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Original Issue


Augusta's new wearer of the green tells Gwilym S. Brown of his thoughts as the drama rose, of the shots that brought him victory and of how, surprisingly, I CHANGED MY GAME TO WIN THE MASTERS

As any of the touring professionals will confess, the time to start thinking about winning yourself a Masters championship is January, when the winter tour has hardly begun. Along with the U.S. Open, the Masters is the most prized championship in golf. It is a tournament worth planning for, played on a golf course that demands planning. I was well aware that I had played in four previous Masters championships without much success. So this January I did some thinking. The result was one major decision and two lesser ones that ended with my having the great privilege of wearing the green jacket that is given to each Masters winner.

First, I decided that I would pace off the course, something I had done at many other tournaments but never at Augusta. This would enable me to judge my distance from the green quite accurately on every shot. Second, I felt it was necessary to attack the course from beginning to end—and very seldom hit a conservative shot. Finally—and this was by far the most important element in my pretournament strategy—I decided to revise my game to suit Augusta National. I had not been able to beat the Augusta course the way I played golf, so now I was going to play a different kind of golf, designed just to beat Augusta.

When the 1963 tournament season started I was in better physical condition, and my game was sharper than it normally is in January, largely because my fall layoff had been brief. I played average golf in the Los Angeles Open and played almost well enough to win the Crosby. Almost. It will be a while before I forget how I three-putted the last hole to lose. It was just about this time that I began my pre-Masters preparations. My normal game has always been to hit my shots so that they come down with a slight left-to-right fade. I have been able to get plenty of distance this way, as well as accuracy. But now I decided that this game simply was not right for Augusta. I had been playing the course the wrong way.

After all, Bobby Jones, who helped Alister MacKenzie lay the course out, played most of his shots to hook from right to left. Arnold Palmer, who plays the course as if he owned it, normally hits a slight hook. Hogan, before he changed over to the fade, used to hook, and he won at Augusta twice and finished second four times. Snead, who has won the Masters three times, has always drawn the ball from right to left. I thought, my gosh, Augusta National is practically all doglegs to the left. I had never been able to draw the ball properly, but I decided it was time to learn.

Learning to hook, however, was to be an even more difficult process than I had anticipated. In late January, while playing in a pro-am event just before the San Francisco open, I suddenly suffered a sharp pain in my left hip. It was so bad I could hardly walk. I went to a doctor there, and he diagnosed it as bursitis. The only thing that could help it was rest. I played badly at San Francisco, missing the 36-hole cutoff, and only the warm weather made it possible for me to play well at Palm Springs and win that tournament. But through all the tournaments that followed—Arizona, Louisiana and Florida—I could never practice without inflaming the hip. I rested, I took injections to ease the pain and I was able to play tournament rounds. But even my usually light preround warmups had to be cut in half. It was not until the Friday before the Masters that I was able to practice at all. By then I must have gotten enough rest and treatment, for the pain in the hip vanished as quickly as it had come.

As a result of not being able to practice, I was forced to learn my new hooking technique during tournaments. Developing the new shot was mainly a question of timing. Learning it while in competition was pretty slow work. I made absolutely no change in my grip or my swing. I simply began to hit the ball differently by rolling my wrists slightly to the left, thus producing a hook. I went ahead and hit these right-to-left shots in tournaments, even on holes that should not have been played that way.

Just at the time I went up to Augusta I started getting better at this shot. I began to have confidence that I could repeat my swing time after time and draw the ball the right amount. The only trouble was that I had not been playing very much or practicing at all, and my game was not, on the whole, as sharp as it might have been.

In my practice rounds at Augusta I shot 69, 70, 67 and then 32 for nine holes. Judging from these scores, it looked as if I would shoot out the lights once the tournament began. But I did the same thing before the Masters last year, and then started out 74, 75. It is not uncommon for pros to shoot great scores in practice rounds and then poor ones in a tournament. It is not necessarily that we start playing badly, it is more often that the tournament, especially one like the Masters, scares us a little and we begin to play defensively. But I had already made up my mind about attacking the course. That's how Palmer plays Augusta, I figured. Why shouldn't I? With my hook working nicely, the distances on key holes paced off and noted on a scorecard {see page 22) and my attitude pretty bold, I was ready. No one who has played in the Masters can be surprised at the weather. Augusta can be without a breath of breeze for a month, and the first day of the tournament will come up windy. It never fails. They say you will have four different days there: one day of rain, one day of wind, one day when the greens are like marble and one day when they are squishy as sponges. That's how it was this year, too. On opening day, Thursday, Augusta greeted us with a gale.

I was a little surprised, however, to find myself 3 over par after 13 holes. I had played a lot better than 3-over-par golf. I had missed some short putts, and I had bogeyed the 13th after a good three-iron trickled off the right side of the green into the creek and gave me a 6 instead of a possible eagle 3.

But on the next hole, the 420-yard 14th, I began to get going. In previous years, because I was fading the ball, I had always found this par-4 hole particularly difficult. It doglegs slightly around a clump of pine trees on the left, and the fairway slopes down into trees on the right. My tee shot had usually landed on the right side of the fairway and then kicked down toward or into the trees. But this year I was able to hook my drive right up the center of the fairway. I hit a seven-iron 20 feet from the hole and knocked in the putt, my first birdie of the tournament. I birdied 15 also, and then made a real good chip for my par on the watery, par-3 16th hole. The pin on the 16th green was located at the back right, and my shot went to the right of the trap on that side. I had a downhill lie in sand and pine needles, but I hit a very touchy chip over the trap, against a bank and up onto the green close to the hole.

The two birdies and that good chip shot brought me back in the game. They built up my confidence about being able to score. I had shot 74, but I'd played better than that. What's more, the course had been windy and tough for everyone to play. I wasn't too far behind.

On Friday I played the round that won the tournament. My other scores of 74, 74, 72 were certainly nothing to write home to mother about, and even the second round did not start off as if it would be anything like a 66. On the first hole I hit a poor wedge shot. "Uh-oh, here we go again," I thought. But I made the par. It was a very big par, and it kept me in a positive frame of mind.

On the next five holes I hit putts that I thought would drop in the cup for birdies, but just stayed out. Then, on the 7th hole, I sank an eight-foot putt for a birdie, and got another putt of 15 feet for a birdie on 8. Everything was going along fine. I was hitting the ball just as well as I can. On 12 I got another birdie, this one with a long putt.

On the par-5 13th, after I had hit my tee shot, I noticed that Bobby Jones had come out on the course in his golf cart to watch my playing partner, Labron Harris, and me play the hole. Immediately I remembered the first time Bobby Jones had ever watched me play golf. It was in the 1955 National Amateur in Richmond. I was beating Bob Gardner 1 up on the 10th hole when Jones appeared. I was only 15, and I got so nervous I went bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey, fell three holes down and lost the match one down. Now I said to myself, "Let's not do that again," and hit a real good second shot toward the green with a two-iron. The shot cleared the fronting creek by a good margin. But when it hit, the ball bounced off the left side of the green where the pin was located and up into an overflow of sand about 18 inches behind a trap. I could not run the ball down because it would have gone into the trap. I did not dare pitch the ball, because I had a sandy lie and was afraid of catching the sand first and dumping the ball into the trap. There was only one way to play the shot, and that was like an explosion from sand. Even this was risky. If the ground underneath was hard, the club might bounce up and hit the ball clear across the green and into the creek. I'll admit what I did—I stepped up and hit the shot as quickly as I could before I had a chance to get scared. The ball landed above the hole and rolled down two feet away for a sure birdie. It, and the one I had made the day before on 16, were two of the finest chip shots I have ever hit. I went on from there to birdie the 15th and the 17th. The only green I missed in regulation all day was the 18th, and there I rolled my chip down the green and to within two feet of the hole for a finishing par and the 66. I consider it one of the two or three best competitive rounds of my life.

The day had been ideal for scoring, and I was fortunate to have been able to capitalize on my opportunity more than anyone else in the field. You could also say pretty much the same thing about Tony Lema. He played his best round, a 69, that day too, thus setting up his eventual second-place finish.

The third round on Saturday was weird. It was raining so hard we came within about 10 minutes of having play called off. I missed a two-foot putt, an 18-incher and several more short putts. And I hit two terrible shots that might have ended the tournament, for me at any rate. Sometimes it is hard to realize that, no matter how well you seem to be playing, disaster in a golf tournament is just a shot away. A gallery may be saying, "Arnie's a cinch," or "Nicklaus can't lose now," but one shot bouncing the wrong way off one little tree and "bang"—down you go with the also-rans. So maybe my account of the last two rounds makes this Masters sound like a tenser tournament than you think it was. But you didn't see the shots I hit that could have lost it all.

I was paired on Saturday with the halfway leader, Mike Souchak, whose 139 for 36 holes led me by a stroke. On the first hole I hit a horrible tee shot that duck-hooked into a group of trees between the first and ninth fairways. Luckily, the ball was playable. I hooked a four-iron out of the trees and onto the green for a par. I birdied the 5th hole, but I missed short putts on six, seven, eight and 10.

It was on the long par-4 11th hole that I hit another wild shot. My driver slipped in my wet glove on the downswing. The ball flew down the right side of the fairway and smacked a pine tree about 150 yards from the tee. It could have kicked right, or straight back, or to the left and disappeared into a jungle. I had no idea where it went. Nobody saw it. We kind of walked hesitantly up the fairway. There is no gallery allowed on the left side of that hole at all, but a policeman happened to walk over there, and suddenly he called, "Is this yours? A Tourney 6?" I had already walked well by it, and so had all the gallery. Luck had saved me a two-stroke lost-ball penalty, and I ended up one-putting the green for a par.

I also played the last seven holes in par—quite an accomplishment, I thought, considering the weather and the condition of the course. When playing golf in weather like that, all you can do is to keep as dry as humanly possible, take great care with each shot and hope for the best. On the 18th green, while I was waiting my turn to putt, I looked up at the huge scoreboard above us, where big red numbers show how much under par a player is in the tournament, and big green numbers how far over par he is. Well, I am sort of half color-blind. From that distance I found it hard to tell the difference between red and green. When I first looked at the scoreboard I thought there were about three fellows 2 or 3 under par, like me. But a closer look caused me to turn to my caddy in surprise. "By gosh, Willie," I said, "are we leading this thing by three strokes?"

"Yes, sir," he said.

So I said, "Well, let's see if we can make it four." Then I knocked my first putt so far past the hole that I almost three-putted the green. That was before Ed Furgol made birdies on 15 and 16 and cut my lead to one.

When the day was over I felt that with a little better putting I might have been leading by four or five shots. On the other hand, I cannot remember ever having gone into a round trailing by one shot, shooting a 74 and coming out leading by one shot. I felt so tired that night that when my head hit the pillow—boom!—like that. Pop! Ten hours.

Waiting to tee off for the final round on Sunday, I was confident of being able to play well again. I did not know how well I would score, because you never know how good your putting will be, but I felt sure I would be hitting the ball near the cup. I also felt good about being paired with Julius Boros, as pleasant a playing partner as anybody could ask for. At last I hit a good tee shot on the first hole. I put my second shot about 12 feet from the cup and, even though I missed the putt, I was off and running. On the next six holes I kept just missing putts. "Keep hittin' 'em like that and we're going to make some," said Willie. But instead of making birdies I began to run into trouble.

When you walk off the first green at Augusta you usually look over at the nearby 8th green to check the pin position. This is an uphill par-5 hole that can be reached in two. I forgot to check. When I arrived at the 8th tee I could see the distant flag clearly, and it looked as if it was in the right side of the green. I played my second shot, a one-iron, to the left side of the green, so that if I missed the green I would have most of it to chip into. But when I got up to the ball I saw, with a feeling of shock, that the pin was not at all where I thought it was. It was way over on the left side. I now had to take a six-iron, chip the ball into a grassy bank on the left side of the green and hope to bounce it up close to the hole. Sure enough, it caught in the grass instead of bouncing, and I took a bogey 6. But I still had one consolation: no one had caught me yet.

Someone did catch me four holes later. In fact, it looked for a few moments as if I might be trampled in the rush. I was still leading the tournament by one shot as I walked to the 12th tee, but just then there was a roar from the 14th green. Snead had birdied the hole to go one under par for the tournament and tie me. Well, you know how people get excited. There was a lot of cheering all over the course about this time. I was sitting on the tee, looking at the scoreboard above the 11th green, and I saw those red numbers begin to come up for the other players. And here I am playing a hole that has jumped up and beaten a lot of people in Masters history.

The 12th hole is a very difficult little par 3 with water in front and a wilderness behind. I was nervous. The pin was in the left front and I thought, "Let's play the ball a little to the right, draw it in a bit and see what happens." What happened was that I did not stay down with the shot long enough. It hit straight into the trap in front of the green. The ball stopped in casual water, and I was allowed to lift and drop it again in the trap, but it stuck in the wet sand. From this tight lie I hit what I thought was a pretty good sand shot, but it came out very fast and ran across and down over the other side of the green. Now I found out Player had birdied 15 and was also tied with Snead. I putted back instead of chipping, and my ball ran eight feet past the hole. I watched Boros run in a 12-foot putt for a birdie that brought him back to even par in the tournament, and now I had to sink this putt or I would be one over par and possibly too far out of contention to get back. This turned out to be a very, very big putt for me. When it dropped I was still able to hold my confidence, and I had two possible birdie holes yet to play.

Snead, meanwhile, had birdied 15 and was two shots ahead of me. I knew now that I had to gamble, so I hit one of my new-found hooks around the dogleg on 13 and reached the green in two with a two-iron, about 60 feet from the pin. I left my first putt five feet short. When I studied the green I discovered that a small flower, a daisy, I think, had sprouted up dead in the middle of my line to the hole. "How did that get there?" I thought. "Fine place for a daisy." Golf rules prohibit moving a living plant. So I hit the ball right over the top of the daisy and into the cup for a birdie 4.

This left me one shot behind. On the 14th hole I missed a birdie putt of 12 feet because the ball broke left just where I thought it would turn right. After I had hit my tee shot on 15, my caddy told me that Snead had bogeyed 16 and that I was now tied with Snead and Player for the lead. Here I got another par on a hole that could have been disastrous. My drive had rolled against an old divot approximately three inches long and one and a half inches wide. The ball would have to fly through the edge of this small clump of dried turf. I was planning to hit a one-iron, but I thought the divot might stop the ball a little and dump it into the pond in front of the green. So I used a three-wood and choked up on it a bit. The ball apparently spun off the divot because it shot toward the left side of the green and then hooked. "There goes the Masters," I thought. Normally, a ball flying over that green goes into the pond on the 16th hole. Then I thought, sort of, "Please. Somebody stop the ball." Nobody did, and it disappeared over the green. But when I did not hear any groans from the crowd I figured maybe I was all right. I was. The ball had been stopped by the muddy tracks made by spectators behind the green, and I was even entitled to a free drop. So, from a fairly good lie, I chipped back onto the green and almost made a birdie 4 out of near disaster.

From where I stood on the ! 6th tee I could see the scoreboard next to (he 15th green, and now knew that Player had bogeyed 17 and 18. I hit a five-iron about 12 feet short of the hole on this 190-yard par 3. As we walked around the pond to the green my caddy looked at the scoreboard and saw that Snead had bogeyed the 18th hole. I was leading the tournament by a shot. "All we need is three pars," Willie said. I agreed. I did not think I would even have to sink the putt. We had both forgotten about Tony Lema. I hit the birdie putt, and I knew at once that it was in the hole. I felt pretty happy. It seemed as if the tournament was as good as wrapped up, and all I had to do was keep my head on the last two holes. I felt that I had enough experience to keep from losing my nerve.

On 171 hit my drive and walked up the fairway to look at the scoreboard on the left. I now realized that there was one person on the course with a chance to beat me: Lema, who at that moment was on the 18th green. Then, just as Boros hit his second shot, I heard a loud roar from 18. I darn well was not going to hit my next shot until I knew exactly who had done what. Don't let anybody tell you pro golfers don't watch what the opposition is doing. The board changed and showed me that Lema had finished the tournament one under par and that I had to finish par, par to win.

The pin on 17 was behind the large trap that covers the front of the green, and since my approach would have to clear the trap anyway to hit the middle of the green, I aimed right at the pin. I hit what I thought was a pretty good eight-iron shot. I wasn't worried. But I could not see the green too well from where I stood, and as the ball climbed into the air and toward the green I heard a man behind me yell, "Get up, get up." It was a pretty scary moment. I ran up and to my left to get a look at the ball landing. It got up all right, hit short of the pin and spun back. I made my par.

Now 18. I stood up on the tee and thought, "All you need is a par 4 on this hole to win the tournament. You don't want to flirt with the trees on the right; you don't even want to think about them." So I hit the ball well over to the left, a little more than I intended to, actually. It rolled into the muddy tracks left by the gallery, and I got a free lift and drop on the fairway. When I dropped the ball it did not fall into a very good lie, but became lightly covered with splattered mud. From down there the green looked very small. Just about all I could see was the jam of spectators around the green, the trap in front of it and the top half of the flagstick. I paced back from my marking point, the last tree on the right, and thus knew that I was 149 yards from the front of the green and 160 yards from the pin. This ordinarily is a six-iron shot for me, but with the mud and all I knew I could not play a normal shot. I used the six-iron, but choked down on the grip. The shot came off properly, but ran farther past the hole than I had figured it would. My first putt was about 35 feet long, downhill with a break to the left and then one to the right. For a while I thought it would go in the hole, but then it rolled three feet by. As I walked down toward the ball, Pebble Beach and my three putts on the final hole of the Crosby flashed quickly through my mind, but actually I was not as nervous as you might think I would have been. I told myself, "You have to get this ball down to win the tournament, but if you miss it there will still be a playoff tomorrow." So I felt good and hit the putt firmly. It was a good thing I did. The putt broke off to the left much faster than I expected it would, but it went in with something to spare. If I had hit it any lighter it might have missed. If it had, four rounds of what I consider the best golf I have ever played, tee to green, would have been wasted, and those nice people at Augusta National might have wound up measuring Tony Lema for that green coat.





HECTIC CLIMAX ON THE 72ND: On the final hole of the final round Nicklaus tried to keep his tee shot away from the trees on the right side of the fairway. He drove his ball far to the left, where it came to rest near a camera car and in the muddy tracks left by a sea of spectators. As the huge crowd milled around him, he was permitted to pick up his ball and drop it on the fairway ("center,). From there he hit to the green for his winning par.

THE CHART THAT JACK MADE proved to be invaluable for him at Augusta, especially on holes 3, 5 and 14, where either the size of the greens or their extreme undulations make them very tight targets. This is the actual card that he referred to during the Masters. The yardages, paced off in practice rounds, were taken from prominent landmarks on each hole, such as a tree or a trap. Nicklaus noted the distance from such a spot to both the front and the back of the green. By knowing where the pin was placed and where his ball was in relation to the marking point, he could determine quite accurately the distance to the cup and therefore could pick the proper club. Some holes are blank, because the shots into them do not vary, or distance is not the prime factor. Note that Nicklaus mistakenly jotted the figures for No. 5 beside No. 4.