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Memories Of The Masters

By Robert Hardie April 05, 2024

Robert Hardie

You might forget your first girlfriend: you never forget your first Masters!

Mine was in 1974: all my friends’ parents were planning to buy their first colour televisions in time for the FIFA World Cup, but for my father we had to have it in April ready for Augusta.

I can remember like it was yesterday: how green the greens were; how yellow the flags were; how blue the sky was. 50 years later, I know that both the coverage and the picture would have been 1,000,000 miles away from the dozens of cameras, drones, and UltraHD we now take for granted, but at the time it was mind-blowing.

The colour TV coverage was wasted on the eventual winner though: Gary Player was the original Man in Black. There was also very little of it: back then it was the back nine holes only, and only at the weekend. None of that mattered to me though: Gary Player became a golfing hero and my I was in love with The Masters.

1978 was another World Cup year - still no England team there though - but Argentina took second billing in my house to another Gary Player win. Seven shots back starting the final round, he shot what was then a record-equalling eight under par 64 to edge out my father’s hero - Tom Watson - and Hubert Green, who had a three-footer to tie Player on the final hole, but a radio announcer who couldn’t contain his excitement, started talking while he was taking his putt, and Green missed it!

Spool forward a couple of years and the unthinkable happens: a European wins! Seve Ballesteros, unbelievably cool with his blackest of black hair and matching shoes, was the golfer we all wanted to be, but knew we never could. He led by seven shots after three rounds and scared us all by finding the water on #12 and #13 but steadied the ship to win by four from the guy with the greatest name never to win The Masters: Gibby Gilbert!

No-one who watched Jack Nicklaus win in 1986, as I did, will ever forget it - and no-one who watches any Masters since is allowed to forget it as it gets replayed EVERY year. 18 Majors; the oldest winner; eagle on #15; THAT putt on #17; six-under 30 on the back nine; son Jack Junior caddying; Seve finding the water on#15; Greg Norman missing the green and bogeying #18; it was The Masters that had it all.

If Gene Sarazen’s albatross two on #15 in 1935 really was the shot heard around the world, then Sandy Lyle’s seven iron out of the bunker on #18 in 1988 was the shot heard all over Scotland. Lyle’s win kickstarted a run of years when the question wasn’t whether a European would win, but rather which European would win: Nick Faldo in ‘89 and ‘90; Ian Woosnam in ‘91; Bernhard Langer in ‘93; Jose Maria Olazabal in ‘94; Faldo again in ‘96.

Faldo’s win in 1996 was another that everyone remembers but Greg Norman would love to forget. Six shots ahead starting the final round, he would end up losing by five: it was like watching a four-hour car crash but he’s Greg Norman, so it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy…

No set of Masters’ memories would be complete without Tiger Woods and mine are no different, from the Tiger Slam in 2001 and then THAT chip in 2005 on his way to beat Chris DiMarco, immortalised by Verne Lundquist’s commentary of the century: “WOW. In your LIFE have you seen anything like that?”.

Sometimes it’s the whole tournament you remember, other times it’s just a single shot: and Bubba Watson’s outrageous 90-degree hooked wedge to win at the second hole of a playoff in 2012 deserved the plaque deep in the woods that now marks the spot.

But for me, no memory will ever be as strong - as long as I live - as 2016 when Danny Willett defeated Jordan Speith for the simple reason that I WAS THERE!

I never dreamed I would be fortunate enough to attend a Masters in person, but I was. On the Sunday we followed Speith as he birdied #6, #7, #8, and #9 to take a seemingly unassailable five-shot lead into the back nine but it wasn’t to be and bogeys on #10 and #11 were followed by a SEVEN on the par-three 12th. I saw it all unfold from a seat right by the 18th green and once the home crowd left after their guy made bogey on #17 to end his challenge I was staring down the line of Willett’s winning putt as he made it and literally had a front row view of history being made.

It's amazing what these memories can conjure up. Evenings sat with loved ones, Spring's of one's youth. They aren't just simply golfing history. They are snapshots of moments in my life, they are my history. 

The Masters is one of those global events that give you true 'I remember where I was when...' moments. The above are just a few of my favourite Masters memories, I'd love to hear some of yours. 

Share with us your earliest or favourite Masters memories below.

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