As of Tuesday, March 15, The Masters, the first Major of the 2016 golf season, is 24 days away. To celebrate the coming of arguably the most gorgeously visual event in all of sports, here’s a countdown to Augusta featuring a champion a day.
Twenty-four years ago, No. 1 Fred Couples won his first and only Major, defeating legend Raymond Floyd, then 49, by two strokes. It was one of the deepest fields in Masters history, with only 20 players missing the cut, leaving 63 in action on Saturday and Sunday.
The first day belonged to two Americans not named Floyd and Couples but rather Jeff Sluman and Lanny Wadkins, who each stroked a 7-under 65 to take a 3-stroke co-lead. As he had in 1991, Jack Nicklaus wowed the crowds with a 3-under 69 at age 50, tied for seventh with defending champion Ian Woosnam, Floyd, and Couples.
Woosnam fought his way into a tie for the lead at 9-under with Australian Craig Parry through 36, and Parry led Couples by a stroke after 54, with Floyd turning heads with his opening flurry of 69-68-69 putting him two strokes back.
When Parry birdied No. 2 while Couples bogeyed it, the Aussie had a 3-stroke lead with 16 to go, but Parry couldn’t hold it together. He bogeyed four straight holes to fall two strokes behind Couples and Floyd through eight holes, and Couples pushed his lead to there strokes over Floyd through 12 holes.
The 1976 champion’s last push came when he birdied 14 and 15 to close within two strokes, but both he and Couples parred the final three. Lost in the shuffle was Mark Calcavecchia’s 7-under 29 on the back nine, a course record. At 5-over through 7, Calcavecchia wound up 3-under.