The Reuters global sports blog
Looking back, 2009 Masters will go down as one of the best
Spectators who were fortunate enough to be at Augusta National for the final round of the 2009 U.S. Masters will never forget the experience as the birdie roars returned to the undulating, par-72 layout with a vengeance.
On a sun-kissed spring afternoon in Georgia, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods led the way with a sizzling display of shot-making, charging into contention after starting the last day seven strokes off the lead.
Although both Americans ultimately fell short of a three-way playoff eventually won by Argentina’s Angel Cabrera at the second extra hole, they attracted arguably the biggest crowds ever seen at Augusta with the fans massing 30 deep around some of the greens.
Throw in a few late fireworks by overnight leaders Cabrera and American Kenny Perry and Sunday’s final round proved to be one of the most unforgettable at the Masters.
Mickelson exploded out of the gate with six birdies in seven holes to reach the turn in a record equalling six-under-par 30.
Woods, although not at his very best, rammed in a 25-footer to eagle the par-five eighth before making birdie on 13, 15 and 16 to surge into contention for the title.
The game’s two leading players got to within a stroke of the lead before slipping back over the closing stretch.
Perry, meanwhile, struck his tee shot to a foot at the par-three 16th to forge two strokes clear before allowing Cabrera back into the tournament with a bogey-bogey finish.
The messy finale to the opening major of the season — Cabrera clinched his first Green Jacket by simply parring the two playoff holes — will undermine the argument made by many that this was one of the most unforgettable finishes ever at the Masters.
However, probably only two other editions over the last 30 years at Augusta can lay claim to being more memorable.
In 1986, the 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus shot a final-round 65 featuring an explosive back nine of 30 to win his sixth Green Jacket. He eagled the par-five 15th, almost aced the 16th and birdied the 17th to complete a stunning comeback and a one-shot victory.
In 2004, Mickelson scuppered the hopes of South African Ernie Els after the pair had duelled in an epic battle of shot-making in the final round.
Els, who had led by two strokes with five holes to play, closed with a five-under-par 67 but had to settle for second place after left-hander Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes.
The Masters has long established a reputation for the resounding birdie roars on the back nine during the final round with much of the drama focusing on the two par fives — 13 and 15.
Cold and windy conditions in 2007 and 2008 had conspired to leave Augusta strangely silent but Mickelson, Woods and company, helped by glorious weather, changed all of that in spectacular fashion in 2009.