Imagine winning the Masters for the first time. There are no more shots to hit, no more putts to study, no more interviews to give.
It’s that moment, Sunday evening or maybe Monday, when the achievement begins to settle in. There’s a green jacket and a place in history that comes with it.
What’s that moment like?
We asked several Masters champions to share their moments with us.
I passed out holding the green jacket around me like a little blanket. That was my moment. I was celebrating with family and friends and when I got up to the room I was about ready to go to sleep, I realized this was my blankie, the green jacket.
As time has gone on I’ve become more appreciative of what I did. At the moment, I won a major, I won the Masters, and I had a 10-year (PGA Tour) exemption because that was the last time they did it. I looked at it from that way.
Historically I had no idea. I was so young. I didn’t really appreciate exactly what I had accomplished. It wasn’t until years later that I started to realize the scope of what I had done.
Obviously I was elated. It was great to win. I might have skipped going to dinner at the club. I didn’t realize all the past winners were invited to go to dinner to celebrate. I think I said, “Thank you very much but I’m heading home.”
Barbara didn’t come that week. She was pregnant with Steve. I think because she was pregnant and due any moment … I think I finished and got my rear end home.
(The ’63 Masters was the only one of Nicklaus’ 18 major championship victories that his wife did not attend. Their son Steve was born the Thursday after the Masters ended.
In his book, Jack Nicklaus: My Story, Nicklaus recalled receiving the green jacket from defending champion Arnold Palmer and then handing his golf ball to club founder Bobby Jones, calling it “a small thing, but the look in his eyes remains one of the most emotional moments of my life.”)
I kind of had it on the 18th green. It was such an amazing day, not only for winning a major and winning the Masters, but for the battle (Justin Rose) and I had. Everything was kind of mixed up.
Obviously later on you look at yourself when we’re in New York with the jacket and it’s an amazing feeling. The emotions I went through as soon as that putt dropped on the 73rd hole you can’t redo them.
You expect it to be extremely special but it was even more. A lot of thoughts went through my head, a lot of memories from when I was a kid with my family, with my dad, with my wife, with the little girl. … So many different memories went through my head and so fast.
I was staying with the Gatlin brothers in a rental house and I went back over there and I just couldn’t believe it. It was a different moment. I was going through a divorce. I was with some friends there and it was very fun.
I got back home and I finally proved it to myself. I thought I was capable but you never know. I did the right things and I held myself together. I was never too emotionally even-keeled. I was always too much of a fluctuator.
The club said just take (the jacket) out on special occasions and I did that. I did go to the governor’s mansion.
I think about it every time these guys win their first one. When Patrick Reed had that thing on last year, you wonder what they think about it. They look at it, touch it, feel it. You go, “God bless, what a sublime feeling.” It’s surreal.
I really don’t think I did anything until like a week and a half later. I remember the car ride home. We got done with everything that you do afterwards, and it must have been 10 or 10:30 by the time we pulled out of the club. And I remember rolling down the window and just screaming. … Not on Washington (Road), on Magnolia Lane.
That was the first exhale. It wasn’t really until maybe after Hilton Head and after I think the ACM awards or something, on the way home from Hilton Head, it may have been like the next day where I was home, and I was like, “Wow.”
For me, playing the 18th hole, I was on the green in two with a three-shot lead and as I was walking up there, I lifted my head and started looking around, noticing people in the crowd.
As a kid growing up in South Africa, watching so many guys make that walk up 18, it was kind of weird for me to be doing what I had always watched. It was quite surreal.
If it’s your first major or the first time you’ve won a particular event, things don’t quiet down for a few weeks. It’s maybe the only event that transcends golf. Even if you don’t follow golf, you probably know about the Masters or the green jacket.
After I won, a lot of yellow flags started popping up for me to sign.
When I got back home and watched a few shots, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. As a kid, I absolutely loved the opportunity to watch the Masters. It would come on at 11 p.m. and we’d watch the back nine.
It feels everlasting. It can be overwhelming. You build it up so much. The first Masters I watched was when I was 6 years old and Jack Nicklaus shot nothing on Sunday to win in ’86. I watched it until Tiger won in ’97. I was still an amateur. It was amazing to see this young guy come through and blow away the best players in the world.
All of a sudden, it happens to you. It’s like, “Whoa, this is kind of crazy.” It’s been an amazing experience.
At some point every year at the Champions Dinner, I kind of pinch myself and look around the room and think that I’m just so fortunate.
It would have to have been right after we won. … I went back to Butler Cabin and my daughter was there, and she just came over and gave me a big hug and told me I did it and told me she loved me. That is, by far, the best experience I’ve ever had with the green jacket.
That’s a memory and a moment that I’ll never forget, no matter how many – if I were to win multiple other green jackets, any other tournament I were to win or anything like that. It’s going to be hard to be able to top a moment like that, one that I was able to cherish with the little one.
It was kind of surreal being in the Butler Cabin with Joe Ford, Jim Nantz, Matt Kuchar was low amateur and Tiger sitting there. You’re trying to take it all in. It’s happening pretty quick.
I went to the media center then back to one of the cabins to clean up. The club was very nice. You have dinner at the club. They invited my wife and my kids and they made a special table in the back for my kids to come and some of the neighbors at the house we stayed in, my kids were playing with those kids and they got to come. That was kind of cool.
I remember driving back to the house by myself. My family had left before me because I had some things to do. When I pulled into the driveway, I remember Tiger being there.
I had the green jacket on. I thought, “Uh-oh, I’m not supposed to have this.” I know I won it but I was supposed to leave it at the club. He was like, “No, no, you won it. You get to keep it. You’ll bring it back next April.”
Photos: Green Jacket (Jonathan Ernst, Reuters); Ben Crenshaw (David Cannon, Getty Images); Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus (Augusta National Archive, Getty Images); Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed (Brian Snyder, Reuters); Jordan Spieth (Ezra Shaw, Getty Images); Trevor Immelman (Tim Sloan, AFP/Getty Images); Mark O’Meara (Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)
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