifth straight birdie for the win. The ’79 Legends was the most electrifying golf played anywhere that year. Sponsors soon lined up, and eight months later the Senior Tour was born. 25. Lee Elder breaks the color barrier at The Masters
For 41 years, the only way a black man could step inside the ropes at The Masters was to carry a white man’s bag. Lee Elder changed all that by qualifying for the 1975 event with a win at the 1974 Monsanto Open. Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts greeted the 40-year-old Texan at the end of Magnolia Lane, and the club’s caddies gave Elder a rousing ovation. Said Elder of his first-tee jitters, “I was shaking like a leaf. I prayed that I wouldn’t top the ball.” In fact, he crushed his first drive that rainy morning. While he missed the cut, his score wasn’t the main thing for Elder, who reflected on his feat upon returning to Augusta as a fan in 1995 — the same year a skinny 19-year-old named Tiger Woods made his own Masters debut. “I told myself it was just another golf tournament,” Elder said. “Boy, was I wrong.”
24. Ben Crenshaw wins The Masters for his late mentor, Harvey Penick
On the eve of the 1995 Masters, ceremonial starter Gene Sarazen looked like a better pick than Ben Crenshaw. The 1984 winner hadn’t broken 70 in two months, and on the Sunday before the tournament his legendary coach and mentor, Harvey Penick, had died at age 90. The loss devastated Crenshaw — and inspired him. After returning from Texas, where he served as a pallbearer at Penick’s funeral, Crenshaw found good form and good fortune. Shots that should have reached woods or bunkers bounced to safety. Bogeys became birdies. “Another Harvey bounce,” Crenshaw’s wife, Julie, kept saying. After tapping in for a one-stroke win, Sentimental Ben bowed, cradled his head in his hands and wept. A Masters champion again at 43, he offered one explanation for his sublime play: “I had a 15th club in the bag today — Harvey Penick.”
23. Fuzzy Zoeller outduels Greg Norman in their U.S. Open battle at Winged Foot
On the first tee of their 18-hole playoff at the 1984 U.S. Open, Fuzzy Zoeller grabbed a phone from his bag and asked Greg Norman, “Wanna make one last call?” Norman smiled, took the receiver and said, “‘ello?” in an exaggerated Aussie accent. It was a good-natured exchange — one salvo in a rousing duel between two colorful golfers. Tied with Zoeller for the lead late on Sunday, Norman had followed heroic scrambles on 16 and 17 with a miraculous 40-footer on 18 for his third straight par. Watching from Winged Foot’s 18th fairway, Zoeller, who thought the putt was for birdie, waved a white towel in mock surrender. But it was the Shark who surrendered Monday when Zoeller — the Fuzz, as his fans called their chain-smoking, wisecracking hero — dropped a 68-foot birdie putt on the 2nd hole and coasted to an 8-shot win.
22. A nail-biting Ryder Cup starring Seve Ballesteros returns the event to its former glory
For decades, the Ryder Cup had all the excitement of a square dance, with the U.S. winning 20 of the 24 events. At Florida’s PGA National in 1983, Seve Ballesteros spiked the punch. Inspired by the dashing Spaniard, a European team that included Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer fought to an 8-8 tie entering Sunday singles. The Yanks had never lost on home turf, prompting U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus to growl, “I will not be the first captain to blow this thing. Now you guys show me some brass!” Ballesteros showed some brassie when he faded a 3-wood 240 yards from a steep-lipped fairway bunker, found the fringe and halved his match with Fuzzy Zoeller. (Nicklaus called it “the finest shot I’ve ever seen.”) The U.S. battled back. When Lanny Wadkins knocked a wedge to within a foot on the last hole to win the cup, 14.5-13.5, Nicklaus fell to his knees, found Wadkins’s divot and kissed it. The Americans had won again, but their days of dominance were over.
21. The Players Championship moves to Pete Dye’s TPC at Sawgrass, introducing stadium golf and ultra-modern course design
Tom Watson called it a joke. Fuzzy Zoeller asked, “Where are the windmills?” Yes, the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass, conceived by Tour commissioner Deane Beman and designed by Pete Dye — a.k.a. “the Marquis de Sod” — got an icy reception when it made its debut at the 1982 Players Championship. Many pros hated its four-story spectator mounds, roller-coaster greens and “tricked-up” holes, especially the 17th with its island green. While his peers grumbled, Jerry Pate let his clubs do the talking. Pate birdied 17 three times en route to a victory he celebrated with a plunge into the alligator-filled lake — after tossing in Beman and Dye. Fans loved the dramatic Stadium Course, and players came to appreciate its demands and the event’s mammoth purse, which this year reached a PGA Tour-record $8 million. Today, 25 TPC designs dot golf’s landscape, and the Players Championship is golf’s unofficial fifth major. 20. TaylorMade’s Gary Adams launches the first successful metalwood
PGA Tour pro Ron Streck looked down at his ball in the rough at the 1979 First NBC New Orleans Open and reached for the new driver he’d gotten from Gary Adams, founder of a tiny Illinois-based company called TaylorMade. Planning to lay up on the par 5, Streck swung and — thwack! — the ball soared 280 yards to the green. “I was in shock,” he says. “It’s like the ball shot out of a cannon.” Golf’s Metal Age was launched. While Adams didn’t invent metalwoods (they’d been around the game’s fringes for almost a century), his clubheads were lighter and better balanced. Some called them gimmicky, but Adams was a brilliant salesman who knew how to peddle the metal — which was cheaper than wood and delivered more stored energy to the ball for longer, straighter shots. TaylorMade sales skyrocketed after Streck won the 1981 Michelob Houston Open and Jim Simons took the 1982 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am using metalwoods. Within a decade, persimmon was an endangered substance; no weekend warrior’s bag was complete without some precious metal.
19. Tiger Woods captures the "People’s Open" at a brutal public course in New York — Bethpage Black
“Phil’s comin’ after youse, Ti-gah!” a New Yawk fan barked before the final round of the 2002 U.S. Open. But it was Long Island’s punishing Bethpage Black, the first municipal course to host the national championship, that came after Tiger Woods and his pursuers. The Black stretched 7,214 yards, the most in tournament history. On a rainy Day 2, less than one in five players hit the fairway on the 492-yard 10th hole, which demanded a 250-yard carry. The final round was a raucous, rainy affair, and for once the fans truly owned the Open. The New York masses cheered Phil Mickelson and jeered waggle-plagued Sergio Garcia. In the end, Ti-gah’s ball-striking was too solid. Woods hit 15 of 18 greens to secure a three-shot, wire-to-wire win, his seventh major in 11 tries. It was only fitting that Woods, who’d honed his skills not on country clubs but on mangy munis, would prevail at the People’s Open.
18. Hale Irwin, 45, high-fives the gallery on the way to his third U.S. Open title
Hale Irwin was seen as a steely competitor with all the charisma of a carbon rod. That changed with a single putt in the last round of the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah. Starting four shots back, Irwin, who hadn’t won in five years and was playing on a special exemption, rallied with a birdie blitz on the inward nine. He needed one more birdie, from 45 feet, to post a 67 — and, as it turned out, to reach a playoff with Mike Donald. Playing five feet of right-to-left break, he gave the ball a firm rap, watched it roll up and over a hump and slam into the cup. The gallery went berserk, and so did the 45-year-old Irwin, who galloped around the 18th green, high-fiving ecstatic spectators and gallery marshals. “I saw the crowd going wild and I got caught up in the excitement,” he said. “My instinct was to share it.” The next day Irwin beat Donald in a 19-hole playoff. He was now a three-time Open champion and its oldest winner ever.
17. Annika Sorenstam challenges the men at Colonial, becoming the first woman to play a PGA Tour event in 58 years
Going into 2003, Annika Sorenstam had 42 LPGA titles, $11 million in career earnings and a 59 to her name. Then she found her Everest. At the Bank of America Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, Sorenstam became the first woman since Babe Didrikson Zaharias to play the PGA Tour. She was cheered — and criticized, by the likes of Vijay Singh (“She doesn’t belong”) and Nick Price (“[It] reeks of publicity”). After three months of buildup, a sweaty-palmed Sorenstam launched her opening 4-wood down Colonial Country Club’s 10th fairway. That day, millions watched the usually stoic star smile, laugh…and hit 13 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. Her 1-over-par 71 — better than 27 men — could have been lower if not for a balky putter. The next day, an emotionally spent Sorenstam carded a 74 to finish four shots off the cut line. Still, fans lining “Annika’s Alley” applauded as she marched up 18, and she applauded right back. “I’ve climbed as high as I can,” Sorenstam said, “and it was worth every step.”
16. Rookie sensation Nancy Lopez wins her fifth straight LPGA event
In the third round of the 1978 Bankers Trust Classic in Rochester, New York, Nancy Lopez smacked a crooked drive that bloodied a fan’s forehead. As the teary-eyed star approached, the injured man said, “I’ll get to meet her now!” In 1978, everyone wanted to meet the 21-year-old rookie with the funky swing and Pepsodent smile. Before Rochester, Lopez had won four straight starts. At long last, the LPGA had a personality to catapult it onto the front pages. She graced magazine covers and chatted with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. “Lopez has the sex appeal of Palmer and the charisma of Trevino,” said Ray Volpe, then-LPGA commissioner. Like Trevino, she was a Mexican-American with a homemade swing. Her father, Domingo, had taught her the game on the hardscrabble courses of New Mexico. Now millions adored Lopez, who knocked in a 35-foot putt on the last hole at Rochester, cementing her LPGA-record fifth consecutive win. The future of women’s golf never looked brighter.
15. Justin Leonard’s long putt helps Team USA win the Ryder Cup at The Country Club
“I’m a big believer in fate,” Ben Crenshaw said on the eve of the 1999 Ryder Cup singles matches in Brookline, Massachusetts. It seemed fate was about to deal his U.S. squad a humiliating blow: a lopsided loss on home soil. The Americans trailed Europe 10-6 after two days; no team had ever overcome such a deficit. Crenshaw front-loaded his Sunday lineup, and his big guns — including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval — racked up six wins. It was up to Justin Leonard vs. Jose Maria Olazabal in the penultimate match. Needing a halve to complete the U.S. comeback, Leonard fought back from 4-down. Then, facing a 45-foot left-to-right breaker on the 17th green, he stroked his putt and watched the ball climb a ridge and rattle into the cup. Players and wives stormed the green; Crenshaw kissed the ground. Chants of “USA! USA!” rang out. Leonard’s birdie bomb had clinched…oops. No, it hadn’t. Once the green cleared, Olazabal’s 25-footer to extend the match burned the edge. Team USA had pulled off the Ryder Cup’s greatest comeback.
14. Lee Trevino beats Jack Nicklaus in their U.S. Open playoff at Merion after Trevino’s famed rubber-snake gag
Eighteen holes. Historic Merion. The world’s top two players. The 1971 U.S. Open playoff was a dream pairing of golf’s odd couple: Jack Nicklaus, the stoic blond bomber from an Ohio country club; and Lee Trevino, the loosey-goosey Mexican-American raised on scruffy Texas munis. On the first tee, Trevino dug into his bag, took out a rubber snake and playfully tossed it toward Nicklaus, who chuckled and flipped it right back. Was he trying to rattle Jack? “It takes more than a rubber snake to scare the Golden Bear,” Trevino said. Maybe, but Nicklaus left balls in bunkers on holes two and three, giving his rival a lead he never relinquished. Final tally: Trevino 68, Nicklaus 71. Score one for Joe Sixpack. “I represent the public golf courses, the working man,” said the only man to ever to beat Nicklaus in a playoff for a major.
13. Tom Watson edges Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach for his only U.S. Open title, chipping in at the 71st hole
As a student at Stanford University in the late 1960s, Tom Watson often drove 85 miles to Pebble Beach, where he’d pretend he was battling Jack Nicklaus in the U.S. Open. In 1982, fantasy became reality. Chasing a record fifth Open win, Nicklaus fired a final-round 69 to grab a share of the lead. Watson needed a par-par finish to force a playoff. His 2-iron at the par-3 17th found ankle-deep rough, leaving a treacherous downhill chip with little green to work with. “Get it close,” said his caddie, Bruce Edwards. “Get it close?” Watson shot back. “Hell, I’m gonna sink it.” He slipped his sand wedge beneath the ball, which popped up, hopped twice, slammed into the pin and dropped. Another birdie on 18 sealed Watson’s sole U.S. Open triumph. Later, Nicklaus said of The Shot, “My emotions could have been capsulized in two words: Oh, s–t!”
12. Nick Faldo overtakes Greg Norman with an 11-stroke swing on Sunday at The Masters
Greg Norman had the green jacket by the collar, leading his nemesis Nick Faldo by 6 as they stepped to the first tee on Sunday. Then Norman pulled his drive into the woods. Five-shot lead. Another pull on eight. Three-shot lead. He spun his wedge back off the ninth green and made bogey. Two-shot lead. After Norman missed a two-foot par putt on 11, Faldo was even. The Shark was drowning. He chased the sucker pin on the par-3 12th. Splash. Two-down. On 15, Augusta National literally brought the Aussie to his knees when a last-gasp eagle chip missed by an inch. On the par-3 16th Norman yanked his tee shot into the lake, and his shoulders slumped. Lost amid the meltdown was Faldo’s flawless 67, the weekend’s lowest round. As the pair embraced on the 18th green, Faldo said, “I feel for you. I just want to give you a hug.”
11. At the U.S. Open at Oakmont, Jack Nicklaus outduels Arnold Palmer for his first professional win
Jack Nicklaus surprised the golf world with his play at the 1962 U.S. Open, but Arnold Palmer saw it coming. “You’d better watch the fat boy,” Palmer had told reporters, referring to the 22-year-old Tour rookie with the buzz cut and booming drives. The King and the Kid were deadlocked after 72 holes at Oakmont, an hour’s drive from Palmer’s boyhood home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In the playoff, Arnie’s Army shouted “Blobbo!” and “Fat Jack!” and worse, but a focused, unyielding Nicklaus heard none of it. He took a four-shot lead after six holes and cruised to a 71-74 victory. Golf’s balance of power had forever shifted. Palmer, who called the ’62 Open “the most hurting loss of my career,” would win only two more majors. Nicklaus would claim another 17.
10. Ninth alternate John Daly wins the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick
He was truly an overnight sensation. After John Daly jumped from ninth to first alternate in the 1991 PGA Championship, the 25-year-old no-name drove all night from Memphis to Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana. And when Nick Price withdrew, the PGA Tour rookie got his shot. With ballistic drives and a silky short game, Daly shredded Pete Dye’s 7,289-yard design, flying fairway bunkers and cutting corners on doglegs. “Good gracious, what a coil, what an unleashing of power,” said Jack Nicklaus. “I’ve not seen anybody who hit the ball that far.” Fans loved Daly’s country-boy persona — he honed his swing on a 9-holer in Arkansas, using balls fished from a pond — and his booming tee shots. “I hit it as hard as I can,” he said, “and if I find the ball I hit again.” After a 300-yard drive on the 72nd hole, Daly bounded up the fairway, pumping his fist on his way to a three-shot win. The legend of Long John Daly was born, and golf had a new, macho mantra: “Grip it and rip it.”
9. Arnold Palmer wins the British Open, helping restore the event’s prestige
The British Open was approaching irrelevance in 1960. Top American players skipped the major known for paltry prize money and ratty course conditions. It took a king to restore luster to the royal event. Arnold Palmer fell one stroke short of victory at St. Andrews in 1960 but vowed, “I’ll keep coming back until I win this championship.” He made good in ’61 at Royal Birkdale, where in the final round he scythed a 6-iron “as hard as I could” from knee-deep hay off the 15th fairway. (A plaque now marks the spot.) The gallery gasped as the ball soared onto the green, landing 12 feet from the cup. British fans fell in love with the swaggering Yank, who captured his first Claret Jug by one stroke. Palmer defended his crown the next year, now joined in the field by elite U.S. players including Sam Snead and Gene Littler. Years later, Palmer’s longtime agent Mark McCormack said, “By himself he restored the British Open to its rightful place as one of the top three tournaments in the world.”
8. The U.S. reclaims the Ryder Cup in a fiery encounter called The War by the Shore
The fierce 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, claimed many casualties: Mark Calcavecchia choked away the four final holes to Colin Montgomerie and began hyperventilating; Nick Faldo confessed to being “petrified” on the Ocean Course’s bumpy Bermuda greens; Chip Beck and Paul Azinger both splashed their tee shots on the par-3 17th, costing them a four-ball match against Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Not even steely three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin was immune to nerves. “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow,” he said of his pivotal showdown with Bernhard Langer. The German conceded Irwin’s two-foot bogey putt on the 18th (for a back-nine 41), then stalked a six-foot par putt to win their match and keep the Cup. Langer lined it up, prayed, putted — and pushed it right. American players, wives and caddies stormed the green, celebrating Team USA’s 14.5-13.5 win. Of the climactic putt’s crushing pressure, Irwin said, “Nobody deserved to have to make that.”
7. Johnny Miller wins the U.S. Open at Oakmont with a final-round 63
On Sunday at the 1973 U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer glimpsed the scoreboard as he measured a short birdie putt on Oakmont’s 11th green. “Who the hell is 5-under?” a stunned Arnie asked. The answer: Johnny Miller, the bold, blond Californian with the plaid pants and awesome iron game. The .26-year-old started the day tied for 13th, six shots back. While galleries followed glamour groups — Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Weiskopf were all near the lead — Miller quietly made history. He birdied the first four holes and never looked back, scorching soggy Oakmont. He missed one fairway, hit every green and knocked 10 approach shots to within 15 feet of the flag on his way to a one-stroke win over John Schlee. Some said the soft course was a pushover, but only four of the 65 players broke 70, and Miller’s 8-under 63 remains tied both for the lowest round in U.S. Open history and the lowest final round ever in a major. Was it the best round ever? “It’s the best I’ve seen,” Miller said.
6. Jack Nicklaus wins his fifth Masters over his two top rivals, Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf
They say The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday. The old saw was never truer than in 1975, when golf’s power trio tussled for the green jacket. Johnny Miller was the Tour’s leading money winner, Tom Weiskopf had just triumphed in Greensboro and Jack Nicklaus was, well, Jack Nicklaus. Playing one group ahead of his rivals, the Golden Bear birdied the 15th but then half-chunked his tee shot on the par-3 16th, leaving a nasty, uphill 40-footer. Weiskopf led Nicklaus by one and his playing partner by two as he and Miller climbed onto the 16th tee, where they watched the Bear face a possible three-putt. Nicklaus gave his ball a rap; it scaled the shelf, broke hard left and dove into the cup. He leaped into the air, thrusting his arm and putter skyward. Weiskopf’s shoulders slumped; minutes later he bogeyed 16. At 18, he and Miller missed birdie putts that would have forced a playoff, and Nicklaus had his fifth green jacket.
5. Tiger Woods wins the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots
When the 2000 U.S. Open began with a 21-ball salute to late defending champion Payne Stewart, the golf world watched in reverence. Then reverence turned to awe. For the next four days, Tiger Woods delivered the most dominant performance in the event’s 104-year history. Woods’s 12-under-par 272 gave him a 15-stroke win and broke Old Tom Morris’s 138-year-old mark for largest margin of victory in a major. Comparisons to Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus seemed unfair — to Woods. This was Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths, Mark Spitz claiming seven Olympic gold medals. Runner-up Ernie Els admitted, “It’s kind of embarrassing to finish 15 shots behind. We’re not in the same ballpark right now.” Viewers didn’t mind the blowout; NBC enjoyed record ratings. “Did it get boring watching Michael Jordan score 50 points?” asked Brandel Chamblee, who finished 34 strokes back. “You’re watching art personified. You’re watching the best there’s ever been.”
4. In the British Open at Turnberry, Tom Watson’s weekend 65-65 bests Jack Nicklaus by a shot in their ‘Duel in the Sun’
Even after his breakthrough victory at the 1975 British Open, Tom Watson was considered soft — “a collapser,” in Hubert Green’s words. Then came 1977, when the kid from Kansas City twice vanquished Jack Nicklaus in his prime-first
at Augusta National, then at Turnberry, where the pair staged their own private battle in unseasonably balmy Scotland. Nicklaus led by a stroke as they reached the 15th on Sunday, but Watson drew even with a 60-foot bomb for birdie, then added another on the 17th to take a one-shot lead. On the 72nd hole, Watson stuck a 7-iron to two feet. But the Bear somehow slashed an 8-iron from thick rough onto the green, which the raucous gallery then encircled. The crowd erupted when Nicklaus willed in his 35-foot birdie putt. He was tied, but only for a moment. Watson coolly holed his two-footer for the Claret Jug, and the dueling sportsmen walked arm-in-arm off the green. Said third-place finisher Green, who was 11 shots behind, “I won the Open Championship. These guys were playing another tournament.”
3. Arnold Palmer charges to win the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills
The King was seven shots back as he approached the first tee for the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open. And he was ticked off. Minutes earlier he’d asked Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Drum, “I may shoot 65 — what would that do?” “Nothing,” Drum said. “You’re too far back.” “The hell I am!” snapped Palmer. He took a mighty lash and drove the green on the 346-yard first hole. After a two-putt birdie, the charge was on. “I felt a powerful surge of adrenaline,” said Palmer, who added five birdies in the next six holes. “Something Big was happening.” A young Jack Nicklaus and an Ailing Ben Hogan, paired together, made valiant runs but faltered late. (Nicklaus would have won, said Hogan, then 47, “if he had a brain in his head.”) When Palmer tapped in for par at the last, he had his 65 and a two-shot win over the 20-year-old Bear. The Cherry Hills gallery, writer Robert Sommers later noted, had seen “the coronation of Arnold Palmer, the emergence of Jack Nicklaus and the last gasp of Ben Hogan.”
2. Tiger Woods wins The Masters by 12 shots to become the tournament’s youngest champion
At the 1996 Masters, Jack Nicklaus predicted that amateur Tiger Woods would win more green jackets than Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer combined. Golf scribes rolled their eyes. A year later, Jack looked prophetic. Playing in his first major as a pro, Woods made Augusta National beg for mercy. “He’s taking the course apart,” Nicklaus said. Tom Watson called him “the type of player who comes around once in a millennium.” Woods possessed more than brute strength — he had a killer instinct and a killer short game, and never three-putted on the course’s treacherous greens. He began Sunday with a nine-shot lead and ended the day with a four-footer for par, a fist pump and a slew of tournament records: youngest champion (21), lowest four-day score (270) and largest margin of victory (12). Woods also became the first minority golfer to win The Masters. “I wasn’t the pioneer,” Woods said. “Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Ted Rhodes-those are the guys who paved the way.” Pioneer or not, Woods was the new face of golf.
And the Greatest Moment of the GOLF MAGAZINE Era is…
1. At 46, Jack Nicklaus rallies on Sunday to win his sixth Masters
As he stood on the 17th tee in the final round of the 1986 Masters, Jack Nicklaus had a problem: He couldn’t see. “I kept getting tears in my eyes,” he said. So did Jack Jr., who was carrying dad’s bag. So did many of the millions huddled around their TVs. And no wonder: Nicklaus, 46, had entered the tournament 160th on the money list and 0 for his last 20 majors. He was, in one writer’s words, “done, washed up, through.” Yet here was the Olden Bear, six shots behind Seve Ballesteros after eight holes, mounting a back-nine rally for the (golden) ages. He birdied 10, 11 and 13. At the par-5 15th, he launched a majestic 4-iron to 12 feet and drained the eagle putt. “The noise was deafening,” said Nicklaus. “I couldn’t hear anything.” Soon Ballesteros, hearing the gallery’s roars, would rinse his approach to the 15th green and make bogey. At the 17th, Nicklaus knocked in a tricky 11-footer to take the lead. The earth shook, and so did his pursuers. When Tom Kite and Greg Norman missed putts to force a playoff, the Bear had won his sixth green jacket and his 18th major.
“I thank you for a great honor,” Nicklaus told GOLF MAGAZINE upon hearing of his place atop our countdown. “The comeback I had that day, and having Jackie on the bag — what a thrill!”