Thirty years ago, Larry Mize and his purple striped shirt jumped into Masters history with his green jacket-winning chip-in against Greg Norman at Augusta National.
Twenty years ago, Tiger Woods changed golf as the first player of color to win the Masters, setting a tournament scoring record in the process.
One year ago, Jordan Spieth stood on the 12th tee in the final round, seven holes from winning a second consecutive Masters, only to ruin it with a quadruple bogey that seemed to suck the spirit out of Augusta National that day.
The Masters has a way of producing stories that live on across the years. It’s why the glow of Jack Nicklaus’ win in 1986 remains and why fans make the trek down the hill at the 10th hole to find the spot from which Bubba Watson hit his famous recovery shot in 2012.
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It’s the world’s most familiar golf tournament played on the game’s most recognizable course.
“It’s imaginative golf. It’s feel golf and I really enjoy that,” said Spieth who has finished 2-1- 2 in his three Masters starts. “I really love the tournament. It’s pure golf.”
As the Masters begins again, these storylines provide the pulse:
Spieth looking ahead
The Masters has its share of ghosts but, at least to hear Spieth tell it, there won’t be any evil spirits hanging over the par-3 12th hole when he gets there this year.
That’s where, you might remember, Spieth made a quadruple-bogey seven on Sunday last year to kick away his chance at a second straight green jacket.
When Spieth returned for a weekend of golf in December, he made birdie on the 12th twice and during Tuesday’s practice round, he hit his tee shot to within a foot of the hole. He turned to the gallery and said, “I could have used that last year.”
“I can assure you, Jordan will be fine,” McIlroy said. “I’m sure what happened last year won’t enter his mind.
Chasing the Slam
This is the tournament that stands between Rory McIlroy and the career Grand Slam, something only five players have accomplished.
“I feel like it’s been relatively quiet, which is quite nice,” McIlroy said of Grand Slam talk. “I don’t feel like I can fly under the radar anymore but, at the same time, it’s sort of felt that way to me and it’s been nice to be able to prepare and just go about my business.”
Game’s hottest player
Dustin Johnson was 16 in 2002 when Tiger Woods was the last No. 1-ranked player to win the Masters.
This year, Dustin Johnson rolls into town at No. 1 and having won his last three PGA Tour starts. With a reliable power fade off the tee and a wedge game that might be as good as any on tour, Johnson has no real weakness. He’s typically started slowly at Augusta, but his name on the leader board gets everyone’s attention these days.
“I mean, golf, it’s a funny game. It doesn’t matter how good you’re playing, you can still not win. Same goes for this week,” Johnson said.
“If I want to win here, everything’s going to have to go well for me. I’m going to have to drive it well, hit my irons well, putt it well. Everything is going to have to be really good.”
The Masters is supposed to be about springtime, the azaleas blooming, the sun shining, the temperature just right.
Not this year, at least not initially.
After a rugged Wednesday when another line of storms blew through Augusta, the first round is expected to be played in chilly temperatures with winds blowing 25-35 mph with gusts up to 40.
If the forecast is correct, it will change so much. It’s critical to put approach shots in the proper spots on the greens and the wind will make that significantly more difficult. It will also make putting, particularly the shorter putts, more dangerous.
“It just puts more of a premium on speed putting. I mean big time,” Spieth said.