Every April, I settle down to watch The Masters. I feel it is the most interesting major in all of golf. Part of the reason is that it signals the start of the season for most of us not living in Florida or Arizona.
For me, winning the green jacket is a sign that any player has finally hit the highest level of performance because of the difficulty of the Augusta course and the fact that a substantial lead heading into the final round of the tournament has proven to be no sure sign of success. Let’s look at some of the guys who mounted the biggest Sunday comebacks to win the year’s first major.
1956 Jack Burke Jr.
I remember watching the ten shot final round turnaround that gave Paul Lawrie the 1999 Open Championship and the famous old claret jug, but I wish I could have witnessed the epic 1956 battle between two time major winner Jack Burke Jr. and amateur Ken Venturi that took place at the Augusta National Golf Course.
Entering the 1956 tournament Ken Venturi was a well thought of amateur who many felt would turn pro at some point in his career, a decision he finally made at the close of the 1956 season. I admire the goals and ambition of Venturi as he entered the 1956 tournament seeking to become the first amateur to win The Masters; looking back at the scorecards of the two players it shows me Venturi had led the field through the first three rounds of the tournament with Jack Burke Jr. one of the few men to eventually win the tournament without appearing in the final Sunday pairing.
On the final day Burke Jr. shot a steady one under par 71 and Venturi an eight over par 80, which gave Jack Burke Jr. the victory by one shot after an eight stroke turnaround in his favor.
1996 Sir Nick Faldo
The 1996 victory at The Masters by Nick Faldo may not be the largest turnaround in the history of any sport, but in the age of live TV the collapse of Australian Greg Norman is certainly the most infamous. As I look back on this famous final round turnaround I cannot help but feel sorry for “The Great White Shark” as he crumbled under the consistency and single mindedness of the Briton as they played together during that eventful final round.
Norman held an impressive four shot lead over Faldo as the pair began their round and looked as though he had found the secret to taming Augusta National. Unfortunately for Norman, Faldo continued with his famous monotonous playing style that saw him look to hit every fairway and green in regulation to place pressure on Norman throughout the round.
After seven holes it looked as though Norman would maintain his four shot lead, but five lost shots over the next five holes as Amen Corner bit the Australian who hit the water at Golden Bell to give Faldo a two shot lead. My admiration for Faldo is huge after his 67 on the final day gave him the victory and a sixth major win over Norman who shot 78.
2011 Charl Schwartzel
The Masters has recently struck me as a tournament that can still throw up a few surprises, just as it did in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel overcame a four shot deficit to defeat Rory McIlroy. Who among us has forgotten the final round 80 shot by the Northern Irishman as numerous players shared the lead on the final day of, for me at least, an unforgettable Masters.
Schwartzel hit a final round 66 to follow South African Gary Player as a South African champion of The Masters, holding off the challenge of a number of world class stars, such as Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, and Jason Day.