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The Statistics Speak


According to legend, it takes a long ball to master the Masters. Bob Jones's Augusta course is so long (6,850 yards) and its fairways so wide (70 acres total area as opposed to about 35 on most courses) that the myth contends its mastery depends more on strength than on accuracy. But cold statistics—like those plotted in the chart below—are impervious to mythology and they seem to prove just the opposite. Compiled by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED from a hole-by-hole survey of Masters' play over the last five years, these statistics show that the Masters is not won on the long holes at all: everybody, winner and loser alike, is likely to do well on them. It is on the short holes, where accuracy rather than length is needed, that the winner's score is shaped.

On the chart the course has been divided into five categories: the par 3 holes (average length 182 yards, total four-round par 48 strokes); the short par 4s (average 381 yards, four-round par 80); the long par 4s (average 448 yards, total par 48); the par 5s (average 513 yards, total par 80) and the "others," medium-length par 4s averaging 413 yards.

Weaving above and below the horizontal line representing par on these holes are graph lines derived from four significant sets of scores carded in the last five Masters tournaments. One is the field (dotted line), which represents the average for all competitors surviving the 36-hole cutdown, with the exception of each year's winner and Arnold Palmer. Another set (gray tint) is the average score of the three Masters champions, Doug Ford ('57), Art Wall ('59) and Gary Player ('61) who have managed to beat Arnold Palmer since 1956.

The two boldest lines in the graph represent the man who, win or lose, has come in recent years to dominate the tournament so completely: long-hitting Arnold Palmer. The red line is the average of his scores in two winning years, 1958 and 1960; the line of dashes is his average score in the losing years of 1957, 1959 and 1961.

Even a cursory look at the graph reveals that Ford, Wall, Player and Palmer, too, all scored far better than average on the par 3s and the short par 4s in their winning years. But—and this is the point—the losing Palmer played the par 3s in a sloppy average of four strokes over the total par 48. He averaged 81 shots (one over par) on the short par 4s. Meanwhile he did as well or better than the winning Palmer on all the other, longer holes. Ford, Wall and Player toured the par 5s in an average of 75 shots (five under par), scarcely better than the field and some three shots higher than Palmer's average, but won just the same.

A study of the holes indicates why this is so. Even a so-so Masters competitor can pick up his share of birdies on the par 5s with a good, pitch and a putt. But over a span of time no one, not even Arnold Palmer, can consistently conquer the long, tough par 4 holes—Nos. 5, 10 and 11. The two-time Masters winner has not once in five years birdied any of these holes at Augusta. On the contrary, he has stumbled to 13 bogeys. As the statistics show, a short driver but a superb scrambler like Doug Ford can do fully as well with a good chip and a putt.

The par 3s and the short par 4s, however, place such a high premium on accuracy—from the tee, on the approach shot and on the green, that a loose shot here will cost the careless player more than he can ever make up by sheer length elsewhere. This sets up a marvelous opportunity for the straight hitter to widen his margin over the rest of the field.

The statistics plotted here show clearly what a truly well-rounded golfer Arnold Palmer is and what a marvel at blending distance and accuracy, but they also show that he must be particularly strong in the latter category from April 5 on or some other golfer will be the Masters champion for the year 1962.



non-Palmer winners

PAR 3's Holes(4,6,12,16) -0.5
SHORT PAR 4's(1,3,7,9,17) -2
LONG PAR 4's(5,10,11) 2.5
PAR 5's(2,8,13,15) -4.5
OTHER'S(14,18) -1.5
TOTAL 72-hole average -5.5

winning Palmer average

PAR 3's Holes(4,6,12,16) 1
SHORT PAR 4's(1,3,7,9,17) -0.5
LONG PAR 4's(5,10,11) 3
PAR 5's(2,8,13,15) -8
OTHER'S(14,18) -0.5
TOTAL 72-hole average -5

the field

PAR 3's Holes(4,6,12,16) 3
SHORT PAR 4's(1,3,7,9,17) 2.5
LONG PAR 4's(5,10,11) 3.5
PAR 5's(2,8,13,15) -4
OTHER'S(14,18) 1.5
TOTAL 72-hole average 7

losing Palmer average

PAR 3's Holes(4,6,12,16) 4
SHORT PAR 4's(1,3,7,9,17) 1
LONG PAR 4's(5,10,11) 1.5
PAR 5's(2,8,13,15) -8
OTHER'S(14,18) -0.5
TOTAL 72-hole average -2