"I justthought, Well, he's opened the door for me. Then it felt like destiny."
Unforgettable?let us count the ways that this year's Masters was unforgettable.
There was, firstand foremost, the weather, which seemed to have howled straight down fromEdmonton, shriveling the azaleas and pelting the dogwoods with an icy rain thatlooked as if it had been shot from a fire hose. From the first windblown driveon April 6 to the final birdie putt in the drizzly gloaming Sunday, theunseasonable weather was instrumental in shaping the dramatic and fittingconclusion of the 53rd Masters.
There was49-year-old Lee Trevino, who put aside his dislike of Augusta National longenough to remind the young guys—in case they had forgotten Jack Nicklaus's winhere in 1986—that experience means more on this golf course than 40 extra yardsoff the tee.
There was, onSunday, Seve Ballesteros's front nine. And Greg Norman's back nine. And BenCrenshaw's last three holes.
There was the24-inch putt missed by Scott Hoch (rhymes with choke) on the first hole ofsudden death, a near-gimme that would have won him the Masters. It was a lousytime for his first three-putt of the tournament.
There was,finally and mercifully, 31-year-old Nick Faldo, whose final-round 65 moved himpast seven players to five under par, where he and Hoch stood at the end ofregulation play. Taking advantage of the second life Hoch had granted him byflubbing that 24-incher, Faldo rammed in a 25-foot putt—his ninth birdie of theafternoon—on the second playoff hole, the par-4 11th, to send the cold, wetcrowd home to hot baths and toddies.
It was Faldo'sfirst Masters win and his second major championship, his first being the 1987British Open at Muirfield. His triumph also marked the second consecutive yearthat a golfer from Great Britain has won the green jacket. When Scotland'sSandy Lyle, who missed the cut on Friday but stayed in town to help dress thewinner, slipped the coat on Faldo, he inquired about the menu at next year'schampions' dinner, the pretournament meal for past winners that istraditionally hosted by the defender. "What's it going to be?" askedthe kilted Lyle, whose own menu had included the Scottish specialty haggis(stuffed sheep's stomach). "Roast beef and Yorkshire pudd'?"
Faldo's Mastersvictory clearly establishes him as a member of the game's elite, a fraternitythat is increasingly dominated by foreign golfers. Once dubbed Nick Fold-o bythe British press, Fald-o has forged the best record in the majors over thepast two years. In addition to his Masters and British Open wins, he lost the1988 U.S. Open to Curtis Strange in an 18-hole playoff, finished third in the'88 British Open and tied for fourth in last year's PGA Championship. His 65 onSunday was the low round of the day and a far cry from the string of 18 parsthat enabled Faldo to win the British Open two years ago by a stroke. Asked tocompare his Masters title with his championship at Muirfield, he said,"This one has been far more of a battle. Majors are all equal...but to comeand to win in America, to be honest, is harder."
To win atAugusta, Faldo had to overcome everything from slick greens, high winds andslow play to torrential rains and casual water to darkness and back-to-backrounds paired with that most un-British subject, the Merry Mex.
Trevino'sappearance on the leader board shocked and amazed everyone, including him."If a guy had come up to me yesterday and bet I would break 76, I wouldn'thave taken one quarter of it," Trevino said after his bogey-free 67 onThursday gave him the first-round lead by one stroke over Faldo. Trevinofollowed that with a 74 on Friday in a gusty wind that sent the green-and-whiteumbrellas shading the tables on the clubhouse veranda pinwheeling liketumble-weeds. The average score that day was 75.861 on the par-72 course, andTrevino's two-round total of three under, which left him tied with Faldo forthe lead, made him the oldest player to share or own a lead in the Mastersafter 36 holes since Bobby Jones founded this gathering in 1934.
That wasn't badfor a guy who missed the cut last year at 20 over par. He had departed thenwith this unmerry sally: "I hope to God they don't send me an invitationnext year. I'm going to pray they don't. I don't want to be here."
But whenTrevino's invitation arrived last December—the last automatic bid he wouldreceive as a reward for his 1984 PGA Championship, which provides a five-yearqualification for the Masters—he changed his tune and RSVP'd the same day.Trevino has feuded and fumed about Augusta National for 20 years. The Mastersis the only major championship he hasn't won in a career that includesvictories in two U.S. Opens, two British Opens and two PGAs, along with 23 Tourevents. But his best Masters finish in 18 tries (three times he has declinedhis invitation) has been 10th place, in both 1975 and '85.
He has complainedthat the course rewards long hitters who play high shots with a draw, while hisgame depends on a low fade. "I'm a four handicapper here," Trevino saidlast Friday.
Few of his peerswould buy that. "You bet he's got the game to play this course," saidtwo-time Masters winner Tom Watson, "especially when it's windy like this,and everyone has trouble reaching the par 5s in two."
Trevino, whoturns the big five-oh on Dec. 1, insisted he was just getting ready for theSenior tour, which may be renamed the Senor tour if he keeps playing as he didlast week. He has a new three-month-old daughter, Olivia, but he was talkinglike an old man. "There aren't many 50-year-olds beating 20-year-olds inanything," he said. "I was born at night, but it wasn't lastnight." Still, Saturday's weather forecast of rain and wind seemed to be inTrevino's favor. "I'm a mudder," he said, hinting for the first timethat he actually believed he could win the tournament and complete his careerGrand Slam. "I can play this course when the greens are wet."
On Saturday,paired with Faldo for the second day in a row, Trevino arrived at the drivingrange an hour before his 1:45 tee time and joked with some older men in thegrandstand. "I'm almost ready for you guys," he said. He hit practiceshots for about 10 minutes and then sat down. "I'd better rest awhile,"he said. Trevino was kidding, but he wasn't laughing when, a little whilelater, he began to play his age. He bogeyed four of the first seven holes tofall off the lead, and then, after lightning forced the suspension of play at3:31, he said to an official, "Let's just start over. Why don't we erasethis day?"
Play was resumedan hour and 40 minutes later, despite the continuing rain, but the delay didnothing to improve Trevino's performance. He three-putted his third and fourthgreens of the round and lost three more strokes to par before play was stoppedbecause of darkness when he and Faldo were on the 13th hole. A van came out totake them back to the clubhouse, but after Trevino climbed in, it ran out ofgas. He completed his round of 81 on Sunday morning. His final-round 69 gavehim a three-over total of 291, good for 18th place and an invitation to nextyear's Masters, a courtesy extended to the top 24 finishers.
Meanwhile,Ballesteros, the winner here in 1980 and '83 and the reigning British Openchampion, was shooting opening rounds of 71 and 72 to put himself in goodposition, just two strokes back of Faldo and Trevino. He might have held thelead outright had it not been for a couple of strange happenings on the backside.
On Thursday, hetook off his right shoe and sock, and tried to play a ball out of the creekguarding the par-5 13th. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in making apicturesque splash. "If I have another chance, I will do it again and hitit harder," said Ballesteros, who knows only one way to play, fullthrottle. He ended up with a six on the hole.
On Friday,Ballesteros four-putted the 15th hole—he misfired twice from three feet—for adouble-bogey seven. "For some reason the ball didn't go in two times,"he said. His only reaction was a mild rebuke of his ball—"you son of abitch"—in Spanish. "I tell you, I tried my best," Ballesteros saidlater. "I guess everyone has to pay duties for the week. I hope I paid minetoday on 15."
The spectatorscertainly were paying their duties. When the weather went from cold and windyon Friday to cold, windy and wet on Saturday, under-dressed fans made a run onthe pro shop. By late afternoon the place looked as if it had been ransacked bylooters. Umbrellas ($31): sold out. Sweatshirts ($45): sorry. Rain suits ($60):uh-uh. About the only articles of clothing left were the $300 cashmere Argylesweaters.
Fourteen playerswere still on the course Saturday evening when play was halted because ofdarkness. Crenshaw, who won the tournament in 1984 after a similarrain-interrupted third round, had teed off on 14 and was the only player in thefield in red figures, at four under. His playing partner, Ballesteros, wasfalling apart and stood three over par, having snap-hooked a drive into thetrees on 13, which led to a bogey six. "The hot blood went through, youknow?" Ballesteros later said of that hole. Faldo was even, tied with Hochand Mike Reid. Norman, who was the leader in the clubhouse with a 68 before theworst of the rains came, was one over. Asked if he would play conservativelywith a four-shot lead, Crenshaw replied, "I'm going to try to build abigger lead than I have. I know what can happen around here."
But not even theAugusta-wise Crenshaw could have foreseen how many low scores would be turnedin on Sunday, the first windless day of the tournament, when the course wasleft defenseless, its lightning greens slowed by the heavy rainfall.
Ballesteros madethe first move. Sunday morning he birdied three of the last five holes of thedelayed third round to get back to even par for the tournament. And when heteed off Sunday afternoon, he picked up where he left off, birdieing four ofthe first five holes en route to a front-side 31 that included only 10 puttsand a holed 25-foot sand shot from a greenside bunker on number 2. Suddenly,Crenshaw, who had closed out his third round with a bogey at 18 to finish threeunder, was playing catch-up.
Faldo also had tocomplete his third round on Sunday morning—but he lost two strokes to par inthe process, to end up with a dreadful 77. "I was really despondent aboutmy putting. As soon as I finished I went to the locker room and got a newputter," he said. "But then I thought, You're only five shots back.This is the hardest tournament in the world to win if you lead after threerounds."
Don't remindCrenshaw. He shared the lead after the third round of the 1977 and '87 Masters,but won neither. On Sunday afternoon Faldo went out in 32, bogeyed number 11and then put together an improbable string of birdies on 13, 14, 16 and 17 toshoot 65 and finish at five under. After signing his scorecard, he went to theJones cabin, hard by the 10th fairway, to wait and see if there would be aplayoff.
Norman, who hasslowed his golfing pace to a crawl in recent weeks, birdied 9 and 10 to go oneunder. But he was still four shots behind Ballesteros, Reid and Hoch, all ofwhom made the turn at minus five. Then the Shark came alive with a frenzy ofbirdies, sinking crucial putts on 13, 15, 16 and 17. Suddenly, he was standingon the 18th tee tied with Faldo.
After hisstunning display of aggressiveness, birdieing six of his last nine holes,Norman chose to play the 18th hole conservatively, driving through the drizzlewith a one-iron. It left him in the fairway, 185 yards uphill to the pin.Norman either mishit his approach or misclubbed—he declined to be interviewedafterward—and the ball stopped short of the green. He then pitched poorly andmissed a 12-foot putt for par. The same thing had happened to him—Norman isbeginning to wear a can't-win-the-big-one label—in the 1986 Masters, when hebogeyed the 72nd hole to miss out on a playoff with Nicklaus.
A few holes back,Reid, who looks more like an accountant than a giant killer, was marching alongsmoothly until he did what everyone expects accountants to do at this time ofyear: He stared down at a mess of trouble and plunged in. After taking the leadat six under with a birdie on 12, Reid went bogey, double bogey on 14 and 15,plunking a wedge shot into the pond at 15.
Ballesteros'sdreams of a third Masters jacket also went gurgle-glub-gurgle when he hit asix-iron that missed the green at 16 and rolled into the water. Unnerved by thepandemonium accompanying Norman's string of birdies, he double-bogeyed andfinished fifth at three under par.
Which left Hochand Crenshaw. The 33-year-old Hoch, an Alfred E. Neuman look-alike who playedcollegiate golf at Wake Forest with Strange, hadn't won a tournament since the1984 Quad Cities Open. On Sunday afternoon he shot 33 on the front side andbirdied 15 to take the lead by himself at six under, but he fell back into atie for the lead when he bogeyed 17. Crenshaw, meanwhile, had birdied 16 and17—the latter with an amazing drive-off-a-tree, four-wood, 30-foot-snaking-puttsequence—to move to five under with Hoch and Faldo.
As soon asCrenshaw made that birdie, Faldo went to the practice tee. He knew there waslittle chance that both Crenshaw and Hoch would bogey 18, as Norman had. Bothmen drove in the fairway, but Crenshaw's second shot caught the left bunkernext to the green. "We battled that weather all week," grinned Crenshawruefully, shaking his head. "I ran out of dry towels, and it cost me on 18.My glove hand slipped on my five-iron." Crenshaw blasted to 12 feet, buthis putt for par never had a chance. Hoch's birdie putt for the win curled off,inches short.
Which set up thesudden-death playoff, the third in eight years, and the most unforgettable shotof the week: the two-foot, stone-fingered stab by Hoch that kept him fromwinning his first major. Faldo, who had already taken a bogey five on the hole,was watching quietly by the edge of the green. Hoch circled the putt as if itmight bite him. He looked at it from this angle, that angle, squatting to seeit every which way. All this for a putt within the leather. Crenshaw, watchingon television as Hoch looked the green over and over, blurted out, "Jeez,just hit it. I don't want to see any more golf shots today." Hoch hit it,all right, the ball moving at such a clip it didn't get a whiff of the hole asit went past before stopping four feet beyond the cup. "Like my dad says,'Good Godal-mighty!' " said a disbelieving Crenshaw.
And Faldo: "Ijust thought, Well, he's opened the door for me. Then it felt likedestiny."
It looked a lotlike destiny a few minutes later when, in near darkness, in a fine drizzle,Faldo stroked his 25-foot birdie putt into the heart of the 11th cup, a hole hehad bogeyed four times in four rounds. His arms shot into the air, and his faceturned up toward the ever-loving Georgia rain. It must have felt a lot likehome.
Hoch was a dead-on Sunday driver, but his putter failed him in a sudden-death playoff.
Was this spectator a rabid fan or a rabbit fan?
At the height of Saturday's downpour, Faldo sized up his shot before picking his weapon.
On Friday, Norman was on top of his ball, if not his game, as he hit from a bunker on 7.
Reid missed this putt Sunday morning to finish round 3 at two under, one stroke back.
A bogey on the final hole dashed Crenshaw's chance for a playoff with Faldo and Hoch.
RONALD C. MODRA
Trevino, the leader for 38 holes, cheered as Faldo holed a monster putt at 2 on Saturday.
The almost senior se‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±or began to act his age in round 3.