The golfer is yet to be invented who wouldn't give up a year of Sunday morning starting times if he could just have back one shot, one disaster, to play again—this time the right way. Doubtless bad luck or a bad swing or spurious thinking produced the wretched thing, but only an even worse shot, yet to come, will erase the memory of it. Or maybe recalling Arnold Palmer's celebrated bunker shot exploding clear over the 18th green to cost him the 1961 Masters. The wrongoes, of course, can happen to anybody, to the big stars or to the lesser-known pros like Jim Jamieson, whose hopes for his first tournament win went crashing in the Robinson Classic last year, and Pete Brown, struggling (below) to win the 1971 Greensboro Open. Here the players who hit them help Artist Francis Golden re-create a gallery of golfing goofs from last year's pro tour, the ones that proved almost unbearably costly. The solid line shows where the shot went astray, the dotted line where it should have gone; in text, the pros explain how things got that bad.
Pete Brown (No. 17, Sedgefield CC, Final Round, Greater Greensboro Open) "There were only two holes left to play and the scoreboard by the green said I was a shot back of the lead, so I thought I'd better go for the pin and a birdie. I'd hit a good drive and had about a 100-yard wedge shot to the pin, tucked in very close behind a bunker on the left. It was a tight shot and I didn't quite make it. The ball hit in the sand three or four inches from the far end and I made a bogey. But the scoreboard was wrong; I was actually tied for the lead. If I'd known that I certainly would have played safely to the right of the bunker where there was plenty of open green. Then I still would have had only a putt for my birdie, probably no longer than 15 feet. But instead of tying or winning, I missed the playoff by a shot. Well, you're not supposed to look at the scoreboard anyway. That may have been my real mistake."
Bob Lunn (No. 9, Quail Hollow CC, Final Round, Kemper Open) "I was playing well, had made eight straight pars and was leading the tournament when I came to the 9th hole, a short par 5, Trouble was it was threatening rain. I could hear thunder and see lightning off in the distance and both made me nervous. Obviously, I should have settled down and taken a practice swing. But I rushed into my tee shot before I was really ready. As is usual when I rush things, I pulled the shot off to the left, this time under a tree. I had to chip out, and I followed this with a two-iron into a trap and ended up with a bogey on a hole that is just as easy to birdie. I lost my momentum right there and wound up losing the tournament by two shots. If I'd had a chance to hit that drive again I'd have taken my time, taken a smooth practice swing and probably hit my drive down the middle, scoring a par at the worst. I'm sure I would have kept my confidence. The chances are I would have gone on to win, too."
Jim Jamieson (No. 3, Crawford County CC, Final Round, Robinson Open) ""Because of a rain delay we had to play 36 holes on the final day, and in the morning I'd gone into the lead with a 64. After two holes in the afternoon I was still a bunch under par and had a great chance to win my first ever PGA event. Then on the 3rd hole, a par 5, I pushed my drive off to the right. I couldn't hit straight for the green because there was a low, bushy tree just up ahead blocking my line. So with a four-wood I tried to hit a low shot out to the left that would fade around the tree and land in front of the green. Unfortunately, the ball went dead straight. It bounced into the left rough, hit a boundary stake and kicked out of bounds. I decided to hit the same low four-wood again and this time, a little late, the fade took. But where I might have had a birdie, I had to sink a 35-foot putt merely to make a bogey. If the fade had worked the first time around I might have won my first tournament."
February 28, 1972
Jack Nicklaus (No. 15, Augusta National, Final Round, Masters) "My drive was in perfect position, slightly left of center and 224 yards from the green. Normally, I would have needed a two-or three-iron to get home. Unfortunately, I couldn't use either club. The ball had rolled into a fluffy patch of rye grass. I knew that out of that lie I'd never be able to stop the ball on the green with a two-or three-iron. I had no choice but to hit a four-iron safely to the right of the green, into the crowd. From there I chipped 15 feet by the hole and made a par 5.1 had been playing well and really felt confident. With a decent lie I could have made a birdie 4 for sure and maybe even an eagle 3. I finished the tournament tied with John Miller, two shots back of Charles Coody. Had my drive ended up just a foot from where it did, I might have been able to hit the shot that would have won the tournament."
John Miller (No. 16, Augusta National, Final Round, Masters) "I'd just missed a birdie on the 15th but I was still a shot in front of Charles Coody playing the par-3 16th. I wanted to add to my lead. The pin was set well back on the right, next to the bunker, and I decided to go for it. Well, the ball hit 10 feet to the right of the pin and bounced into the sand. I blasted out and made the bogey that really put me out of the tournament, because Coody birdied the hole a few minutes later. It was a bad percentage play and probably my big mistake of the '71 Masters. The shot I should have played was safely left of the pin. I would have had, at worst, about a 20-foot putt. Who knows, maybe I would have made it. Even if I'd just parred the hole I would have still been tied for the lead and in great shape. But I tried for a bad percentage shot and I finished up losing the Masters by two strokes. The 16th was what did me in."
Art Wall (No. 18, Rancho Park GC, Final Round, Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open) "I was tied for the lead with Bob Lunn and Billy Casper playing the last hole. Unhappily, my approach left me about 35 feet above the pin. I figured it was a pretty fast putt, but I felt great inside, not nervous or insecure, and maybe that was misleading. I knew the instant my putter hit the ball that the putt wasn't going to be a good one. I must have been anxious about hitting it too hard. I looked up and came off the ball. It stopped five feet short and I really never had much of a chance to make this tough second putt. If I had it to do over again I'd make a much stronger effort to keep my head down, to watch the putter head hit the ball. I missed even the playoff. If I'd been able to win at L.A. it would have saved me from having to pre-qualify all year. If I'd hit a good putt it could have changed my entire season."
George Archer (No. 13, Merion GC, Final Round, U.S. Open) "Coming to the par-3 13th I was playing very well and was only about two or three shots out of the lead. With a couple of breaks I figured I had a chance. The 13th was a hole I'd already birdied twice. I figured to be about 125 yards from the pin. An easy nine-iron, which was what I'd been using on this hole, seemed about right. And as soon as I hit it I knew that it was a beauty. I was really licking my chops. What happened? The ball hit way on the back edge of the green and bounced over into a sand trap. I blasted out, then missed a 12-foot putt from above the hole. The bogey there ended whatever chance I had. What I hadn't taken into account was the temperature. It was a warm day and maybe the ball went farther than it should have. Obviously I should have used a pitching wedge. Boy, I'd sure like to have that one to do over again."