The 1996 Masters is destined for greatness. How can we be sure?
Because history has told us so. Although the Masters celebrates
its 60th anniversary next week, the major championship we know
didn't really begin until the first postwar playing 50 years
ago. From then on, something special has occurred every fifth
Ben Hogan choked. It sounds blasphemous, but it's true. After
three rounds he was five shots behind Herman Keiser, an
unheralded pro from Springfield, Mo. But Hogan made a charge and
came to the 72nd green on the brink of victory. He had a
downhill 12-footer for birdie and 281. Keiser was in at 282.
Hogan's first putt never came close, and after he left the
three-foot comebacker on the lip, it was hail Keiser, one of the
unlikeliest Masters champions of all.
HOGAN'S A HERO
Ben Hogan redeemed himself. After nine futile attempts, he
finally won a Masters, thus silencing speculation that he would
never get one. Fueling the talk were two factors: Hogan was 38,
and although he had won the U.S. Open the year before, questions
about his condition following his near-fatal car accident in
1949 still persisted.
April 7, 1996
After three days, he was a shot behind Skee Riegel and Sam
Snead, but the final round was all Hogan. He blazed out in 33
and came to 18 with a two-shot lead. He was not going to repeat
the debacle of '46. Hogan put his approach short of the
green--below the hole--then chipped up and tapped in for par and
"I got a big bang out of it," said Hogan. "Having all those
people out there rooting for you--and then being able to come
through for them. If I never win again, I'll be satisfied."
Ken Venturi did not win a green jacket, but will be remembered
for the sensation he caused before, during and after the
Some people grumbled that the 24-year-old Venturi, whose main
accomplishment to that point had been making the 1953 Walker Cup
team, didn't deserve an invitation. Venturi's boss at a car
dealership, Ed Lowery, a member at Augusta National, and a
friend, Byron Nelson, had lobbied for him. Once play began, it
was clear that Venturi belonged. He opened with a 66 and took a
four-shot lead into the final round, but nerves got him. He shot
80 and ended up second, a stroke behind Jackie Burke Jr.
Back home, Venturi claimed that he was given an "unfortunate"
pairing on Sunday with Sam Snead. Later, in a letter to Clifford
Roberts and Bobby Jones, Venturi apologized.
Gary Player became the first foreigner to win, but this Masters
will always be remembered for the shot Arnold Palmer would just
as soon forget.
Player came in with no shortage of confidence. Only 25, he was
already making his fifth trip to Augusta. "The Lord wants me to
win," he told a friend early in the week. After three rounds he
was looking good with a four-stroke lead, but on Sunday he shot
40 on the back nine. That opened the door for Palmer, who was
seeking a second straight green jacket. He needed a par to win,
but his approach to 18 found a bunker. Then it happened: Arnie
skulled his sand shot over the green and into the gallery. Three
shots later Palmer had a double bogey. "I thought 6s were for
other people," he said later.
WHO'S IN FIRST?
It was the most topsy-turvy Masters ever: 17 players--a
record--held or shared the lead, and it was not decided until
Monday, when a 26-year-old Jack Nicklaus won an 18-hole playoff
with Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer, becoming the first person to
win back-to-back titles at Augusta.
Arnold Palmer called it the most unusual Masters he had ever
seen. Some of the oddities: At the par-3 12th, Gary Player, with
his ball so buried in mud he could not see it, skulled a wedge
that hit the flagstick and dropped in for a birdie. Palmer was
bunkered behind the 13th green, his ball near a rock. Scared, he
swung so gently, he nearly whiffed. On Sunday, Nicklaus did the
unthinkable: He missed a three-footer for birdie at 17 that
would have locked up the tournament in regulation.
Charles Coody beat Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller by two
strokes, but bigger news was made by Clifford Roberts, who for
the first time responded to questions about the lack of any
black players. Rose Elder then wrote the tournament's chairman:
"You stated, 'blacks often furnish the greatest of athletes in
football, baseball, basketball.... Think how much it would help
our TV rating if we had a Willie Mays in the Masters.' Mr.
Roberts ... there are potential Willie Mays golfers available.
... Masters prize money should not be official if there are
Two months later the Masters decided to invite all winners of
Tour events, and in 1975 Rose's husband, Lee, became the first
African-American to play in the Masters, based on his win in the
'74 Monsanto Open.
This was the only major in which Jack Nicklaus made three eagles
and was still beaten by 11 strokes. The man who left Nicklaus,
and everybody else, in his wake was Ray Floyd, who set or tied
more records (11) in his wire-to-wire romp than anyone in the
tournament's history. Floyd's records included:
--Low first round by a champion: 65.
--Low 36-hole score: 131.
--Low 54-hole score: 201.
--Low 72-hole score: 271 (tie).
--Consecutive holes making no more than 4: 52 (streak started in
--Best performance on par-5s: 14 under (tie).
--Holes under par: 23 (22 birdies, one eagle).
Floyd won by eight shots over Ben Crenshaw, but that was not a
record, because someone had already won by nine. Can you guess
Hint: The same man who in '65 set the 271 total mark that Floyd
Answer: Jack Nicklaus.
When a 26-year-old Greg Norman played in his first Masters, he
already had earned a reputation as one of the world's great
young talents by virtue of his 15 international titles--none in
the U.S. "Just being here is probably the greatest thrill of my
life," Norman said after an opening 69, which tied him for the
lead. "When I turned pro, my ambition was to play Augusta
Were it not for a killing double bogey at the 10th on Sunday,
Norman might have been able to beat Tom Watson, who won his
second green jacket. Norman finished fourth but showed that he
would be a force in the future. "With his platinum-blond Prince
Valiant hairdo," wrote Herbert Warren Wind in The New Yorker,
"Norman looks more like a surfer than a golfer, but ... [he]
should do very well if he decides to campaign in this country."
ONE FOR THE AGES
At the tender age of 46, Jack Nicklaus won his record sixth
Masters with a come-from-behind charge that was as emotional for
him as it was for his adoring fans. "I sort of welled up four or
five times coming in," said Nicklaus, wiping away the tears at
the awards ceremony.
More than anything, what made Nicklaus's victory--his 18th in a
major--so stunning was that it came at a time when it appeared
that his Tour career was over: His last win had been in 1984,
his last major the '80 U.S. Open. At Augusta, after Nicklaus
opened 74-71, even Ken Venturi said, "Jack's got to start
thinking about when it's time to retire."
Nicklaus responded with a 69 on Saturday, and then on Sunday
went seven under over the last 10 holes--coming home in a
record-tying 30--for a 65 and a one-stroke win.
When Ian Woosnam of Wales extended the string of victories by
Europeans to four in a row--and seven of 11--with a one-shot win
over Jose Maria Olazabal, American fans started to get nervous.
Why is it, everyone wondered, that the European players seemed
to have a lock on the Masters?
Some of the answers seemed reasonable. Europeans grow up
dreaming of winning the British Open, not the Masters, so they
aren't intimidated by the aura of Augusta National. Also, back
home they play on courses that are not as well manicured as
those in the U.S. and therefore are better at the little shots
around the green that are so crucial at Augusta.
Tom Watson might have had the best--and simplest--explanation.
"When you're looking for favorites," he said, "you go to the
leading players." And in 1991 they were mostly Europeans.