- April 10 down the years
A Masters triumph for Lyle
The first British golfer to win the Masters was a Scotsman born in Shrewsbury. Sandy Lyle was at his peak then, winning two other events on the US tour that year and now producing one of the most famous shots of all time. Needing a birdie on the last, or a par to force a play-off, he landed in a fairway bunker. He couldn't see the flag, so he aimed at a patch of cloud behind it. From 140 yards, he lofted the ball over the flag to the back of the green, knowing the ball would run back downhill. It came to rest eight feet away. A modest man, Lyle couldn't help saying 'I don't know that there's ever been a better shot in a major'. He was the first player to win the Masters by birdying the final hole since Arnold Palmer on the same day in 1960.
At the 15th attempt, Tony McCoy finally got the monkey off his back by winning the Grand National on Don't Push It. The greatest jump jockey ever to sit on a horse came into the race with everything on his CV, aside from a National win. He'd come close on a couple of occasions and been denied a winning chance in 2005 when his mount was taken out by a loose horse. On this occasion, there was no misfortune as Don't Push It jumped superbly and took up the running after the last before going on to win by five lengths. Tears were shed by the hard man of the jumping game, but they were deserved. It was also a first win for owner JP McManus and trainer Jonjo O'Neill.
The race that made the Olympic Games. Not just this one, all the ones that followed. It gave the whole movement an iconic race, a mythology to see it past the rubbish Games of 1900 and 1904. It produced the first Olympic hero.
The host nation had won gold medals before this, but none in track and field. Of the ten events so far, two had been won by an Australian, the rest by Americans, including the discus , which the Greeks counted as their own. The last race was the Marathon, named after the town it started in. There were 17 runners, including the three medal winners in the 1500 metres, none of whom had run 40 kilometres before. One of them, Albin Lermusiaux of France, set off too fast and did well to last 30k before collapsing. He was passed by the 800 and 1500 metres champion Teddy Flack, who was still in the lead with only six kilometres to go. But the Greek runners coped with the route better. It was dusty and hilly and they'd run a trial race over the same course. With four kilometres to go, Spiridon Louis was on his own in front. As he approached the stadium, thousands of people began to celebrate outside it. When he entered it, two Greek princes grabbed some reflected glory by running with him to the end. Louis finished more than seven minutes ahead of the next runner, a record for any Olympic Marathon. He became a national hero, one of the other finishers a national baddie. The next man in was another Greek. So was the third, Spiridon Belokas, who turned out to have ridden some of the way in a carriage! The first Olympic scandal. Third place was awarded to Hungary's Gyula Kellner, the only one of the foreigners to have run the distance before.
The race was based on a myth and created others. In 490 BC, a soldier called Pheidippides ran all the way to Athens with news of victory over the Persians at Marathon. 'Rejoice, we conquer!' he cried out before dying of exhaustion. Well no he didn't. Cry out, drop dead, or run the run. It simply never happened. But it was a good tale to hang a race on - as was the notion that Spiridon Louis was a shepherd, a water seller, or a post office messenger who did a lot of running. He entered the race to ask the king to free his imprisoned brother. Er, not quite. Louis didn't have a brother. None of this mattered. Myths and legends and a young man's gutsy run kept the Olympic movement warm in the hard years before London 1908. Like other winning athletes, Louis became a useful propaganda tool. Before the 1936 Games, he presented a laurel wreath to Hitler himself.
Stamata Revithi lived in poverty. She'd watched one of her children die a few months before. Now she wasn't allowed to take part in the Marathon. So she ran the course the following day. After stopping to watch the ships in the harbour, she arrived in Athens in about 5½ hours.
Arnold Palmer being Arnold Palmer, he birdied the last two holes at Augusta. His first-round 67 put him in the lead, but he trailed Ken Venturi coming to the 17th hole on the last day. Here his pitch sat down more quickly than he expected, leaving him 27 feet short. He stood back from the putt twice before hitting it. When the ball dropped, he went into a dance of delight. At the last, he won the tournament with his approach shot, drilled low under the wind. It left him with a five-foot putt. Cue more jumping about when he holed it. He finished one shot ahead of Venturi, who'd thrown away the Masters on April 8, four years earlier. Here in 1960, Palmer won the next major too, beating Jack Nicklaus at the US Open. No-one else won the Masters by birdying the last two holes until April 12, 38 years later.
Tiger Woods won the Masters for the fourth time. Chris DiMarco led for the first two and a half rounds before the rain came, then Woods led him by three shots going into the last day. DiMarco pulled it back to one on the 14th hole, but when he missed a birdie putt at the 16th, he was two down with two to play. With great nerve, he pulled a stroke back at each one, sinking a ten-footer at the last to force a play-off. On the first extra hole, DiMarco hit his approach from just off the green to five feet - but Woods holed from 15 to win. For the second Major in a row (August 15, 2004), DiMarco lost in a play-off.
Here at Augusta, the 1970 champion Billy Casper was nearly 74 years old - and the policy of letting former champions take part in their old age was becoming embarrassing. On April 8, 2001, Casper had finished last in the event. Today his round of 106 was the worst in Masters history, replacing Charles Kunkle's 95 in 1956.
After the disappointment of April 14, 1991, Jose María Olazabal fulfilled his potential by winning the Masters for the first time. Six off the lead after the first round, he scored 67-69-69, 11 under par, to beat Tom Lehman by two shots. He destroyed the field with his eagle at the long 15th, when his approach stopped just short of rolling into the lake and he drilled his 45-foot putt into the middle of the hole. Olazabal was the sixth European to win the event since 1979. He came back from excruciating foot trouble to win it again on April 11, 1999.
Richard Bergmann was born in Vienna. By 1936, when he was only 16, he'd won his first world title in table tennis, the Swaythling Cup team event. He was men's singles champion the following year and again in 1939, when he also won the doubles. Then the War came and cut eight years out of his sporting career. By the time it ended, he'd escaped to England and was at his peak. He resumed his rivalry with Bo Vána, who'd beaten him in the 1938 World final and won the first post war Championship. Bergmann beat him in five games to regain the title in 1948, then won it for the fourth time in 1950. His last final, against Hungary's Ferenc Soós, lasted nearly two hours and left both men shattered. Bergmann went two games down after losing the second when the time limit was exceeded, then ran riot, winning the third game 21-7 and the next two comfortably. He was still good enough in 1953 to reach his fourth doubles Final and win the Swaythling Cup again, this time for England. He won the English Open singles six times from 1939 to 1954, a record that still stands.
Mungo Park won golf's British Open. It was held over only two rounds played on the same day, and the materials at players' disposal made scoring much higher than nowadays. So Park's opening 75 was regarded as almost miraculous, a new low for 18 holes. He could afford to shoot 84 in the second round and still win by two strokes. The following year, his brother Willie won the title for the fourth and last time. Willie's son Willie junior won it for the first time on September 16, 1887.
Seven world records in the same event on the same day in the same pool by swimmers from the same country. In Austin, Texas, the men's 50 metres freestyle lists were rewritten by Chris Cavanaugh, Ambrose 'Rowdy' Gaines (who took the record below 23 seconds), and finally Bruce Stahl. The women's best time was reduced by Cynthia Woodhead, Kelly Asplund, and twice by Jill Sterkel, including the first time under 26 seconds.
Oscar Mathisen committed suicide after killing his wife, who was suffering from depression. The first of the great Norwegian speed skaters, he was all-round world champion five times from 1908 to 1914, the last three in a row. No man has ever been champion six times. Mathisen set world records at every standard distance to 10,000 metres. At 500, he broke the record set by his brother Sigurd, who was world champion in 1904.
As usual, a Naseem Hamed fight showed us his good, bad and pain in the rear. This was his first without trainer Brendan Ingle, who was no relation to Hamed's opponent. Like Hamed, Paul Ingle was born in Yorkshire. Unbeaten in 21 pro fights, he was the British and Commonwealth featherweight champion when he went after Hamed's WBO title. For most of the early rounds, he struggled. Fighting behind a high guard to protect himself from Hamed's stronger punches left him short of leverage with his own, and he took enough punishment for the doctor to look at him at the end of the sixth. But Ingle got stronger as the fight went on, drawing blood from Hamed's nose and mouth. As always, the champion couldn't kick the habit of throwing single punches instead of combinations. There again, it didn't always matter. A single left thunderbolt knocked Ingle down in the 11th, and the referee stopped it. Ingle's career lasted only another year, before a brain operation after a fight on December 16.
In rugby union, Ireland beat South Africa for the first time. The Springboks had just started the worst slump in their history, in which they lost seven matches in a row. This was the second, the first they'd played in almost a year, and for once Ireland were visibly fitter throughout. They struggled in the lineout, where 'Willie John' McBride was often unconvincing and the Springbok locks Gawie Carelse and captain Avril Malan won ball after ball. But the Ireland forwards swallowed up the mauls that followed these lineouts, and South Africa's age-old policy of using their giant forwards as bulldozers was too stereotyped today. Plus Ireland's scrum-half Roger Young harried Dawie de Villiers so much that fly-half Dave Stewart was completely outplayed by Ireland's Mike Gibson. But South Africa had enough possession to make it a tight match. They conceded a try to Pat McGrath after a high ball into the wind, equalised before half-time with a Stewart penalty, then went ahead with a try by new cap Wynand Mans after a rare mistake by Young. Ireland's full-back Tom Kiernan had missed an easy conversion, but now he turned matchwinner, kicking a penalty through the wind then another that scraped over with five minutes to go. It was South Africa's first defeat in an international match in the British Isles since November 17, 1906.
The last Five Nations international match staged in Swansea. Wales beat Scotland 15-3 to share the Championship with England and France. England would have won the Grand Slam if they'd won in Paris on the same day instead of losing 11-3. Jean Prat converted a try by his brother Maurice.