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Original Issue


He had come to Augusta with such high hopes. In January he had won Phoenix and Tucson for the second year in a row, shooting an eye-popping 61 in each, and he had added the Bob Hope for good measure, so that his earnings were already well over $100,000. Now what Johnny Miller wanted most of all was a second major championship to go with the U.S. Open he had won in such dazzling fashion in 1973, destroying Oakmont with a final-round 63. But on a damp Thursday he opened his quest for a Masters title with a discouraging 75, and his 71 the next day did little more than qualify him for the final rounds. The big man, Jack Nicklaus, was out front and out of sight....


Miller began the third round at two over par (green 2 on the leaderboard), far behind Nicklaus, whose 68-67 had him at nine under (red). Although birdies at the 2nd and 3rd holes put Miller even for the tournament, he was still just another golfer out there, light-years away from the lead. Then three more birdies at the difficult 4th, 5th and 6th suddenly put him in contention and the cheers resounded all the way to the clubhouse. This was Augusta, not Tucson, but Johnny Miller was hot as the desert sun.

No one had ever made six consecutive birdies at the Masters, but now Miller had a chance. At the 7th his approach was just left of the green. He used his putter anyway and stroked the ball 35 feet into the cup. Another birdie, another explosion of cheers (below). Two pars gave Miller a blistering 30 for the front nine, the lowest score ever. At this point it seemed likely he would break the course record of 64, but he cooled slightly on the back nine, shooting a 35. Even so, his 65 for the round put him just three strokes behind Nicklaus (who had a 73) and four behind Weiskopf, who himself had shot a brilliant 66 to take the lead.

On Sunday Miller continued to close ground, and even his near-misses drew body English from those around him (top). But at 18, needing one last putt to tie. he failed.