The guy who blew the masters on Sunday sure wasn't Raymond Floyd. The real Floyd gives up leads about as often as pit bulls give up New York strips. The real Floyd plays the par 5s at Augusta National as if Titleists could float. Lay up? Shut up. This new Floyd, the impostor, surrendered a four-shot lead with six holes remaining on Sunday. He played the par 5s like Aunt Bee. The real Floyd is about as much fun on a golf course as an OSHA inspector with a toothache. This new guy was smiling, laughing, cutting up for the better part of four days.
Going into Sunday's final round, Floyd was nine under par on the par 5s. That's how the real Floyd had always done it. Remember when he lapped the field at Augusta in 1976? He was 14 under on the par 5s, which is still the tournament record. To the real Floyd, laying up on the par 5s on Sunday is like wearing a kilt. So why—why, oh why—did this new guy suddenly start laying up on the back nine with a three-shot lead?
Meanwhile, an ambitious young Brit with a jacket fetish was bombing away at the par 5s from anywhere inside county lines. On 13, he knocked it on in two and two-putted for birdie. On 15, he went for the green again and made birdie. All of a sudden, a lead that was four shots with six holes to play was two. Next thing you knew, Nick Faldo was putting on the same green jacket he had won last year; Floyd was "as devastated as I've ever been in my life"; American golf was taking another cream pie in the face; and Deane Beman's favorite group, Foreigner, had won its third straight Masters and its sixth in the past 11 years.
Almost nobody figured the tournament would end this way. Everybody had creamed-corn jokes ready. After all, going into Sunday, you had Floyd, age 47, at 10 under, Nicklaus, 50, at five under and Gary Player, 54, at one under. Even Lee Trevino, 50, was hanging around at three over. There has been talk of starting a Senior Masters, but who needs that when you have a seniors' Masters? As many Senior tour players made the cut (four) as Top 10 PGA players. Fellas, winner gets $225,000 and a new Bing Crosby three-record set.
Meanwhile, the under-45 set was under heavy sedation. Greg Norman came to Augusta announcing that he'd never felt better. He opened with a nifty 78, followed by a 72, followed by an early flight home. In the last four Masters, the Shark had finished a total of seven shots behind the winners. Not this time. If Norman made one of his famous Sunday charges last week, it was at the West Palm Beach J.C. Penney.
The Splendid Splinter, Paul Azinger, had a 10 on 13 last Thursday and wasn't heard from again. Sandy Lyle missed the cut, thank god. Lyle wiped out three spectators in two days: one in the head, one in the eye and one in the leg. The British tabloids are about to start calling him THE TARTAN TERROR. If he returns next year, the forecaddies are talking strike. Seve Ballesteros, who is supposed to win this thing by default, finished seventh. Oh, and Mark Calcavecchia wound up 20th. However, he and his caddie-wife, Sheryl, came up with a new way to clean clubs. You wash. I'll dry.
The biggest story of the week, literally, was a 22-year-old country boy from Scuffletown Road in Fountain Inn, S.C.—305-pound U.S. Amateur champion Chris Patton, a Clemson senior who was living out his dreams. After he played a practice round with Norman and Arnold Palmer on Wednesday of last week, Patton was refreshingly honest. "I was just hoping I didn't go out to the first tee and take a big ol' slab of sod," he said with a kind of pea-mouth fried-chicken charm.
Could he be related to Billy Joe Patton, one of the few amateurs to come close to winning the Masters (in 1954)? Or to General George Patton? "Well, they've never showed up at the family reunions," said Chris. Why did he think he was getting so much attention in Augusta? "I guess it's just because I'm so good-looking," he said.
Patton never led the tournament, but he was low condo, er, amateur, and each day he wedged himself in and out of Amen Corner without ordering a pizza. He finished a respectable 39th, tied with Chip Beck and Mark Lye, thanks largely to his delicate putting stroke. Of course, it's easy to putt when everything breaks toward you.
This was a high-intake week anyway. On Thursday. Augusta became Mike Donald's kind of place. The Tour leader in tournaments played last year (35), Donald, 34, made everything and anything on his way to a 64, tying Lloyd Mangrum's 1940 record for splashiest opening round at the tournament. Donald was so overcome, he was moved to tears. "I played a lot of rounds when I was a kid, pretending it was Augusta," he recalled. "But I never played this good then."
On Friday his memory got better. Donald bogeyed four of the first five holes. And when his tee shot on 18 hit a tree and an outhouse roof before being swept away by a draining culvert, Donald's dreams had literally gone down the drain. His first-day 64 followed by Friday's 82 was the worst one-two act in Masters history.
This is where Floyd came in, bent on taking home every piece of crystal in the clubhouse vault. He had already won the par-3 tournament on Wednesday, which, of course, is the worst thing you can do. Nobody has ever won the par-3 tournament and the regular tournament the same year. He took a two-shot lead over Masters rookie John (no relation) Huston on Friday with a 68, and then put up another 68 on Saturday. His second round included chipping in from the men's grill or somewhere on number 14 and sinking a 35-footer on the cement-greened 16th. "I'm putting no pressure on myself now," Floyd kept saying. "I decided I've got nothing more to prove to me. I used to be so tough on myself. Now, I'm just having fun."
Who was this guy? He was pumping his fists, laughing with fans, smiling as he walked. What does he think golf is? A game? By the end of play on Saturday, he had a two-shot lead on Huston, three on Faldo and five on Dorian Gray.
Just a note: Six back was Bernhard Langer, who was perhaps lucky to be anywhere at all. On the Sunday before the tournament began, he was playing a practice round at Augusta by himself—hitting four and five balls. When a foursome of club members caught up with him on the back nine he was reluctant at first to let them play through. The foursome included a rather displeased Masters chairman Hord Hardin.
If anyone were going to catch Floyd, the last guy you would have picked was Huston, but Huston didn't seem to care. He's a 28-year-old kid who never takes a practice swing or a practice putt. He's also the guy who admitted he spent two semesters on the golf team at Auburn but only about "five minutes at the school."
The Highest Possible Goosebumps rating belonged to the half-century-old J.W. Nicklaus, whom you might not recognize these days. He's so thin now (new diet) that he appears almost lanky, and he's busting the ball from here to Atlanta. As with most improvements, for this last one we give thanks to the Japanese. Not long ago, on an outing in Japan, Nicklaus was getting outstrafed on his drives by 75 yards by Masashi (Jumbo) Ozaki and his Bridgestone driver, the professional weapon of the J's—Jumbo, Jet and Joe Ozaki, golfing brothers. Nicklaus decided to make a weapons purchase. He acquired some clubs from Jumbo and hasn't given them back. Floyd, who has eight, used them, too, and he hit patches of Augusta fairway that he hadn't visited in 25 years.
Nicklaus has even asked his own golf equipment company, MacGregor, to analyze the composition of the shaft to find out what in tarnation makes the thing get such distance. In return, Nicklaus agreed to give Ozaki Florida.
However, there was more to this than golf clubs. Earlier this year Nicklaus said his goal was to be the first player to win on the senior and regular tours in the same year. For a human, this is a lifetime challenge. For Nicklaus, it was something to do between taping instructional videos. He went out and won the Tradition, a Senior tour event in Scotts-dale, Ariz., came to Augusta with a gleam in his eye and lurked only five shots out with 18 holes to go. Can you imagine? A green jacket for every day of the week.
O.K., so our imaginations got carried away a little. Nicklaus bogeyed the 5th and 6th on Sunday and was never in it after that. And when Huston bogeyed 1, 2, 5 and 7, you knew it was fade to black for him, too.
That left Faldo vs. Floyd. American vs. Brit. U.S. Ryder Cup captain vs. British Ryder Cup star. A 32-year-old trying to become the first player to win back-to-back green jackets since Nicklaus did so in 1965-66 vs. a 47-year-old who hadn't won anything for four years and was trying to become the oldest man ever to win a Masters.
From the beginning, the day looked like Floyd's. Faldo double-bogeyed the 1st hole to fall five strokes behind, but the signal that he hadn't folded came at the par-3 12th, where he saved par with a gutsy shot from a back bunker. Nevertheless, by the time Faldo had reached number 13, Floyd, who was playing behind him, had birdied 12, leaving Faldo, with birdies on 7 and 9, still four back.
That's when somebody switched Floyds. Faldo went for the green on the par-5 13th and made birdie. Three back. Floyd hit a lousy drive on 13 but later admitted that even if he had hit a good one, "I probably wouldn't have gone for it." At 15, Faldo swallowed hard, smashed that 234-yard two-iron over trees and chipped and putted for birdie. Two back. Floyd laid up and made par.
In between, on 14, Floyd had a birdie chip that was headed dead for the hole, but it hit a penny Huston had used to mark his ball and missed by half an inch. Said Floyd, "Huston asked me, 'How's my coin?' and I told him it was O.K. I didn't think it was in my way, but it was. The ball would've gone in the hole if it hadn't been for that penny." The Masters Abe Lincoln Lost.
When Faldo drained a 15-foot birdie putt on 16, he was only one back. And when Floyd pulled an easy nine-iron approach to the 17th green way left, putted six feet past the cup from 35 feet and never scared the hole on the come-backer, the tournament was tied. "That putt just never lost any speed," said Floyd about the first one.
Now Floyd was losing it. In fact, he had to make an ulcerous par out of not one but two sand traps on 18 to force extra holes.
For Faldo, the playoff was dèjà vu. For Faldo, the playoff was dèjà vu. He had been in the same spot a year ago, when on number 10, the first hole of sudden death, Scott Hoch had missed his now famous Hoch-as-in-choke two-footer that would have given him the victory. Hoch went on to lose at 11. "I wasn't comfortable at all on that 10th tee," Faldo said. "I couldn't help thinking, Does this mean I'm to be done in this time?"
That certainly seemed to be the case after Faldo hit his approach to 10 into the right bunker and Floyd plunked his seven-iron 15 feet from the pin, dead below the cup. But Karma must have gotten a bad fax. Faldo blasted out to within three feet of the hole and made the putt, and Floyd left his birdie putt, cardinal-sinfully short. "Maybe it was the dew," he said.
On to 11, where Floyd stroked a seven-iron that will rank among the rank shots of his life. It was another pull, and it was so ashamed that it drowned itself in the pond guarding the hole. "Maybe I was lined up wrong," said Floyd. "It didn't feel like I pulled it 10 yards left."
All Faldo had to do was keep from breaking into God Save the Queen long enough to throw an eight-iron onto the fat, dry part of the green, lag up and tap in for the third major championship of his career and only the second two-peat in Masters history. Two victories in two years in two playoffs on the same hole. Maybe Augusta should just give Faldo a condo behind 11 and be done with it.
The Brits in attendance started a very British chant: "Well done, Nick! Well done, Nick!" Indeed, this win may raise Faldo for good over Lyle, his longtime British rival. Faldo and Lyle were 16 when they first began trading golf trophies back and forth, but Lyle has been out of the running for almost two years now with what may be career-threatening swing problems.
As for Floyd, nothing was left but the hurt. "This would've meant so much to me, you can't imagine," he said, trying to keep his eyes dry and his voice clear. "To be the oldest, to win another major. Nothing has ever affected me like this. At this stage of my life, how many chances are you gonna have? If you're 25 and you lose one, you still believe in yourself, you still believe you're going to get a lot more chances."
There is a useful lesson in all this. Forget the par-3 tournament. Win the par-5 tournament.