20 years ago, it finally was Mark O'Meara's turn for Masters glory

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20 years ago, it finally was Mark O'Meara's turn for Masters glory

The 20th anniversary -- Mark O'Meara wins first Masters

It was finally Mark O'Meara's turn.

The 41-year old was one of the golfers labeled as the best to never have won a major. That talk ended in 1998.

O'Meara sunk a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to close the tournament with 5-under par 67 Sunday round. He finished the tournament at 9-under par. The closing putt was enough to give O'Meara a one-stroke victory over David Duval and Fred Couples.

O'Meara birdied three of the final four holes to pull off the win, recording the scores at Nos. 15, 17 and 18.

O'Meara would win the British Open later that year, his only other major title.

"To win a major championship, especially the Masters, is a dream come true for me," O'Meara said at the time. "I feel very honored and very proud."

Tiger Woods, who won his first Masters the previous year, and O'Meara had developed a friendship and became Florida neighbors. So when Woods slipped the green jacket on O'Meara, he whispered, "You deserve this."

O'Meara started the final round two strokes behind the leader Couples. O'Meara caught Couples early and the two stayed close to each other -- until Duval made a charge. He took a two-stroke lead after No. 13 at 8-under par with an eagle. Couples double bogeyed the same hole to join O'Meara at 6-under par. After 15 holes, it was Duval at 9-under, Couples at 8-under and O'Meara at 7-under. Duval bogeyed No. 16 and finished with two pars. Couples finished with three pars. But O'Meara won with birdies on the final two holes, including the lengthy putt on his final stroke.

The tournament will also be noted by yet another incredible late charge by Jack Nicklaus. Now 58, and 12 years after he shocked the world by winning the 1986 Masters, Nicklaus tied for sixth with a score of 5-under par. The finish, the oldest to finish in the top 10, came with a 4-under par 68 on Sunday.

Long-time Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Furman Bisher wrote this on the Nicklaus dramatics: "Yes, Mark O'Meara won the tournament and the precious Green Jacket that goes with it, but Jack Nicklaus won this Masters in a way that only Jack Nicklaus could. He won the hearts. The sound of his name resounded among the tall pine forests of Augusta National, and cries of adulation and exhortation. It was as if he were 46 again, or 36, and on the charge on a Sunday afternoon a splash in sunshine.

"Instead, he was an old warrior of 58 for whom walking is painful and whose hips ache. He who was serenaded by the membership of Augusta National Golf Club in a ceremony usually reserved for retirees, observed his 40th Masters. He has won it six times, but that wasn't enough. He wanted another."

The 62-year-old Gary Player became the oldest to make the cut at the Masters.

O'Meara won 34 times in his career and was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2015.

This article is written by Chris Vivlamore from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to