Now, as we head into today's final round, the tournament feels more like a repeat of 1997 - only Rory McIlroy is playing the part of Tiger Woods.
In '97, a 21-year-old Woods overpowered Augusta National and announced his place as one of golf's best with a 12-shot victory. It was the official changing of the guard from the likes of Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Fred Couples to a younger group that included Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Padraig Harrington.
Fast-forward 14 years, and the group of McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have arrived.
McIlroy, the 21-year-old, freckled-faced red-head from Northern Ireland, looked a bit vulnerable midway though Saturday's round, but once he got onto the back nine, he grabbed the tournament by the throat. He made birdies at 13 and 15, then made a very Tiger-like birdie on 17.
After driving the ball in the trees to the left of the fairway, he found a way to get the ball on the back of the green and then rolled in a birdie, demoralizing for the rest of the field, to finish the day with a four-shot lead at 12-under par.
During interviews this week, McIlroy has recollected watching Woods' win in '97, saying that was something that made him want to be a professional golfer. He was 7 years old at the time and it sounds a lot like Woods saying that, as a 10-year-old, he watched every shot of Nicklaus' come-from-behind effort in '86.
If McIlroy wins today, we're likely to hear a similar story 10 years from now saying this young man inspired another generation of young players.
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As we start today's final round, there are 13 players within seven shots of the lead.
One of them is Woods, who, if he could put together a 65 today - like Nicklaus did in '86 - would get to 12-under and post an early number for the leaders to look at.
But if we really want the 2011 Masters to contend with the memories of 1986, the player that needs to shoot the 65 is Fred Couples.
At 51 years old, a victory for Couples would almost match Nicklaus for an unlikely "wow" factor. The crowds would roar at the top of their lungs and make the trees in Amen Corner shake if Couples could shoot a round for the ages. But even if he went out and shot 58 to win the tournament, nothing will ever come close to Nicklaus shooting 30 on the back nine and coming from four shots back with four holes to play to win.
But having the memories of Nicklaus winning a sixth green jacket isn't enough. It's important to remember who he beat to complete the unlikely task.
Most avid golf fans remember the top two players in the world at the time of the Golden Bear's 1986 run - two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman - hit poor shots under the pressure of Nicklaus' tidal wave of birdies and emotion.
But it was much more than just those two.
In fact, Nicklaus beat eight players that day who would eventually make it to the World Golf Hall of Fame, including Cobb's own Larry Nelson. Six of those - Norman, Ballesteros, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Tom Watson and the late Payne Stewart - all finished in the top 10.
It's hard to remember a major tournament that Woods, Mickelson or any of the world's best players have won since with a final leaderboard that looked like that.
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Two other players would also find that Sunday in '86 an important one to future successes at Augusta National.
Playing well ahead of the fireworks that the leaders would produce that afternoon was Augusta native Larry Mize. Mize, who started the day 5-over, would go out and tie Nicklaus for the low round of the day with a 7-under 65, including a 31 on the back nine.
That round would move Mize all the way into a tie for 16th and qualify him for a return appearance in 1987, where he would defeat the same duo of Ballesteros and Norman in a playoff to win the only major tournament of his career.
The other player may have had the best seat in the house during that historic final round. Sandy Lyle was Nicklaus' playing partner and got a lesson in keeping his emotions in check when the enormity of the moment was at its peak at Augusta. What he learned would come in handy two years later as Lyle birdied the final hole to beat Mark Calcavecchia to win the 1988 Masters.
In addition to Mize and Lyle, two other players who made the cut in '86 would eventually go on to win Masters titles: Couples in 1992 and Mark O'Meara in '98.
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Need more on the '86 Masters? There are two new books that detail the events of that week.
"The 1986 Masters: How Jack Nicklaus Roared Back to Win" was written by John Boyette, sports editor of the Augusta Chronicle. "One for the Ages: Jack Nicklaus and the 1986 Masters" was written by Tom Clavin, who also wrote bestseller "Halsey's Typhoon" and other golf books on Walter Hagen and the Ryder Cup.
Boyette's book focuses mainly on the championship week and has interviews with Nicklaus, wife Barbara and son Jack Jr. It also has a number of wonderful old pictures, not only from '86 but of a number of Nicklaus' previous Masters victories. The 172-page book is a quick read, something that can easily be done in one evening.
Calvin's 215-page account weaves through a lot of Masters history, including how the club became what it is, and the rise of Nicklaus through the years. Both books are good reads and, for even the most hardcore Masters historian, there are things to be learned.
John Bednarowski is sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.