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CNN's top 10 Masters victories

  • Tiger Woods re-wrote the record books to become the youngest Masters winner in 1997
  • Jack Nicklaus won his sixth and final green jacket at the age of 46 in 1986
  • Sandy Lyle holed a magnificent birdie putt on the 18th hole to become the first British winner

(CNN) -- Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf at the Masters has made all the pre-tournament headlines but, with or without the world number one, wearing the winner's green jacket is perhaps the pinnacle of a professional golfer's career.

Although there are four "Majors," the Masters is considered the greatest tournament in the world.

Not only is it the only one always staged at the same venue, the Augusta National in Georgia, but -- unlike the other three major events -- a smaller, select field of just 98 players battle it out for the first prize.

There have been 73 Masters tournaments since Horton Smith won the opening event in 1934, and they have provided a whole list of memorable victories.

Here are 10 of the very best.

10) Gary Player (1961) -- There had been 24 Masters tournaments before Player finally managed to take the green jacket off American soil. The South African led by four shots going into the last 18 holes and, despite a final-round 74, held on to beat holder and American hero Arnold Palmer. Not only did Player become the first overseas winner, he broke with tradition even more by refusing to bring the green jacket back the following year.

9) Byron Nelson (1942) -- Two greats of the game, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, went head-to-head in an 18-hole play-off after the pair finished three strokes clear of the field. Nelson hit 69, Hogan posted a 70, so the Texan secured his second victory after winning in 1937. There have been 13 Masters play-offs over the years, but this was the greatest.

8) Zach Johnson (2007) -- This was the year that the might of Augusta proved too much for the world's best golfers. Only three players were under-par at the halfway point and the 36-hole cut was set at a massive eight-over-par. Despite not breaking par over his opening three rounds, favorite Tiger Woods somehow found himself in the lead going into the final few holes. However, Johnson conjured up three birdies in his final six holes to snatch victory with a one-over total of 289 -- only the third time in history the Masters has been won with an over-par score and the first time ever that Woods had not won a major he had led in the final round.

7) Nick Faldo (1996) -- Faldo remains the only Englishman to win the Masters. He became only the second man -- after Jack Nicklaus -- to retain the green jersey in 1990 but a third victory looked well beyond his means when trailing playing partner Greg Norman by a massive six strokes going into the final day. But a stunning final 18 holes saw the big Australian completely crumble to a six-over-par 78. Meanwhile, Faldo carded a best-of-the-day 67 for an 11-stroke turnaround and a five-shot victory.

6) Seve Ballesteros (1980) -- The Spanish genius had already won the previous year's British Open, managing to defy atrocious conditions at Lytham St Annes to finish as the only player under par, so entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win. But few could have predicted his demolition of the field. He led by seven shots going into the final round and although a 72 allowed his rivals to close, Seve was always in control to become the first European to win the Masters -- and the youngest champion at 23.

5) Phil Mickelson (2004) -- Rarely could there have been a more popular winner than Mickelson. Lumbered with the tag of "the greatest player never to win a major," the left-hander had played 46 consecutive majors without getting his name on one of the top prizes in golf. This was the year that dreaded run ended as five birdies in the final seven holes saw him edge Ernie Els by a shot.

4) Gary Player (1978) -- The third Masters title for the "Man in Black" and undoubtedly his greatest. Aged 43 -- and four years after his last major victory -- Player's days of winning big tournaments were considered behind him. Seven strokes behind going into the final round, he proceeded to produce one of the great rounds Augusta has ever witnessed, posting seven birdies in his final 10 holes to snatch the title by a stroke with a 64.

3) Sandy Lyle (1988) -- Scotland's Lyle was attempting to become the first Briton to win the Masters, and he looked set to end that drought after forging into a four-stroke lead during the final round. But, with the finishing line in sight, Lyle began to crack and was level with American Mark Calcavecchia going into the final hole. With Masters glory slipping away and his tee-shot in a bunker, Lyle superbly pitched onto the green before rolling in a stunning birdie for victory.

2) Jack Nicklaus (1986) -- Nicklaus was the greatest Masters champion in history. The only man to win five titles, Nicklaus was seen as a spent force, with his best days well behind him. It had been 11 years since his final Augusta triumph but, in the 50th Masters tournament, "The Golden Bear" re-wrote the record books. At the age of 46, Nicklaus carded a stunning final-round 65, including a back nine of 30, to claim his 18th and final major victory, becoming the oldest Masters winner in the process.

1) Tiger Woods (1997) -- The golfing world already knew that Woods was going to be one of the greatest of all time, but this was the moment when the rest of the planet sat up and took notice. An opening-round 70 was just the taster for what followed in the next two days. Astonishing rounds of 66 and 65 meant he went into the final 18 holes with a nine-stroke lead, which he extended to 12 with a 69. The records tumbled: largest-winning margin, lowest aggregate score (270) and youngest-ever winner (21 years, 104 days). Woods has subsequently gone on to win 13 more majors, but none have had the impact of this one.